Developing and supporting a healthy immune system can help protect your child from harmful bacteria and viruses. This year’s flu season brings greater challenges with the potential spread of H1N1 (swine) flu, so it’s especially important to support your child’s immune system before they get sick. Going back to school usually means an increase of colds, infections and the flu. Schools are a great place for germs to spread as kids share toys and play together. Here are some tips to boost your child’s immune system and reduce the chances of contacting the flu.
Nutrition is important
— Eggs: A concentrated source of good quality protein with a wide range of vitamins and minerals that supports a healthy immune system.
— Healthy oils: Fish oil, flax seed oil, olive oil and other oils from nuts and vegetables supply healthy unsaturated and polyunsaturated fats, the “good fats” are rich in essential fatty acids, or EFAs. These healthy fats help reduce inflammation, leaving the immune system free to focus on seasonal invaders. How much fat should your child eat? Children older than 2 should get about 30 percent of their daily calories from fat.
— Yogurt and kefir: Both yogurt and kefir contain probiotics, the good bacteria that maintain a healthy flora in the gut, which supports a healthy immune system.
— Fruits and vegetables: Choose a variety of fruits and vegetables each day, aim for four to six servings. These nutritional powerhouses are loaded with important vitamins and minerals that boost the immune system and combat infections.
— Whole grains: Loaded with B-vitamins and zinc, whole grains help support the body’s resistance against cold viruses and are an essential for a healthy immune system. They’re also a good source of fiber, which helps cleanse the colon and prevent intestinal infections. Examples of whole grains include: barley, brown rice, buckwheat, bulgur (cracked wheat), millet, oatmeal, popcorn, whole-wheat bread, pasta or crackers. When in doubt, check the label. Look for the word “whole” on the package, and make sure whole grains appear among the first items in the ingredient list.
— Acidophilus: The friendly bacteria that inhibits harmful bacteria growth, promotes good digestion, boosts immune function, and increases resistance to infections. New research, published in the journal Pediatrics, showed children 3 to 5 years old who took probiotics got 72 percent fewer fevers, 62 percent fewer coughs, and 59 percent fewer runny noses than children who didn’t take probiotics.
— Echinacea: Increases the production and activity of infection-fighting white blood cells.
— Elderberry: A powerful antioxidant and anti-inflammatory that protects cells against damage.
— Children’s multivitamin with minerals: B- and C-vitamins are great immune boosters and minerals help protect and support the immune system.
Exercise can help support your child’s immune system by increasing the circulation of antibodies and white blood cell. These cells defend the immune system. The temporary elevation of body temperature during aerobic activity may inhibit bacterial growth, allowing the body to effectively fight infections.
In addition to physical activity, make sure your child gets plenty of sleep. Sleep and a healthy diet are important in helping your child fight off infections and to stay healthy.
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