Safeguard and improve your children’s health and get their year off to a great start with proper diet and appropriate supplementation.
The Go Vita team of wholistic health experts share their top tips for strengthening the young immune system, supporting mental and physical health, and dealing with common childhood ailments.
Building a strong immune system
Healthy development of the immune system depends on good nutrition to provide the body with the essential building blocks needed for defence against pathogenic bacteria and viruses as well as environmental toxins. Avoid processed and refined foods, such as white flour products, margarine and hydrogenated oils, and ensure your child’s diet provides good quantities of protein, vitamins and minerals, essential fatty acids and probiotics.
Proteins are essential as a source of amino acids needed as building blocks for the immune tissue and organs and for antibody production. Good sources of dietary protein include: lean meat, poultry and fish; eggs; dairy products, like milk and cheese; seeds and nuts; beans and legumes, such as lentils and chickpeas; and soy products, like tofu.
Vitamins and minerals Vitamin A is essential for the production of T- and B-cells (the main antibody-producing white blood cells); vitamin A is also needed for healthy eyes. The B-group vitamins support nerve and mood health and help to mitigate the negative effects of stress in the body. Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant and plays a big part in defending the body against bacteria and viruses, encouraging antibody response and killer T-cell production, and stimulating macrophage activity to eat up invading micro-organisms.
Vitamin E, another powerful antioxidant, protects cells against the damage caused by free radicals which is thought to lead to cancer, heart disease and cataracts. Zinc is necessary for optimal hormonal health and immune function, tissue healing and repair, and has strong antiviral activity; magnesium supports mental and emotional health; calcium is essential for healthy bone development; coenzyme Q10 is an immune-building agent, critical to fighting infection; and selenium increases the body’s production of antibodies.
Essential fatty acids (EFAs), especially the omega-3 fatty acids, are very important to a healthy immune system. They are crucial to the normal functioning of lymphocytes and the production of antibodies. They are needed as building blocks for endocrine hormones as well as tissue prostaglandins; plus, they are necessary for the healthy functioning of the heart, kidneys, blood and nervous system, particularly brain and memory function. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fatty fish, such as salmon, mackerel, tuna, herring and sardines. There is some research indicating that omega-3 supplements may help decrease ADHD symptoms in children. While research is ongoing improvements in attention, memory, learning and hyperactivity have been noted in some trials.
Probiotics These are the ‘friendly’ bacteria which create a proper balance of health-promoting bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract and intestines and help the body to resist diseases caused by ‘unfriendly’ bacteria. Probiotics also manufacture natural antibiotic substances that kill dangerous microbes in the body. Probiotics are especially useful for anyone taking antibiotics to treat an infection, helping to counter the flatulence, diarrhoea, constipation and poor nutrient absorption which can occur with taking antibiotics. Probiotics alleviate the symptoms of bowel inflammation and contribute to overall colon health, helping to relieve diarrhoea and constipation triggered by irritable bowel syndrome or food poisoning, and replenishing the beneficial intestinal micro-organisms that gastrointestinal upsets flush out of the body. Foods which encourage the growth of probiotics in the body include leafy green vegetables, Jerusalem artichokes (containing fructo-oligosaccharides), milk products, such as yoghurt, whey and kefir, and miso or sauerkraut. If your child is not a fan of these then a daily probiotic may help strengthen digestive and immune health.
If your child is a picky eater, give them nutritional insurance in the form of a good quality multivitamin formula every day.
Take a more active role in the health of your children by stocking an all-natural medicine chest to safely treat common ailments.
Sinusitis Use herbal steam baths with eucalyptus, lavender, rosemary or thyme essential oil; these will all loosen mucus, stimulate sinus secretions and decrease microbial activity, so resolving the infection.
Stress Nervine herbs, such as lavender, skullcap, oats, lindenflower and lemon balm, can be useful during times of stress and to deal with symptoms like insomnia, headache, restlessness or nervousness. Lavender oil applied directly to the temples may help to soothe and relax.