In short, the immune system is a network of cells and proteins that defends the body against infection. If a virus, bacteria or another foreign substance enters the body, then white blood cells identify it and start to produce antibodies and other responses to the infection. They also “remember” them and can fight easily next time.
The immune system of adults is fully developed. But the baby’s and toddler’s immune system is immature and begins developing only after birth. During the last three months of pregnancy antibodies are passed from mother to baby through the placenta. And because of that, in the first months the babies are still protected. The amount and type of antibodies passed to the babies depend on the mother’s level of immunity. But, those gradually disappear by time. And the babies begin forming their antibodies against individual antigens every time they are exposed to a virus or germ.
After birth, the way babies receive antibodies is through colostrum and breast milk, or infant formula as a healthy alternative. Breast milk contains many elements that support the baby’s immune system like proteins, fats, probiotics and antibodies. And if the mother gets sick, then the baby gets antibodies through breast milk too. Usually, breast-fed babies have fewer infections and get better more quickly than formula-fed babies. But, breastfeeding can not protect babies from a serious infection.
Anyway, breast milk and formula should provide babies with all the important vitamins and minerals they need. And when your baby starts on solid, a variety of fresh vegetables, fruits and meats should be enough to keep your child’s immune system in good condition. One of the things we can do to stimulate children’s immune system is vaccinating. This is one of the very safest and effective ways to protect them against serious diseases. This means that if children come into contact with the disease in the future, their immune system will recognize the germ and respond fast enough to fight off the disease or prevent serious complications.
I know, It’s really sad to see your little kid feel uncomfortable, tired and powerless when your little one is sick. But just remember, that a cold and other minor illnesses are one of the best natural immune boosters for your child. When your kids catch a cold their body creates antibodies that help their bodies learn how to fight illnesses and infections. But if your child is ill often, if he has an ear or severe sinus infections more than two or three times in a year, or is struggling to gain weight, you have to check up with your pediatrician. When your child’s immune system is a bit run down and colds and flu seem never-ending, your healthcare provider will help you.
10 ways to boost your child’s immune system naturally
Like it or not, our kids are going to get sick sometimes, which is normal and good for their immune system. And, thankfully, there are some things we can do and natural boosters we can use to help decrease the frequency and severity of sickness. Appropriate and sufficient nutrition, spring water, vitamins, more sleep, hygiene, fresh air, exercise and having fun plays an indispensable role. So, what to pay attention to and what you can do to strengthen your child’s immune system:
Sleep is a very powerful natural immune booster for children. It plays a very important role in the healthy development of the kids. During sleep the body takes time to repair itself and produce infection-fighting cells. For good quality of sleep, the room has to be dark and all electronic devices should be off or in the other room.
2. Fresh food
The key to a healthy and strong immune system is fresh and real food. The child’s menu should include a variety of foods – fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry and fresh meats, fish, legumes, different kinds of cereals, eggs, milk and dairy products. Keep to a minimum the packaged food like chocolate, cakes, cookies, and crisps, and give them as an occasional food only.
Limit and avoid sugar too. Because sugar can suppress the immune system and decrease its effectiveness. It can also increase the risk of various inflammations, behavioral issues, diabetes, obesity and many more health issues.
Make your child drink more water instead of fruit juices, as much as possible, because they contain a lot of sugar.
Green up your meals, as much as you can. We all know that this gives us many benefits. But if your child refuses to gobble up veggies try to make green smoothies, which usually works. Use garlic and onion in your child’s meals to strengthen his immune system. Garlic and onion are such amazing food which contains anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. Also, they stimulate immune cells and increase antibody production.
One of the best sources of antioxidants and immune boosters are berries. They contain a lot of vitamin A and vitamin C. You can add them to your child’s breakfast with oats or yogurt, which kids love. But during the first two years is good to avoid allergenic foods such as strawberries and nuts.
For a healthy immune system the child needs a balanced menu. A healthy and varied diet will provide your child with all the necessary vitamins, minerals and all other beneficial substances the body needs. All vitamins are important for the body, but some of the most important is vitamin D, vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin E, Calcium, vitamin B, Iron. Vitamins and all other beneficial substances are best absorbed by the body when we receive them through the food rather than when we get them through tables or other forms of supplements. So try to provide your child with food rich in these vitamins.
It plays a vital role in bone health and immune system, this applies to both children and adults. The best source of vitamin D is the sunshine. Vitamin D-rich foods are fatty fish (salmon, tuna and mackerel), egg yolks, soy milk, orange juice, milk, cheese and cereals.
It helps build strong bones and teeth. Calcium deficiency increases the risk of osteoporosis later in life and especially for girls. It’s good to create your child’s habit of eating Calcium- rich food. The good thing is that many of Calcium-rich foods are also rich in vitamin D. Foods that contain high levels of Calcium are the dairy products- cheese, yogurt, milk. Also, we can get a good amount of Calcium from almonds, broccoli, orange juice, soy milk and tofu.
