Now that we’re approaching the “Back to School” time of the year, the cold and flu season is just around the corner —a time of year that parents know all too well.
This is the time of the year to really start focusing on making sure your children’s immune systems are strong and healthy as they start a new school year.
So where do you start when it comes to keeping your child healthy so they have a properly functioning immune system?
Before the first runny nose or sore throat makes its unwanted appearance, let’s dig into our 5 Ways To Naturally Boost Your Child’s Immune System.
No. 1 – Nutrition
The first step, the very foundation of having a strong immune system is nutrition.
I cannot stress enough the importance of consuming high quality, whole foods.
The benefits can be seen and felt almost immediately!
A healthy diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, broths, legumes, fermented foods and essential fatty acids (think fish oils/algae oil/coconut oils/hemp seed oil) is the way to go.
A primarily plant-based diet rich in these foods means you’re providing your child’s body with the nutrients it needs to boost their immune system with nourishing vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.
I highly recommend having a look into some amazing cookbooks like The Happy Pear book 1 and 2 and Deliciously Ella, or the recipe sections on their websites for some great healthy food inspo. They’re simple, healthy and super tasty.
No. 2 – Focus on gut health
A healthy immune system starts in the gut.
Probiotics are the friendly helpful bacteria that live in our intestinal tracts. These friendly bacteria are essential for the body to function properly and maintain our overall health.
They protect our digestive tracts, help us to digest food, assist in toxin clearance, and shield us from invading bacteria and viruses.
When this good bacterial balance becomes imbalanced in children, their ability to fend off infections is lowered, leaving them prone to catching whatever nasty cold or virus is going around.
Most often there imbalances are caused from poor diet choices, with high sugar intake, low fibre foods, processed or additive laden foods and not enough good bacteria supporting foods in the diet.
Lifestyle and environmental factors can also affect our friendly bacteria levels, including stress, both mental and physical, as well as pollution and secondary smoking, antibiotic use and not enough sleep.
Foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, kefir, natural yoghurt and kombucha are absolutely fantastic at improving gut health.
However, given that the majority of young children may not be too exhilarated at the idea of consuming fermented cabbage if they’ve never had it before, I’d recommend starting children on a probiotic supplement containing lactobacillus and bifidobacteria strains instead (or as well if you’ve managed to get them into it!).
Depending on the age of your child, you may need to go about the introduction of probiotic and prebiotic foods differently. Milk kefir and natural yogurt can be added to smoothies or consumed as they are without much difficulty.
Kombucha can replace soda (check out the Synerchi brand in Nourish fridges to try it!), and fermented veggies can be added to salads for example.
If you’re interested to know more, here’s a previous blog I wrote on the benefits of vegetable fermentation and a recipe.
No. 3 – Sleep
Getting back on a school-year schedule can be a struggle, but ensuring that your child gets enough rest will really help their immune system stay in tiptop shape.
Getting enough sleep is vitally important for children as it directly impacts their mental and physical development.
Sleep is the time our bodies take to repair and rejuvenate, keeping our immune system boosted.
During sleep we produce proteins known as cytokines, which the body relies on to fight infection, illness, and stress. Too little sleep can impact the number of cytokines on hand meaning we’re more likely to catch any colds or viruses going around.
The amount of sleep a child needs varies depending on the individual and certain factors, including the age of the child, but general it ranges from between 9 and 15 hours of sleep per day.
No. 4 – Help calm stress and anxiety
Stress over a new school year is normal. Maybe it manifests itself as tummy aches or digestive problems; maybe it’s mood disruptions or irritability; or maybe it’s an inability to sleep through the night. No matter what it is, ultimately the body understands this as stress.
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.
Encouraging stress outlets like socializing, sport, music or any kind of creative play will help keep your child stress free and happy, which is essential to their health and wellbeing.
For additional support, Californian poppy is an excellent herb for the nervous system, and can be thought of as a gentle balancer to the emotions and a calming remedy for times of stress. It is suitable for calming both children and adults, helping to reduce anxiety and tension in the day and induce sleep at night without side effects of drowsiness.
