No matter how healthy we try to be, sometimes the cold and flu season sneaks up on the best of us, even if you’re like me and take your vitamin C everyday (haha).
Recently, Diego had a cold virus and I ran into the issue of whether or not to give him antibiotics. I have read so much about how damaging antibiotics can be to your immune system and when I shared my worries on Instagram, so many of you responded with your personal experiences.
So, I decided it was time to do my research on the best natural options for my family and me! I reached out to Dr. Kiera Smialek to ask her all of my questions about heath and natural ways to combat viruses. Read my Q&A with Dr. Kiera below!
Meet Dr. Kiera Smialek
Dr. Kiera Smialek is a licensed Arizona naturopathic pediatrician physician who has completed year-long residencies in both general medicine and pediatrics. She is also a board member of the Pediatric Association of Naturopathic Physicians and the American Board of Naturopathic Pediatricians.
She has immense knowledge of natural health & healing, especially in the field of pediatrics. She let me interview her and get her expert insight on how to take care of our families the natural way when we get a cold or flu.
What is the difference between a conventional pediatrician and a naturopathic pediatric doctor?
A naturopathic pediatric doctor is a naturopathic physician who specializes in pediatrics. Naturopathic physicians are board certified, licensed doctors. We attend naturopathic medical schools and must pass a board exam to gain licensure. Some, including myself, go on to do residency in particular areas.
The main difference between conventional pediatricians and naturopathic pediatricians are the philosophy of medicine, health and wellness. Naturopathic medicine focuses on treating the whole person, finding the root cause of illness/disease, with a large focus on prevention. In the state of Arizona, I am considered a licensed primary care provider, which means I can diagnose, order labs/imaging, and treat just like a conventional pediatrician would do. I spend a great deal more time with families during visits and develop individualized care plans for each patient. Naturopathic physicians are experts in natural medicine and this is typically our first-line treatment, but in Arizona, I can also prescribe medications if it is necessary.
What is your advice on when and when not to take your baby to the doctor?
There are a number of things that occur in babies/children that may not require a doctor’s visit, but it is definitely important to be in contact with your doctor if you are concerned about something. Your doctor will be able to guide you as to whether or not this is something that requires a visit. As a child’s doctor, I am more than happy to calm a parent’s nerves, either over the phone or in person, regarding a situation with their child. I would rather them let me know what’s going on.
Babies and children will experience minor illnesses throughout childhood that don’t often require a visit. You don’t have to run your child to the doctor as soon as they start sniffling. Even low-grade fevers don’t always mean an automatic visit to the doctor. You can keep your child home and monitor their symptoms for 2-3 days. Many of the minor illnesses kids get are caused by a virus that often clear on their own in a few days. If you child doesn’t improve or starts to get worse, then you want to contact your doctor and likely have the child examined. Taking your child to the doctor for every little illness can increase the likelihood of them being prescribed unnecessary rounds of antibiotics or exposing other healthy kids.
We are approaching cold and flu season, and I have heard of two different approaches–treat immediately or let the sickness go on its own. What is your approach?
What natural remedies do you recommend to fight the flu and cold symptoms naturally?
My five favorites are:
- Vitamin C: Prevents and treats the common cold and decreases risk of complications from the flu. Begin with increasing vitamin C rich foods throughout cold/flu season (citrus, kiwi, broccoli, bell peppers, strawberries, leafy greens).
- Vitamin D3: Helps stimulate the immune system. Deficiency in vitamin D has been associated with an increase in susceptibility to infection.
- Zinc: Important in the development and function of certain immune cells that target infections. Zinc has been shown to decrease the duration of illness if given in the first 24 hours of cold symptoms.
- Probiotics: A healthy gut is the foundation of a healthy immune system. Probiotics have shown to be very effective at preventing cold/flu when given throughout cold/flu season.
- Elderberry syrup: Improves immune system function.
What can we do as parents to strengthen our kid’s immune system naturally?
- Eat a healthy, well-rounded, whole foods diet (including a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean meats/fish, minimal dairy/sugar). Try to eat organic if possible, and if not, at least buy the Dirty Dozen organic.
- Avoid processed foods, white flours, and sugar.
