BOOSTING YOUR CHILD’S IMMUNITY:
As another academic year begins, you may be concerned that the end of the summer will herald a surge in colds and viruses within your household.
Statistically, your child is more likely to get lurgies in the autumn/winter as the days shorten (less sunlight means less of the immune-boosting vitamin D) and become colder: studies suggest our immune systems are less effective at responding to viruses in colder weather. However don’t despair, there is lots you can do to boost your child’s immunity over the next few months.
Give your child a variety of fruits and vegetables: When choosing fruits and veg think of a rainbow and get your child to do the same. A variety of colours will ensure a variety of nutrients to best arm your child’s immune system for action. Aim for 4 portions of veg and 1 portion of fruit daily.
Avoid refined carbohydrates (including white pasta, white bread and sugars) and replace with wholegrains: consumption of refined sugar can suppress the immune system. Sugar and refined carbs are also void of nutrients and negatively impact blood sugar levels (= increased potential for hyperactivity and mood swings) so replace with wholegrains (rye bread, quinoa, brown rice) which are rich in fibre to balance blood sugar levels and to fuel the body’s detoxification and digestive processes.
Get your child to bed early: This will probably be music to your ears. It’s also essential for an optimum functioning immune system. Studies have shown that people who don’t get enough sleep are more likely to get sick. Sleep will help the body to repair and the immune system to stay strong. Your child’s school teacher will probably thank you for your child’s increased focus too.
Get outside: Make sure your children are still as active as possible on a daily basis outside school hours - walking to school where possible or simply kicking a ball around the garden. Being outside and in the sun (when it’s out!) will help to boost your child’s levels of vitamin D which is vital for an optimum functioning immune system.
Eat fermented foods: Sounds disgusting? Your child may think so. But foods that are fermented (e.g. sauerkraut, pickled gherkins, miso, unpasteurized cheese, live yoghurt) are brilliant for your immune system because the fermentation process creates easily digested probiotic-rich foods. When consumed, they help contribute to the beneficial bacteria living within our gut and it’s in our gut that 80-85% of our immune system resides. Try getting your child to eat these fermented foods daily if you can: start with arguably the most child-friendly of the fermented food range - sourdough bread and plain live natural yoghurt!
Last but NOT LEAST: Don’t forget your omega-3 essential fatty acids: These fats are vital for a healthy immune system. They are called essential because our bodies can’t make omega-3s without the right foods so it’s essential we get them from our daily diet. There are three types of omega-3s: EPA, DHA and ALA. Out of these three types, EPA and DHA have the most powerful anti-inflammatory and immune boosting properties and can be found in oily fish (such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout and tuna).
Try to get your child to eat oily fish twice per week (no more due to pollutants). On the other days it’s worth trying to incorporate other sources of omega-3s into your child’s diet, e.g. walnuts, chia seeds and flaxseeds. These foods contain ALA, which is still really beneficial for us because our bodies, if functioning optimally, can make EPA and DHA out of ALA. However this process isn’t as efficient or as certain as getting EPA and DHA directly from the diet. So, fish is the focus. Oily fish is also an excellent source of vitamin D which we’ve already looked at as vital for immune function. Win win.
If you can’t get your child to eat their salmon (let’s face it, some have a severe aversion to anything fishy) or if you just want to boost your child’s omega-3 levels then an omega-3 supplement is something to consider. Bare Biology’s Super Hero Pure Omega-3 Fish Oil For Kids is a really good quality option and, crucially, it’s a tasty liquid that children will drink neat…and then they’ll ask for more (at least my survey of 4 tells me they do!).