During the past three years, I have completely changed the way my family eats and have done a lot of research about building immunity.

The healthier my little guy stays, the less asthma episodes we have to fight with inhalers and nebulized steroids. With both my children in a daycare center environment, they are exposed to every virus under the sun. On top of all of this, my son does not get flu shots due to egg allergies. However, I believe that it is absolutely possible to fend off the flu naturally.

With that in mind, here are some of the things I’ve found that help my family fend off colds and flus.

Vitamin D

I cannot say enough about the impact vitamin D has had on my family. Living in the tundra (Minnesota), getting enough vitamin D is crucial, especially during the fall, winter, and even the spring months when we aren’t exposed to as much natural sunlight. I would recommend having your vitamin D levels checked (a medical professional can do this with a blood test) in order to get a gauge how much you may need. For example, my 40-pound son takes 3,000 IU per day, my 25-pound daughter takes 1,000 IU, while I take 5,000 IU per day. This is in addition to fish oil, which also has vitamin D in it.

Fish Oil

Ever since being introduced to the Weston A. Price Foundation through our natural health practitioners, my son and I have been taking fermented cod liver oil (FCLO) every day. FCLO is rich in omega-3 fatty acids as well as fat-soluble vitamins D and A. In terms of where you can find it, I recommend the Cinnamon Tingle flavor from Green Pasture, which is tolerable if not exactly delicious. My son takes 1/2 teaspoon and I take 2 teaspoons per day. Although my four-year-old son takes it without a second thought, he is one of very few that does so – in fact, my daughter prefers Barlean’s Omega Swirl, which comes in a variety of flavors and is delicious! (You can find it at Whole Foods or at your local co-op. It does need to be refrigerated, so I would not recommend purchasing it online.)

Probiotics and Fermented Foods

In addition to probiotic supplements every day, our family eats a lot of fermented foods (for more insight into why I believe probiotics and fermented foods are good for you, read this post). Although you can purchase sauerkraut and pickles (Bubbies is a great brand), I make my own sauerkraut using Pickl-It jars. It is SO easy, and takes about as much time as a batch of muffins from a preparation standpoint. However, for really good, probiotic-rich sauerkraut, it takes about three months of fermentation to get great results. This is the recipe I follow for sauerkraut.

Elderberry Syrup

Elderberries have been shown to shorten the length of the flu, particularly when started within 24-48 hours of the onset of symptoms. One study found that the use of elderberry cut the duration of flu symptoms (such as fever, headache, sore throat, fatigue, cough, and body ache) by more than 50 percent.[i] I find that they work extremely effectively to fight colds, as well. However, elderberry syrup is not something we take every day, as I find it to be more effective to use only when I know my kids have been exposed to a specific virus/flu bug or if they begin to exhibit signs of a cold or the flu. My 4-year-old takes one teaspoon morning and night if exposed; if he is exhibiting symptoms, I will give him one teaspoon every few hours throughout the day. During an illness, I give him 2-3 teaspoons per day. My one-year-old follows the same protocol except with 1/2 teaspoon. My husband and I take 2 teaspoons when we feel signs of a cold or flu coming on. We have seen amazing results since adding this to our protocol!

Note: I purchase this syrup from Whole Foods, but you can make your own, as well. Please note that this kind has honey in it and is not appropriate for children under age one. In addition, elderberries should only be used in syrup or tincture form, as raw elderberries are poisonous.

Christina Tibesar is a wife and mother who has always loved to cook and stay active to maintain a healthy lifestyle. When her son was diagnosed with food allergies just after his first birthday, his wheat, soy, egg, peanut, tree nut and sesame allergies (in addition to chronic ear infections and early-onset asthma) motivated Christina to learn everything she could with regards to purchasing and preparing foods that have the power to heal. With guidance from many resources and direction from experts on the subject of wellness and diet, she has learned how to use nutritious, whole foods to prepare nourishing, healing meals for her family and has taken additional holistic approaches to insure that her son thrives as he grows by minimizing the negative impact from his health challenges. Christina is passionate about sharing her story with others who have loved ones with similar challenges. You can read more at http://elevatewellness.blogspot.com/.

[i] Zakay-Rones, Z., E. Thom, T. Wollan, and J. Wadstein. “Randomized Study of the Efficacy and Safety of Oral Elderberry Extract in the Treatment of Influenza A and B Virus Infections.” Journal of International Medical Research 32, no. 2 (April 2004): 132-140.