Childhood immune health
Keeping your Child's Immune System Strong
A strong and healthy immune system is the foundation of good health for your child now and in the future. Because a child’s immune system is still developing, it is not unusual for them to experience frequent colds, respiratory and gastro intestinal infections.
Daily contact with many other children increases the likelihood of this. However, if your child has too frequent or prolonged infections, it probably means their immune system is weak and needs some help.
What can weaken the immune system?
A poor, nutrient deficient diet is the biggest reason why a child may have a weak immune system. Young people growing up today have a vastly different diet to that of their parents and grandparents when they were children.
Fast food, soft drinks, chips, chocolate and candy have become a daily part of many children’s lives. Food that comes in brightly coloured packets filled with articifial colours, flavours and preservatives has taken dominance over basic fresh foods like vegetables, fruit, fish and meat.
Vegetables and fruit are an excellent source of the vitamins, minerals and antioxidants children need to keep their immune system strong and without them health problems will inevitably surface. Raw vegetable juices are an excellent way to encourage children to consume more vegetables. Adding some fruit like grapes or pears will make the juice sweeter. There are immune boosting juices in my book Raw Juices Can Save Your Life.
Vitamin C and zinc are especially important nutrients for a strong immune system and many children do not get enough of these in their diet.
One of the greatest problems with modern day diets in children is that they are so high in sugar. Sugar directly suppresses the immune system and creates an environment where bacteria can thrive, making infections more likely.
A lack of essential fatty acids in the diet is another major problem. The omega 3 fats EPA and DHA are mainly found in fish, fish oil supplements and some fortified foods. Many children rarely eat fish.
The role of food sensitivities
Food sensitivities are a huge strain on the immune system, and they can result in symptoms such as asthma, eczema, a blocked or runny nose, headaches, frequent colds, abdominal bloating and recurrent ear infections. Removing the culprit foods from the child’s diet can offer a major improvement in health and well being. You may need the help of a naturopath or nutritionist to help you identify allergies or sensitivities. Common problem foods include gluten, dairy products, yeast and nuts.
Dietary guidelines for a strong immune system in children
- Set a good example by having a healthy diet yourself. Children learn by example; they are more likely to do as you do, rather than as you say.
- Limit time spent watching television or playing computer games, as these activities can encourage snacking on junk food.
- Children with poor appetites may require five small meals per day rather than three large ones.
- Omega 3 essential fatty acids are vital for brain and eye development, and may help to prevent conditions like asthma and eczema. Fish is the best source of these fats so try to make it a regular part of your child’s diet.
- Make sure your child always has plenty of fresh water to drink, rather than sugary drinks like cordial, fruit juice or soft drinks.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.