I often get asked “How can I build my child’s Immunity?” Here are some suggestions from an Immunologist (hint: it’s me).
1. It starts with a great diet.
You are what you eat! There may be something to the old saying. Healthy things in everyday foods—from yogurt to walnuts—may help boost a kid’s natural defenses. So whether you’re arming your kid for cold and flu season or just aiming for good health year-round, immune-boosting foods may help. Foods that may boost immunity include…
Yogurt contains helpful germs called probiotics. You may already know that these organisms live in your gut and can improve the way your body uses food. But they’re also important in helping your body fight sickness. What type of yogurt should you get? Look for brands that say they contain live cultures. Just stay away from artificially added sugars, colors, etc.
Walnuts have healthy omega-3 fatty acids, which are good for you in lots of ways. Experts believe that omega-3s help your body fight illness. Walnuts are easy to sprinkle into a snack mix or on cereal and are an especially great way to get natural omegas for vegetarians.
Fruits & Veggies
To help your immune system, some experts suggests aiming for ones that are high in vitamin C, like citrus fruits, strawberries, bell peppers, broccoli and sweet potatoes.
Sugar has been shown in many clinical trials to actually suppress immunity. To keep kids well, limit their overall intake of additives like sugar and find out which foods are allergens. Focus on plenty of fresh veggies, whole fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and eggs.
2. Maintain your child’s microbiota!
Probiotics are the friendly helpful bacteria that naturally occur in our guts. They protect our digestive tracts, help us to digest food, and shield us from invading bacteria and viruses. When this bacterial balance becomes disrupted in children, we can see changes in a child’s ability to fend off infections.
You want your child to eat food that has probiotics like yogurt and avoid unnecessary antibiotic use. Urging your pediatrician to write a prescription for an antibiotic whenever your child has a cold, flu or sore throat is a bad idea. Antibiotics treat only illnesses caused by bacteria, but the majority of childhood illnesses are caused by viruses.
Studies show, however, that many pediatricians prescribe antibiotics somewhat reluctantly at the urging of parents who mistakenly think it can’t hurt. In fact, it can. Strains of antibiotic-resistant bacteria have flourished as a result, and a simple ear infection is more difficult to cure if it’s caused by stubborn bacteria that don’t respond to standard treatment.
3. Help calm their stress and anxiety.
In today’s fast-paced world, parents are overstressed, children are over-scheduled and everyone suffers. Children’s bodies have the same response to stress that adults’ do—their cortisol and adrenaline rises. When this elevation in stress hormones is sustained, their immune systems’ response is lowered. It’s important for children to have lots of down time, time for creative play and simply times of rest.
4. Make sure they’re getting enough good sleep.
Most children are not getting the required amount of sleep. Depending on age, children need between 10 and 14 hours of sleep per day.
5. Remember that fever helps fight infection and infections develop your immunity.
Although many parents panic at the first sign of a rise in temperature on the thermometer, it’s important to recognize that fever is only a sign of and not an illness itself. Fever is your child’s body’s natural response to an infection and without it; her body isn’t as effective at fighting the illness.
Minor illnesses are part of life, and not every infection can be prevented or treated. When you do have an infection, your immune system builds immunity and memory to that particular virus or bacteria.
How are you keeping your kids healthy this cold and flu season?