Jenny Schatzle

Karen Jacobs, PA-C/MS

How to Strengthen Your Child’s Immune System & Boost Gut Health 

EPISODE: 25   |    DATE: January 14, 2021

“Your child will get sick when they start school. It’s just a fact of life and in my mind it’s a good thing. It strengthens their immune system and they get explosed to more and more things. By the time they are in school for 1-2 years they will be strong and ready to be in our world.”

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  • Your kids are going to get sick when they go to school. That’s just a fact. They will get exposed to different bugs and viruses. That’s a good thing! It will help build their immune system and within a year or 2 they will be stronger.
  • To support good immunity, one of the best things you can do is to breastfeed your newborn for at least the first year, or even 2. The longer you breastfeed, the better it is for their health.
  • If you can’t breastfeed for any reason, Karen recommends some great formulas beyond the commercial ones that are great substitutes.
  • The other thing to do to support your child’s immune system is to build up immunity through diet and nutrition.
  • Karen doesn’t actually recommend that all children be on supplements. It’s truly a case by case basis.
  • Some recommendations Karen has for strengthening the immune system is to use gemmotherapy like Briar rose and black currant, vitamin D (especially in the winter), omega fatty acids like fish oil and cod liver oil, and a high quality multivitamin.
  • You can actually start cod liver oil in babies at 9 months, and it’s good to get them started on it that early so they develop the taste for it.
  • If you’re child isn’t the best eater, Karen recommends a good multivitamin like the chewables from Metagenics.
  • Homeopathy originated in Europe and has been around for a long time. It’s very safe and effective. 
  • Karen has seen homeopathy used to treat everything from tics to autism to colds and flus, stomach issues and constipation and more. 
  • It’s hard to give any general recommendations when it comes to supplements and homeopathy, but there is one in particular that Karen recommends using preventatively. It’s called Oscillococcinum from Boiron. It’s become so popular you can get it everywhere – even Walmart and CVS! You can take it anytime you feel like you’re getting sick, and you can also take it preventatively before traveling. Karen knows many people who take it every few days during Covid just to boost up the immune system.
  • For kids who are picky eaters above the age of 2, Karen would recommend Catalyn from Standard Process, which is their version of a multivitamin. 
  • Once your child does start to become sick, Karen recommends something called Congaplex from Standard Process to help with the immune system. You can take it 3-4 times a day if you’re stick, and you can also take it preventatively when traveling.
  • 3 great supplements for once your child does become ill – either with Covid or anything else – are vitamins A and C and Zinc. 
  • You have to be careful with Vitamin A, though, because you can take too much. So dosing is important and you should work with your health care provider to make sure you’re taking it correctly.
  • With vitamin C, you actually will just pee out what you don’t need, so the dosage isn’t as specific. This vitamin has been shown to be really effective in helping with Covid symptoms.
  • Another great supplement for immune support is Andrographis – it’s similar to echinacea.
  • And another great supplement for immunity is called Viracid from Orthomolecular. This is also a great one to take if you happen to have been around someone who you come to find out later is sick. You can start taking Viracid – under your health care provider’s care – in an attempt to help boost your immune system in hopes to keep from getting sick.
  • For anyone dealing with both allergies and infections, Karen recommends trying Quercetin.
  • And on the topic of allergies, D-Hist Junior from Orthomolecular is a great product that is good not just for allergies but also for viral infections. 
  • Finally, Arabinex from Thorne is a great supplement to help boost a child’s gut health and immune system before starting school. It comes in powder form and can even be given to babies. 
  • Please remember to use any of these products under the care and guidance of your healthcare provider. 
  • When it comes to buying supplements, be sure to get yours through a licensed health care professional’s office and work with them before buying anything. You can get a lot of supplements in stores or online, but you aren’t necessarily getting the best quality. 
  • If you have a picky eater, know this: it’s completely normal for your child to go through stages of refusing certain foods. It can happen for many reasons, one of which them just trying to exert their voice and opinion. 
  • The trick is to continue offering them healthy foods even if they don’t eat it.
  • You can try using a “try it first” rule, where you have the child agree to try the food, and if they don’t like it, they don’t have to eat it. But that can also be tricky.
  • You can use foods to build gut health in children. Fermented foods like pickles, kimchi and kombucha are great, if you can get your kids to eat them!
  • Pomegranates and vegetables are also great foods for good gut health in children.
  • Karen recommends the book Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon for help coming up with great nutrient dense recipes for your kids.
  • Karen doesn’t recommend a pre or probiotic for every kid, but if you have a picky eater, you might want to consider it.
  • When it comes to gluten and dairy, while it works for some kids, Karen usually will take those things out of the diet if there are any health challenges like constipation (or just pooping only a few times a week), behavioral issues, etc.
  • Gluten in particular can cause skin rashes and GI issues, and can even cause behavioral issues. That said, be careful of overly processed gluten free flours. Karen would actually recommend eating a freshly baked piece of real sourdough bread over a processed gluten free piece. So it’s a case by case basis.
  • When seeing your doctor, some of the things they should be asking about are:
    • Your child’s diet and nutrition
    • How their sleep and mood is
    • How their elimination is (are they pooping every day? Every other day? etc.)
    • Family history of you and your partner, and grandparents, etc.
    • About environmental toxins in the house (i.e. mold, old paint, lead pipes, etc.)
    • Ask if they do yearly blood tests to test iron levels, and a metals test (Karen tests all babies for lead at 12 months as a precaution)
    • Wifi in the house – it’s probably not a good idea to have the router or phone next to their head!
  • If you’re interested in seeking out care outside of the western model – or if you find yourself wanting to integrate more alternative care into the western model you are already working in – you can seek out a naturopathic doctor, or any kind of integrative or functional medicine pediatric practitioner.

About Karen

Karen is a board-certified PA with over ten years of experience in integrative family medicine in Los Angeles. She received her Master’s degree at NYU, and her PA degree at Long Island University in New York.

Karen has accumulated years of experience specializing in regenerative medicine, women’s health, and pediatric care. She incorporates homeopathy, nutritional support, and natural remedies when treating her patients.⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀

Karen is also our expert in joint and tissue regeneration. Utilizing prolotherapy and PRP treatments, she treats every joint in the body, including the neck, low back, knees, shoulders, and hips. Karen is also highly skilled in using PRP for hair regrowth, collagen production, and to diminish scarring.

Karen has a passion for helping the whole family heal inside and out. When not at work, she enjoys traveling with her family and raising her two daughters, ages 13 and 16.


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