Parents often reach out to us with questions on vaccination, particularly around how best to prepare for them. Our goal in this article is to arm you with strategies you can use to lower the risk of adverse effects to your child.
Please note: This article is not intended to offer a recommendation about whether to vaccinate or not. All statements made are based on existing scientific evidence as well as our experience practicing Functional Medicine.
Why do we need to prep our children for vaccinations?
Although it’s tempting to represent medicine as an exact science, the reality is anything but. Decisions about medical care, whether ‘standard of care’ or generally evidence-informed, are always about degrees of risk – is it a better decision to do intervention #1 or intervention #2 (and, by the way, ‘doing nothing’ can be an intervention choice).
When it comes to vaccinations, we are asked to choose between degrees of risk for our children – the risk of contracting a disease vs the risk of taking action to attempt to reduce the risk of said disease.
Vaccination programs can point to numerous historical successes such as the eradication of small pox and type 2 poliovirus, and significant decrease in others such as Haemophilus influenzae type b (Hib). Overall, vaccination programs have significantly reduced the global burden of communicable diseases.
A point that isn’t often stated (because it weakens the argument for population-wide vaccination) is that there are potentially-conflicting goals of the group (i.e. public health) vs the individual: Public health goals for eradication of diseases require absolute adherence by everyone to the vaccination schedules they lay out, providing population-level benefits in the long run. However, some vulnerable individuals will experience adverse effects from vaccines, even as the population benefits. This is a fact acknowledged by the US Health Resources and Services Administration purely by the existence of its National Vaccine Injury Compensation Program which has paid out over $4bn in compensation for vaccine-related injury in its lifetime.
This compensation program goes some way to acknowledging a handful of potential risks. Yet it misses the potential for neurological and immune impacts that have been noted by some scientific researchers. Dr. Kelly Brogan a practicing psychiatrist in New York, has published a well-cited paper on the potential risks and risk factors of vaccines. Michael Stone MD, a deeply-respected Functional Medicine physician and teacher gives his view of the benefits and risks of vaccines here based on his decades of experience AND seeing the risks of either vaccinating or not vaccinating first hand.
Which child might be at risk for a vaccine adverse event?
Negative effects, while still relatively rare, may occur in individuals who have a different level of susceptibility. For whatever reason – genetic, environmental, nutritional, etc. – they are more vulnerable.
As big data genomics, epigenomics and metabolomics continue to advance, it is expected that we will get better at predicting who might be at risk for an adverse event by quantifying unique vulnerability levels. Unfortunately, we’re not there yet.
Some researchers have gathered together factors that might clue us in to an increased risk that would warrant a more cautious approach developed, ideally by both patient and clinician together. Here is an example:
- Those with prior post-vaccination autoimmune activity
- Those with a medical history of autoimmunity
- Those with a history of allergic reactions, and especially vaccination-related reactions
- Those with a family history of autoimmunity or allergy
- Asymptomatic carries of autoantibodies
- Genetic variations in the HLA gene family
Despite these helpful pointers, we still recommend all children receiving vaccines prep for them with the natural and safe recommendations below.
Formulating a vaccination plan
The decision about how and when to vaccinate should ideally be made with a trusted qualified provider who can assess the individual needs of each child. The first step is to determine a vaccination schedule that meets the child’s needs and reduces exposure to cumulative vaccine adjuvants such as aluminum.
We like Dr. Elizabeth Mumper’s (The Rimland Center for Health) vaccine schedule as an example of how to optimize the timing of vaccine administration. Dr. Fitzgerald’s balanced conversation on the topic with Dr. Hilary Andrews is also a wealth of information when it comes to vaccination planning.
How to prep your child for vaccinations
Having decided on your plan, here are our recommendations for supporting resilience during vaccination:
- Begin 3 weeks before and continue for 1 week after vaccine administration (choose a liquid or powder format, that can be mixed into food as needed):
For ages 5-12 months, per day:
- Vitamin D (800 IU)
- Vitamin A (1,500 IU)
- Omega 3 (500 mg/d EPA + DHA)
- Pediatric-specific probiotics (1/4-1/2 tsp)
For ages 1-5 years, per day:
- Vitamin D (1200 IU)
- Vitamin A (2,000 IU)
- Omega 3 (1000 mg/d EPA + DHA)
- Probiotics (1/2 tsp)
- For the ‘critical three days’ (the day before, the day of, and the day after vaccination), the following are safe for use in infants and children:
- Bath (temperature appropriate) containing:
- Chamomile, elder flowers and/or lemon balm: Steep 1 cup of the dried herbs in 8 cups of boiling water, covered for about 30 minutes. Strain and pour into a warm bath. Increase the amount to 2 cups of dried herbs from age 2-5, when using a full-size bath
- Dissolved Epsom salts
- Bath (temperature appropriate) containing:
- Optimize hydration: Good hydration is always important, and it especially assists with the mobilization of toxins, including vaccine adjuvants from the body.
- Breastfeed: Breastfeeding, where possible, is not only calming to an infant (potentially stemming stress-worsened immune dysregulation) but confers many nutrients and compounds that improve general resilience. It is important for Mom to stay generally nutrient replete, take care of gut health and minimize toxin exposure too.
- Don’t administer vaccinations when the child is sick or is around people who are sick. Nor when the child is exposed to high-stress events. If you’re working with a Functional Medicine pediatrician, they would also be able to check that there is no underlying inflammation going on (e.g. high CRP, quinolinate) that could potentially worsen an adverse effect.
- Administer vaccines on a Friday to minimize exposure to infections at daycare immediately after.
- Avoid cigarette exposure and minimize exposure to other toxins in general – choose ‘clean’ baby, personal and home care products. The EWG is a great source of information here.
- Don’t forget your child’s diet! Keep it ‘clean’ (i.e. mostly organic) and nutrient dense. Avoid pro-inflammatory junk foods and sugary foods.
Additional Recommendations for Breastfeeding Moms:
The following nutrients for Mom, whether as supplements or through diet, may also support resilience in baby:
- N-acetyl cysteine
- Vitamin C
If you’re not currently breastfeeding, you can speak with your Functional Medicine provider about the possible short-term inclusion of those nutrients, administered directly to baby, that are not already covered above.
These recommendations are of course no guarantee of outcome. However, they are what we use in clinic and for our own families. Share your own stories and thoughts below!