It’s that time of year when kids go back to school and life becomes more routine. It’s also a time when kids are more likely to catch a cold or flu because they are exposed to more viruses and bacteria. There are plenty of natural ways to deal with a cold but if we are proactive with our kids’ health then we can prevent them getting sick in the first place or drastically reduce the duration and the severity of their sickness. I’ve put together my best lifestyle and nutrition tips to help you support your child’s immune system!
1. Make laughter a daily habit
It might seem hard to believe that something as simple as laughter can improve the immune system but it’s true! Laughter works because it lowers stress hormones like cortisol and increases infection fighting antibodies which improves your resistance to disease. There are so many fun ways to bring more laughter into your family’s life such as making time for playfulness, sharing silly jokes, watching a funny show together, checking out the humour section at the bookstore and finally, and sharing funny stories around the dinner table. A simple daily habit is to ask your kids “what was the funniest thing that happened to you today?” as an effective way to open up the lines of communication. Laughter benefits everyone, it strengthens relationships and brings people together.
2. Make sleep a priority
We all know how good we feel after a night of quality sleep – our appetite is in check, our energy is stable and we are ready for the day. Children are no different. Kids who don’t get adequate shut-eye have trouble paying attention in school and their memory and learning are affected. Studies show those who don’t get good quality sleep are more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus. Lack of sleep also affects how quickly you recover if you do get sick. Establishing and maintaining a healthy sleep routine is essential for children. Some quick tips: establish a wind-down routine such as having a bath and reading some books or any quiet activity before bed, limit sugary treats in the evening and make sure your child’s room is as dark as possible.
3. Nourish the gut with probiotic foods
A healthy digestive system is synonymous with a healthy immune system. This is because 70-80% of the immune system resides in the gut and is directly influenced by the microbes that live there. These microbes are directly influenced by what you eat on a daily basis, too! This where fermented foods come to save the day because they introduce beneficial microbes to the gut. I recommend you start early giving children probiotic foods so they get familiar with the different flavours such as yogurt (choose a dairy-free option such as coconut yogurt if your child has a dairy allergy or sensitivity), sauerkraut, kefir, miso, tempeh and kombucha. My daughter loves this smoothie recipe and it’s such an easy way nourish the digestive system plus it’s full of prebiotics too, which are equally important as probiotic foods!
4. Consider probiotics
In addition to eating fermented foods, giving your child a multi-strain probiotic supplement is also beneficial. Probiotics are such an easy and effective way to support your child’s microbiome which aids their immune system. A diverse set of gut flora teaches the immune system to differentiate between friend and foe and having the right set of gut microbes boosts the activity of immune cells in the gut. Having a diversity of microbes have also been found to be beneficial for reducing allergies and atopic eczema. Probiotic bacteria, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), L. reuteri and Saccharomyces boulardii, are some of the best-studied strains helpful for reducing the severity of infectious diarrhea caused by rotavirus—very common in children throughout cold and flu season. These strains can be found in advanced gut health probiotic kids, which provides 7 billion CFU in a chewable format that is easy to give to your children every day.
5. Feed those microbes
And remember just as important as probiotics, are prebiotics. In simple terms, prebiotics are the food for your gut bacteria. These are the non-digestible food components that benefit the microbiome by selectively stimulating the growth or activity of non-pathogenic bacteria in the colon. Some of our family favourite prebiotic foods are raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, as well as rolled oats; fermented superfoods powders like fermented organic gut superfoods+ kids are also a wonderful supplemental source of prebiotic fibre. The combination of phytonutrient foods and prebiotic fibre has been shown to promote immune function and promote normal bowel movements among many other health benefits.