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How to build your child’s immunity

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Going back to school has been complicated this year by the unprecedented impact of Covid 19 and social distancing. But Summer is the perfect time to build your children’s health and immunity ready for going back to school in September. Does your child suffer frequent coughs, colds or allergies? Or perhaps problems with weight, digestion or skin? Nutritional therapy for children is based on dietary and lifestyle interventions to restore balance and vitality. As you know from adult consultation, the best approach is holistic and addresses not only optimal food choices, but also sleep patterns, exercise and mental health. In this blog, I look at some of the latest research to help you make simple changes for maximum impact.

Nutrition for learning, for development, for resilience, as well as for more serious issues nutritional therapy can complement many disorders alongside existing treatments. Children are growing and developing quickly and need a steady supply of nutrient-rich food to give them the right amount of energy. Teenagers are developing just as rapidly in a totally different stage of development and it is just as important, if not more, that they have an equally steady supply of nutrient-rich food.

 

Making the best food choices

The right nutrition is so important in helping children flourish. Making simple but strategic changes in food choices can have a massive impact on children’s physical health, mental resilience and emotional stability. These changes can also address the prevalence of childhood obesity and childhood diets that lead to obesity in adulthood, which is widely covered as one of the most pressing health concerns today.[i] While we all know sugary drinks such as Coke and Sprite Recent study showed a fascinating link between carbonated soft drink consumption and bone mineral density in adolescents.[ii] You can read more about the negative impact of sugar on one of my previous blog posts.

Some of the key changes are actually very simple: eat wholefoods, avoid processed foods, ensure good hydration, include plenty of fibre, encourage physical activity and ensure quality sleep. A well-balanced diet will be based on a range of foods that have high nutrient profiles. Don’t forget iron-rich foods including beans, lentils, pulses, nuts, seeds, fish and meat, and fermented foods with all their beneficial bacteria found in yoghurt, sauerkraut, kombucha etc. One of the best books for fussy eaters is My Child Won’t Eat!: How to enjoy mealtimes without worry by Carlos Gonzalez

Recent research shows that family and school nutrition programs do improve children’s diet and health, but long-term sustainability needs complementary nutrition interventions to ensure a supportive environment for healthy eating generally.[iii] Research also shows the importance of role models, both within families and schools and in healthy cooking shows on TV. A study from the Netherlands in the Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, found that children between 10 and 12 years old who watched a child-oriented cooking show featuring healthy food were 2.7 times more likely to make a healthy food choice.  than those who watched a different episode of the same show featuring unhealthy food.[iv]

Addressing nutrient deficiencies

As well as a diversity of foods for a well-balanced diet, it is also important to look at digestive health and what might cause the nutrient deficiency that I see so often in consultations. Digestive problems and weak immunity is a massive problem when nutrients from the food we eat fails to be absorbed properly. This problem is also described as Leaky Gut Syndrome and is characterised by a compromised gut wall which needs to be healed to improve absorption of nutrients and prevent toxins from entering the blood stream. Healthy bacteria in the gut is vital and beneficial gut flora needs attention, particularly when identifying ‘trigger foods’ that need to be eliminated to reduce inflammation.

Additionally, a wonderful multivitamin and mineral supplement I recommend for children is:

If you use my promo code EMC010 at the Natural Dispensary, you will get a 10% discount on all supplements mentioned in this blog!

 

Nutrition and Immunity

Nurturing the immune systems of growing children is a continual task and often a constant challenge! A balanced diet with high nutrient profiles is essential for a strong immune system in children. ensure a strong and robust immune system. Top nutritional and lifestyle changes would be to ensure adequate intake of Vitamin D, Vitamin A, and Vitamin C. Zinc is particularly good at maintaining strong barrier membranes in the skin and respiratory tract to prevent microbial entry. You might also like to consider Elderberry extract which provides support to immune function by enabling the immune cells to recognise and stop viral invaders. This is a great place to start researching if you are interested in this topic.