No. 5 – Supplement
Here are my top 6 supplement recommendations for supporting your child’s immune system:
1. Pukka Herbs Elderberry Syrup
Pukka Herbs Elderberry syrup contains elderberry, manuka honey, trikatu and thyme, along with the other herbs to help alleviate the symptoms of coughs, colds and flu.
The herbs in this syrup have long been used to help support the respiratory system and seasonal health. It’s suitable for adults and children from 2 and up.
Even if your child doesn’t have a cough yet but maybe feels something coming on, this is a great remedy to take to help knock it on the head.
2. Viridian Viridikid Liquid Vitamin D Drops
Viridian Viridikid liquid vitamin D is a pleasant orange flavoured children’s vitamin D that comes in an easy to use dropper bottle, delivering 400iu of Vitamin D3 per drop. (0.5ml).
Not only does Vitamin D support bones, teeth and muscle health; it also supports the maintenance of a healthy immune system, making it a very important vitamin when your kids are heading back to school.
Studies in Ireland have revealed that low vitamin D status and vitamin D deficiency are widespread in the population of Ireland, so I would advise that you get a blood test done before supplementing with Vitamin D to check your child’s levels so you know how much they should take. They could need a higher dosage than generally recommended if they’re already deficient.
For small children aged between 0 and 5 years old, Udo’s’ choice have an Infants blend powder which can easily be added to formula or any liquid as part of a meal. It’s a really easy way to add in probiotics and ensures your kids will receive a minimum of 3 billion viable/active cells and 6 strains of healthy bacteria.
For children aged between 5 and 15 years, a children’s blend is available also from Udo’s choice. Within this formula there are 5 Billion viable/active cells and 7 strains of healthy bacteria.
A child’s healthy microflora will closely resemble that of an adult, but due to their smaller size, children need much smaller quantities of the same bacteria.
The intake of these friendly bacteria will help limit the influence of unfavourable bacteria, aid absorption of minerals, promote regular bowel movements and support their immune system.
4. Terranova Green Child Sneaky Greens
Terranova Green Child Sneaky Greens contains a huge variety of freeze dried fruit, veg, superfoods, probiotics, micro flora, algae and more to help boost your childs nutritional intake.
Easily added to a smoothie or made into a shake, this product contains no artificial colours or flavours, and no added refined sugar, making it just a pure wholefood drink that’s suitable for children aged 4-12.
5. Mag365 Kids Magnesium Supplement
Try offering Mag365 Kids Magnesium Supplement to your child in the evening if they’re struggling to sleep or feeling stressed.
Magnesium is simply amazing. It’s an essential mineral in the body and is used in over 300 reactions on a daily basis. Magnesium is responsible for helping the body to minimize our response to stressful stimuli, get rid of excess tension and to help the body transition into a restful state.
Mag356 Kids contains magnesium, calcium, zinc, vitamin B1, vitamin B6, vitamin D3, vitamin K2 and vitamin C for growth, relaxation, concentration and immunity.
This powdered supplement contains no sugar or artificial sweeteners but is instead sweetened with a natural passion fruit flavour and Stevia. It’s recommended for children between 4 and 10.
6. Children’s Multivitamin and Mineral Formula
Taken alongside a well-balanced nutrient rich diet, multivitamin and mineral supplements can be great for giving additional support to your child’s diet to help ensure those vitamin and mineral levels are well topped-up and maintained to help avoid any nutritional deficiencies.
I’m not suggesting that stuffing your child full of vitamin pills is the solution the good health, but that being said, a good diet isn’t always easy to maintain in a child!
Containing immune supporting nutrients like Vitamin C, B complex, D, and minerals like zinc, a good overall multivitamin and mineral can be a great idea to top up their levels as they head into a new year.
Note: If you’re supplementing with a multi then there’s little to no need to supplement with a child’s vitamin D also.
You’re not always going to be able to keep your kids from catching what’s going around, even when you boost their immune system, but your efforts can at the least help to decrease the severity and duration of the illness should they catch one.
*Please note that while we are knowledgeable about our products and nutrition, this blog should never be a substitute for medical advice and attention
Please remember that you should always obtain the all-clear from your doctor before starting any new supplement plan or diet if you’re on any medication