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Top tips for boosting your child’s immunity through diet
June 15th, 2019 + The Naturopathic Co.

As we head into the cooler months, it’s important to take a holistic approach to boosting immunity for children. There are a number of things we can do to support the body in fighting off the various viruses and bacteria that will be passed around at school or daycare. Here are a couple of our favourite tips for boosting immunity as we enter cold and flu season.

Prebiotics

Supportive prebiotic therapy such as the inclusion of arabinogalactan or mastic gum, have been shown effective in enhancing immune function. Research shows that larch arabinogalactan is capable of enhancing natural killer cells which increases the body’s potential to defend against common cold infection.  Most of our immunity is found in the gut, and therefore it’s a good idea to include a full variety of prebiotic foods into your diet every day in order to encourage the growth of beneficial bacteria.

Prebiotic food sources: artichokes, garlic, leeks, onions, asparagus, unripe bananas, oats, apples, cacao, flaxseeds, seaweeds.

Ideas for giving these foods to kids:

Garlic, leeks, onions, artichokes, asparagus straight into casseroles, soups, spaghetti bolognese, lasagne (preferably GF!)

Oats in baking or for breakfast

Apples, cacao, flaxseeds straight into smoothies

Seaweed into lunchboxes

Probiotics

Although not suitable for absolutely everyone, probiotics when given therapeutically are a good way to keep the immune system alert to pathogens.

For children who are ill or suffering from a health condition, it’s important to see your naturopathic practitioner to ensure you choose the correct probiotic therapy, as not all probiotics are created equal! Some probiotics can negatively impact certain conditions or symptoms.

Consider a probiotic with a combination of Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium, such as Metagenics Ultra Flora (practitioner only prescription), which have been clinically proven to enhance innate immunity and modulate pathogen-induced inflammation.

Probiotic food sources: kefir, sauerkraut, miso, pickles, some cheeses (check for live cultures), yoghurt.

Ideas for giving these foods to kids:

Kefir into smoothies or added to yoghurt

Sauerkraut onto the top of any meal served (although if very hot, be careful not to mix in entirely as heat will kill off the beneficial bacteria)

Sauerkraut mixed inside wraps or sandwiches with lettuce

Miso soup on it’s own (can be watered down 50/50% for little ones as it also has high salt content), miso can also be added directly into casseroles and even spaghetti bolognese

Pickles in lunchboxes (this is either hit or miss with kids)

Cheese in sandwiches and wraps for lunchboxes.

Vitamin D

Vitamin D deficiency has been correlated with increased rates of infection. The best source of vitamin D is sunlight, however the amount each person needs depends on their vitamin d levels and in the winter months it’s not easy to get the amounts we require.

In the summer months, 15-20 minutes in direct and full sunlight without being fully covered by clothes is usually enough for a maintenance dose of vitamin D.

Vitamin D has incredible immune boosting properties, neurological health benefits, hormonal balancing properties, and more. Widespread deficiency of vitamin D has been clinically linked to a variety of health disorders.

Research suggests that people who are adequately supplemented with vitamin D3 during the winter months experience a lower rate of infection and illness. This is due to vitamin D3 increasing production of an antimicrobial compound within the body, called cathelicidin causing an ‘antibiotic effect’.

Vitamin D food sources: cod liver oil, eggs, tuna, butter, sardines, salmon, mushrooms.

Ideas for giving these foods to kids:

Speak to your naturopathic practitioner about the right cod liver oil supplement for your child.

Eggs in cooking, eggs and mushrooms for breakfast or in lunchboxes

Tuna in sandwiches or wraps

Tuna or salmon mornay

Use butter or ghee on toast and sandwiches

Echinacea tea / or liquid herbal

The benefits of echinacea are many. Echinacea is immune enhancing, immune modulating, lymphatic, and anti-inflammatory. It’s beneficial during acute viral, bacterial or parasitic infections, chronic infections, swollen glands, respiratory conditions, influenza, common cold, conjunctivitis, sinusitis, ear infections, skin conditions, infectious gastrointestinal conditions, urinary tract infections, and many more.

