Children’s Immune Health by Rachel Schwartzman – #WellBeingWednesday
We are halfway through winter (insert cheer), and with the recent cases of Measles in our city, I thought I would discuss some simple and effective tools to help keep the immune systems of our little ones strong for the rest of the winter season.
Healthy Diet: For me looking at the basics, is starting with the diet. Make sure your child is consuming several servings of fruits and vegetables per day. I would aim for 4-5; half cup servings per day. Think of eating the “rainbow” daily. This group of coloured foods are loaded with immune boosting phytonutrients, such as vitamin C and beta carotene. They can be eaten raw, steamed, baked, pureed or put into soup, any way is fine, as long as your little one eats them!
Another tip is to limit the sugar content in foods. Sugar is found in obvious places such as cookies and candies, but can also be hidden in cereals, granola bars, crackers and tomato sauce. Sugar will suppress the immune system, so a helpful tip is to read labels to be aware of the sugar content. Another ideas is to buy less packaged food, which is where sugars are often found.
Maintain your child’s microflora. If you don’t already, think about supplementing your child with a good probiotic. These are the friendly bacteria that reside in our guts, and are key players in keeping an immune system strong. You can add a small amount to your child’s food (usually ¼ tsp of powder) daily.
Vitamin D: Most people know about the multiple benefits of vitamin D for mood and bone health. It’s also really important for immune health with research showing children adequately supplemented have reduced rates of Influenza. By living in northern climates and having less exposure to direct sunlight we tend to be deficient in vitamin D. It is important to give our little ones (and big ones) a supplement. I recommend a liquid drop as it’s easy to digest and simple to administer.
Importance of Sleep: When people do not have enough sleep, their natural killer cells are reduced, and immune systems are not working at their peak. Depending on the age, children need between 10 and 14 hours of sleep per night. Another healthy tip is for children to sleep in a dark room to promote the maximum secretion of melatonin. The winter sure is a good time to get those extra hours of much needed rest.
Breast feed your baby: Breast milk contains immune enhancing antibodies and white blood cells, which are key players in supporting a healthy immune system. This really is the best way to support your little ones immune system, with the benefits continuing long after they’ve weaned.
I hope you and your family are healthy for the rest of winter season, and beyond. If you have any specific questions contact a medical or naturopathic doctor.
Rachel Schwartzman is a licensed Naturopathic Doctor, Doula and Acupuncturist. She practices in Toronto and can be reached at 416-371-3422. To learn more about Dr. Rachel take a peek at www.rachelschwartzman.com