Supplements and Dosage for Children’s Immune Building

by Graeme Bradshaw, Naturopath, Homeopath and Founding Director of IMI

Probiotics

Probiotics are strains of bacteria that are beneficial for our bodies. They fight off the bad bacteria and maintain the integrity of our gut. In children, probiotics can:

  • Improve immunity
  • Decrease allergies
  • Reduce infection
  • Facilitate digestion, absorption, and elimination
  • Decrease toxins

Lactobacillus reuteri is the king of prevention therapies and reduces rates of infection by around half. Three studies, one of school children, one of office workers, and another of factory workers concluded the same: therapy halved the days lost to illness (Weizman et al., 2005; Tubelius et al., 2005). For children, L. reuteri reduces frequency of fevers by up to 74% in one study of infants given the product in their drinks. Another study concluded: "The L. reuteri group, compared with controls, had a significant decrease of number of days with fever, clinic visits, child care absences, and antibiotic prescriptions."

We recommend one capsule daily of Primadophilus Reuteri for children aged 3 to 6; 2 capsules for children over 7 years. Infants can be given Reuteri powder as directed on the package. It can be opened and added to a drink. It is not effective if taken during an infection; it is best taken daily as a preventive.

Elderberry Extract

Extract of elderberry (Sambucus nigra L.) has been scientifically studied as a natural herbal extract to treat the flu. It has been shown in several studies to reduce the ability of influenza viruses, including swine flu, to enter cells (Zakay-Rones et al., 1995; Zakay-Rones et al., 2004). Other studies show that elderberry extract was able to cut the duration and severity of flu by up to half.

The herbal remedy was developed after lab studies by world-renowned virologist Dr Madeleine Mumcuoglu showed that it prevents and slows influenza viruses from reproducing. As viruses cannot replicate themselves outside of living cells, they have to invade cells to survive. "If you can stop them from invading cells, you've defeated the disease," says Dr. Mumcuoglu.

Dr Mumcuoglu tested the efficacy of black elderberry proteins against the Influenza B virus first, and discovered that "they actually prevent the virus from invading our cell." Evidence also showed that the elderberry protein inhibits the enzyme covering the influenza virus, which is the weapon used by the virus to break down healthy cells.

During bird flu outbreaks, Dr Mumcuoglu tested many flu strains and commented that it didn't really matter where the flu originated, and that elderberry was proven effective against all influenza viruses tested.

Sambucus is pleasant tasting syrup, suitable for children and adults alike. Do take the doses recommended on the package for full effect. IMI also stocks Berry Well, an every day elderberry powder combined with other immune enhancers.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a water-soluble compound needed to prevent scurvy. Scurvy is marked by bleeding gums and an increased frequency and severity of viral infections. Our body does not make or store Vitamin C, so it must be obtained from our diet. Optimal levels of vitamin C for immunity are higher than the RDA level of 60 mg; at levels of least 200 mg, it reduces the frequency of colds by about 20% over a year.

Vitamin C is also a powerful antioxidant that helps protect cells from damage. Vitamin C is needed to make and repair collagen, move fat into cells where it can be converted into energy, and make neurotransmitters.

About one-quarter of the Vitamin C content of vegetables is lost by brief boiling, steaming, or freezing and thawing. Canning fruits and vegetables reduces their Vitamin C content by about one-third, as does longer cooking at higher temperatures.

IMI recommends that children take the "drink your vitamins" product called Ola Loa KIDS MULTI. Each sachet contains 250 mg Vitamin C and is a doctor-formulated product based upon up-to-date studies on nutrition and child development. It is much lower in sugar than Emergen-C. Ola Loa also contains higher levels of other important vitamins and minerals, including zinc. Diarrhoea will occur if excessive doses are taken, however, so just reduce if necessary.

Zinc

Zinc is found in meat, eggs, legume beans, and sunflower and pumpkin seeds. As with iron, deficiencies are common during growth phases and in vegetarian diets. When a viral infection frequently turns into a bacterial infection, then your child's immune system is probably short on zinc. White spots under the fingernails, slow wound healing, serious bronchitis, and pneumonia are all indications of deficiency. We can perform a simple "Zinc Taste Test" at IMI to determine your child's zinc status.

Zinc is effective when given during serious lung infections. It has been proven to be life-saving in cases of pneumonia infections in one study.

Therapeutic doses are 1 mg for every year of age, up to 15 mg daily, usually taken as liquid zinc sulfate. A safe low-dose supplement of 5 mg of zinc daily can be used any time there is a growth spurt, which is often a time when children often run short of this nutrient.

Pumpkin seed butter is a good alternative to peanut butter and is a great source of zinc. IMI stocks it in the fridge.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is essential for the functioning of the immune system and healthy growth and development. Vitamin A prevents viruses or bacteria from penetrating the mucous membranes, preventing infections from starting.

Examples of foods rich in Vitamin A are:

  • Red pepper
  • Sweet potatoes
  • Carrots
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Lettuce
  • Dried apricots
  • Cantaloupe

Iron

The first sign of low iron levels in children is low immunity and poor concentration, which occur before anaemia (low hemoglobin). Your child may look pale, have pale lips and nails, and have dark rings under the eyes, which are common indications of the need for iron. Blood testing for ferritin levels is advised to check for this.

Examples of foods rich in iron are:

  • Red meat
  • Egg yolk
  • Dark leafy vegetables (e.g., spinach)
  • Dried fruits (e.g., prunes, raisins, apricots )
  • Sardines and anchovies

Dosage For Supplements

  • One Primadophillus Reuteri probiotic daily as the strongest preventive, all year round.
  • Vitamin C as powdered drink, Ola Loa KIDS MULTI, and liquid Zinc Solution are additional options for intensive needs, the flu season in November and May, and when virus symptoms start.
  • Berry Well can be taken through the flu season, October to March, as an immune support.

The above are preventive and are considered sufficient for effective immune function.

During viral infections from colds and flu:

  • Take Elderberry/Sambucus syrup if runny nose, sniffles, sneezing, sweating, and a cough with clear phlegm are the main symptoms. Be sure to follow the instructions.
  • Ola Loa Kids Multi and Zinc Solution can also be used at the same time.

Learn more about Improving Your Children's Immunity.

References:

Tubelius, P. et al. Increasing work-place healthiness with the probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri: a randomised, double-blind placebo-controlled study. Environ Health. 2005 Nov 7;4:25.

Weizman, Z. et al. Effect of a probiotic infant formula on infections in child care centers: comparison of two probiotic agents. Pediatrics. 2005 Jan;115(1):5-9.

Zakay-Rones, Z., Thom, E., Wollan, T., & Wadstein, J. Randomized study of the efficacy and safety of oral elderberry extract in the treatment of influenza A and B virus infections. J Int Med Res. 2004 Mar-Apr;32(2):132-40.

Zakay-Rones, Z., Varsano, N., Zlotnik, M., Manor, O., Regev, L., Schlesinger, M., & Mumcuoglu, M. Inhibition of several strains of influenza virus in vitro and reduction of symptoms by an elderberry extract (Sambucus nigra L.) during an outbreak of influenza B Panama. J Altern Complement Med. 1995 Winter;1(4):361-9.