- Decrease Sugar – It’s hard, but cutting back on sugar can have a big impact on your child’s susceptibility to illness. Sugar weakens the immune system and feeds bacterial and viral infections. High-fructose corn syrup, prevalent in many kids’ snacks and cereals, should also be avoided – not only is it a sugar, but it also contains mercury. Evidence shows that even a moderate amount of sugar, the equivalent of 1 can of soda, can deem the immune system useless for up to 4 hours. Some good, natural sugar substitutes are honey, agave, stevia and xylitol.
- Increase Vitamin C – Vitamin C tops the list of immune boosters for many reasons. Vitamin C increases the production of infection-fighting white blood cells and antibodies and increases levels of interferon, the antibody that coats cell surfaces, preventing the entry of viruses. Foods that are high in vitamin C besides the obvious oranges include kale, spinach, raspberries, tomatoes, green and red sweet peppers, broccoli, asparagus, and sweet potatoes. Vitamin C also reduces the risk of cardiovascular disease by raising levels of HDL (good) cholesterol while lowering blood pressure and interfering with the process by which fat is converted to plaque in the arteries.
- Sufficient Sleep – Studies of adults show that sleep deprivation can make you more susceptible to illness by reducing natural killer cells, immune system weapons that attack microbes and cancer cells. The same holds true for children, according to Kathi Kemper, M.D., director of the Center for Holistic Pediatric Education and Research at Children’s Hospital, in Boston. Children in daycare are particularly at risk for sleep deprivation because all the activity can make it difficult for them to nap. Older children are susceptible, too, when homework and extracurricular activities infringe on sleep. How much sleep do kids need? A newborn may need up to 18 hours of sleep a day, toddlers require 12 to 13 hours, and school-age children need about 9-10 hours.
- Encourage Exercise – Research shows that obesity can depress your child’s immune system, but exercise can increase the number of white blood cells and boost their ability to fight off ailments. To get your children into a lifelong fitness habit, be a good role model. “Exercise with them rather than just urging them to go outside and play,” says Renee Stucky, Ph.D., a clinical assistant professor of physical medicine and rehabilitation at the University of Missouri Medical School. Fall is the perfect time for fun family activities like bike riding, hiking and taking a nice walk together.
- Omega 3 Fatty Acids – A recent study found that children taking a half-teaspoon of flax oil a day experienced fewer and less severe respiratory infections and fewer days of being absent from school. The omega 3 fatty acids in flax oil and fatty fish (such as salmon, tuna, and mackerel) act as immune boosters by increasing the activity of phagocytes, the white blood cells that eat up bacteria. Essential fatty acids also protect the body against damage from over-reactions to infection. One way to get more omega-3 fatty acids in your diet is by taking Omega Krill from Dr. Newton’s Naturals.
- Hand Washing – One of the simplest, most effective ways to decrease sick days is washing hands. Get kids started on hand washing as early as possible for a lasting healthy habit. Small children especially are very tactile learners so they come in contact with an abundance of germs and bacteria. Encourage them to sing their favorite song while they wash to ensure the proper length of hand washing.
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