and he’s back… Dr. Matthew Perchemlides, ND, FABNO, MSN, BSN from Riverside Natural Health Center is back with us talking about how to support your immune system. This week Dr. Perchemlides is talking specifically about the concerns of young families including tips on how breastfeeding mothers and infants can support their immune systems naturally.
Natural Immune Support Part 2
Immune Support for Parents of Young Children, Including Breastfeeding-Safe Protocols for Mother and Infant
A couple months ago I wrote about natural ways to keep your child’s immune system working at its best all year long. Our children’s health is at the top of our priority list as parents, not only because we love them and want them to thrive, but also, albeit less importantly, because when a little one has the common cold or a stomach bug, crankiness, sleeplessness, and schedule disturbances wreak havoc on the entire family. However, it is at least as important to support a parent’s healthy immune function, if not more so, because a parent is a caregiver. We can only take care of our children if we ourselves are well.
In order to provide our children with the best care in sickness and in health, our immune systems have to be functioning optimally as well. This is a tall order for any busy adult, but especially for new parents, who are contending with sleep depravation, far less time for self-care, and all of the other countless physical and emotional stressors that new parenthood is sure to bring.
We can only take care of our children if we ourselves are well.
For parents, as for children, we achieve this using a four-tier approach. First, we address lifestyle factors that might compromise immune function and we support the individual in adopting as many health-promoting practices as is possible and realistic. Second, we adopt an individualized nutritional and herbal supplement protocol to help achieve and maintain immune health all year long, regardless of the season. Third, during peak cold and flu season, we add a dose of prevention to the maintenance regimen. Finally, we develop a regimen for acute care for when illness has occurred and immunity has been compromised.
There is no substitute for healthy living. Every conversation about illness and wellness I have with my patients begins with identifying elements of a family’s lifestyle that contribute and detract from healthy living. When possible, improving any of the following lifestyle factors could help improve the immune function of all family members:
- Adequate sleep and regular sleep/wake cycles for everyone in the family
- Reduced exposure to irritants such as cigarette smoke, mold, excessive dust, and chemicals from household cleaners, toxic paints, and auto exhaust.
- A whole foods diet, free of foods with additives, fillers, and preservatives, that is also reasonably low in sugar, which causes inflammation and interferes with healthy immune function
- Consistent meal and snack times, which help regulate blood sugar and cortisol levels and prevent the body from going into stress mode
- As much physical activity as possible
- As much time outside in the fresh air and sunshine as possible to clean the respiratory system and naturally boost vitamin D levels
- Plenty of love and support for one another and time together spent in activities that bring joy to all, as science has documented a direct connection between the nervous system and the immune system, strongly suggesting that happiness and low stress might be the best form of medicine.
Doing Our Best, and Filling in the Gaps
As hard as we might try, our best efforts and intentions don’t always conform with our reality. If the adults in your home are anything like the ones in ours, maintaining healthy lifestyle practices is at best a work in progress. Because we are still, as they say, “in the weeds,” with our little ones, and are unlikely as of yet to be achieving optimal self-care on a daily basis, we may be deficient in nutrients that are important to our immune function. The following supplementation routines help ensure that any existing gaps in a new parent’s diet will be filled, resulting in better immune function and vitality.
For new parents, we shore up the immune system by first, giving the body the nutrients it needs to support its innate ability to fight illness. We also use nutritional support to strengthen the energy systems in the body, such as the thyroid gland, the mitochondria, and the adrenal gland. Finally, we use herbal support to attack bacteria and viral invaders.
A word about supplements: All supplements are not equal. Unfortunately when we purchase supplements over the counter and without the guidance of a Naturopathic Physician, we often get “watered down”, less potent, and possibly contaminant-laden versions and risk never experiencing the full potency and potential of the nutrient. Even if we are purchasing a quality product, A Naturopathic Physician will make sure that the nutrient is dosed appropriately for your individual needs. When you purchase supplements from a Naturopathic Physician, he or she can ensure that you are receiving the purest and most potent form of the nutrient so that you can experience its full therapeutic effect, which saves a lot of guesswork, time, and money.
