Growing Children and Childhood Diseases
Repetitive childhood illnesses affect every child. Because they make the child weak and feverish, the first impulse is to put pressure on your doctor for antibiotics (which can kill some germs) and analgesics (which reduce fever). Let’s be clear – I am saying that childhood illnesses can affect children severely, and if their health or life is threatened, then ask the doctor to give them the acute care that they need, be it for infection or fever.
But what we are really saying here is that we need to do all that we can to ensure that we can improve their overall health so that their immune system can fully engage he infection and minimise the severity of any virus or bacteria that they should encounter.
In other words, they will be much sicker if their nutritional status is poor. I am also saying that an infant’s nutritional status depends on that of the mother. In other words, preconception care to improve the mother’s health is important for the health of the infant.
The growing child
Infants and children have a well developed Thymus gland, situated behind the sternum, that houses tremendous immune activity, producing “T-cells” for fighting invading micro-organisms (bad bugs). The tonsils and also the adenoids are rich in immune cell-containing lymph tissue (leukocytes and lymphocytes), being the primary defence against the outside world’s bacteria.
They are an important primary defence throughout your life, if they are endowed with abundant nutrients that maximise germ-fighting potential. Old-fashioned doctors do not consider them to be important, unlike the modern outlook that considers future health into young adulthood and beyond.
As their bodies grow, the “new” muscles, bone, organs etc need constant additional micro nutrient as well as protein fats and carbohydrates. That’s why we have developed in our lab the Green Smoothi – simply a supply of all the micronutrients to add to normal meals to ensure that healthy growth. In fact, some studies claim that adolescents need up to five or six times or more that WHO-recommended minimum daily requirement (MDR or RDA).
So just how do we keep the immune system active and doing its job without choking the child?
Let me explain.
You see… The more active the immune cells are, the fewer it takes to kill a given number of bugs. That means that the tonsils may not to swell up to house such a large number of those white blood cells. So, the tonsils and adenoids may maintain a smaller size, not become infected themselves, have less chance of narrowing the airway and yet still get the job done.
Immune systems like all cells require certain nutrients – from the food and water supply – to form properly. And, to perform at their peak they need an abundance of specific vitamins and minerals, according to Cheraskin and others. That means that they will falter if a deficiency of even one of a number of their essential nutrients becomes critical. There are overall about 100 or more of these nutrients required (on a day-to-day basis) to maintain general health and ensure optimum growth. Such nutrients comprise vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids, amino acids and certain plant constituents.
Not only that, but also children’s’ chief immune gland – the thymus gland – is considerably larger than that of a grown adult that becomes vestigial. Yes, that’s right. Children have already been given an in-built germ-crunching gland to deal with the bugs that they are pre-programmed to encounter and defeat.
That puts a different light on the approach you need to protect your child’s health, doesn’t it?
I mean, you really have a great immune performance ability to enhance with good, healthy nutritional input. And your child will respond dramatically when you set about the task of “feeding up” the thymus and associated immune-producing glands, not with bread and cereals but with nutrient-dense, uncontaminated food. *
* Immune producing glands are situated in lymphatic tissue. They are specialised glands that mature and store white blood cells made in your bone marrow. They produce mature white cells such as T-cells, mast cells and basophils when they contact a nasty bug or foreign protein.
Find out more about the Immune System
The epidemic “childhood illnesses” can affect children differently, depending on their nutritional status. That is because their thymus gland, lymph nodes and tonsils require key nutrients to generate white blood cells – nutrients traditionally found in fresh whole foods and the water supply. These nutrients include vitamins, minerals, essential fatty and amino acids as well as anti-oxidants of various types called bioflavonoids that are found in hundreds of food plants.
That means to you that – given a healthy thymus/tonsil/spleen axis, your pre-schooler may laugh off a new virus that he encounters which may well affect you fairly severely if you have not had prior exposure to it.
Part of the immune response is for killer white blood cells (WBCs) to attack germs. In the process, they kill themselves, then group together to form pus. So, pus is good. And a healthy, nutritionally adequate child can make plenty of white blood cells (WBC).
White Blood Cells
We mentioned that the activity of the thymus/tonsil/adenoids/spleen axis depends on adequate nutritional status. Well, so does the activity of the WBCs. Emanuel Cheraskin, in his lecture Down Under at Manly in the seventies, stated that – using live blood microscope analysis – you could detect the activity of a WBC. He claimed that a “sick” WBC could only kill a third of a germ very slowly and a healthy WBC could kill 13 germs very quickly.
We already know that the rate of manufacture of WBCs in normal health can vary by as much as ten times. That means that – whether for a child or adult – your overall WBC activity can vary by as much as 400 times in a “normally healthy” child or adult.
400 times is 40,000%.
What influences White Blood Cell activity?
– Fatty, sugary food.
– Physical exhaustion
– Mental exhaustion
– Emotional exhaustion
– Nutritional status, or sufficient reserves of:
– Vitamins, especially vitamin A and Vitamin C
– Zinc and other minerals such as chromium, selenium, molybdenum, calcium and magnesium
– Sufficient fatty acids such as EPA, DHA, linoleic and g-linolenic acid.
– Glycoproteins and specific sugars such as arabinose
– plant bioflavonoids and vitamin C (found only in fresh plant foods)
So, just what do you need to do to produce a healthier immune system in your growing child?
The first step is to have your Naturopath assess the child’s overall health standing.
Once this has been done, we need to look at what particular deficiencies your child may have. Why should your child have any nutritional deficiency at all? After all, don’t we get all the goodness we need from good food?
To answer this, I urge you to turn to the Australian Dietary Surveys. According to the latest Australian Dietary Survey, up to 80% of adults are deficient in zinc and other micronutrients that are essential to health.
Micronutrient deficiency is a problem, because children over the age of 2 years old require 80 to 180% of the vitamins and minerals of that of an adult, according to figures quoted by the World Health Organisation. What is a major task of these nutrients? They allow for rapid, healthy growth and control the child’s immune system. In fact, some studies indicate that teenagers and pregnant women need an even greater mineral intake – up to 80% greater.
Why is this a problem? The answer is that all of your and your child’s bodily chemistry, organ and bone growth depends on critical reserves of all of those micronutrients and they aren’t getting enough of them. (See our article on “Child Nutrition – The Growing Child”.
To find more about how to help your child, you need to provide us with some details about his daily dietary habits, what types of food and snacks you provide for him/her and what drinks they have. Please ask us for a diet diary and a “health assessment questionnaire”. Once we have specific information about your child, we can make broad recommendations on a good preventative regime. We may need to have your naturopath’s assessment also.
If you are remote from us, we can often recommend a naturopath near you, if you do not know how to find one, who should perform an examination and provide you with a report.