These vitamins are very important for metabolism, energy production, healthy circulatory and nervous system. The most important one of the family of B vitamins is B12, so check the levels of vitamin B12 from time to time. Foods that have high levels of vitamin B are meat, fish, beans, soybeans, nuts, eggs, milk, cheese, tuna, and spinach.
This vitamin provides normal growth, healthy eyes, and skin, and works to prevent infections. Vitamin A-rich foods are carrots, sweet potato, squash, apricots, broccoli, spinach and egg yolks.
This vitamin strengthens the body’s immune system, acts as an antioxidant and protecting cells from damage and prolongs their lives. Vitamin E-rich foods are avocado, peanut butter, plant oils, sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, spinach, pumpkin and kiwi.
It helps the body to transport oxygen through the blood and muscles, to create red blood cells and to emit energy from the cells. Iron also participates in the synthesis of DNA in the process of cellular respiration and the maintenance of the immune system. Foods that contain high levels of iron are red meats, beef, turkey, pork, beans, spinach, prunes, nuts, kale and parsley.
Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant that does not accumulate in the human body. We need to get it from food. Vitamin C performs many important functions by taking part in the synthesis of collagen, cholesterol, and metabolism, and it’s involved in iron metabolism. To keep good levels of vitamin C in your child’s menu, you need to put a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables in it. Vitamin C-rich foods are citrus fruits, strawberries, bananas, tomatoes, broccoli, spinach, potatoes and melons. Typically, multivitamins are not needed as a natural booster for the immune system of children, but if your child has a deficiency, you should talk to your pediatrician.
Probiotics are one very good natural immune booster for children and the elderly too. These are microorganisms naturally present in the digestive tract that aid in digestion, stimulate the immune system, detoxify, reduce pathogenic bacteria and lower cholesterol. Foods rich in probiotics are yogurt, kefir, kombucha, pickles, sauerkraut, sourdough bread, aged cheeses (gouda, cheddar, mozzarella), miso and green olives.
5. Avoid antibiotics (take them if is necessary)
In some cases antibiotics are needed to help the body fight off the disease. The purpose of antibiotics is to kill off bacteria causing infections. And for sure, sometimes they are lifesaving. But overusing antibiotics can cause antibodies to become resistant to the medicine.
Viruses are simply not affected by the antibiotics. So, if your child has a viral infection it is better to try to strengthen his immune system with probiotics, fresh food, vitamins and some herbal medicine. This way you will help the body to fight with the infection much more successfully. Most colds are viral not bacterial.
In many cases, we can improve the condition of our child through herbal and natural remedies. These are syrups, baths, salves, teas, steams and tinctures. You can use successfully homeopathy and Schuessler salts too. You need to talk to a doctor to give you the right medicine and dose of your child’s condition.
Colostrum provides a newborn with all the nutrients they need for growth and development. We all know that it is rich in protective immune-boosting antibodies. There are two types of colostrum – human and bovine colostrum. Human colostrum is produced by the mothers for the babies. The bovine colostrum is from the cow and it’s used in colostrum supplements and beauty products. This type of colostrum contains a high level of proteins and fat. The colostrum supplements help to treat and prevent damage to the gastrointestinal tract, treat colitis and enhance bone development.
7. Go out frequently (spend time outside and exercise regularly)
Regular exercises and spending time outside are some of the best natural immune boosters for kids. We all know they are good for many reasons. Be outside with your child as much as possible. Kids spend too much time indoor these days and we need to get them outside in the fresh air. There are many things you can do together – take family walks, go for a picnic, play ball, go running, or visit the park. Let your kids run around and get dirty, this is another way to boost their immune system. Take your child outside in the winter months too, it is good for you as well. All you need is appropriate clothes for you and your kid. Getting outside won’t cause you to catch a cold. Being outside all year round is good for exercise, fresh air and getting real natural vitamin D.
Create good hygiene habits for your children. Teach them when and how to wash their hands and how important it is to keep clean hands. Not only before and after meals and after visiting the toilet. Teach your kids to brush their teeth twice a day. Schedule regular checkups with your dentist.
Water is one of the best natural immune boosters for kids. It helps to stay properly hydrated which assists your immune system in many ways. Drinking a lot of water is good for everyone – kids and adults. Hydrating helps your body fight off colds and flush out bacteria through your urine. Springwater is a really good choice. Adding some lemon or strawberry slices would make the water more appealing to children.
10. Essential oils
There are lots of essential oils that can help you to boost your child’s immune system. I just need to search a little. Get informed before using any, because there are some specifics you need to follow. For example, eucalyptus essential oil has an energizing effect and antibacterial and immune-modulating capabilities. I am using it by diffusing them in our indoor environment to support the whole family’s immunity, especially during the winter.
Have fun with your kids. Play with them and be around them, they need you now. Children can get stressed too, so don’t pass your stress onto them. And very important is to teach them how to relax and remember that “me” time is important for the kids too.
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