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How to Build a Healthy Immune System in Kids

Sickness will happen, but if you eat right and utilize natural health supplements, you and your little ones get sick less often...
Nov 11, 2017 | Joy McCarthy

Tis the season for colds and flus! I know it seems like I'm saying that with excitement, lol, but I'm just really passionate about natural ways to keep your family healthy. Vienna is on the mend from a cold that started with a fever. She seems to get over any colds she gets pretty quick (thankfully) and I'm sure this is largely due to the fact we follow these recommendations religiously. It can be near impossible to completely avoid the cold and flu when you've got little ones in daycare or school. 


Sickness will happen, but if you eat right and utilize natural health supplements, you and your little ones will get sick less often.

...And when you do get sick, it will be less severe and the duration will be shorter compared to someone who doesn't take care of themself. 

I'm all about doing everything I can from a natural health perspective to keep everyone as healthy as possible in my family which is why I wanted to share my top tips for keeping your child's immune system strong and healthy. I asked a few colleagues to share their expert advice on the topic too and here's what they said:

From Josh Gitalis, Clinical Nutritionist

If kids want a strong immune system, they have to first remove what’s making it weak. 1 tsp of sugar can depress the immune system for up to 5 hours and sugar is in so many foods regularly given to children. Sugar should be avoided as mush as possible if a healthy immune system is the goal.

1 tsp of sugar can depress the immune system for up to 5 hours 

Support the microbiome (the naturally occurring bugs in and on the human body) by limiting refined carbohydrates and including fermented foods. If your child has been on an anti-biotic, be sure to include a probiotic following treatment. A child’s microbiome is a significant source of their natural defence and tonifies their overall immune health. Fermented foods, pets and natural exposures to bacteria in the home and environment are important to maintaining the health of the microbiome and kids overall health.

From Brett Hawes, Holistic Nutritionist

My favourite tip for building up immunity is to cut back on sugary foods. 1 tsp of sugar can suppress the immune system for up to 4-5 hours!

If it wasn't already obvious,sugar is dreadful for the immune system. In case you were wondering, artificial sweeteners a.k.a. laboratory concoctions of chemicals to taste sweet, are dreadful too. They suppress the immune system and have a whole host of other problems including weight gain, hypoglycemia and some of them are even carcinogenic. You can learn all about my case against artificial sweeteners in Joyous Detox. 

Here's a list of all the foods you'll want to avoid or severely limit in your child's diet if you want to support their immune system:

  • Juice and pop (1 cup glass of O.J. has 21g of sugar, that's 4.5 tsp of sugar!!!)
  • Nutella, ketchup, teriyaki sauce -- you get where I'm going with this. Condiments can be hidden sources of sugar so make sure you read labels
  • Boxed cereal and granola, granola bars
  • Flavoured yogurt
  • White flour products: bread, pasta, baked goods
  • White rice, white rice snacks
  • Chips and crackers and any refined carbohydrate sources
  • Junk food, fried foods, bad fats

If you're a parent reading this and wondering what your kid is supposed to eat, don't worry my friend. I have literally hundreds of delicious family friendly recipes on my blog and in both of my books Joyous Detox and Joyous Health.  I've also written extensively about foods to eat to support the immune system


You might also enjoy some of these joyous recipes with immune boosting ingredients:

Chicken Bone Broth

You can sip it straight up (in fact – this was Vienna's first food!) or you can use it as the base of a soup. 

Chicken bone broth

I used to freeze it in a silicon ice cube tray and thaw it just before giving it to Vienna. Now that she's two, she'll just drink it out of a cup. 

Learn all about the health benefits of bone broth here.

Lemon Basil Pesto

This pesto is packed with immune-boosting garlic! Use it as a snack for dipping or mix it with your favourite pasta for a healthy meal. I don't know a single kid who won't eat pasta. If Vienna had it her way, she'd eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner. She absolutely loves this pesto on chickapea pasta!

Find my recipe for Lemon Basil Pesto here. 

Simple Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut squash is rich in beta-carotene which is what makes it this beautiful rich yellow/orange colour which is an indication that it's immune-boosting. 

Find my soup recipe here. 


Every day we have a family smoothie. This recipe is one of Vienna's favourite recipes of all time! It's full of immune-boosting power due to the protein content (via hemp hearts) which helps the body to produces antibodies to fight infections.

