That organic living is a conscious health choice
Whether you’re experiencing the side effects of air pollution or you’re battling against the threat of dengue, hand, foot and mouth disease, and your child’s persistently running nose, the greatest long-term protection you can offer yourself and your little ones (apart from the obvious ones we all already know) is a resilient immunity. By reassessing what you eat as well as how and where you clean (trust us, we have discovered some horrifying blind spots), you can help nurture strong immunities that will help everyone in your family fend off the environmental battering our bodies are subjected to each day.
Fuel your body with the right food and supplements. Choosing organic food options whenever you can reduces chemical exposure. Minimise sugar and junk food. Ensure that you include fruit and vegetables high in antioxidants in your diet. They can help boost your immunity. Look for vitamins C and E as well as beta-carotene and bioflavanoids, all of which are found in colourful fruit and vegetables. Eat them raw or lightly cooked to enjoy the greatest benefits. Zinc and selenium (found in meat, seafood, nuts and dairy products) also boost your immunity. As does the omega-3 fatty acids found in fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and mackerel. Probiotics are important for regulating our intestinal immune systems. You’ll find them in yoghurts containing live and active cultures, kefir, tempeh, olives in brine, miso and a whole range of pickled and fermented foods. Taking supplements can also help give your immunity a much-needed boost, but it’s still best to get your antioxidants from fresh produce as far as possible. One of the best all-round immune boosting additions to your diet is garlic. It is a natural antibiotic that can also lower blood pressure and cholesterol.
When it comes to your little ones, breastfeeding your child, whenever possible, gives his or her immunity a vital edge. Breast milk contains many germ-fighting properties that shield your baby from all kinds of infections. They are less likely to catch serious respiratory infections—and experience less diarrhea and vomiting—when they’re breastfed. Even toddlers who continue to be breastfed gain from the immunity benefits of breast milk. It gives their immune systems time to develop and mature. However, beyond breastfeeding, it may not always be possible to ensure that your children get all they need to boost their immunities in the food that they eat. Yet, keeping their immune systems strong is the best way to protect them from infections. Vaccinations can only protect them from a tiny fraction of the multitude of germs they are exposed to daily. It is also the best way to protect them from serious vaccine reactions. So, apart from ensuring that they eat healthily, it’s worth investing in immunity boosting supplements such as mercury-free fish oil, multivitamins (chewable fruit and vegetable supplements make them a fun daily ritual) and probiotics drops or powders.
The irony is that our homes are likely to harbor plenty of germs in places that we least expect to find them. For example, bacteria (including E. coli and salmonella) thrive in your kitchen sink, and your dishwashing sponges and cloths because they tend to be constantly wet and come into contact with raw food. One bacterium can multiply to four million in just eight hours! Disinfect your kitchen sink daily, and toss your sponges and kitchen cloths into the dishwasher regularly. Most bacteria in sponges can also be eliminated if you microwave them for two minutes on the maximum power setting. Remember to clean your cutting boards carefully after each use, too. The average chopping board has reportedly 50 times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Set one aside for meat and another one for fruit and vegetables. Plastic cutting boards can be sanitized in the dishwasher. Wooden ones should be cleaned with diluted bleach or straight vinegar. This also applies to wooden cooking implements. Wood is porous and more likely to harbor germs and bacteria. Replace your wooden chopping boards and cooking implements regularly.
In the bathroom, don’t forget to clean out your toothbrushes. They tend to be moist and attract not only the bacteria in your mouth, but the microorganisms that inhabit the moist environment in your loo. According to a Manchester University study, the average toothbrush contains ten million germs and includes a high percentage of deathly bacteria such as staphylococci, streptococcus and E. coli. Clean them regularly in the dishwasher and replace them every couple of months. Switch to liquid soap if you can; bacteria survive and grow on soap bars. But be sure to clean your dispensers frequently, too.
In the bedroom, watch out for dust mite build up in your pillows, mattresses and duvets. They set off allergies, asthma and allergies. And their excreta aggravate runny and stuffy noses. Opt for hypoallergenic pillows and duvets if you have allergies and wash them regularly. Finally, vacuum your mattress weekly. According to Allergy UK, the average bed is home to 10,000 dust mites.
You’re no safer in the office since it’s less likely to be routinely disinfected. Your work desk, phone, chair, computer keyboard and office doorknobs harbor germs and bacteria. Wipe them down weekly with disinfecting wipes. Don’t get too comfortable in the pantry either, the tap and microwave door handle in there is likely to be the dirtiest surfaces in the office. Disinfect them regularly. And avoid eating while you work. You’ll only contaminate both your workspace and your food at the same time.
Although all this information may sound quite horrifying, we must also bear in mind that the average person is unlikely to fall prey to most bacteria and germs unless they have a weakened immunity. So, a healthy diet, exercise and adequate sleep will set you off to a good start. Most importantly, never forget the basic rules of hygiene. They should apply to your daily life. Simply wash your hands regularly with soap and water. Teach your children to wash their hands properly by rubbing them vigorously and soaping between their fingers for a good amount of time.
It’s vital to be vigilant and protect your children and yourselves from viruses, bacteria and germs. However, be practical and realistic about it. You can’t live in a bubble. Living in an over-sanitized environment can also compromise your immunity. Limited exposure does help your little ones develop their immunities (but we’re not advocating that you knowingly expose your children to viruses, that’s dangerous). The best way forward is to try to strike a sensible balance, boosting your long-term immunity for long-term health.