- Get adequate sleep! So many children are not getting enough sleep!
- Exercise–kids should get at least 60 mins per day of physical activity.
What is your stance on antibiotics, and when should they be given to kids?
There is absolutely a time and place for antibiotics. The problem is they are being overprescribed. This not only affects a child’s gastrointestinal tract but also creates increased resistance to antibiotics, which means they are not working against some of the more dangerous bugs.
Antibiotics kill all of the bacteria in the gut, the good and the bad. In a healthy person, there is a variety of bacteria in the gut. The key to health is a good balance of the bacteria. When we kill everything with antibiotics, it throws off that delicate balance, which is necessary for healthy immune system function and the prevention of many other illnesses/diseases.
Antibiotics should be prescribed when they are absolutely necessary, which means when we have evidence that there is a bacterial infection. They shouldn’t be prescribed for viral illnesses, such as common cold, flu, upper respiratory tract infections.
Even with ear infections, antibiotics are not the first line treatment anymore. The recommendation for an uncomplicated ear infection is to wait 2-3 days (with observation and close follow up) before determining if antibiotics are necessary. This is because ear infections can often clear on their own and can be caused by viruses or bacteria.
What supplements/natural medicines do you recommend for us moms to always have at home? Do you have any preferred brand?
Some of my favorite brands with very high-quality products include:
- Klaire Labs
- Gaia Herbs
- Thorne Research
- Pure Encapsulations
- Garden of Life
- Nordic Naturals
Many of the products on the market are poor quality and do not have therapeutic benefit. I always recommend talking to a healthcare professional that is familiar with natural medicines to help determine what is best for children.
Are there any naturopathic/supplement myths to debunk, or anything moms often use that is actually not beneficial for our kids?
“Supplements especially multivitamins, are unnecessary” – FALSE
Starting in toddlerhood, most kids are not getting the adequate amount of nutrients needed daily. Kids have to eat a very well balanced diet to get everything they need. Picky toddlers and kids don’t always eat a very well balanced diet, even the healthiest kids!
Our food supply has changed dramatically over the years. Fruits and vegetables are lacking nutrients. The soil they grow in has changed, and pesticides are widely used. The use of antibiotics and hormones in the animal proteins we eat has increased. We have GMOs in our food supply in the US.
“All supplements are the same. Brand doesn’t matter” – FALSE
Brand does matter. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, so manufacturers can put whatever they want in a supplement.
Many of the brands contain unnecessary fillers or lower amounts of the nutrient than what is stated on the label. It is incredibly important to buy from a reputable company. This is why I recommend having a licensed natural healthcare provider guide you.
“All supplements are safe” – FALSE
Just because it is a ‘natural’ supplement doesn’t mean it is safe! I strongly advise against going to your local health food store and picking up something you heard/read might be helpful. Supplements and herbs can be very powerful or interact poorly with certain medications.
Everything says safe and natural now, but what ingredients should we make sure to stay away from?
Manufacturers want to make supplements for kids taste good and fun to eat. This means they add many unnecessary ingredients.
- Artificial colors
- Sugar (cane juice, cane sugar)
- Fake sugars (sucralose, glucose, sucrose, fructose)
When choosing multivitamins for kids I recommend looking for the most active forms of B12 and folate:
- B12 as Methylcobalamin (not cyanocobalamin)
- Methylfolate (not folic acid).
Omega 3 fish oil products should always be purchased from a reputable company, like Nordic Naturals, who has excellent quality control and heavy metal testing.
What are three tips you have for finding the right pediatrician?
- Determine what is most important to you when it comes to your child’s health. You want to find someone that has a similar philosophy.
- Ask for recommendations from other families with similar views on health and wellness.
- Interview as many pediatricians as you need to and ask questions that are important to you. Find someone that is supportive of your views and wishes for your child. This person will be your guide when it comes to your child’s health. Find someone you are comfortable talking to and asking questions. Make sure you like the office staff and the facility itself.
How can people contact you?
My website – www.naturalkiddoc.com
Contact my office directly – 480 771 4422
I offer free 15 minute consultations
Special thanks to Kiera for allowing me to interview her! I hope you guys enjoyed the post, let me know in the comments below if you found it helpful!