Back to School: 3 Ways to Help Build Your Child’s Immunity

15 Jan, 2016

The start of a new year, and almost time for the kids to go back to school. What a perfect time to start building their immunity before the hustle and bustle of the first few weeks kick in.  

1.   Gut Health:

You know that annoying advert on TV in the morning, with the little Blue bacteria bouncing around ‘Have you had your inner health plus today?’… That’s what I’m talking about. Gut Bacteria, the good guys! Building the good bacteria in the gut to promote all sorts of good health. Here is a great article explaining Gut Bacteria in a really easy to understand way.

There are all sorts of ways to start building good gut bacteria, and mostly it’s about eating the right kinds of foods to enhance good bacteria growth. Sauerkraut, kimchi, yoghurt, kefir, kombucha, miso are all fantastic food sources.  A little hard to get the kids in to though, they taste a lot like vinegar.  Start small, 1/4 teaspoon every morning before any other food.  The more kids eat them, the more they want it. There is also the very easy, tasteless way with supplements.  There is a wide range of pro-biotics available, I highly recommend seeing a health professional to get advice on what source is best for your child.  At Health Space we have a variety and would be happy to point you in the right direction, also available on the shop floor are the food varieties of pro-biotics.  Start with a sprinkle, most come in capsule or powder form.  The capsules can be opened and sprinkled on breakfast.  Again, start small, the tiniest of sprinkles and build up to having the whole capsule.

Probiotics like to eat as well.  Feed your kids up on good snacks like sweet potato chips made by chopping up sweet potatoes, covering in coconut oil and pink salt, pop in oven for about 20mins... easy, tasty and I always like to share why we eat what we eat to help kids develop better understanding of how nutrition influences our bodies.

A good, healthy gut ensures food is absorbed.  Good absorption of food means excellent absorption of nutrients.

2. Vitamin D:

We need it…recent research is showing it is one of the most beneficial vitamins for our health.  It is very important to make sure your muscles, heart, lungs and brain can work well, and incredibly vitamin D contributes to this.   A one stop shop for building stronger bones, protecting against disease, enhancing our immune systems, treating numerous disorders and ensuring optimal health and well-being.

How do we make sure our kids get enough?

Our clever bodies make vitamin D when our bare skin is exposed to sunlight, and it happens in less time than it take to make our skin go pink (we do not want our skin to go pink!).  Best time for this to happen is the morning time, between 8am and 10am, before harmful UV rays begin to be at dangerous levels.  The more skin you can expose the better.  It won’t happen if you put sunscreen or moisturiser on your skin beforehand either, the skin needs to be completely bare.

It’s pretty scary exposing your childs precious skin to direct sunlight, it’s so new and perfect!  It has been drilled into us to avoid the sun at all cost, cover up, slip slop slap.  Follow your instinct, if you feel a small amount of sunlight for a short amount of time will benefit your child, go for it.  Gradual exposure is better than hard-hitting them when the summer months come.  I found this great article explaining about getting vitamin d from the sun.

Food glorious food.  We have food that is fortified with vitamin D, but we can’t guarantee the source, the quality and the quantity of vitamin D.  Butter naturally contains high levels of vitamin d, especially pasture/grass feed cows in New Zealand (so go organic NZ butter!).  Eggs are another natural source with good levels a vitamin d, again choose organic, free range or even better biodynamic farmed eggs.  Happy chickens lay better eggs!  Fresh oily fish, not farmed (once again avoiding grain fed fish) provide a good source of vitamin d.  Organ meats contain great levels of vitamin D, and kids love pate (truly they do) and here is a great recipe from Bubbayumyum.

A good quality, trusted supplement can go a long way in ensuring your children really get a good dose of vitamin D.  You can start as early as birth, even if breast-feeding.  Although breast milk does supply some vitamin D, depending on your stores, often this is not enough.  You can get your blood level of vitamin D tested by your GP, be mindful this is at a cost.  Visit your local health store for a good quality vitamin D supplement, and ask for specific dosing for your child.  Remember to get some for yourself too.  Come in to see me at Health Space Kings Cross to discuss your child's vitamin D needs and what supplement may suit them.

3. Sleep

Tough at this time of the year, but oh so important to start developing good sleeping patterns for kids to get ready for school, and help boost their immune system.  Katherine Lee, School Age Children's Expert reports 'Lack of sleep has been linked to a variety of cognitive and physical health issues including increase risk for obesity, diabetes, and heart problems. Not getting enough sleep can also lead to a disruption of hormonal function and reduced inability to fight off infections'.  She goes on to say 'One recent study showed that losing even as little as a few hours of sleep in just one night can increase inflammation in the body and interfere with its ability to keep itself healthy'. “Sleep is crucial to immune system function,” says David Katz, MD, director of the Yale Prevention Research Center. “People underestimate the importance of getting enough sleep.”  Indeed! You know yourself if you are sleeping well, you are feeling well.

So there you have 3 simple ways to start helping build your child's immunity.  Remember it's really good for children to get a few coughs and colds a year, to help build their immunity and it also shows us their immune systems are working.  If you feel you need more help building immunity come see me at Health Space Kings Cross, where we can build a specialised care plan for your child.

Health Space Kings Cross (02) 8354 1534.