Saturday, January 5, 2013

Building a Healthy Immune System

Most parents say “I would do anything for my child”, sometimes this requires stepping beyond your comfort zone and trying things you never would have tried or believed in before.  As a medic, LPN, RN, then Physician Assistant, I have been in the medical arena for over 20 years.  I have had lots of experience handing out antibiotics to all ages.  However, when Presley was born 18 months ago with Down Syndrome, I began looking into ways to prevent illness more than ever.  Most children with DS begin life with a weaker immune system, which can lead to more frequent infections which can also end up more severe.  As a infant/toddler, their tendency to have very small ear canals set them up for repetitive ear infections and potentially surgery for tube placement.   Ear infections can lead to permanent hearing loss (very common with DS), which directly affects their ability to learn.  So, I wanted to influence and strengthen her immune system to help avoid all of this if possible.  Below is the list of things I do, I believe that each activity helps a little.  so cumulatively, it will help a lot.  You don’t have to agree with them, but maybe it will give you some ideas to help your child too.   


1.   Healthy diet:  I highly recommend the previously posted recipes recommended by our nutritionist that are full of incredible nutrition.  Please see .   One recipe called Thermos Cereal contains grains, nuts, seeds, while the other is a Potato Peel broth made from fresh vegetables.  We do choose organic when possible.   We avoid sugars, processed foods, and “junk food” in general.  We are gluten free and very light on dairy.  You greatly influence your ability to fight off infections by the foods you choose.    We choose lots of fresh fruits and vegetables.  Presley starts off each morning with a goat milk smoothie with strawberries (vit C), bananas, apples, Sambucus (see entry #4), and probiotics each morning.  We use goat milk, which was also recommended by our nutritionist, because it has smaller proteins, so easier to digest, less irritating to the lining of the stomach (google milk anemia if you want to know more), and less likely to contribute to allergies.  

2.  Targeted Nutritional Intervention:  A typical child’s diet can be lacking in all the proper nutrients or with the numerous gut issues, there can be a nutrient absorption issue.  Children with DS require specific additional nutrients and extra antioxidants to keep their body functioning at their best.  There are several vitamin supplements designed for DS, such as Nutrivene or MSB.  We do specific lab testing each year to assess and give more individual treatments.

3.  Vitamin D:  Additional Vitamin D is helpful during the winter months since the days are shorter, and the cooler weather keeps children indoors more.  We use a liquid supplement daily of 2000mg orally.  I try to take the girls outside to play for a minimum of 30 minutes each day.  They love being outside.

4.  Sambucus :  this is a children’s syrup containing Elderberry, Echinacea, and Propolis.  It can be given once or twice a day during an acute illness to strengthen the immune system or daily prophylactically.  My 3 year old doesn't mind the taste and drinks it without fuse.  I put it in in Presley's smoothie each morning.  Here is a link to it on amazon:

We make it homemade, it is super easy.  Tricia also sells it on her online store.  It tastes delicious and kids love it.

5.  Humidifier:  During the winter months, we have two humidifiers going in the house almost at all times, but especially at night where the children sleep.  Heated air within a home can be very dry.  Humidifiers keep the nasal passages moist, and therefore less likely to let infectious invaders through the mucus membrane barrier.  Also, it thins any mucus present during a respiratory infection, thus making it easier to clear.  Humidifiers decrease the dry skin effect of winter, therefore protecting the first line of defense.

 6.  Handwashing:  we do a lot of handwashing.  Most of us wipe the shopping cart down before we go into the grocery store now, but what about after you touch everything in the store?  I use a homemade hand santitizer as soon as we get to the car, followed up by a soap and water handwash when we get home.  Infectious germs can remain alive on inanimate surfaces for several hours, so when you touch the surface then rub your eye, nose, or child’s face, then you just contaminated yourself.  Teach good hygiene.

7.  Avoid crowds: We avoid highly populated areas during the flu season or choose to do these activities during the week when other children are in school or first thing in the morning after the germs have died off during the night.

