Much like in the world at large, where we aren’t immune from things that happen in faraway places, within our own households we’re really only as strong as our collective immunity. If one person brings the flu in the house, for example, does everyone get it? In our home, we’ve definitely had takedown sickness before where we all got it, one after another, but that occurrence is rare. In general, when my husband gets sick, I don’t. When one kid gets sick, we parents don’t.
The idea of family-focused immunity means that you orchestrate practices in your home that strengthen you all, leading toward the goal of fewer family members succumbing to every bug going around.
So many factors affect your immunity beyond genetics. Immune building isn’t about disinfecting everything in sight or recklessly exposing yourself to germs to force your immune system to get tougher. These are both extreme views that can actually harm your immune system.
The immune system is your line of defense against microbial invaders. For the most part, it works in the background without you ever being aware of what it’s doing. That is, unless you become ill. You may think that your immune system has failed you at that point, but it is impossible to prevent every bug all the time. When you do get it, your immune system kicks into high gear to both defeat the invaders and learn some defensive strategies in case it encounters the same again.
Family immune practices that promote healthy immunity for everyone in the house are rooted in common sense because they help your body’s cells perform optimally. Your immune system—and every other body system—relies on your cells being able to replicate correctly and do their job. If you want to optimize healthy immunity in your household, work to make the following practices habits for everyone.
1. Foods for a Healthy Inflammatory Response
Chicken soup is such a common remedy because, as research shows, it supports a healthy inflammatory response and supports a healthy immune response. These types of foods should be eaten all the time though, not just when you’re in the thick of it, for the best protective benefits. Other foods include broccoli, turmeric, spinach, seafood, ginger, walnuts, berries, chia seeds, flaxseeds, garlic, onions, avocado, apples, and coconut oil.
2. Stress management
Stress of any kind can increase inflammatory response in the body. While we are unlikely to be able to eliminate all stress, we can and should learn how to process stress and give our bodies ways to calm the effects. This is one of the most essential skills that children should be taught. Great ways to address stress include yoga, meditation, and mindfulness.
Yoga has also been shown to support a healthy inflammatory response in the body, making it a great way to support the optimal function of the immune system. You don’t have to attend studio classes or even have access to YouTube videos. Libraries carry or can find books on basic yoga poses which come with simple instructions. There are even yoga books aimed at younger children. Doing this as a family for 10 to 15 minutes per day can not only improve fitness but promote a healthy way to process stress and learn the beneficial functions of diaphragmatic breathing.
3. Having fun
Laughter is good for the soul, but it’s also a brilliant anti-stress method. When the body is under less chronic stress, the immune system will function better. Chronic stress can suppress immune system functionality. Family fun can be a broad concept and unique to each family unit. Some may enjoy family hikes for laughter and camaraderie, while others may prefer family game nights or movie nights. There’s no single right way to do it, but try to engage everyone in the family in an activity where genuine fun, laughter, and joy can be found.
4. High-quality sleep
Sleep is challenging for many families, especially those who have younger children. I have three small kids (ages four and under). I am woken at least once in the middle of the night, every night, and I have been since 2015. If you have small kids you probably think that “high-quality sleep” is a joke. However, I’ve learned that there are things that can be done to optimize sleep even when you’re bound to get interrupted. First, if your toddler or early school-age kids are the ones waking you up, try to solve that. An appropriately weighted blanket may reduce or prevent middle of the night wake-ups or anxious feelings. Dropping your house temperature while you sleep may also promote better night’s rest. The optimal temp for sleeping well is around 65ºF.
Second, if you have an infant waking you, there’s not much you can do to alter that, but prepping everything you’ll need for night feed before you go to bed will reduce the amount of time you’re up through the night. Lay diapers out. Prep bottles and keep them in the fridge or have all of your nursing/pumping items right next to your bed. Keep night lights in areas you’ll have to navigate so you don’t have to turn lights on and further shock your brain awake.
Third, if your own issues are keeping you from sleep, even if the kids are, talk to your doctor. Thyroid problems, hormonal imbalances, anxiety, and depression can all impact sleep. Left unaddressed for long periods of time, your health can deteriorate in the process.
Lastly, set a bedtime for each member of the family and stick to it, whether you or they feel tired or not. Routine is a big part of sleep hygiene and in the long run, promotes better sleep as your body comes to depend on its daily reprieve.
Sleep is a valuable commodity when it comes to promoting healthy immunity. Don’t just accept poor sleep as a reality of being a parent.
5. Good hygiene practices
Of course, hand-washing is important. We’ve all probably heard our fill of advice not to touch our faces, to wash hands for 20 seconds, and so on. But they’re said over and over because they’re that important.
However, when it comes to being in your home, make sure that you’re using just regular soap (not antibacterial), and leave hand sanitizer use for when you’re not in the home. Excessive use of bacteria-destroying products can protect you in an immediate situation and are good when soap and water are not available. But long-term use of these can negatively impact your microbiome and can lead to more cases of antibiotic resistance.
6. Targeted supplemental support
Speaking of the microbiome, taking a daily probiotic is always a good idea because the good bacteria that we need in our guts need to be replenished. Probiotics differ by strain and strength, so the best way to ensure you’re getting exactly what you or your child needs is to work with a nutrition professional or medical professional who can recommend the best strains.
You can also use herbal supplements to support healthy immunity and to provide additional support if a bug does get you. It’s always important to check with your doctor or your pediatrician before starting supplements.
It’s never good when parents aren’t feeling their best, because the kids never stop needing taken care of! To deeply nourish and support healthy immunity, you can take Kick-Ass Daily, and if you start to show signs of being rundown or for active situations, Kick-Ass Immune can offer an extra boost of in-the-moment support.
Writer Aimee McNew has a Master’s in Holistic Nutrition Therapy (MNT) and is also a Certified Practitioner of Nutrition Therapy (CNTP). Read her posts on nutrition and wellness at https://www.aimeemcnew.com/.
For educational purposes only. This information has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease, or sell any product.