Updated: Jan 17
Supporting our children's immune systems has never been more topical, especially as many are returning to school after extended periods of time away leaving some parents feeling a little exposed and nervous.
A resilient immune system doesn't actually mean never catching anything or ever getting sick, but rather helping to support a robust and complete recovery. While there are no guarantees, it certainly helps to actively participate in working to building a stronger wellness foundation so I'd love to share the strategies I incorporate myself. I credit these as being fundamental to why my daughter has enjoyed very few days off sick (usually her days off are to offer mental space and time when she needs it), during both preschool and now school, which is why I'm keen to pass it on you in the hope it helps increase your own sense of confidence and resilience.
FOCUS ON WHOLE FOODS
This may seem an obvious one but it's all too easy to rely on convenience foods that are easy to prepare, but may not offer the body the fuel to make their immune systems sing! Keeping blood sugar levels balanced has been shown to support immune system activity, so here is how we can keep it real:
Lunch boxes can be tricky to get right due to a number of factors and my child has never enjoyed eating at school so rather than force it, I chose to focus on serving nutrient dense breakfasts and dinners instead.
Focus on easy to digest foods that are fun to eat, and easy for the body to assimilate. For us that is a good range of animal proteins and fats with fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds and herbs.
Our top zinc rich foods are: red meat, chicken, fish, peanuts, eggs, nuts and raw dairy. Foods naturally high in QUERCETIN we have are: onions, apples, broccoli, tomatoes, berries and asparagus. For VITAMIN C, we love: mango, pineapple, capsicums and citrus. Our VITAMIN D faves are Cod Liver Oil, lard, salmon, sardines and egg yolks.
Switch refined bleached sugars for alternative sources of sweetness. We love medjool dates with peanut butter, prunes, raw honey, muscovado sugar and maple syrup. I have monk fruit and allulose here too.
Load up on chicken bone broth ideally daily. You can drink on it's own, use as the base of a delicious soup or stew or add some leftover chicken, cooked noodles and herbs for an easy and nutritious after-school snack!
Make sure you're using a good quality unrefined sea salt in your food. We like Redmonds.
Need some new recipe inspo? Check out my ebook!
FEED THE MICROBIOME
A large part of our immune response is connected to the health of our gut. Our digestive lining is covered with billions of both friendly and opportunistic bacteria, all of which play various roles to keep us well and fight pathogens, toxins and bacteria so we can excrete them. This microbiome is a symbiotic colony where our more helpful bugs can become depleted by stress, toxin overload, antibiotics and high sugar/processed diets. The flow on effect is that our immune response can become compromised so we want to try and support this as well as acknowledge the bacteria on our skin and in our mouths also play vital roles.
Incorporate fermented foods such as sauerkraut (cabbage) - ideally daily.
Not a fan of the taste at first? Make/buy the juice and add it to sauces, mayonnaises, relishes and dips.
Other options include coconut kefir, coconut/nut yoghurt, fermented carrots and beet kvass.
I don't recommend kombucha for daily ingestion as it's quite high in residual sugars and yeasts, and this can negatively impact gut health.
Helping kids keep their hands clean at school without getting super dry and irritated skin? I prefer a nourishing soap and water, however a natural sanitiser which is skin friendly is useful to have also.
Staying hydrated helps improve digestion and absorption, helps carry oxygen to our cells, aids in removing toxins from the body and more. Here are some things to consider to help enjoy their water!
Try some 'bubble' (sparkling mineral) water with a couple of frozen berries or a squeeze of lemon and lime juice!
Try not to drink while eating. We want nice and strong stomach acid production to help break down our food easily, so try to encourage drinking water in between meals instead.
Pop a frozen bottle of water in their lunch box in the morning (making sure you've only filled to around 70% as water expands when frozen) so it can defrost and give them a nice cold drink in the middle of the hot day as well as helping keep their food cool too.
Instead of buying juice, buy a bag of oranges and squeeze them yourself. It's a fun activity and that way you can see just how many oranges it takes to make a single glass of OJ.
Make a nice warming tea before bed. My daughter loves chamomile or rooibos, but a warming drink of honey and ginger is especially nice when you're feeling a little under the weather.
REGULATE STRESS RESPONSE
It's helpful to remember some kids may find returning to school quite difficult, even if they don't have the language for this. Give them a safe space to express and work through their emotions.
Epsom Salt baths help optimise our own natural detoxification pathways.
Adequate sleep gives the body an opportunity to recover and restore. Children need between 10 to 14 hours sleep depending on their age. Make sure their curtains are opened as soon as they wake, their room isn't too hot (or too cold) and limit screen time and sugar before bed.
Sharing food and experiences is a great way of building connection, as is listening, talking and playing. Laughing does a great job of reducing stress so watch a comedy or play a silly game.
Going outside for a walk gives you the chance to move your body as exercise helps produce more natural killer cells while responsible sun exposure helps us produce Vitamin D which is incredibly supportive for immunity. Splash in the water, get barefoot on the ground, pat the dog. Make it a part of your daily routine if you can.
TAKE GOOD QUALITY SUPPS DESIGNED FOR KIDS
While supplements can't take the place of a real food focus, there are times that they can help fill the gaps. These are the ones we've found that have made the most difference to us:
Note this article is for information purposes only. Any new program must be tailored to each person so please check with your doctor or preferred health professional before starting anything new.