With the summer holidays almost over and the new school term almost upon us, the next few weeks can be a precarious time for the immune system. Along with the new school uniform, new pencil case and new shiny shoes, also comes new germs, bugs and little nasties that can make the new school term a challenge for both children and adults alike.
Prevention is always the aim, so keeping the immune system as strong as possible at this time of year should be a priority, but if these germs and bugs strike, knowing how to eliminate them quickly and reduce symptoms can be a huge help. So let’s take a look at which foods your cupboards are best stocked with for the start of the new term and how these foods could help if those germs attack.
Colds & Flu
Chances are that between now and Christmas there will be lots of runny noses, chesty coughs and an abundance of sneezes, which combined with classrooms of new friends, means cold and fluey bugs are sure to
rear their ugly heads. Eating foods that help prevent these can be really useful at this time of year and garlic is a real winner when it comes to this. Consumption of garlic has been shown to enhance immune cell function and reduce susceptibility to colds and flu so make it a regular ingredient in your cooking. To get the best health benefits from garlic, it really should be eaten raw several times a week, so instead of adding to food at the start of the cooking process, add it towards the end and then serve quickly, which will help maximize the health benefits.
Garlic is actually one of nature’s best antibiotics and has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, so is a great all-rounder for protection purposes against the nasties of childhood ills. This multi-faceted action helps explain why, when it comes to improving immunity, garlic is a real winner.
Consuming dairy products may also have an additional benefit when it comes to preventing colds. Some research has shown that those people who have low vitamin D levels are more susceptible to colds compared to people who are not deficient in this vitamin and remember that without calcium, Vitamin D can’t be absorbed.
All of the dairy products here at Delamere Dairy are a rich source of calcium, including all our goats’ milk, yogurt and cheese products, so by incorporating these products into the diet you can be assured that yours and your family’s calcium requirements can easily be met. This will mean your Vitamin D can be efficiently absorbed and you may be less susceptible to those cold germs!
Horseradish may not be your first thought when it comes to relieving cold symptoms, but herbalists have prescribed it for years to help relieve congestion, sinusitis, flu and mucus build up.
You can actually make a horseradish tea by grating a small amount of horseradish root into a cup, adding a squeeze of lemon and honey and leaving it to ‘brew’ before drinking. Your nasal passages will soon be clear! Whether it is favourable to your child’s pallet is another matter, but you can always try.
Remember the saying ‘feed a cold starve a fever’, well that’s still quite true in many cases, but you need to make sure you are ‘feeding’ the cold with the right foods! Foods high in vitamin C and the mineral selenium are your best options here as both of these play a huge part in immune function and consuming them will speed up and aid recovery. Good food sources of selenium include Brazil nuts, shellfish, oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, herring and fresh tuna), sunflower seeds, chicken, brown rice and eggs. Goats’ milk is also a very good source of selenium, containing 27% more of this essential mineral than cow’s milk, so having a carton of Delamere Dairy goats’ milk to hand when a colds hits the family is definitely a must.
Feeding the family daily with citrus fruits, blueberries, red peppers, broccoli, kiwis, and fresh chilies, will provide good sources of that all-important Vitamin C too.
Stomach bugs can be something that can very easily spread quickly through the entire household once caught, and these bugs can be rife in schools for those first few weeks of a new term. Again having a strong immune system and healthy gut will help reduce susceptibility of catching these bugs, but washing of hands regularly in warm soapy water when in contact with items or surfaces also used by others, is highly important to prevent the spread of these types of germs. Explaining this to children will make them more aware of how germs can easily spread and allow them to play a more conscious role in their own health.
Ginger has for centuries been used successfully to relieve nausea
Inevitably, at some point, one of these nasty stomach bugs will be caught and when this occurs, make sure to keep the body hydrated as sickness and diahorrea can easily lead to dehydration, especially in children. Small frequent sips of water or coconut water, which contains electrolytes, which the body loses through sickness, should be a big part of the recovery process. Basil can be effective in helping alleviate diarrhoea, as well as being helpful in treating stomach spasms, both of which can be symptoms of these types of bugs. Another herb, ginger, has for centuries been used successfully to relieve nausea, so is something to have to hand when these types of bugs strike. You can easily make ginger into a tea, or even gnaw or suck on a small piece of ginger root to help relieve the nausea.
Lemon juice has strong anti-bacterial properties, and can be easily consumed within a glass of water or on its own with a teaspoon when suffering stomach bugs. The antibacterial actions of lemons can be effective in killing germs found in the digestive tract and which may be causing or aggravating the diarrhoea or contributing to the sickness.
When the appetite starts to return after a bout of sickness, for the first few days, only foods that are easy to digest and gentle on the stomach should be eaten. These include, rice, bananas, toast, potatoes and chicken or vegetable broth. Marmite, as long as you’re a lover of it and not a hater, on toast can also be beneficial as it will help replace the salt that the body loses and also contains electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, which the body will have lost during sickness and bowel movements.
Sore Throats / Tonsillitis
There is nothing quite like a bad sore throat or tonsillitis to make us realise how much we take swallowing for granted. The pain can be so bad that the sheer thought of eating or drinking is totally unbearable to us, but drink you certainly must! Tonsillitis can be caused by a viral or bacterial infection and if it is the latter you will certainly benefit from gargling with liquid that has anti-bacterial properties. Salt is one thing you will almost certainly have heard of for this. Salt has many healing properties and has been used for generations to clean wounds and prevent infection. If you feel the familiar twinges of the onset of a throat infection or the infection has taken hold, make a salt water solution and add some fresh lemon juice to it then gently gargle with the solution before spitting it out (you will soon regret it if you swallow it by mistake!). The anti-bacterial effects of the lemon juice can be really helpful here. Repeat this a few times a day.
Another fantastic herb for throat infections is thyme, which has antiseptic, antibacterial and disinfectant properties so very helpful in cases of tonsillitis and throat infections. Thyme lends itself to infusions, which can be sipped on throughout the day and will also help to keep you hydrated.
Simply add some fresh thyme to a small pan of boiling water and simmer gently for 3-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow then to stand and cool for 15 – 20 minutes before drinking slowly in small sips. You can also add lemon juice to this too for an extra antibacterial boost and some honey for its soothing and antibacterial qualities.
Now, should you be struck down with the throat lurgy, there is some consolation for both adults and children here and that is you can justifiably eat ice cream with no guilt attached. Ice cream and cold drinks orcold soft foods can be very soothing to sore throats and can help numb the pain, temporarily at least. One great thing you can do here that will certainly bring a smile to an ill child’s face, is make your own milk ice lollies.
This is really easy to do and very tasty. You can use any soft fruit that you like here, but strawberries or raspberries are the best and will also give some nutrition at a time when little or no food is being consumed.
Use 200ml of Delamere Dairy’s whole goats’ milk (goats’ milk is especially good here as it has anti-inflammatory properties, which other milk doesn’t have, so could potentially be helpful in easing inflammation in the throat), add a good handful of the fruit, a teaspoon of pure vanilla paste or essence and a small splash of maple syrup or a teaspoon of honey if extra sweetness is desired. Mix in a blender and then put the mixture into lolly molds and then place in the freezer until solid. It may not get rid of a sore throat, but it will certainly help ease it and give a temporary smile to an otherwise sad, ill face!
If you have children starting back at school this September, hopefully the first term will go without a glitch and you will not need to use the advice above, but it would still be handy to have at least some of the foods mentioned above in your kitchen stores just in case. As the old saying goes, ‘you are better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it’.