Posts Tagged ‘immune system’

I’m Down with Dirt

Wednesday, September 30th, 2015

I'm Down with DirtMy child eats dirt. She ate dirt today, in fact. When a baby does it, you get it; they’re exploring their world. When a 3-year-old eats dirt? You wonder if they have any taste buds at all. But, for all my lack of inclination to eat dirt myself, I’m totally ok with the fact that she has, from time to time.

Here’s why:

  1. Dirt is a rite of passage for kids. It’s fun to get dirty. It’s fun to bake mud pies, to dig for buried treasure, to drive trucks through the dirt, and to build sand castles. I also take a dirty kid as a sign that that child was fully invested in his or her play. They let their imagination take over and didn’t stop one moment to worry what mom might say about their clothes, or the fact that they may be earning a one-way ticket into the bath. They just played. They released endorphins, relaxed, and probably came in happy. (It’s a good idea to send your child out in play clothes, though. I’m about as big of a fan of getting a dirt stain out of good clothes as anyone else.)
  2. Dirt is also good for the immune system. I am 100 percent ok with contact with the public world. I’m probably the most unconcerned mother ever when using public toilets. Sure, I take the proper precautions. We wash hands, but not with antibacterial soap, just the regular stuff, but I don’t carry hand sanitizer and I pick toys up of the ground without thought. I’m trying to teach her about how germs spread and what she needs to do to stay healthy, but I also view getting dirty as one of those steps toward staying healthy. I’ve long embraced the idea that the more we come into contact with, germ-wise, the more our bodies are prepared to fight everything off. Science tends to support this deduction as well.
  3. Dirt is outside. If your child came home dirty, she was probably OUTSIDE. Outside, in nature. She was connecting with nature in some way. I personally feel that we’re losing our connection with nature and would like to inspire my daughter to appreciate what it is to connect with the earth, with the plants and trees and animals around her. So, we garden together. We go on hikes through drippy woods. We flip over rocks in search of roly poly bugs and we beachcomb for seashells. That also means I carry towels in the car to wipe off muddy shoes and often vacuum sand from the floor, but I’m ok with that.

So that’s why I’m down with dirt. What about you? Has your child tasted a mud pie or two?

Kate Cunha lives in the Pacific NW with her husband and their 3 year old daughter. She was a dirt loving, tree climbing kid who grew into a terrible gardener who loves nature. 

Staying Healthy During Flu Season

Thursday, September 25th, 2014

Staying Healthy During Flu SeasonWith flu season coming up, it’s time to start talking to the kids about being healthy! We try to explain to our oldest (3) what germs are and how they can get you sick. We use very simple terms, of course, but that doesn’t stop him from touching dog poop at the park. No, really. He picked up dog poop and asked, “Mama, is this dog poop?”

With that basic lack of understanding about germs, we really rely on other methods of staying healthy.

We place a heavy emphasis on washing hands in our household. Not only because of things like the dog poop incident, but because the kids instantly touch their eyes, nose, or mouth after handling germy things. It’s almost instant. In an attempt to instill some sort of good hygienic practice, we wash our hands when we come in from outside, after play time is over, before helping put dishes away, etc. This, of course, on top of all the times you would fully expect hand washing (after using the bathroom, changing a diaper, blowing your nose, etc.).

Other things are a bit more “behind the scenes.” We can only do so much to get our kids to follow hygienic practices at young ages, but we can help them boost their immune system. Offering foods like garlic or barley can help lessen the likelihood of getting sick. Many foods can offer antimicrobial properties, so it’s a great idea to read up on different foods and try to incorporate them into your family’s diet. Heck, oats and barley not only boost immunity, but they can help antibiotics work better if you do get sick.

There are also lots of herbal supplements that people take to help with their immune system. I’m not big on trying to push things like this on my children, but I am a big believer in Sambucus (elderberry) in helping the immune system. Not only has my (asthmatic) son had less episodes that require him to use a breathing nebulizer since taking elderberry syrup, but when he does have to start nebulizer treatments, they don’t last as long. Instead of a week, we see a day or two. He also really enjoys the taste of elderberry syrup, and we mix it in with some almond milk and sometimes keifer, too.

If you’re not too keen on store bought supplements like Sambucus, you can always make your own syrup using fresh, frozen, or dried elderberries. Our local health food store has dried elderberries in the bulk herb section. There are a plethora of recipes available online with a simple search, so you can find a recipe that would suit your family’s needs (taste and dietary) best. Just a little elderberry a day helps, and a few times a day if you happen to get sick.

Also, if we happen to get sick, we keep coconut water on hand. Not only does it have electrolytes and no artificial sweeteners or dyes, but it has extra calories in it which you could really use if you’re sick and quickly losing whatever you eat (regardless of the method).

