Boost your child's immune system and stop the sniffles

Winter's here, and with it colds and flu. Sticking with these simple tips might not be a cure, but they'll certainly help build immunity minimise the damage...

Simple Ways to Boost Your Child's Immune System

There is no doubt that parents face real dilemmas when it comes to protecting their children's health. But one thing we can all do to help keep them full of energy and bursting with health, is ensure that they have a strong immune system to fight off bugs and infections.

A healthy immune system needs a good, nutritious diet right from the start. The guidance you give during the first five years of a child’s life will probably have a lifelong effect on their health and attitude towards food and eating. But whether you have a baby, a teenager or both, it is never too late to help improve your family's immunity.

What to include

Breast milk is best for babies as it provides antibodies to build immunity, along with the optimal balance of nutrients for growth and development. So, if you can, breastfeed your child for as long as possible.

Keep offering Preparing hassle-free healthy food for children is not easy, but the rewards are enormous. Offer plenty of fruit and vegetables which are high in vitamin C and antioxidants. Offer them when they're hungry and even if they've said 'no' to them before. Both of these natural nutrients boost the immune system. Smoothies can be a great way to get fruit into your fussy toddler!

Don't forget the starch! Starchy foods such as bread, cereals, rice, pasta and potatoes are a really important part of a healthy diet. To get the benefit of all the nutrients and fibre available try to choose wholegrain varieties whenever you can.

Building blocks Protein is necessary for proper immune system function. Your child should have at least one serving of fish or meat or two servings of beans and lentils a day. Also things like runner beans, broad beans, baked beans and peas are a good source of protein.

Omega 3 fats particularly those found in oily fish, are valuable immune boosters and maintain the overall health of just about every organ of the body. Examples of oily fish include salmon, mackerel, trout, sardines and fresh tuna. Once or twice a week is ideal and they can be used in homemade fish cakes, or fish and potato pie, made with a mixture of oily and white fish.

Iron also helps the immune system to function more effectively and therefore decrease the risk of infection and disease. Good sources of iron include red meat, egg yolk, fortified breakfast cereals, beans and pulses. To help absorb the iron more effectively, combine them with vitamin C-rich foods such as citrus fruits, fruit juice, tomatoes and green leafy vegetables.

Zinc The importance of zinc has been recognised only in recent years. It is a vital factor in many key life processes, such as our immune function. Sources include red meat and poultry, beans, nuts, certain seafood, whole grains, fortified breakfast cereals, and dairy products.

Sleep! Make sure your child has plenty of sleep and goes to bed at a reasonable time. Your child's body regenerates, repairs and renews itself while sleeping.

What to avoid

Avoid cakes and biscuits Many studies have shown that diets high in processed foods and sugar depress the immune system, so avoid them as much as possible.

More exercise In addition to a nutritious diet, exercise can help improve your child's immune system as well as maintaining a healthy weight. Give your child plenty of fresh air too - nature is an excellent immune stimulator!

Immunity and stress Stress can have a negative effect on immunity so it is important to include "quiet time" as part of your child's day so that they can unwind and relax. Gentle music is a good stress reliever and can be used to create a calmer environment.

And finally, love and laughter are a wonderful way to boost immunity. Studies show that positive thinking helps to strengthen the immune system. Breastfeeding, daily baths and massage can help to reduce stress and promote positive feelings in babies and of course lots of cuddles, hugs and kisses do wonders to all aspects of your child’s life.

Related links

Supernanny Guide to Healthy Eating: If it feels like your child is eating all the wrong foods - or not eating at all - these Supernanny tips could help.

Glue Ear: Glue ear is a surprisingly common condition, affecting about 75% of children by age three. Supernanny expert Dr David Albert explains what to do if your child is affected.


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