Immune Support Daily Maintenance Regimen (Breastfeeding Safe)
I developed this daily protocol for my wife when she began breastfeeding our newborn son six years ago, and she is still using it daily as she continues to breastfeed our two-year old. Not only has it supported the immune health of both my wife and children, but it has also supported the growth and development of our children’s central nervous systems, including their brain and eye health. It is important to note that the particular product I give my patients, as well as the dose, is completely individualized and can depend on factors such as food allergies and intolerances as well as family lifestyle factors such as diet, whether the infant will attend daycare, or whether mother or baby has other health conditions to consider.
- A prenatal supplement
- A probiotic
- An Ultra Pure and Enteric Coated Fish oil that has zero environmental pollutants such as heavy metals, BPAs and dioxins, as well as zero rancidity
- Vitamin D3
- Beta Carotene
Cold and Flu Season Prevention Regimen (Breastfeeding Safe)
During cold and flu season, or the months of October through June, we add to the above a daily safe, modestly dosed, herbal and nutrient based antimicrobial product that contains zero berberine. Caution is warranted here, as many common herbal and “natural” products for colds and anti-viral support contain berberine, which can be problematic for nursing infants.
Acute Treatment During Illness (Breastfeeding Safe)
While it is always advisable to seek the care of your pediatrician or naturopath for persistent or chronic illness, a high-dose, nutrient-based antimicrobial is appropriate to start at the onset of mild cold or flu symptoms provided that it has been prescribed by a Naturopathic Physician ahead of time and individualized to each specific patient. At our office we ensure that the antimicrobial can be used during breastfeeding without any compromise to the child, to breastmilk supply, or to the mother’s ability to remain active and alert.
For Non-lactating Mothers, For Fathers, and for Other Caregivers of Young Children
The regimen for breastfeeding mothers is more inclusive because all items in the protocol promote the health of the breastfeeding mother as well as her infant, through the mother’s milk. These items also assist with milk production and help ease the added physical and physiological stressors that the demands of milk production create.
Mothers who are not breastfeeding, as well as Fathers and other caregivers, may use the following simplified protocol for immune support:
- For Year-round Maintenance: Ultra Pure Enteric Coated Fish Oil, Vitamin D3, and a Multivitamin
- For Cold and Flu Season Prevention: A low-dose antimicrobial
- For Acute Care: A higher dose of the same antimicrobial that has been prescribed in advance, while awaiting the necessary medical attention.
It is impossible to stave off every bug, and several times a year, we will all succumb. But as primary caregivers of young children, we rarely get the opportunity to take a break from our parental responsibilities. Illness or no, our young children depend on us for almost everything. A comprehensive immune support protocol, individualized to a parent’s particular needs, minimizes instances of illness, decreases the severity of symptoms when illness occurs, and ultimately improves overall wellness and vitality.
Dr. Matthew Perchemlides, ND, FABNO, MSN, BSN holds a degree in Naturopathic Medicine, as well as a Masters in Human Nutrition from the University of Bridgeport College of Naturopathic Medicine. He also has a degree in nursing from Boston College. Before Dr. Perchemlides became a Licensed Naturopathic Physician, he worked as a Registered Nurse in multiple areas, including pediatrics as well as all areas of adult medicine. After graduating first in his medical school class, Dr. Perchemlides went on to complete a naturopathic oncology residency with Cancer Treatment Centers of America in Tulsa, OK, earning a specialization in naturopathic oncology. Dr. Perchemlides provides primary care to adults and children as well as specialized naturopathic care in the areas of oncology and chronic disease. He practices naturopathic medicine in Middlebury, VT as a member of the natural health cooperative Riverside Natural Health Center.
This article is not written to provide medical advice, professional diagnosis, opinion, treatment or services to you or to any other individual. The information written in this article is intended for general purposes only and is not a substitute for medical or professional care. You should not use this information in the place of the advice of your physician or other healthcare provider. Dr. Matthew Perchemlides is not liable or responsible for any advice, course of treatment, diagnosis, or any other information, services, or product you obtain by reading the information in this article or through this site.