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Good immune system boosting foods?

(17 Posts)
nappyaddict Thu 11-Jun-09 21:02:24

DS has a really crap immune system at the moment. He eats loads of fruit and veg but what things in particular should I be giving him? I have heard spinach, red pepper, beans, peas, carrots, asparagus, cauliflower, broccoli, squash, cabbage, fresh parsely, cinnamon, thyme, blueberries, strawberries, cherries, tomatoes, fish, shellfish, walnuts and venison are good. Sardines and liver too but not sure he'll go for that. Just wondering if there's anything else really good?

thumbwitch Thu 11-Jun-09 23:38:09

Any ideas why his immune system is so bad, NA? How are his guts? because it sounds like you're feeding him all the right stuff, but if he isn't absorbing properly then it won't be doing him as much good as it should.

Do you give him any form of probiotic? Live yoghurt, for e.g., or even those ghastly actimel things? If you can make sure his gut function is up to scratch, it should help with the rest - the main nutrients the immune system really uses are zinc, selenium, Vits A, C and E so foods high in these will be of benefit. You could therefore include brazil nuts in your list (excellent source of selenium)

The only other concern is if he eats too many green leafy vegetables it might be counter-productive because of the high content of phytates - these can bind to minerals like zinc and selenium and render them unabsorbable; so not too much of the cabbage/kale type stuff.


puffylovett Thu 11-Jun-09 23:56:50

<puffy starts stalking thumbwitch... are you a fellow nutr therapist...come talk to me if so, sometimes MN is a bit intimidating when it comes to alternative medicine !>

ginger and garlic can also be added to your list...oily fish like mackerel, sardines,'s a bit late and I've had a shit day today but hope that helps a bit too !

southeastastra Thu 11-Jun-09 23:57:16

red meat

thumbwitch Fri 12-Jun-09 00:06:20

puffy - not quite - but have taught it. Know a fair bit about it but could never cope with doing the exams myself blush!

nappyaddict Fri 12-Jun-09 00:51:09

He had encephalitis in January. Was hospitalised for 2 weeks, really poorly for about a month after. Went back to being like a newborn baby. Couldn't sit, walk, talk, hold his head up etc. Doctors have said anything he catches now is likely to affect him much worse than it would have before because his immune system is low. He had a D&V bug just before half term and ended up being hospitalised because he stopped being able to walk again for a few days.

thumbwitch Fri 12-Jun-09 01:07:37

So - with the amount of antibiotics he would have had for the encephalitis (unless it was viral?), and the D&V, his guts are going to be shot in terms of the bacterial flora.

Would really recommend getting him onto a daily probiotic. Puffy is more likely to be able to recommend one than I am so I hope she comes back and sees this.

There are things you can do, never fear, his immune system will recover and he will be ok again.

puffylovett Fri 12-Jun-09 08:51:00

how old is he ? poor monkey... I would be anal about his diet, which by the sounds of it you are being. Avoid anything refined and processed, like sugary foods and breads / pastas and keep everything as fresh and natural as possible, if he's on purees then even try blending some of the vegetables raw so that he gets the enzymes and nutrients before they are destroyed by cooking.

Presumably if he's had lots of drugs (pain relief, antibiotics) I'd be giving him live natural yoghurt, lots of quality protein like fish and eggs if he's of an age, to support his liver function in detoxifying the after effects of them.

Then supplement wise I would have him on a Probiotic ( I have 3 faves - Solgar ABCDophilus, Nutri Ultraprobioplex and Higher Nature Probioeasy for a good few months) a liquid multivitamin (i like Floradix or Good Health Naturally do a very good one called Jurassic Juice) and a strong fish oil complex (Nutri's Eskimo for Kids is the best one out there). These are all liquid so you could blend them into a smoothie or a juice or puree depending on age. I'm assuming he's a baby ? All these supps would be fine from 6 months and would give him a really good boost. I've even used a few drops of echinacea at time with my DS to boost his white T cell count. Sometimes food just isn't enough, and we need to give them an extra boost for a short time to really get things back to being fully healthy again.

