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General Tips for Keeping Kids Healthy

April 16th, 2010

by Keri Marshall, MS, ND

Keeping children healthy and happy is one of the most important and challenging goals for parents. The state of a child’s health often directly impacts a parent’s health and happiness because the child’s needs frequently take priority. All children are faced daily with a myriad of germs and immune stressors, as well as emotional challenges. They are constantly bombarded by runny noses, wheezing, and sneezes at school, playgroups, and sporting events, not to mention the never ending responsibilities placed on them at school. Standards of education, standardized testing, and amounts of homework have reached an all-time high, causing stress that easily equates to the stress parents feel at their jobs.

How do we take care of our children and give them the strength and support they need? It all begins at home. Ensuring your child has a regular routine during the school week is one of the most important things you can do for them. This includes getting at least 9-10 hours of restful sleep a night, so a regular bedtime is critical. Sound sleep is essential to physical and emotional health for both kids and parents alike. While we sleep our bodies digest our food and prep the body with hormone and enzyme production to face the challenges of the new day.

Food is the next component of a normal routine. Kids require 3 solid meals a day, plus snacks, starting with a protein-filled breakfast. All children must consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables daily because these foods contain phytonutrients that simply cannot be found in a daily multivitamin. These nutrients are different from vitamins A, B, and C in that they contain other naturally occurring plant complexes that exist only in plant matter. These nutrients are in part what make blueberries blue and strawberries red and are often referred to as antioxidants. Antioxidants are important to cellular health and can provide integrity to the immune system, especially when it is being challenged.

A serving size of fruits and vegetables for children differs from an adult’s serving. An easy way to relate to a serving size is understanding that it is roughly the same size as what will fit in your palm. So the smaller you are, the smaller the serving size. For perspective, 15 grapes is the serving size amount for an adult, 10 grapes will fit into an older child’s palm, and a 4 year old may fit only 5 grapes into her little hands. This will help you understand how much a serving size is for a child.

A commonly asked question is, What can I give my children on a regular basis besides fruits and vegetables that can help support a healthy immune system? A great-tasting, highly antioxidant choice is Black Elderberry. Foods that are commonly deep blue to purple in color have a specific type of antioxidant called anthocyanins. When fresh blueberries are no longer in season, Black Elderberry Syrup is a great choice and is easy for kids to take because of its pleasant taste. I recommend ½ tsp as a daily supportive dose, but it can be increased to 3 times a day if an immune challenge occurs.*

But what can you do when your child does begin to feel a bit under the weather this season? Reach for Gaia Herbs Echinacea for Children or Echinacea Goldenseal for Children. These liquid extracts are in a sweet-tasting glycerin base and can be taken alone or mixed with juice. Dosing these frequently at onset can help bring rapid relief to your child.* Also, Gaia’s herbal Ear Drops can be used throughout the day and at bedtime to bring relief to mild irritation of the ears that often accompanies seasonal immune challenges.*

Above Photo: Clusters of Black Elderberries.

*THESE STATEMENTS HAVE NOT BEEN EVALUATED BY THE US FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION. THIS PRODUCT IS NOT INTENDED TO DIAGNOSE, TREAT, CURE, OR PREVENT ANY DISEASE.

About Dr. Keri Marshall
Dr. Keri Marshall is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor who specializes in pediatrics, women’s medicine, and chronic disease management. She also serves as the Medical Director at Gaia Herbs. She has published several scientific papers and magazine articles, has written a book on proteins and amino acids, appears regularly on nationally syndicated radio shows, and has appeared on ABC’s “A View from the Bay” and the “Healing Quest” program seen on public television. Dr. Marshall has served as a scientific adviser to Citizens for Health, a clinical advisor to Nordic Naturals, a nutrition adviser to the United States Sugar Association, and as a nutrition expert in her local public school district. Dr. Marshall received her naturopathic medical degree from the National College of Naturopathic Medicine in Portland, Oregon, her master’s in epidemiology from SUNY at Buffalo, and her bacherlor’s from the George Washington University. She maintains a small private practice in Washington, DC.

Tips from our Doctors

The more you learn about the healing powers of herbs, the more you can gain in terms of your personal health and well-being. This is why our advisory team of doctors and herbalists has developed these practical tips to help you on your journey.

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