Solving Immune System Problems in Babies
excerpt from The Holistic Baby Guide
Randall Neustaedter OMD
Excerpt from The Holistic Baby Guide: Alternative Care for Common Health Problems (New Harbinger Publications, 2010)
Immune System Problems
Babies are born with an immature immune system. Many systems in the body are not fully developed at birth, and the first few months of life require maturation of the nervous system, the digestive tract, and the immune system. All of this must take place at the same time that a baby is eating, digesting, and depending on the digestive system for survival. This is a big job. Fortunately, babies are very good at growing and developing all the systems that they need, as long as they are not hindered in this process. Provide babies with the right prenatal environment, feed them the right food, avoid toxic assaults, and everything usually goes well. However, many babies face various stresses that can undermine the normal, healthy development of the immune system.
The conventional treatment of infants with vaccines, antibiotics, and other suppressive medications often results in a depressed and unbalanced immune system. Some children are born with an inherited weakness of their immune system because of their mother’s depletion or a genetic susceptibility to allergic conditions. The physical stresses of toxic chemicals can easily tip these children into a mode of reactivity, inflammation, and recurrent illness. Vaccines especially have been investigated as a causative factor in the immune system disorders of babies that occur so commonly – recurrent infections and allergies. Just at the time when immune mechanisms are developing and delicate in young babies, they are subjected to the assault of vaccines and the chemicals they contain. If babies begin getting infections as a result, they are given antibiotics that destroy the body’s health-promoting bacteria along with any pathogens. Thus the antibiotics add insult to injury and further undermine digestive function and the immune system.
Babies are easily disturbed. Their immune systems are fragile, and they can be set off course by a single stressful jolt to the system. Once they are on the wrong track it may be difficult for them to recover their equilibrium, especially if symptoms continue to be treated with stressful drugs. One prescription of antibiotics can lead to a downward spiral of recurrent respiratory or ear infections, repeated antibiotics, and eventually a chronic health problem. Or food sensitivities and inherited allergies can spin babies into a cycle of digestive problems, allergic skin eruptions, and respiratory allergies or asthma. Other babies are more resilient and right themselves if they are thrown off track. For all babies, the more immune system support they receive, the better the outcome. On the other hand babies are so resilient and responsive to positive health measures that they do bounce back easily once they are nudged in the right direction. Sometimes the transformation is seemingly miraculous. A simple intervention such as one dose of a homeopathic medicine or even a few doses of an herbal formula can set them on a course of healing that results in full recovery. One or two interventions may be all the support a baby needs to recover her equilibrium. And other times babies require a fully integrated treatment plan to overcome a panoply of interwoven patterns of symptoms and immune dysfunction.
What to Do
An integrated treatment plan for immune system problems can be eclectic, and sometimes babies need support from several different directions to get themselves into a healthy state. This plan may include a program of homeopathy, herbs, nutritional support, probiotics, and physical treatment with chiropractic adjustment and acupuncture. An individual baby is not likely to need all of these. Taking a slow approach may provide dramatic benefits. The more complex the immune system problem, the more forms of support may be necessary. But once a baby has recovered immune system integrity she will probably maintain this healthy balance.
Most visits to doctors, most recurrent problems, and most of the drugs given to babies revolve around immune system issues. Babies get into all sorts of trouble because of their immune systems. They get sick too often, they develop mysterious forms of congestion and allergies and persistent coughs and wheezing. And these problems left untreated can and often do persist for years. Yet the treatment of these problems is relatively simple. Their cure is within reach. And so much needless suffering and sleepless nights can be saved with a few interventions. Even though the assessment of causes and the evaluation of this immune-system breakdown can be complicated, just instituting some simple steps can reverse a downward spiral that has frustrated parents for months.
Give your baby the best diet possible. Breastfeed whenever possible for at least the first year. Feed your baby organic whole foods free of petrochemicals and pesticides. Prepare your own whole fresh foods as much as you can and avoid processed and packaged foods, including juices and baby food in jars.
Correct the damage done to the digestive tract and restore its normal function. This is often the first step to health because most immune function originates in the gut. Using probiotics and prebiotics will establish a healthy environment. Giving supplements for healthy digestive function such as glutamine and other nutrients will help heal any damage done to cells in the intestinal lining. Supporting immune mechanisms with vitamin D3, preventing inflammation with omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil, and activating the immunity with colostrum or whey protein powder will provide the nourishment and support necessary for a robust and balanced immune system.
Use herbs that build the support system for immune function. Strengthen the Stomach/Spleen network and Wei (Protective) Qi with appropriate Chinese herbal formulas designed for pediatric use. Give a constitutional homeopathic medicine to provide a stimulus to healing.
Providing proper nutrition and supporting the immune system represents an excellent preventive program for all babies. Developing a holistic healing plan with the help of a qualified holistic health professional will improve your baby’s immune function and resolve a wide range of symptoms caused by immune system dysfunction.
To develop a treatment plan for babies with digestive or immune system problems and to understand the correct dosage of supplements, see The Holistic Baby Guide: Alternative Care for Common Health Problems.