The other thing is to try some homeopathy - as it can be a brilliant constitutional treatment for children.

Hope that helps !! Have woken up a bit more now ! Plse let me know what you do and how you get on if you go ahead with any of this - I;m planning to specialise in family health and fertility, I love it.

thumbwitch I don't blame you ! I've just finished my studies and sat final exams, (despite having done this job for 5 yrs I still struggled )!!

nappyaddict Fri 12-Jun-09 13:02:14

He was on 2 sorts of IV antibiotics in January. Didn't have any for the D&V, just went on a drip.

He is 3 in a couple of weeks. He eats raw carrots, peas, peppers, lettuce, cucumber, onion, celery and radishes.

He does have some processed stuff. For instance he likes these yoghurt drinks you get from Tesco. He's obsessed with milkshakes and these yogurt drinks are what we call milkshakes. I dunno if they are any better for him than milkshake but I like to think they are. When he asks for yoghurt he has plain natural yoghurt and he loves that. I don't know if it's live though. Is the live one the bio one?

He loves eggs. Can he have too many eggs as I do worry if he has too many sometimes.

Where do I get hold of these multivitamins and the probiotic yogurt? I looked in Boots a while back but they all said from age 3 so I've held off giving them him.

thumbwitch Fri 12-Jun-09 14:16:04

Too many eggs can be what they call "binding" i.e. can mess around with the passage of his stools. Depends on what you mean by too many though - half a dozen a week should be ok. (Raw eggs areno good at all, not that you would be thinking that but there is a substance in the raw egg white called avidin which binds specifically with biotin, a part of the vitamin B complex, and this prevents absorption of this vitamin.)

Raw veggies are all very well but some of them need to be cooked to absorb better - carrots and peppers for e.g. - will release their carotenes better if cooked with oil/butter, as carotenes are fat soluble and require fat to be absorbed - carotenes form Vitamin A in the bod and therefore are very important in immune function. Too many raw veggies can be counter-productive as the nutrients are sometimes less available from them; although there are benefits to having some raw as well as some cooked.

Cut down on any sugary stuff - although there is some debate about the mechanics of this, if his gut bacteria are all messed up (which they will be) then it can allow the yeast Candida albicans room to grow, and being a yeast, it loves and thrives on sugar, so starving it of sugar as much as possible is beneficial. Candidiasis, where there is excess growth of the yeast, can have all sorts of unpleasant knock-on effects.

If he likes yoghurt drinks, try the YeoValley tubes - they are biolive and the bacteria do have a beneficial effect (certainly on my DH!) Live yoghurts are usually the bio ones, yes.

In reality for anyone of his age, you would really need to have someone who knows what they are talking about offering you advice on probiotics, with a view to them being age-appropriate. Puffy may be able to help with that - failing that, you could try to find a BANT-registered Nutritional Therapist who would also be able to help - it would cost you the price of a consultation but it would give you a much more tailored (and therefore likely more effective) regimen. Having taught on a BSc course in Nutritional Therapy, I can categorically state that anyone with a degree in Nutritional Therapy is not some kind of witch doctor quack who is trying to rip you off - they know what they are talking about and have done a lot of science in their degree plus a huge amount of clinical practice. Some of the training colleges will offer reduced price consultations if you are an interesting case study (which your DS would be) - you would be consulting with a student but they would be supervised so the suggested regimen would be regulated.

nappyaddict Fri 12-Jun-09 14:41:27

OK will stop giving the raw peppers and carrots. He usually has 1 a day but sometimes 2.

Is a nutritional therapist different to a dietician?

puffylovett Fri 12-Jun-09 15:29:51

Hi - all the supps I recommended are age appropriate for him. You would need to get them or have them ordered in from a good health food shop, or alternatively you can order online from I generally don't recommend most Boots or supermarket supps, they tend to be on the cheap side, which means they're the cheaper vits and minerals that are either highly processed (particularly in the case of fish oils) or very hard for the body to break down, so ultimately you don't get much benefit from them.

