Keeping your family healthy through the holidays

When kids go back to school, the germs come out to play. It doesn’t help that there is an increased risk for illness as the months progress. School, colder weather, holidays and diets can play a role in decreased immune function during the fall and winter.

One of the most frequent questions I’m asked in my practice is,

“How do I keep my family healthy through the holidays?”


Keep the family’s immune system strong. This is so important. If our immune systems are strong, we will fight off illness. It’s as simple as that. I recommend parents keep their cabinets stocked with the following:

• Vitamin D3 liquid or caps: On average, 1,000 IU daily for children and 5-10,000 IU for adults is beneficial. I have tested hundreds of vitamin D levels throughout the years, and more than 90% are deficient in it. When having your blood drawn to test levels,

30-100 ng/ml is the reference range, but for optimal immune health, 60-80 ng/ml is the goal.

• Organic elderberry syrup: Elderberries are naturally sweet, so the ingredients shouldn’t include any additives or flavors. Children typically take ½ teaspoon daily for protection, and adults take 1 teaspoon. If there is an acute illness going around, double the dose for children and adults.

• Vitamin C 500-milligram chew tabs: These are typically well liked by children and don’t have extra sugars or additives like gummies. Children take one daily, adults can take three daily and double for acute illness.


Watch the family’s diet during these months. Knowing that the family might indulge more on holidays, use the days leading before, during and after, to load up on nutritional foods.

• Make vegetable soups, smoothies and green juice for the family. Find recipes at

• If there’s a lot of congestion during the winter (stuffy nose, ear infections, sinusitis, lung congestion or asthma), minimize dairy or remove from the diet. Dairy is a common culprit for mucus buildup and symptoms.


Do things that keep you feeling de-stressed. Holidays can be hard and wear on our immune system. Maybe you can’t avoid aunt (negative) Nancy at the holiday functions, but you can help yourself destress prior to being in those situations.

• Start a gratitude journal and write three (or more) things that you are grateful for each day.

• Take time to do what lights your soul on fire. Is it cooking? Watching a new movie? Writing? Practicing yoga? Dancing? Getting a massage? The more you stay present to your needs this holiday season, the more you will show up present to your family and friends.

If you follow the recommendations, I can guarantee your mind and body will feel more energized, mobile and present.

Always seek advice from your medical providers if you have questions.

Happy health!

Stephanie Grutz is a board-certified family nurse practitioner specializing in integrative medicine in Dubuque. Email her at

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