8.  Chemical free cleaning:  We avoid using a lot of chemicals in our household.  Children’s immune system work over time if they attend day care or school, so it is best to avoid unnecessary exposures when possible.  Just one thing less their immune system has to tackle.  We have used environment friendly (“green”) laundry detergents and now make our own, dish soap, and household cleaners (baking soda and vinegar can be used on almost anything).  We use dye free and scent free, so no additional chemicals.

9.  Probiotics:  a healthy gut is a must.  Probiotics keep healthy normal flora within the digestive tract.  Up to 80% of the immune system is located within the gut.  I also give goat milk or coconut milk yogurt daily.  Dairy is notorious for increasing mucus during an illness, so we avoid it.   We have tried a variety of different probiotics, so I will not list each of them, because the probiotic that works for one child may not be the best for another.   We also alternate probiotic kinds so to keep a variety within the digestive tract.

10.  Vitamin C:  We give powdered vitamin C to both of our girls each morning in their green smoothie or applesauce.   

11.  “Flu shot”:  there are many different opinions about vaccinating your child.  Educate yourself and make your own opinion.    It is not smart to think "ALL vaccinations are the same for ALL kids".  All of our kids are different and some can handle vaccinations, and some can not.   

12.  Chiropractor:  we are fortunate to have a pediatric chiropractor in Little Rock.  Muscles can tighten during illnesses, stress or from everyday occurrences.  This can pull the spine out of line.  Please visit Dr John Vincent’s webpage and watch his informative video about how chiropractic care can help with respiratory illness, ear infections, and the immune system.  I was skeptical initially, but I took Presley when she had a fever over 102 for two days, and I was amazed when it completely resolved within two hours of an adjustment.  Video explaining chiropractic care: and for ear infections:

13.  Garlic:  I cook with garlic often.  The girl’s eggs are sprinkled with garlic each morning.  Garlic has antimicrobial properties.  I also use turmeric in most meals, as it is an anti-inflammatory and is the precursor to circumin, which is very popular for DS.

14. Massage:  this relaxes the muscles and calms the body.  I attempt to rub the girls down with coconut oil once or twice a day.  Coconut oil is another great topic for DS, especially concerning Alzheimer’s disease.

15. Exercise:  this is good for everyone.  Active children are more likely to be healthier than sedentary children indoors playing video games.  Go for a walk.

16.  Laughter:  we have all heard the saying “laughter is the best medicine”.   Dad takes care of the “tickle-fests” each day.   It warms my heart to hear them laughing.  Make sure you take the time to hear your child laugh each day by spending individual time with them.

17.  Aromatherapy:  After reading how some DS moms put oils in humidifiers when their children were sick,  I purchased the book “The Complete Book of Essential Oils and Aromatherapy ” by Valerie Ann Worwood.  It only costs about $7 on Amazon.  It opened a whole new world of being able to treat our children without medicine.  For example, if the girls have a runny nose, I may mix rosemary, lavender, and eucalyptus oils in a carrier oil base like sweet almond.  Have you ever read the ingredients in vick’s baby rub?  This is exactly what they use, except in a petroleum base.  I can add other things if I believe they have an infection, like tea tree oil.  Tea tree oil has been documented effective against MRSA, a nasty bug resistant to most medications.  I also infuse a mixture called “Plague defense” (aka thieves oil) or “Respiratory relief” after potential exposures or at the first sign of illness.  I can also add a few drops of lavender and eucalyptus to their baths.  It doesn’t take much.  I put a few drops of recommended oils in their humidifiers each night too.  I have moistened a Q-tip with Myrtle and put into each nostril, as was recommended for a persistent runny nose.  All congestion stopped within minutes and lasted 3-4 hours.  The oils are reasonably priced and last a long time.   To learn more, please see my previous post concerning Aromatherapy.
If you have any questions, comments, or suggestions, please feel free to leave a comment.  Blessings, Robin


  1. When did you start giving supplements to your kid with DS? how it has improved his life?

    1. We began Presley on the Nutrivene DS at 2 1/2 months old. I added the daily enzymes a few weeks layer followed by the night formula. We added supplements pretty slow to see how she reacted to each one. Next was the DHA.