***Please be aware that echinacea should not be used for prolonged periods, and should not be taken by individuals with autoimmune conditions without professional advice.

How it can be given to children: Echinacea may be given to children in the form of tea, tincture, or herbal remedy, and please see your practitioner for professional advice before administering.

Your practitioner can dispense a herbal mix which is made specifically for your child to alleviate his or her symptoms.

It is also possible to also make herbal teas into icypoles for when children are unwell.

Kiwi Herb makes a Children’s Echinacea immune product, made from premium certified organic Echinacea root, in a base of organic apple juice with natural orange flavour. It’s a liquid form which allows for greater dosage flexibility.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is a powerful antioxidant which is beneficial during the cold and flu season. It is an essential water-soluble vitamin that the body cannot make or store, so it is important that an adequate amount is consumed daily through the diet.

Vitamin C is required for blood cell formation, bone and teeth growth, collagen synthesis, excretion of heavy metals, and also has antihistamine properties.

Vitamin C food sources: broccoli, brussel sprouts, parsley, capsicum, pineapple, strawberries, kiwi fruit, tomatoes, sweet potato, all citrus fruits.

How to add it for kids: A powered vitamin C (such as Melrose non-acidic with bioflavonoids) can easily be added to juices or smoothies for children as required.

Add broccoli, brussel sprouts, parsley, capsicum to casseroles and soups.

Be generous with citrus fruits during the winter months, and as an added tip, give vitamin c foods with iron-rich foods in order to aid absorption of iron…ie tomato-based sauce with meats, parsley and capsicum into meat dishes, and give strawberries, pineapple, or kiwi fruit as part of dessert after a meat-based meal or with other foods high in iron such as apricots, avocado, chicken, dried figs, green vegetables, legumes, quinoa.

Zinc

Zinc is a biologically essential metal and is a co-factor in more than 300 enzymes, so a deficiency can cause a multitude of problems.

Zinc supplementation has been shown to improve our immune response to infection as it is required for white blood cell function. However, zinc can become toxic in high doses so it’s a good idea to be tested for zinc levels, and routine zinc supplementation is not recommended without the advice of a practitioner.

Zinc food sources: beef, capsicum, eggs, ginger, lamb, oysters, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, seafood.

Ideas for giving these foods to kids:

Incorporate beef, lamb, seafood, and eggs into your regular weekly food routine

Use a mortar and pestle to grind down sunflower and pumpkin seeds and give on top of a healthier DF ice cream

Simply add sunflower and pumpkin seeds straight into the blender with your smoothie

Bee Pollen / and raw honey

Bee pollen, as well as raw honey which has not been destroyed by heat, both provide a protective effect during the cold and flu season.

They have been shown to improve immune function and provide anti-inflammatory action by gradual exposure to the gut, and they are also a good source of prebiotics to encourage the growth of healthy bacteria and aid in modulation of the immune system.

Manuka honey has been used medicinally for thousands of years and for good reason. Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand by bees that pollinate the Manuka tree.

It’s loaded with natural antibiotic and antibacterial properties, which makes it hugely beneficial for bacterial-related conditions such as SIBO, sore throat, gingivitis, as well as other conditions such as eczema, dermatitis, wounds, ulcers, and even staph or clostridium difficile infections have shown to be sensitive to manuka honey. It has also been shown to stimulate immune cells.

***Those who are allergic to bees should not consume honey or bee pollen. Honey, bee pollen, and other honey products should not be given to children under 12 months.

For tailored advice, make a time with your naturopath to discuss how we can assist in protecting your family’s health by boosting immune function.

Yvette is a qualified Melbourne-based Naturopath and Nutritionist, MINDD Practitioner, member of the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia, and Complementary Medicine Association. Yvette specialises in the treatment of conditions commonly affecting women and children, with a key interest in children’s digestive and neurological conditions, as well as women’s hormonal concerns, digestive issues, fatigue, anxiety, and skin concerns. Yvette consults in South Yarra, Melbourne, as well as Australia-wide via skype/zoom/phone. 

The Naturopathic Co. Melbourne Naturopath 2020


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