While our children’s immunity is always on our mind, fall is the perfect time to strengthen your child’s immune system. To face the cold weather with more robust internal defenses, here are five ways to support your child’s immune system.
1. Soap up often!
The #1 way to support strong immune health is to practice frequent handwashing, so encourage your child to lather up regularly. Have your child lather for 20 seconds or say the ABCs twice. Make sure kids avoid the habit of touching or rubbing their face, especially the nose, eyes, and mouth, and have them wash up before and after they eat, and when they come inside.
2. Take a multivitamin
Another lifestyle factor that can support immune health is ensuring they are eating unprocessed, fresh, and whole foods low in sugar. Because it’s not always easy to ensure your kids are eating well-balanced meals 100% of the time, especially for time-crunched families and picky eaters, one of the best ways to close nutritional gaps is to incorporate a multivitamin and mineral. A good multivitamin will contain a broad spectrum of vitamins and minerals needed for healthy teeth, bones, skin, nerves, brain, metabolism, and immunity.* Look for the multivitamins containing zinc, magnesium, vitamin C, and vitamin K2, especially the ones that are naturally sweetened with stevia and xylitol.
3. Serve more probiotic-rich foods
With roughly 70-80% of our immune system being located in our digestive tract, probiotics are another way to support immunity.* These good, healthy bacteria specifically promote immunity, reduce the need for antibiotics, and support digestion and nutrient absorption.* Building up good gut bacteria can be achieved by serving up more probiotic-rich foods and taking a probiotic supplement. Fermented foods such as pickles, kombucha (they have many flavored kinds that kids would like), or unsweetened yogurts mixed with fresh chopped or pureed fruit make a great snack. If you have an extra picky eater, try a kid-friendly probiotic powder that you can mix into their favorite drink, or sprinkle onto their cereal.
4. Out with the sugar and in with vitamin C-rich fruits and veggies
Sugar has been shown to alter our microbiome in some pretty extreme ways, like feeding the bad sugar-loving bacteria, which can crowd out beneficial, immune-supporting bacteria. Sugar has also been shown to decrease the effectiveness of our white blood cells. Instead of sugary snacks, have fruits rich with vitamin C and antioxidants like oranges and blueberries. Load up on fiber-rich veggies (also good for the gut), such as carrots with protein-rich hummus and nut butter on celery.
5. Get some sunshine in a bottle
Outside time is so important not only for the exercise and fresh air, but for the vitamin D, also known as the “sunshine vitamin.” Even though we need to encourage our kids to be outside as much as possible all year round, come fall, the amount of time they can really enjoy the sunshine is limited. The body absorbs sunlight using cholesterol to convert it to a usable form of vitamin D, which is required by our immune system in particular. Vitamin D can modulate the innate and adaptive immune responses and healthy vitamin D levels is associated with good health.* Kids can stock up now by taking 25 mcg (1000 IU) of vitamin D daily to counter what we aren’t getting during our long, dark winters.
With appropriate vitamin and mineral support, a healthy lifestyle, and proper hygiene we can support our child’s health all fall, winter, and year long!