How can we build our children’s immune health naturally? Are kids going back to school, or just about to take school holidays and they are tired. I’ve been working with my clients to focus on taking charge of their own immune health. That’s our power, and humanity has survived for aeons long before modern medicine.
Kids do need more than a tablet or quick fix enough to build a healthy immune system that will support them as adults. What if doing a few simple things daily could also make a huge improvement in your kids healthy and feeling better?
Looking after your health sends a powerful message to your children; it empowers them to take charge of their health, know what to do when things go wrong, and have the confidence to make healthy choices. Immune health is what we do daily for ourselves that support balance, energy and reducing inflammation. Immune function is not tricky. What is so special about children’s immunity? Do children have the same immune system as adults?
Our kids immune systems are in constant development from the first day on this planet. Children’s immune system is developing rapidly; however, their immune system does have to play catch up. Did you know that kids will absorb five times more lead through their digestive system than adults exposed to the same source? Our kids’ immune system and digestive system are not as developed as we need to be vigilant about providing kids with less exposure to toxins and building immunity.
An infants microbiome is developing and communicating with their brain, nervous system and the environment. Being in contact with other children, outside, in the garden and even with pets helps fortify children’s immunity. Kids ability to detoxify is not as good as an adults detoxification capacity.
Some of the most common symptoms kids tend to have are sore throat, blocked nose with those nose candles (yuk), cough and fatigue. Our kids going to daycare and school come in contact with lots of other kids, so their risk of cross-infection is higher than most adults. This exposure does improve a child’s immune system providing optimal nutritional requirement are met.
Kids share toys, possibly lunches and are more hands-on than adults. Consequently, the risk of catching a cold that is going around can be fairly high, and we often see this when our toddlers join daycare. Childhood is the time in our life when our immune system is building and strengthening.
These first five years of our lives are crucial for developing our immune system. Our children’s microbiome develops in tandem with their brain neurotransmitter growth. During these first few years, children invest a lot of energy into optimum gut-brain and immune system growth.
4 tips help kids be healthy, happy and resilient
How to help build stronger kids
1. Limit exposure to antibiotics.
Limiting antibiotic exposure allows our unique microbiome and immune system to develop to their full potential. The Australian Government has launched its first Antimicrobial Resistance Strategy recommending urgent research into resistance to antibiotics. The best advice from leading researchers so far recommends limiting our exposure to antibiotics as much as possible. Children need the first 5 years to develop their optimum gut bacteria profile, which they will have for life.
2.Strengthen immune system and digestion
Our biome/gut bacteria diversity and richness are dependent on enjoying a wide variety of vegetables and whole foods; Research shows us that when kids are exposed to a huge variety of different vegetables, they will accept them more readily and have more diverse gut bacteria. The more diverse our biome, the healthier our immune system and fewer risks of chronic disease like diabetes and obesity later in life.
Being a fussy eating child works against us; kids need to explore flavours and textures. Fruit and vegetable diversity is key for healthy digestion and immune strength. Children bounce back from illness quicker and tend to be sick for a lot less time when they enjoy a huge variety of whole foods like fruits, vegetables and whole grains daily.
We can encourage kids to enjoy foods by describing texture as “salty, bitter, sweet, buttery ” to expand once and enjoy food experience and enjoy lots of different vegetables and fruit. These are packed full of nutrients like vitamin C, Vitamin A, beta-carotene, enzymes and antioxidants, helping with cell growth and immune function.
3. Vitamin D
Climbing on trees, screeching and buzzing around a park outdoors is not just about fun for kids. They also enjoy exposure to sunshine and top up their vitamin D levels. Healthy levels of vitamin D in infants is dependent on mums vitamin D levels. It’s imperative during pregnancy to get your vitamin D levels tested if you plan on falling pregnant. Spend time outside when the UV-Index is bellow 3.
Kids can top up their daily vitamin D by enjoying 2-3 serves of dairy daily, that’s slurping on a tub of yoghurt, sipping on a cup of milk and chomping on a slice of cheese. We can help tailor nutritional support for your kids if they have a dairy intolerance or vegan diets for more tailored support. Not all vitamin D supplements are the same, so ask us to help choose the best for your kids immune health.
The incidence of upper respiratory tract infections occurs more during winter. A study of adults with lower bone density and low vitamin D levels had a 40% increased risk of upper respiratory infection. Apart from the joy of outdoors, playing our children’s immune system benefits from healthy vitamin D stores.
4. Limiting processed foods
Chomping on chips, cakes, biscuits, breakfast cereal, pizza, and ice cream is fun at a party or special occasion; when kids eat these foods every day, there are devastating consequences.
Fast food and processed foods displace foods high in nutrients. This causes nutrient deficiencies in children and directly affects their immune health and resilience. How do you know when kids have nutritional deficiencies?
- Being underweight
- Poor physical growth
- Tooth decay
- Being overweight or underweight
- Lethargic and tired
Aim for 5 serves of grains (wholemeal bread, pasta, rice, quinoa), 5 serves of vegetables, and 2 servings of fruit daily. You can find out more about recommended serves for toddlers, children, and adolescents can be found here.
Reading labels is your secret weapon, and it doesn’t take long to decipher the language of hidden dangers of chemicals, fats and sugars listed on food labels. Aim for low sugar and fat per 100g values, and the fewer ingredients, the better.
Sugar may be listed as sucrose, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, maltodextrin, dextrose, malt, syrup, milk solids, oils and shortening. The first ingredient is the highest quantity and the last ingredient listed has the least amount in that product.
Our kids need to enjoy a variety of whole foods because of the beneficial effect on their immune system; enjoying a variety of foods builds a rich and diverse microbiome which kids will benefit from for life.
With conditions like chronic sinusitis, the immune system has become hypersensitive. We see chronic constipation, mouth ulcers and recurrent infection supported with improved diet and lifestyle changes.
Creating these changes daily can have profound effects on improving our children’s immune systems. Making these changes supports your children’s immune system’s best growth and fortification today and for years to come; who doesn’t want that?
If you need to ask me more about a personal approach in optimising your kid’s immune health or your family is struggling for too long with healing, give me a call. We have consultations online, by phone or in-person in beautiful Ballina, New South Wales, Australia.
Like this blog? Please share it with a friend. For more information on family immune support, book a discovery chat today. Click here—original author Alison Millican at Lighthouse Naturopathy, Lighthouse Naturopathy Blog.