I received this question awhile back from a reader that I thought would be an excellent topic for this blog.
Here’s the question:
“I had a question about keeping small children hydrated and nourished when sick. My daughter (18 mos) just recently went through a stomach virus and was sick for a few days, unable to keep much down. Our pediatrician is very pro-Nourishing Traditions but was unable to recommend anything more than clear liquids, clear foods, and Pedialyte to replenish her loss of fluids and electrolytes. I tried looking around online for some information but I’m really not sure what’s good and what’s not. We ended up getting some Pedialyte and popsicles for her to suck on and, while she was able to keep them down and they helped, I know those weren’t the best solutions.
Do you have any suggestions or advice or experience for that? I’d love to know.”
Before I give my advice, do keep in mind, of course, that I am just one parent sharing my ideas, and not a doctor. I think that if your child is sick and getting dehydrated, the very most important thing is to get them hydrated again, with a qualified doctor’s advice and oversight.
While there are more nourishing choices, if your child refuses them, don’t feel guilty about giving the second best choice. Just do your best.
Having said that, I am excited to share with you some very nourishing, very hydrating options for you and your children. We are still in cold and flu season, so it’s good to know what some other options are.
The top suggestion I have for you is chicken broth. It’s been traditionally used to nourish ailing children and adults. The “Jewish penicillin” as chicken broth is called, not only builds the immune system, but it contains easily absorbable minerals. Add a good quality sea salt, like Celtic Sea Salt, and you add even more minerals. Sodium can be depleted if vomiting or diarrhea occur, so salt from natural salt can be important (avoid refined salt).
“Science validates what our grandmothers knew. Rich homemade chicken broths help cure colds. Stock contains minerals in a form the body can absorb easily—not just calcium but also magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur and trace minerals.” Beautiful Broth
Of course, you will have to make your own chicken broth for these benefits. I make up large pots of chicken broth, and try to keep some in the freezer for emergencies, such as sudden illnesses. It’s so easy to make, as you just need chicken bones, (leftover bones or uncooked, bony, chicken parts, or a combination of both), carrots, celery, onions and a bit of vinegar to pull out the calcium.
Young Coconut Water (or juice)
Coconut water is really amazing. It naturally contains electrolytes, making it nature’s own hydrating drink. It’s a perfect drink for after a workout….or for when you are sick.
“Coconut water is a superfood filled with minerals, vitamins, antioxidants, amino acids, enzymes, and growth factors. It is low in fat and has only a fifth of the sugar found in most fresh fruit juices.
One of the most remarkable characteristics of coconut water is its chemical profile and mineral content. The primary minerals or electrolytes in coconut water are essentially the same as those found in human blood. For this reason, doctors have used it as an intravenous fluid for rehydration, pumping it directly into the patient’s bloodstream. Numerous studies dating back over 60 years document the successful use of intravenous coconut water in the treatment of malnutrition and dehydration.
Since coconut water has a pleasant taste, it has also found use as an effective oral rehydration beverage. Doctors have found it to be highly useful in fighting dehydrating diseases such as cholera, dysentery, and influenza, where it has saved the lives of thousands of children in underdeveloped parts of the world.”
To clarify, this is not the water from a mature coconut (like what you usually see at the store, the brown shelled one). Rather these are young coconut, that are white, and much bigger looking then the mature ones. I can find them at my local health food store, and at local Asian stores (it’s much, much cheaper at my local Asian store, and it’s the same brand as the one my health food store carries). You can also get it packaged from a variety of sources, including the brand Zico. I do think it tastes much better fresh, and it’s easy enough to get the liquid out, but I realize that’s not a possibility for many.
While I think that chicken broth and coconut water are the top two choices I would recommend, another option (to replace the common soda pop given to sick children) is juice cultured with water kefir. This makes it fizzy, like soda, and provides beneficial bacteria as well. While some feel that even natural sugar should be completely avoided when sick, some children not used to some of the above choices will find this a more palatable choice.
Some other Food ideas
Bananas: They are high in potassium, which is very important for a dehydrated child (it balances the needed sodium from a salted chicken broth). They are also easy to digest.
White Rice in Chicken Broth: A traditional Japanese dish to serve to the sick is white rice cooked in a lot of chicken broth until the rice is very, very soft, for a thick soup. Whole grains are important, but may be to rough on a sick child’s stomach, so this is a very gentle dish to serve.
Chicken Noodle Soup: A great way to get chicken broth down a sick child is making chicken noodle soup. While you can use regular durum flour pasta, when Elena had the worst cold she’s ever gotten, she actually loved the soaked pasta I made her (which I only managed to make because she was watching a little show). I was having a hard time getting her to eat anything, and she just loved it! Because it is soaked, it will be easier to digest, and it will be even more digestible when cooked in broth.
Bread and Milk: An English nursery dish to serve sick children is milk over toast. I actually really enjoy this dish, though it sounded funny at first. This is a good option for those with a good source for healthy milk.
So there are some of my ideas. I think that it’s important to scout out sources for some of these items before the need arises, and also to serve them to your children before they are sick so that they are used to it.
Anyone else have any nourishing suggestions?