10 ways to support your child’s immunity
We are going through times of uncertainty and fear in relation to personal and global health. Your child’s immune system is the most powerful weapon they have against disease. Strong immunity means that their body is better able to fight off viruses and infections.
Are you concerned that your child’s immune system is under par? Are they prone to constant infections? Runny noses, ear infections, coughs and colds, chest infections, asthma and allergies – these are common problems for lots of children.
Many parents worry their child is not getting all the nutrients needed to support their growth and development and to keep them free from infection. A lack of time, fast food diets, combined with fussy eating habits are common challenges.
Because children are not just ‘little adults’ they require a unique approach tailored to their age and development to address specific health imbalances and set them on the path to a lifetime of healthy eating choices.
Give your child a head-start for the new school year, by taking steps now to support their immune system. These top tips are good for all the family.
1. Include ‘happy tummy’ foods
Did you know that up to 80% of your child’s immunity to germs and disease is in their digestive system? Good gut bacteria are essential for strong immunity. Kefir and natural live yogurt are very useful for supporting healthy digestion. Make a super smoothie a few times a week. Blend together a small cup of milk with yoghurt, fruit (blueberries, blackberries, mango, or a small banana) and a scoop of whey protein powder. This makes a delicious quick breakfast or healthy snack.
2. Optimize intake of essential fatty acids
Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids are involved in many body processes, including supporting immunity and reducing inflammation. Eating oily fish such as salmon, trout, sardines or mackerel from a sustainable source twice a week is ideal. Try mashed sardines on toast, fish cakes or a comforting fish pie. Eat seeds (sesame, pumpkin, sunflower). Flapjacks are quick and easy to make and one way to ensure children eat some omega- rich seeds. Won’t eat fish? You could add a teaspoon of flaxseed oil to salads or vegetables.
3. Include vitamin C rich foods
Vitamin C is anti-viral and has many immune strengthening actions in the body. Good food sources include vegetables such as green leafy veg (kale, broccoli), tomatoes, peppers and parsley and fruits such as oranges, berries, apples, kiwi, papaya and mango. Chop fruit up and add to porridge, pancakes, yoghurt or jelly. Small fruit or veg kebabs often go down well. Make a rainbow fruit salad.
4. Try to ensure a healthy intake of zinc
Zinc plays an important role in a healthy immune system. Children deficient in zinc may have white spots on their fingernails. Meat and fish are rich sources. Include green leafy veg, nuts, seeds and grains such as rice, rye and oats. Lentils, pulses, blackstrap molasses and eggs are good sources.
5. Take black elderberry extract at the first sign of a sniffle
Elderberry extract is useful to provide support for immune function by enabling the immune cells to recognise and inhibit viral invaders. It comes with a long history of safe and effective use. At the first sign of a sniffle, cough or sore throat give a Sambucol supplement specifically designed for children (dosage as directed on the label).
6. Is your child getting enough sunshine? Top up their Vitamin D
Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is important for immunity and can often become deficient, particularly in winter. Most vitamin D is made in the skin in sunlight, but there are small amounts in milk, eggs and oily fish. The Department of Health recommends a daily supplement of 10mcg (400iu) for children from 6 months to 5 years of age. It’s beneficial for all children to take a supplement in winter months.
7. Try this immune boosting home remedy
Lemon, honey and ginger drink
Finely chop a 2 cm piece of ginger and let it stand in boiling water for about 10 minutes. Add freshly squeezed lemon and a teaspoon of honey. Use good honey such as Manuka that retains its healthful properties.
8. Serve chicken soup
Did you hear that chicken soup is great when you’re unwell? If you thought it was just an old wives’ tale, you’d be wrong. Research suggests that a bowl of chicken and vegetable soup can slow the speed at which neutrophils move around your body. Neutrophils are a type of white blood cell and part of the immune system, protecting your body from infection. Studies have shown chicken soup to be particularly helpful in reducing symptoms in upper respiratory system infections. Include ginger (anti-inflammatory) and garlic (anti-viral, decongestant) which have been well-researched for their health benefits.
9. Reduce sugar
Sugar is a potent immune suppressor. There’s nothing wrong with the occasional treat but check for hidden sources consumed regularly e.g. flavoured yoghurts, squash, canned drinks and processed foods.
10. Drink plenty of water
Keep well hydrated with water. A fun cup or cool water bottle can make all the difference to encourage children to drink more. Also include coconut water, homemade ice lollies with water and some fruit.
For more top tips for all the family you can download my eBook ‘10 Steps to Superhealth’ HERE which includes a delicious chicken soup recipe.