Finally, laughter! Yes, really. Laughter can help boost your immune system, improve your blood flow, regulate blood sugar levels, and is simply contagious. Who doesn’t love laughing? With colder days around the bend, we like to get some good shows or movies queued up to watch. Some for the kids, some for us when we have child-free time. Everyone enjoys smiles and laughter, and hey! It just might help you beat the flu.

Christine Kangas is a mom of two trying to lead a greener life. She lives in the mid-western U.S. with her family and three cats.

Messy Outdoor Fun

Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

Messy outdoor funWarm weather is here and there is nothing more fun than spending time playing outdoors with your baby. Outdoor activities are a fun excuse to strip your baby down to his diaper, soak up the vitamin D and get messy!

Sensory activities provide extra stimulation for your baby, allowing them to use their senses connecting smell, touch, hearing, sight and so much more while building neurological pathways and having fun. Plus, studies show that baby can build her immune system just by getting a little dirty now and then.

First of all, you don’t need a fancy sand or water table to create a sensory table. All you need are a few shallow, large plastic bins. I like using the ones sold for under-the-bed storage. They’re large enough for more than one child to play and shallow enough for your child to get in there and get messy while playing on the floor.

Here are some of my favorite ideas for hours of outdoor fun using things other than sand and water, which kids also love!

Slimy worms box. All you need is a few boxes of the cheapest pasta you can find, cook it up so it’s not too mushy and dump it into a bin once it’s cooled down. Use lots of different shapes of pasta and mix in some long spaghetti to make it more fun. If baby is still gumming everything you can add some vegetable-based food coloring to it to make it more fun. If they’re past that stage and you’re OK with a little bit of a mess, you can add some non-toxic finger paint to it, or let your child do it.

Dumping and Pouring. You can use a variety of things for this one: beans, raw pasta, rice, corn, oats–whatever you can find. Get together a variety of different-sized containers and let them explore pouring and dumping and learning about volume.

Ice castles. With a few disposable tin foil baking molds (think loaf pans, cake pans, casseroles) you can make great blocks for building castles. Pour some water mixed with food coloring into the molds, freeze overnight and you’ve got yourself some great melting blocks to build an ice castle.

Body Painting. Tape a large piece of paper to the floor and get out the finger paints. Look around for some different things you can use for painting (leaves, grass, rocks, marbles, anything really), pour some paint onto a tray and encourage your baby to use all the different supplies as well as their hands, feet or elbows.

Jacqueline Banks is a certified Holistic Health Counselor focused on nutrition and green living strategies. She works with women in all stages of motherhood, from mothers struggling with conception, through pregnancy, lactation and beyond to ensure the best health and nutrition for both mother and baby.





Always Kiss Me Goodnight: An Explanation of the Enteromammary Pathway

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014

IMG_0710Many times new moms will ask if it’s OK to breastfeed when they are sick. Since germs are passed through mucus and spit, people tend to think they will be passed by breast milk as well. However, the body is fascinating in that breastfeeding mothers actually protect their babies—not infect them—by breastfeeding when they are ill.

I remember when my doula came over for my postpartum checkup with my second child, Alice. We were talking about avoiding illness with a 3-year-old and a newborn in the house, and laughing at the varied advice I had received.

“Kiss everyone in your house, every day,” the doula told me. “It will help your body defend against all the germs everyone brings home.” It was sweet, but I couldn’t imagine how that could possibly work.

You can imagine my amazement when I ran across research on the enteromammary pathway. It’s the system by which the mother’s body acts and reacts to stimuli such as germs and viruses by building up immunity that gets passed directly to the baby via breast milk. It’s why my doula told me I could keep my baby well by kissing the other people in my home.

The enteromammary pathway begins with mom’s nose and mouth. Germs or viruses come in contact with her there, which alerts the body to their presence. The Mucosa-associated lymphatic tissue, or MALT, includes the gut, lungs, mammary glands, salivary glands and the genital tract. These areas communicate through via plasma cells that travel throughout the body. So when plasma cells encounter a virus or germ on mom’s body, she begins making antibodies that appear in her breast milk. This is before any illness has ever even occurred.

Now, when we say “ill” we are talking flu, viruses, the common cold. Not life-threatening diseases. However, a recent study did show that even HIV-positive mothers can reduce the mother-to-infant risk of HIV through exclusive, extended (past one year of age) breastfeeding.

It’s amazing what the body can do. It’s even more amazing, but not surprising, that after spending nine months building this little person inside us, our bodies continue to be able to protect and nurture them Earthside as well.

Erin Burt is a breastfeeding, babywearing mother of three. She lives and writes in Fort Worth, Texas.