You know that old saying "you are what you eat"?
I honestly do not think there has ever been a truer sentiment.
With every single thing we eat being broken down and broken down again. Then redistributed and turned into something else, each cell, messenger and chemical process is derived from the foods we eat.
That's why It's so important that the food we eat gives us the mechanisms our bodies need to do their jobs.
And with cold and flu season just round the corner, there is no better time to up your child's immunity through nutrition!
Now obviously your child can get a whole complement of vitamins and minerals through a supplement, but there is no substitute for all the phytochemicals and natural nutrients acquired through eating a balanced diet.
So saying that, here are my top 5 must haves for keeping my daughter at nursery and avoiding any unnecessary sick days.
1) Firstly, have a healthy gut microbiome!!
I'm not going to get too into this too much because I can talk about this all day but... PROBIOTICS!!!
It’s now thought 70-80% of immunity happens in the gut and actually up to 90% of all diseases can be traced back to the gut and the health of the microbiome. This can affect everything from allergies, and eczema to IBS, to mental health.
All those good bacteria that line the gut are responsible for resistance to pathogens i.e. any bad bacteria, virus, or other microorganism that can cause disease.
They are also responsible for the development, training and stimulation of the Immune system. So get on the track to good gut health!
Ok, there's a few vitamins to choose from and they are all important for various reasons but when it comes to immunity I want you to think;
Vitamin A- Deficiencies have been shown to alter the mucus lining that covers the whole of the your gastrointestinal tract (the big long tube that goes from your mouth and nose all the way out the other side) and acts as a first line of defence against pathogens. It’s also been shown to depress your immune system, and the cells that fight off attack.
Vitamin C- A recent review found that vitamin C supplements taken during a cold can reduce the duration of the illness by 8% in adults and 14% in children. Practically, this means that supplementing vitamin C can shorten the duration of a cold by about one day.
Vitamin D- Studies have shown that children who were supplemented with this vitamin and then exposed to influenza viruses were more likely to have a reduced incidence of infection.
Vitamin E- Like vitamin C, vitamin E can be a powerful antioxidant that helps your body fight off infection. It has been shown to enhance immune responses in animal and human models during research, as well as boost protection against several infectious diseases.
3) Don't let little Johnny become Iron deficient!
I’m sure most of us know that lack of iron in our diets can cause anaemia, and are aware of the symptoms that go along with that, i.e. fatigue, restlessness, and impaired work performance. But did you know that iron deficiency anaemia is also related to lowered immune function? Without getting overly complicated, it messes with all your white blood cells, which fight the infections, and the way your cells deal with those pathogens.
4) Zinc is an essential mineral that plays an important role in immune function.
There is considerable research out there concluding that either supplementing or deliberately eating foods high in zinc will improve immunity and can help fight off infection and cancer, decrease incidents of pneumonia and antibiotic use, and will decrease duration of colds and flu by 1 day or more.
5) Dietary selenium is an essential micronutrient that affects various aspects of human health, including optimal immune responses.
Selenium is a powerful antioxidant that is involved in regulating oxidative stress, and other crucial cellular processes in nearly all tissues and cell types, including those involved in the immune responses.
So those are my top 5 tips and the chances are your child is getting plenty of each because most foods these days are fortified to some extent with some or all of these so before you run out to your local health food shop to stock up with supplements, it can be worth checking the back of the food packaging you buy because chances are they already get more than their recommended requirements as most packaged foods are fortified for adult requirements and not children's.
And of course too much of anything can lead to toxicity, especially things like Iron and Zinc but the body can generally deal with the natural compounds found in fruit and veg better than the artificial varieties in supplements so I would always recommend getting your nutrition through diet.
And as always if you do choose to supplement, always speak with your healthcare provider.