Most of us can’t wait for the end of cold and flu season, and we’d be willing to do anything to boost our immune system after several colds or worse, the flu. If you’re a parent, you may feel like you live in a Petri dish at this point. Surprisingly, you and your kids can’t get sick just by being in contact with someone who is (although that certainly doesn’t help). Only a sick body can get sick, so if you keep you and the kiddos immunes system boosted you’ll have a much greater chance of dealing with the viruses and bacteria that you both come in contact with. Prevention would be awesome but that needed to start months ago! So how do we build immune function in our children and create the highest resistance to infection possible? Supplements? Foods?
How To Boost Your Kids Immunity
We can boost our kids immunity at anytime, by activating their immune systems and encouraging resistance through a healthy diet, adequate sleep, maintaining exercise and using nutritional supplements. Simple right? But a lot of this advice is belly up to what we’ve been lead to believe!
Before we get started, it’s important to realize the first sentence is inaccurate. “Cold and flu season” is a myth. The truth is it’s an inability to adapt due to increased sugar intake and increased stress combined with decreased sun exposure (in the winter) and decreased water intake. Reversing those are exactly what we need to activate our kids immune systems and encourage resistance.
Sugar and Stress: It’s All a Mess
You could go as far as detoxing your
little sugar monsters but really decreasing our kids’ sugar intake and stress can be as simple as transitioning them to a whole food diet. Note transitioning: not expecting your kids to eat like angels all the time but likewise not giving into eating sugary processed refined things most of the time either. Feeding kids as we currently do just isn’t good enough, in fact it’s stressful on their bodies.
Nutrient density in whole foods is made for all seasons, but especially during the winter months that seem to have our immune systems down! Think about the foods you crave in winter: curries (think turmeric), casseroles (think slow cooked meats and veggies), soups (bone broths and more veggies) and ‘heavier’ breakfasts like pancakes. There’s a reason: your body knows what it needs. But what exactly is enough to boost immunity?
In winter, we should be focused on getting our kids to eat clarified butter (ghee) with a side of broccoli instead of the other way around! Not only will this increase vitamin/mineral absorption from the veggies they actually do eat, it will provide the kind of fat soluble vitamins that help them develop beautiful straight teeth, strong bodies and good dispositions.
Clarified butter (ghee) and free range eggs (use organic sources) will help maintain necessary levels of vitamin A particularly. The beta-carotene form of vitamin A from vegetable sources is not absorbed as well as retinoid forms from animal sources. A supplement of beta-carotene will need at least 10 times the dose of beta-carotene compared to a retinoid vitamin A supplement (e.g. from fish oil). Combine the two and cook some colorful root veggies in duck lard. They’re great as is or with a roast/steak, in salads, or blended with eggs and cacao for chocolate breakfast pancakes.
Choosing grass fed pastured meats are the best for your child. Slow cooking not only saves you time but protects these precious proteins from high heat. Try adding turmeric to curries for added anti-inflammatory power. The additional benefit aside the preserved amino acids from slow cooked meats also means you have additional time to sit down and relax or play with your kids instead of cooking!
Encourage kids to eat lots of fruits year round. In fact, fruit should be the only source of your child’s sugar intake when possible. A whole foods diet will provide the best support for maintaining healthy cellular function in kids. This can be a challenge for many kids who crave foods that are sweet or processed. However, young kids will eat what’s offered so remember, don’t offer processed and sweet!
Let Kids Be Their Own Guide
Sometimes we just don’t feel like a big meal, or a big meal of meat, or veggies for that matter. Let your kids be the guide to what they want – and true they will try and get away with what they can initially but everyone discovers what they want and chooses what they need in the end. This has been the proven results
of a study!
Kids’ favorite meals in winter can be the best opportunity to increase nutrient density for immune boosting. Try a chicken pot pie
, or plantain pancakes
maybe with a big dollop of grass fed ghee, maple syrup and cinnamon, the latter being a natural insulin moderator, which alongside the healthy fats in the butter, will slow down any sugar spike from that little bit of maple syrup.
Vitamin D: Food or Sun Exposure
Children need Vitamin D for bone growth and development. So do babies developing in the womb. This is because vitamin D helps us absorb calcium
. While kids won’t get enough vitamin D from food alone, food with lots of vitamin D can add to the vitamin D your child gets from sunshine.
Vitamin D foods, not vitamin D added foods
Foods naturally containing vitamin D include fresh fatty fish (salmon, herring, mackerel and sardines), mushrooms, liver and egg yolks. However, foods that have vitamin D added to them are something to be avoided! These include margarine, some low-fat milk and dairy products. Even infant formula contains added vitamin D.
Be sun smart
Spending too long in the sun isn’t good for your skin, so it’s important to use sun protection. During summer, especially between 10 am and 4 pm, make sure your child stays safe in the sun with sunscreen, a hat, sunglasses, clothing that keeps the sun off and access to plenty of shade.
In winter, none of us really get enough sunshine so try and get some on your face at least once a day. Consider vitamin D3 supplementation too, particularly in lower sunlight areas like Northern America.
In summer we’re hot, we sweat, we get thirsty. Generally we drink to replace fluids in summer, even kids. However, in the winter we breathe in cold air and don’t think to replenish with water. We usually want to grab something hot. However we still need water. Summer or winter (or spring or fall for that matter!) adults and kids should make sure they get enough water for normal body function.
Drink More Water!
Maintaining exercise even in the winter, and using nutritional supplements might seem like obvious pointers for immune boosting throughout winter. But sleep or lack thereof can be just as important a stress removal. So just how do we help kids realize there’s times for running around like a mad person and other times for slowing down (apart from empathy and our own actions of course!)?
- Scheduled Wake Up Time: Start scheduling a regular wake-up time in school times.
- Everyone should wind down at night – maybe reading or chatting near bed with lights dimmed which is calming and sets the mind for sleep.
- Turn off electronic screens at least 60 minutes before bedtime.
- Avoid caffeine and sugary drinks, particularly in the second half of the day.
- Oh and just because I need it myself I’ll say it again, lead by example and everyone will benefit!
One final word: don’t worry if your kids get sick, only if they’re sick all the time. In fact, be more concerned if they don’t get sick from time to time, but that’s an entirely separate article. Just remember, all stress summates: sugar, stress itself, lack of sleep, lack of water and sunlight to name a few. But these are also the areas we can all work on during the “cold and flu season” to help boost our kids immunity. Nutrition is the key to good health. Most of the time we reach for vitamins and supplements dreading what is to come, but research has particularly questioned their absorption in kids. Nutrient dense whole foods, however, are something you can choose to immune boost your kids no matter the season. Oh and of course, a paleo meal service can provide your immune boosting food, ready made so you can relax.