Prevalence and overview :
Since children develop their immune systems over several formative years, they will be more susceptible to virus and bacterial assaults until their “ immune memory “ has been adequately formulated. Recent research has shown the connection between immune cells in our lower Gut and the bacteria, the microbiome that resides there. A wider diversity of microbiomes usually results in a better defence against foreign invaders. Unfortunately, in our Western culture, with the types of foods we consume and our livening in urban environments, this style of living tends to decrease our overall microbiome and immune function.
It is well documented that Industrial Agriculture, besides growing foods on nutrient-deficient soils, has added Pesticides and other chemicals that kill off the good gut microflora. Add to that electronic screens, air pollution ( yes, there is a lot of it, e.g. car fumes), use of household cleaners and personal deodorants and the effect of chemicals in plastics all add to the toxic burden our bodies have to cope with.
It is estimated that more than 25% of schoolchildren do not eat or get breakfast, and most do not get the required amount of fruit and vegetables for good health. With those statistics little wonder that in many households, young children always come down with some“bug.”
The effect of stress on our immune systems is now well known, and little ones are prone to becoming “run down” just the same as adults. Usually, their recovery times are quicker, but in some cases, the effects of stressors linger longer.
In short, viral and Bacterial infections are in pandemic proportion in today’s society, and unfortunately, antibiotic resistance shows no signs of abating!
The importance of correct diet :
Correct food feeds the diversity of the microbiome and balances Immunity. Some foods imbalance immunity, leading to Autoimmunity or the development of allergies. Such as white rice, Breads, milk, pasta, wheat products, sugary drinks, some yogurts and, to a lesser extent, some cheeses. All have one thing in common – they cause the body to produce excessive amounts of mucous and are converted quickly to sugars, adversely affecting the gut microflora. ( Bad yeasts love sugar )
Consuming these foods is one of many problems per se, but the total amount consumed is the real issue. One way to test these words is to keep a five-day food diary and look at what shows up!
Foods that feed the microbiome and act as pre-biotics are, Ancient grains such as Millett, Buckwheat, Quinoa, Black rice, and sorghum.( who eats these in Western society?) They provide amounts of soluble and insoluble fibre that feed the microbiota. A wide range of vegetables and assorted fruits is also included in this list. It has been shown that in those societies that consume a wide selection of a variety of foods, the number of different species of gut microbes was nearly three times that of those that do not. In those societies, degenerative diseases are less common than ours, and people are less likely to succumb to seasonal virus infections.
Mushrooms are good food for their immune-modulating qualities in the daily diet. Paradoxically, fungi mushrooms feed the microbiome and add to its efficacy. How many children eat mushrooms daily?
Useful supplements :
Since we are discussing prevention in this article rather than cure, we will emphasise the engagement of supplements to balance the immune system and create an enhanced defence against viruses and noxious bacteria. ( bacteria mainly thrive in mucous or phlegm environments )
Many marketing promotions suggest the immune system can be “boosted”.This is not quite right. The immune system is complex and modulates all of the environmental things that have been mentioned.
Modulation and balance are the keys – too much is autoimmunity, and too little is a lack of resistance. The sweet spot is in between and that varies from individual to individual.
The use of Mushrooms and certain herbs listed below have some immune-modulation properties. Their primary effect is to aid the microbiome to thrive.
- Number 1 – on the list for prevention.is mushrooms. All varieties have an effect. Touchwood mushrooms grown here in Australia have released a new range of non-alcoholic liquid mushrooms. www.touchwoodmushrooms.com . My pick would be the seven-mushroom blend as it combines the actions and attributes of several mushrooms and can be added to drinks or water, and there is virtually no taste. Great for adults as well and can be taken daily over the winter months. If needed, specific formulas can be taken for specific situations, e.g., Cordyceps for Asthma or energy. ( increases mitochondrial function )
- Number 2– is a Chinese Herbal formula called Jade Screen formula; this famous thousand-year-old formula which contains Astragalus, is available in Granules, capsules and small black pills. This is the premium formula for “ warding off” colds and flu. It is the number one formula for those who have respiratory disorders.
- Number 3 -Ginseng and Astragalus formula . This formula has immune-enhancing properties and is mainly given to promote digestive function and reduce mucous in the body. Available in granules, capsules and black pills
- Number 4 – Minor Bupleurum formula. The most widely prescribed formula in the East is suitable for those who are prone to allergies, gut allergies which result in disorders such as Asthma.
- Number 5 -is Astragalus 8 blend formula. Available in liquid or capsules, this is an excellent overall formula containing several herbs with antiviral properties. Look for the Fusion Health brand.
- Astragalus and Echinacea are available in liquid or capsules as singles and can impact immunity. Take small doses over a long period. Both together is a better blend.
The above herbs and formulas can be taken over a long period. Apart from the mushrooms, I recommend sticking with a formula for a few months and then changing to another formula to give the body a variety of phytonutrients that feed the microbiome.
The best time of the year to use the above would be before and after the change of seasons, where seasonal temperature changes affect immunity. Taking these while one has a cold or flu is not recommended, as more specific formulas are required. They should only be used preventatively unless otherwise advised.
One final bit of information may help those whose children do not like taking pills, capsules, etc. Aromatherapy.
The vaporisation of essential oils at night in the bedroom so that the lungs take in micronised particles of vapour could be helpful, especially for those prone to respiratory disorders. Although Essential oils do not affect the microbiome in the same way as herbs, essential oil compounds are absorbed into the lungs and bloodstream, triggering a cascade of immune responses. Essential oils that could be looked at are Thyme, Pine, Eucalyptus, and Rosemary. These can be put into a vaporiser and vaporised overnight. Alternatively, drops of these oils can be blended into a carrier oil like almond or sunflower oil and put on the body. Some guidance and caution are recommended here as too potent a blend can burn the skin, cause an allergic reaction, or trigger an asthmatic attack. Under no circumstances would I recommend oral ingestion of these oils.
If symptoms persist In some cases, I have recommended a non-invasive Hair Analysis test for mineral ratios and toxic chemicals to help pinpoint nutritional deficiencies. For example, high zinc mineral levels in the body can lead to low copper mineral levels, lowering immunity to bacteria and vice versa for Viruses.
Should you have any questions on the above, please do not hesitate to e-mail me.
Peter Farnsworth N.D 15/6/23