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As the weather becomes colder and the days shorter, the season can be a testing time with the merry-go-round of colds, flu and sniffles being passed around, especially among children.
If your child seems to go down with any bug going, read on to discover some of nature’s ways to support their immunity this winter.
Every immune system needs the correct tools to do its job. Special cells travelling around in the bloodstream are constantly patrolling, alert for any dangerous bugs or viruses. But they must be able to tell the difference between helpful organisms naturally living in your body, parts of your body itself, and potentially dangerous invaders. It’s a thankless task sifting through all these goodies and baddies. Immune cells need to learn as they go, remembering previous bugs they’ve encountered.
If an invader is detected, the immune system must be able to launch into action at a moment’s notice. In a nutshell, it should have the capability to attack an invader yet ensure innocent bystanders aren’t caught in the crossfire.
Your child’s immune system faces an added challenge as it’s still developing, and continually learning as your child grows older.
To work optimally, the immune system relies on certain nutrients. When it’s working hard, naturally it will need a more plentiful supply.
Vitamin C is crucial for the fighting force of white blood cells to work efficiently. Unlike most other mammals, humans can’t store vitamin C. This means a constant supply needs to be consumed throughout the day.
This vitamin is concentrated in colourful plant foods. Decorate your child’s plate with a rainbow of red, orange, yellow and green foods. An array of different colours will make children’s mealtimes more interesting. If something is fun, it’s more likely to be eaten. Involving your children in choosing vegetables from the greengrocer’s and in preparing meals can help them connect with food in a positive way.
Experiment with yellow and red peppers, strawberries, blueberries, kale and tomatoes. If your child is a picky eater, try using cookie cutters to make vegetables more interesting shapes. How about serving up a broccoli forest or cauliflower sheep? Add some mashed sweet potato on the side or roasted carrot sticks, or try your hand at baked kale chips.
These fats are vital because they train the immune system how to operate effectively and help special white blood cells produce antibodies against viruses. Omega 3 fats are relatively scarce in most diets, being concentrated in fatty fish like sardines and salmon. Tempt your child with fresh salmon batons rolled in sesame seeds and baked in the oven.
If your child turns their nose up at oily fish, omega 3 is also found in seeds such as walnuts, pumpkin seeds or flax and chia seeds. These are great mixed into natural yogurt, or why not try making chia puddings with your child?
This vitamin is in short supply in the winter because our main source is sunlight. In fact, it’s only concentrated in a few foods like fatty fish and mushrooms. So, it can be useful to take this nutrient as a supplement.
Zinc is crucial for the healthy development of immune cells 1. It’s found in red meat, poultry, pumpkin seeds, eggs, beans and nuts.
Most of your child’s immune system resides in their gut, so supporting their digestive health is incredibly important. Plant foods nourish the good gut microbes because of the fibre they naturally contain. You can also give friendly gut bacteria a helping hand with fermented foods and drinks like kefir, live yogurt and even sauerkraut.
If your child’s immune system is struggling, a probiotic supplement containing the types of beneficial bacteria naturally living in the gut may be helpful. Your practitioner can recommend a suitable supplement.
This is a biggie because sugar depletes the effectiveness of the immune system. It harms the immune-supporting bacteria in the gut and interferes with the uptake of Vitamin C 2.
Check food labels for hidden sugar. Common culprits are breakfast cereals, sweetened yoghurts and sauces. Replace fruit juices with whole fruits, as these come naturally packaged with gut-friendly fibre.
Lifestyle factors can have a huge influence on your child’s immune system. Making sure they are getting enough sleep can help their immune system do its job more effectively. Consistent bedtimes really help with sleep quality. It can also be incredibly beneficial to empower your child with strategies for dealing with stress, and encourage plenty of physical activity.
If you would appreciate some support to help optimise your child’s immunity, we’re here to help. Following a detailed consultation, you’ll be provided with lots of brilliant, yet realistic ideas to incorporate into your family’s diet and lifestyle, with your child’s immune health in mind.
Contact us today to start your journey.
Do you need personalised natural support for your child’s immune system? Then book a free 15-minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.
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