Additionally, a great resource with helpful links is based on Dr Price’s research across many cultures which recognized the need for abundant nutrition and optimum immunity for women during pregnancy and to children during growth. This nutrition was round in foods that were rich in the fat-soluble activators (vitamins A, D and K) and included liver and other organ meats, butter from cows eating rapidly growing spring grass, fish liver and fish liver oils, raw milk, fish eggs and other seafood, and certain animal fats. You can read more here.

Supplements I recommend to build immunity:

 

Mental health, brain function and nutrition

If your child is anxious or hyperactive, has poor quality sleep or finds it hard to settle down and concentrate, the right nutrition can be a key starting point. Nutritious food is particularly helpful with problems such as focus and concentration, ADHD, dyslexia, brain fog and mood swings. Since more than 90% of serotonin is produced in the gut, gut flora and microbiomes are also key to help improve mood and mental health in children, as well as adults.

Nutrition also plays a key role in brain function and mental health. Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride (Neurologist and nutritional scientist) pioneered some fascinating research on the connection between the gut and the brain with a focus on increased risk of gut inflammation. You might like to read her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome. You might also like to read more about the importance of the gut by Giulia Enders, a doctoral student in gastroenterology in Germany: Gut: The Inside Story of Our Body’s Most Underrated Organ. I also focus one of my earlier blog posts on this topic, which you can read here.

Some supplements I recommend for mental health include:

 

Other Top Tips

Beneficial gut bacteria also stimulates, supports and enhances the maturation of a child’s immune system. Live, beneficial bacteria is found in probiotics by BioCare such as Children’s Strawberry BioAcidophilus.

Remember the importance of lots of exercise and fresh air! Not only is this so enjoyable, it is really important for physical strength and mental wellbeing. I’m sure you don’t need to be told how important it is to follow government guidelines and are maintaining social distancing at this time!

As well as outdoor activity, sleep is also really important for healthy immune systems and increased mental health in children and adolescents. You can see my earlier blog post on sleep for more on this topic and for quality sleep and relaxation I recommend:

Here are other tips from recent research and nutritional experts which you might find helpful:

  1. Make sure you control what food is available – choose natural wholefoods and not junk food
  2. Make healthy snacks readily available
  3. Involve children in planning and preparing healthy meals
  4. Be a role model in eating delicious, healthy foods. Remember actions speak louder than words!
  5. Eliminate processed sugar and substitute naturally sweet food such as banana or raw honey or apple.
  6. Make family dinner times a time for shared experiences based on gratitude. Turn off TV and screens and enjoy healthy food with your loved ones!

And a final note, remember that developing a healthy diet of nutritious food and supplementation may be a case of trial and error depending on your individual child’s taste. Please make an appointment if you would like to discuss this further with me.

With every blessing,

Emma

Emma Maitland-Carew – Registered Nutritional Therapist

Dip.ION, mBANT, CHNC Registered Practitioner,

Metabolic Balance® Coach, HeartMath Coach.

 

References

[i] See Lobstein T, Bauer L, Uauy R. ‘Obesity in children and young people: A crisis in public health.’ Obesity Reviews 2004;5(Suppl.1):1-104. See also Ebbeling CB, Pawlak DB and Ludwig DS. ‘Childhood obesity: public-health crisis, common sense cure.’ The Lancet 2002; 360 (9331): 473-482.

[ii] McGartland C, Robson PJ, Murray L, Cran G, Savage M,. Watkins D, Rooney M. Boreham C. Carbonated soft drink consumption and bone mineral density in adolescence: the Northern Ireland Young Hearts project. Journal of Bone & Mineral Research. 18(9):1563-9 2003.

[iii] Black, A.P., D’Onise, K., McDermott, R. et al. How effective are family-based and institutional nutrition interventions in improving children’s diet and health? A systematic review. BMC Public Health 17, 818 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s12889-017-4795-5

[iv] Frans Folkvord, Doeschka Anschütz, Marieke Geurts. Watching TV Cooking Programs: Effects on Actual Food Intake Among Children. Journal of Nutrition Education and Behavior, 2019; DOI: 10.1016/j.jneb.2019.09.016

[v] Chaidez V, Hansen RL, Hertz-Picciotto I. Gastrointestinal problems in children with autism, developmental delays or typical development. Journal of Autism Development Disorder. 2014;44(5):1117-1127. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24193577/

 

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