Firstly, it’s normal for kids to get sick– and this is how they build their resistance and make antibodies against illnesses. But, you also don’t want them to be constantly sick and they also need the resilience to bounce back.
For anyone’s immune system to perform to the best of its ability, it must to be hostile to invaders. Strengthening the innate immune system (the one we are all born with) requires an approach which will improve its response and reduce susceptibility to illness.
While it’s true that you can’t control the trajectory of viruses and bacterial sicknesses, you can influence your child’s internal environment: what you choose put into their body, the lifestyle your family leads, what they’re exposed to, how they manage stress, how much exercise they do and how much fresh air, sunlight, nurturance and care they get.
Eat well, be well
The diet that you feed your kids will go a long way in helping them to fend off germs. If they’re mainly living on processed foods, inflammatory vegetable oils (all seed oils! Rather use coconut, olive and avocado oil) , nutrient-deficient takeaways, 2 minute noodles and sugary drinks and sweets, then their bodies will not be able to fight off nasty viruses efficiently.
Their diet should consist of a variety of fruits and vegetables, lean protein (fish, chicken, beef, eggs and dairy (if they are not lactose intolerant),complex carbohydrates (wholewheat, rye or seed breads), healthy fats (olives, avocado, nuts, seeds, olive oil) and only occasional desserts and sweet treats.
- Eat a colourful of rainbow foods every day to ensure a diversity of phytonutrients
- Use anti- inflammatory garlic, ginger, turmeric, thyme, rosemary and oregano in your cooking.
- Black cumin seed (Nigella sativa and Nigella indica) has anti-viral effects against influenza.
- Ensure one third of the plate is rich in plant-based polyphenols and fibre.
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage and collard greens are rich in nutrients.
- Avoid high concentrations of fructose, high fructose corn syrup and sugar–look for hidden sugars in food labels. Even tomato sauce is mostly sugar!
- Processed foods, microwaveable foods, fast foods, deep fried foods and saturated fats promote inflammation, as well as cured meats with nitrates, chemicals and other preservatives.
- Always read labels and buy foods that are as close to nature as possible. The longer the list of added ingredients, chemicals and unpronounceable names, the worse it is for your health! If it was made in a plant, avoid it, if it is a plant, eat it.
Trust your gut
Gut health has a massive impact on your immune system as your gut is home to about 70% to 80% of your immune cells. A healthy microbiome — the ecosystem of microorganisms in your gut has a diversity of “good’ bacteria” and it plays an essential role in the body’s immune response to infection. The best way to impact microbiome diversity is to eat a wide range of plant-based foods, which are high in fibre and feed healthy gut bacteria .
Extra support with supplements
Even with an ideal diet, supplements are still essential. Invest the best quality you can for your budget.
- Vitamin C: Contributes to immune defence by supporting various cellular functions.
- Vitamin D: Reduces viral growth and upper respiratory infections. Best absorbed with a large meal. Increase in winter when there is less sun.
- Zinc: Strong anti-viral properties. Take after a large meal. Lozenges or a liquid supplement are good for kids
- N-Acetylcysteine (NAC): Promotes the production of glutathione, a potent antioxidant that supports immune function.
- Probiotics & Prebiotics: Probiotics and prebiotics impact innate immunity by creating a gut microbiome that stimulates the immune system.
- Elderberry fruit (Sambucus nigra): Packed with Vitamin C, dietary fibre and antioxidants, it is most effective before infection occurs.
- Curcumin: Found in Turmeric root, it’s a potent anti-inflammatory
- Mushrooms: Medicinal mushrooms have antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and antiviral effects. Try Turkey Tail and Reishi.
- Beta glucans: Anti-inflammatory and enhances immune function, specifically beneficial for those with upper respiratory tract infections caused by viruses.
- Omega 3: Fish oils are essential not just for brain development but are also extremely anti-inflammatory
- Olive Leaf extract: A potent ant-viral and anti-bacterial herb.
*Please contact your doctor or healthcare provider before taking a supplement or vitamin.
Teach them tools
Stress is an unavoidable part of life—it’s our response to it that counts. Stress can be mental, emotional or physical. When that stress becomes chronic, it can damage the immune system.
The effects of stress can be direct, e.g. the hormonal cascade that is released during stress suppresses an effective immune response, but they can also be indirect, e.g., by interfering with sleep, or leading to unhealthy behaviour like poor eating choices and not wanting to exercise or socialise.
Teach your child to deal with stress with:
- Even 5 minutes of movement or exercise per day will boost mood and immune system. Find an activity that your kids enjoy like riding a bike, tennis , dancing , boxing, karate or even a walk in the park
- Mindfulness: Show your kids how to practice basic deep breathing, visualisation, meditation or yoga, or have a creative outlet like art. There are many other techniques. Research shows that those who exercised or meditated had fewer severe acute respiratory illnesses than those that did neither. Relaxation techniques are an important therapeutic strategy for stress and increases levels of secretory immunoglobulin-A, a molecule responsible for protecting mucosal surfaces, like those on the lungs, from infection.
- Fun: Do joyous activities with your kids that don’t include a screen: read, listen to music, do puzzles, play a board game, garden, cook or bake, draw pictures, roleplay or organise a playdate—whatever makes them happy. Laughter decreases stress hormones and increases infection-fighting antibodies. It also triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural feel-good chemicals.
- Environmental toxins. Avoid chemical household cleaners, cosmetics, noise and air pollution as well as EMF (electro- magnetic frequencies) from cell phones, WIFI, radiation and screens as much as possible.
- Get into nature Exposure to nature switches the body from “fight and flight” into “rest and digest” mode. Sunlight energises special cells in your immune system called T cells that help fight infection.
Sleep is essential
Quality sleep is essential for warding off illness. During restorative sleep, blood pressure drops; breathing becomes slower; muscles are relaxed; blood supply to muscles increases; tissue growth and repair occurs, energy is restored, and toxins and waste products are removed during a process of repair and detoxification. Sleep deprivation reduces infection-fighting antibodies and cells. For deep, quality sleep, adopt a routine of sleep hygiene.
- Adults need 7-8 hours of quality sleep each night. Teenagers 9-10 hours and younger kids need 10 or more hours of sleep.
- Set aside screens an hour or two before bedtime.
- Have a relaxing bedtime ritual. Add Epsom salts and lavender oils to a hot bath.
- Manage any sleep time trepidation with deep breathing exercises, soothing music or play meditations and stories.
- Snuggling up with your child, reading a bedtime story and talking about the day can promote feelings of safety and comfort.
- If anxiety is preventing your child getting a good night’s rest, then consider scheduling an appointment with a professional who can help.
Reading Time: 5 minutesWe all prepare ourselves for coughs and colds as winter sets in, but the Health Department is concerned about the number of …