Kebbie Stine, Master Nutrition Therapist
With the continued pandemic, and the cold/flu season upon us many are wondering how to keep our kids healthy as they start to navigate the return to school during this unusual time. There are the obvious steps like frequent hand washing, wearing a mask, and social distancing, but what about boosting immunity for even more protection?
The first line of defense against illness resides in the gut, this is where the foundation of the immune system is found. Keeping the gut healthy and inflammation at bay will help kids fight off the millions of germs they will encounter throughout their day. Nutrition plays a big part; by offering a variety of fruits and vegetables you are supplying important phytochemicals necessary for a strong immune system. I'm sure you have heard the phrase "eat a rainbow everyday", this is great advice! Colorful fruits and veggies offer a plethora of nutrients like vitamins A, C, E, zinc, selenium and antioxidants. All of these are important for immune function, and a deficiency in these nutrients have been found to weaken immunity. High amounts of sugar in the diet can actually suppress the immune system and reduce the body's ability to ward off illness. Make sure to offer plenty of fresh produce to your kiddos everyday.
Vitamin D is an important nutrient for keeping the immune system strong and low levels are associated with frequent illness. In recent studies vitamin D has been shown to fight against respiratory infection specifically. From early April to late September the sun is in the best position to be absorbed through the skin and converted to a usable form. During the winter months however, we get vitamin D through foods like fatty fish, enriched dairy products, beef liver or eggs. If you are not sure if your child is getting enough vitamin D through food, supplementation is recommended. Kids over the age of one year should get at least 600 IU of Vitamin D daily.
Sleep is often overlooked as booster of the immune system, but it is critical component of a healthy body. Studies show that sleep not only keeps the immune system functioning, but "kids who regularly get an adequate amount of sleep have improved attention, behavior, learning, memory, and overall mental and physical health", according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. Children that do not get enough sleep are more likely to suffer from frequent illness, struggle in school and develop depression. Establish sleep routines for your kids and stick to them, encourage naps for young children, and model good sleep habits because you need quality sleep too!
Physical movement is also imperative for a healthy immune system. Families that exercise together, live long healthy lives together! Like sleep, exercise is shown to directly activate the immune system, boost emotional wellbeing and overall health. Structure is also proven to be beneficial for children, so if your kids are missing out on organized sports right now due to the coronavirus try setting regular workouts everyday. Or set times that you will go outside to play or walk around the neighborhood. Everyone will benefit!
Lastly, don't forget to keep your kids home if they have any symptoms of illness! This will be the best way to keep them in school and keep everyone healthy.
Kebbie Stine is a Certified Nutrition Therapy Practitioner in the Denver area. She practices nutrition therapy at Washington Park Chiropractic and is the owner of Whole Choice Nutrition Therapy. Contact Kebbie at firstname.lastname@example.org