As we prepare ourselves for winter, it’s that time of year when boosting our child’s immunity becomes hot topic. As their immune systems are developing and their body is going through a huge ‘learning curve’, their systems can be tested by a wide range of different bacteria and viruses, which increases their likelihood to pick up infections. Optimal health during childhood can have a huge effect on a child’s long-term health and infection rates so being aware of top foods and nutrients to support immunity may have far reaching benefits.
Try including some of these recommendations on a regular basis in your child’s diet to give power to their immunity:
Probiotics: As 80% of our immune system is found in and around our intestines, the health of our digestive system is a key factor for optimal immunity. Probiotics are the bacteria that help support the natural balance of organisms most notably in the intestines. In 2014, research was published that suggested a daily probiotic can reduce the incidence and duration of coughs and colds, reduce absenteeism from school, antibiotic use and visits to GP’s.
Focus on: Probiotic rich foods such as cottage cheese, kefir, olives, yoghurt.
Supplement: Choose a multi-strain probiotic that can be given to a child in liquid or yoghurt.
Prebiotics: These help to nourish and stimulate the growth of bacteria in our intestines and they also work with probiotics to support balance.
Focus on: Prebiotic foods such as asparagus, bananas, garlic, honey, leeks, legumes, onions, peas and yoghurt.
Vitamin C and collagen: Vitamin C is thought to strengthen the immune system and serve as an antioxidant helping to clear toxins from the body working closely with other essential nutrients. Collagen is a protein, which has been found to strengthen and heal the lining of the digestive system and therefore support immune health. Collagen production is very closely linked to adequate vitamin C levels in the body, hence their connection.
Focus on: Vitamin C rich foods such as peppers, dark green leafy vegetables, kiwi, broccoli and berries. Include collagen rich foods such as chicken soup and meat broths, which can be used as a basis for soups and stews.
Vitamin A: This is required to maintain mucus linings in the body and also influences specific cells of the immune system. If vitamin A levels are low this can impair immunity and increase the risk of infection.
Focus on: Vitamin A rich foods such as organic liver and eggs. Try my Child Friendly Liver Pate Recipe.
Vitamin D: It is thought vitamin D works to modulate our immune response and deficiency has been linked to increased risk of infections and autoimmunity. As the body produces it primarily when the skin is exposed to sunlight, is would be no surprise for us to have low levels if living in the UK.
Focus on: Eating foods rich in vitamin D such as oily fish, eggs and mushrooms.
Supplement: Due to poor sun exposure during the winter a supplement is recommended. For children a spray, drops or chewable tablet is ideal.
Eat a Rainbow: Whilst our immune system is busy on a day to day keeping us feeling healthy or fighting an infection high levels of antioxidants are beneficial to help clear up toxins. Encouraging children to eat a daily rainbow of predominantly vegetables can be hugely beneficial in providing a steady stream of nutrients.
Focus on: Orange and dark green vegetables, apples and blueberries.
Helping boost a child’s immune system in preparation for dealing with infection is vital. This may all help to prevent those unwanted colds, snivels and illness as well as reducing the trips to the doctor.