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Is Your Child Sick, or Demonstrating Health?
By Dr. Kacie Flegal

Is your child sick, or demonstrating health?
Photo © Serhiy Kobyakov/Shutterstock

During winter months, it is common for our little ones to experience colds and the flu, and it is no fun to see them feeling icky. We witness symptoms such as coughing, sneezing, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, and fever, and the first thing that comes to mind is that our sweeties are sick!

I would like to propose that, in most cases, when our children have a cold or the flu, the symptoms are a manifestation of immune system health rather than sickness, since their little bodies are responding appropriately to the virus or bacteria that is expressing itself.

A symptom is a sign that a process is occurring in the body, and therefore is not necessarily a bad thing. In the case of a cold or the flu, our bodies need to outwardly express in order to rid themselves of the leftover virus or bacteria debris once our immune system has destroyed it. In fact, the symptoms we see are actually a resolution of illness and therefore are an indication that the immune system is doing its job well.

We are exposed to thousands of viruses and bacteria every day, as they compose a large part of our living environment. We have viruses and bacteria living within us to the extent that we are actually more virus and bacteria than we are our own cells! In fact, about fifty percent of our entire genetic makeup is virus.

Viruses and bacteria proliferate and express themselves when we experience physical, chemical, or emotional stress, and create an environment where our immune system needs to take charge. So making sure our little ones have as healthy a lifestyle as possible (breastfeeding, organic food, limiting toxins such as processed food and medications, etc.) will ensure that their developing immune systems can work and grow optimally.

What is the immune system, anyway? The immune system is primarily composed of two processes that work together and are mediated by white blood cells and plasma cells within our blood.

The first process is known as cellular mediated immunity, or in simple terms, the “clean-up crew.” Specialized white blood cells (lymphocytes) differentiate into macrophages, natural killer cells, and cytotoxic T lymphocytes, which become the first line of defense. These cells are mainly found in the digestive and respiratory lining, the skin, and the nervous system. This is beneficial because these areas of the body are the portals of entry for foreign antigens (what brilliant design!).

Cellular mediated cells attack expressing viruses and bacteria by neutralizing them, eating them, or secreting a protein that renders them ineffective. The body then has to get rid of the leftover “gunk,” and through our secretions and portals of exit, we get symptoms. We cough, we sneeze, we get diarrhea, we vomit, and we get fever and chills to ramp up our temperature to a place where viruses and bacteria cannot survive.

Therefore, symptoms have a very important purpose. If we suppress symptoms, we cannot get rid of the leftover gunk, which instead can stay in the body, potentially pushing further into the cells or moving to another location in the body, becoming toxic and leading to increased stress and a weakened immune system. Resolution of an illness requires allowing the body to rid itself of antigens and toxicity; otherwise, chronicity and repeat bouts of illness can ensue.

The second process of immunity is known as humoral mediated immunity, or the antibody and “memory crew.” Specialized plasma cells release antibodies, which are proteins that attach to the surface of a virus or bacteria to counteract it. Then, certain lymphocytes become memory cells, which will “remember” the pathogen and therefore allow the body to be ready for the next time it expresses itself so it can respond more quickly.

Cellular and humoral mediated immune responses work together in a dance, and play off of each other. It is intelligent design, and therefore needs to be supported in order to allow our children the best chance at building a strong immune system from the very beginning.

Newborn babies are mainly (if not mostly) humoral mediated. That means their cellular mediated response needs to be developed by exposure to the environment through their portals of entry and through healthy expression of symptoms.

When our little ones are not feeling well, over-the-counter medications can perhaps give some relief, but they also suppress the natural ebb and flow of their bodies’ natural immune response.

Creating a peaceful environment that reduces physical, chemical, and emotional stress can be an effective way of supporting your children’s immune processes. Turn the lights low; reduce exposure to toxic cleaning agents; offer wholesome foods and water; give massages, warm baths, and loving words; encourage sleep; play soft music; and read favorite stories that bring joy and ease.

It is also beneficial to seek out holistic care such as Chiropractic, Naturopathy, and Acupuncture (to name just a few), as these modalities honor and work with the innate intelligence within the body and have a primary focus on what is right rather than on what is wrong.

Allowing symptoms to run their course in the presence of a loving space will encourage the development of a strong immune system for life! It’s hard to see our kids not feeling their best; however if we understand the purpose of the expression of their symptoms, we can offer love and support knowing that our little ones are becoming stronger and healthier as a result.

And, as we all know, there is no better medicine in the world than LOVE!

Dr. Kacie Flegal, D.C. is a vitalistic chiropractor and member of the International Chiropractic Pediatrics Association (ICPA). She specializes in pre- and post-natal care, pediatrics, and serving individuals with sensory integration challenges. Dr. Kacie is Webster Technique Certified through the ICPA and a certified Doula through the Natural Birth Institute. Her chiropractic center is located in Oakland, CA. where she serves the greater Bay Area. You can learn more about her work at

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