Eat from the rainbow
“Good nutrition is essential to a strong immune system and it can offer seasonal protection from illnesses, as well as other health problems like allergies,” says Joan Sechrist, PhD, RD, with Optima Health and Sentara Healthcare.
Stay current on your child’s immunizations. “Immunizations in younger years can help prevent disease as kids grow into adults,” Sechrist says.
Get adequate sleep
Kids need between eight to 12 hours of sleep a night to help keep their bodies strong. Stick to a regular, calming evening routine. Also, power down distracting electronic devices that can interrupt sleep.
Active kids are healthier kids. Experts recommend that kids get 60 minutes of physical activity every day.
Basic hand-washing with soap and water prevents the spread of disease. Have your child lather for 20 seconds or say the ABCs twice. Avoid overuse of sanitizers, which destroys good and bad bacteria on the hands.
“Probiotics are fabulous in and of themselves for gut integrity,” says Shelly Clevidence, a naturopathic doctor in Virginia Beach, Virginia. “For increasing the immune system, they don’t have to be live.” Look for probiotics in pill form or in foods. If your child is sick, avoid dairy products, which contribute to inflammation and mucus build-up.
Try castor oil
Extruded from the castor bean plant, castor oil can be rubbed on your child’s belly at night when the immune system is most active, says Leah Hollon, a naturopathic doctor with Richmond Natural Medicine. Castor oil, she says, is both anti-cancer and
“Castor oil is pretty amazing. We find it helps bring more white blood cells into the blood stream to help fight infection,” Hollon says. “It also helps get that histamine response down for some kids that have allergies, and it helps them have a good bowel movement.” Constipation issues can be worse during flu and cold season.
Power up with Omega-3s
A recent study published in the Journal of Leukocyte Biology suggests that omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil and plant sources, like flax seeds, chia seeds, Brussels sprouts and cauliflower, could also help boost immune function.
Try to integrate these vitamins and nutrients into your family’s diet:
• Protein boosts the body’s defense system (lean meats, beans, nuts, eggs, soy products and seeds).
• Vitamin A helps keep the skin, respiratory system and tissues in your mouth, stomach and intestines healthy (sweet potatoes, carrots, kale, spinach and apricots).
• Vitamin C stimulates the formation of antibodies that fight infection (citrus fruits, red bell pepper, papaya and tomato juice).
• Vitamin E is an antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals in the body (sunflower seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, peanut butter, sunflower/safflower oils, and spinach).
• Zinc is a nutrient that helps wounds heal and keeps the immune system working properly (lean meats, poultry, seafood, milk, whole grain products, beans and nuts).