Coconut Yogurt

Making this coconut yogurt will support your gut health because it's loaded with probiotics which support the immune system. 70-80% of your immune system resides in your gut, so it only makes sense to be nourishing our immune system through gut-loving foods.

Find the whole recipe here.

Warm Beet and Kale Bowl

This recipe is a favourite in my home. We make it as often as my Kale and Sweet Potato Bowl. Beetroots and beet greens provide plenty of vitamin C are soldiers for your immune system because both phagocytes and T-cells (immune cells) need ample amounts of vitamin C to function. 

Now just because this recipe has beets and kale in it, don't assume your child won't eat it. Start them young! Vienna LOVES kale and beets – both of which, are rich in immune-supporting phytonutrients. I've got plenty more recipes with beets for you to check out!

If you are breastfeeding, then this is the best thing you can do to boost your child's immune system as you will produce antibodies, enzymes and white blood cells to help your little one get better. Boob milk is powerful stuff! 

Now let's talk supplements! I asked my colleague's the same question: What is your favourite supplement for boosting children's immune system and you'll quickly see that we agreed on the same powerhouse nutrient that is Vitamin D.

From Joy McCarthy, Holistic Nutritionist

I give Vienna a vitamin D supplement every single day and I've done so since she was born. If you're formula feeding your baby, do not give vitamin D because it will be in the formula. I've written extensively about vitamin D on the blog. 

From Josh Gitalis, Clinical Nutritionist

Vitamin D modulates the whole immune system and therefore would be my #1 supplement choice for immune health in children. 


From Brett Hawes, Holistic Nutritionist

I love medicinal mushrooms as they don't boost immunity, but rather tone the immune system. Constantly boosting the immune system is not a good idea as you are basically asking it to function at 150% all the time.

In case you're wondering, Dr. Meghan Walker, ND agreed – Vitamin D for the win!

And finally, I'm a huge fan of this homeopathic that I give to Vienna and Walker. I take it too when needed. 

What's your favourite natural health go-to for staying healthy?

Wishing you a healthy fall/winter, friends!


Shannon   •   November 13, 2017

Drinking goats milk! So great for kids immunity especially those who are regularly getting croup or ear infections. My kids all drink it daily and very rarely are sick.

Joy McCarthy   •   November 13, 2017

Ludivine   •   November 14, 2017

I love BeeKeeper Naturals propolis spray for myself and my son loves it as well! We do a couple spritz each morning. Also, elderberry syrup if ever we feel something coming along, I find it really helps support his body in fighting the bugs off. What probiotic is your favorite for Vienna?

Rachel Molenda   •   November 14, 2017

erin   •   November 15, 2017

Is raw honey unpasterized considered a 'sugar' when it comes to lowering the immune system? I use manuka honey for when my son has a nasty cough. I know its also an anti-viral so I'm assuming its helping not hindering?

Rachel Molenda   •   November 16, 2017

Margaret   •   November 17, 2017

Do you use essential oils? I've found they work great for me. I work with the public everyday and can't remember the last time I had a cold.

Rachel Molenda   •   November 17, 2017

Patricia   •   November 17, 2017

Thank you for all the great info! I am wondering if you also give Vienna the flu shot? I have a nine month old and am wary of giving it to her because I had a serious reaction to it.

Rachel Molenda   •   November 17, 2017

Megan Snider   •   November 17, 2017

Hey Joy - can you speak a little about orange juice and sugar? Even Tropicana says it's '100% orange juice' - what's the real deal here?

Rachel Molenda   •   November 21, 2017

Christine M.   •   November 30, 2017

Just watched your most recent webinar-so should I be taking the New Chapter Elderberry supplement that I have every day or only every day in the fall and winter or just when I feel like I am coming down with something to boost my immunity? Thank you!


PapayaCare   •   December 11, 2017

Hello, Joy, This is a great blog and very helpful. Can you also post on, how to care for our aging parents in this winter season? Will wait for more stuff from your side. Keep posting such more helpful. PapayaCare - Assisted Living, Senior Care.

Rachel Molenda   •   December 11, 2017

Tara   •   January 1, 2018

Hi Joy! These are great tips, thank you! I’d love to know you’re take on the flu shot - for both adults and kids? I never know if it’s a good idea???

Joy McCarthy   •   January 11, 2018

Stephanie Cole   •   February 14, 2018

Like vitamin D, probiotics is also boosts the immune system of our kids and also to adults who take them. By the way, nice write up here. Thank you for including new recipes here. Really worth trying.

Rachel Molenda   •   February 15, 2018

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