Whereabouts in the UK are you ? Our college has clinics in some of the major cities, they're generally really cheap but like thumbwitch says properly supervised by qualified Naturopaths or Nutritional Therapists. I can point you in the direction of one if need be. Otherwise, go on the BANT website and look for a registered therapist.

A Dietician is a registered university trained therapist, usually employed in a hospital setting, working with specialist diseases, for example Diabetes or Heart disease. A Nutritional Therapist is somewhat different in that we take a more holistic approach to overall health, aiming to pinpoint the root cause of a problem and treat therapeutically from there, to acheive optimal health using foods and supplements where neccessary. I hope that makes sense !

thumbwitch Fri 12-Jun-09 15:38:08

NA - try giving him the peppers and carrots as roasted veg with just a touch of olive oil/butter - or you could sauté the carrots in butter and a touch of water - they are YUMMY like that!

thumbwitch Fri 12-Jun-09 15:49:55

dietitians don't like nutritional therapists - to be fair, with some good reason as there have been in the past some "interesting" courses and practitioners. These days though the training is generally much more rigorous, and as I said, the BSc courses are properly taught with full science background, although detractors will still say there is no scientific justification for the use of supplements hmm - but they are living in a dreamworld, I'm afraid.

Dietitians are often rooted in the "one disease, one diet" frame of mind, as we discovered when my mum saw one. My mum had type II diabetes and also a colostomy - the 2 diets are quite different and pretty much mutually exclusive - so the dietitican washed her hands of my mum and said she could just work it out for herself what suited her shock Needless to say, there wasn't much in the way of a diabetes diet going on because that was more invisible and "controlled" by pills, so Mum concentrated purely on minimising problems with her colostomy. The outcome overall wasn't good - she died of bowel cancer 2 years ago, that potentially could have been prevented if she had had a more appropriate diet (she only listened to doctors and medical types)

So - you could ask your GP for your son to be referred to a dietitian but unless you have a very forward thinking one, you are unlikely to get the same sort of advice re rebuilding the gut flora and trying to limit the Candida.

nappyaddict Fri 12-Jun-09 16:09:03

So you wouldn't get a nutritionist dealing with hospital patients? I always thought they were the same thing blush

thumbwitch Fri 12-Jun-09 16:16:30

ah careful, you are into different ground again with a nutritionist!

Dietitian - employed by NHS in hospitals and GP surgeries to fit people with a diet mostly appropriate to their medical condition and to feed people in hospitals on strange nutritional mixes when they can't eat.

nutritionist - usually clinical, bit more of a research role sometimes, can also work in hospitals, more interested in the strange nutritional mixes fed to people who can't eat. (or so I believe)

nutritional therapist - far less likely to be employed in a hospital although they are becoming increasingly affiliated with enlightened GP surgeries, due in part to a shortage of dietitians. Considered Complementary therapists, rather than mainstream. Having said that - I know of at least one who is employed at University College Hospital in the cancer department. Reviled by anti-complementary therapists as "supplement peddlers", despite all reputable nutritional therapists working first and foremost with diet. More likely to be able to work effectively with people with less-specific health problems, like IBS, IBD, ASDs, fibromyalgia, ME, chronic fatigue, post-viral syndrome etc. - things that conventional medicine have very little to offer in terms of help.

Does that make it clearer?

puffylovett Fri 12-Jun-09 17:20:31

grin thumbwitch ! LOL at supplement peddlers. I used to work for one, for a few years - that's how I wound up studying for the last 3 years, as I felt supplements couldn't be the answer to everything and I didn't feel I was educating people about their food intake.

My boss (obviously) disagreed hmm. Well - she would, given the profit margins she was making on herbs and supps. She was VERY much a pill pusher (still is, but that's another story)..

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