Health News

Natural Infection Fighters

June 23rd, 2011, filed under Health News

Banish germs and excessiveantibiotics with alternative remedies

By Angela Pirisi

When your sick child needs antibiotics to teat a diagnosed case of strep throat, for instance – the medicines can bring quick, welcome relief.  Unfortunately, antibiotics today are overprescribed and also put into everything from livestock feed to toys, lunch boxes, and upholstery.  Overuse has helped create strains of bacteria that resist antibiotic treatment, raising serious concern globally.

Experts caution to use antibiotics only when necessary – after test resultsdetermine the specific type of bacterial infection – and exactly as prescribed (for example, finish all medication) so they’ll work when you really need them.

The best backup plan: prevention.  These natural immunity boosters can ward off bacteria and viruses – or help clear up common infections faster.


These “good bugs” improve microbial balance in the gut, helping fight off stomach bugs and boosting immunity overall.  Children in day care who consumed drinks with the probiotic strain Lactobacillus casei had significantly fewer gastrointestinal and upper-respiratory infections, according to a recently published study.  Also look for the effective L. reuteri strain in supplements, says Jenn Dazey, ND, who teaches botanical medicine at Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington.

Dose:  For prevention, regularly feed kids probiotic-rich fermented foods such as yogurt, kefir, and miso.  During antibiotic treatment, give probiotic capsules or powder at a different time of day from antibiotics.  For infants, 100 million organisms may be enough; for older children, start with 1 billion organisms daily and gradually work up to 5 billion.  Continue for two to four weeks after finishing the antibiotics to restore healthy gut bacteria.


This honeysuckle family member can help shorten the duration of flu symptoms and may reduce mucus in sinus infections.  “It’s antiviral, including against type A and B influenza viruses,” says Linda B. White, MD, professor of herbal medicine at Metropolitan State College of Denver.

Dose:  Elderberry is available in syrup, tincture, capsule, and lozenge form.  Children can take 2 tablespoons and adults 4 tablespoons daily of elderberry syrup in divided doses.


Adequate vitamin D levels may reduce risk for cold and flu viral infections in adults and for severe asthma attacks in children, according to studies.  “Vitamin D boosts the immune system by helping white blood cells recognize and attack germs,” says Bob Sears, MD, author of The Autism Book (Little, Brown, 2010).

Dose:  For children, the recommended daily intake is 400 IU.  That may not be enough if they’re deficient, says Sears: A blood test can assess your child’s vitamin D needs.  Adults can take 1,000-2,000 IU daily.


This antioxidant-rich extract may help prevent or shorten the duration of upper-respiratory infections.  “It’s very antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory,” says Dazey.  Take at the first sign of cold or flu.  Gargling olive leaf tea helps sore throats.

Dose:  Available as tea, tincture, or capsules.  For prevention, take 1 capsule or drink 1 cup of olive leaf tea daily.


Best known as a low-glycemic-index sweetener, xylitol is especially effective against Streptococcus mutans, which causes tooth decay.  Using xylitol gum, mints, or nasal spray makes it harder for germs to adhere to the mucosae of the throat and nasal passages, where many infections start.

Dose:  Xylitol is available in gums and mints, as well as in powder, syrup, and saline-spray forms.  For prevention in children ages 2 and older, give small doses throughout the day, up to 8 grams total.  Excess may cause diarrhea.


Long used in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TM), this antiviral and antibacterial herb boosts immune function.  Avoid giving to a child with a fever because, according to TCM, it may prolong it.

Dose:  Though also sold as dried slices, astragalus is easiest to take in capsules or as an extract.  Potencies vary; follow label directions.  Take daily as a preventive, or when you’re feeling run-down, says White.

For info on childhood illnesses that usually require antibiotics, go to

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