As the fall season approaches, you may be gearing up to send your children back to school. While schools may be taking precautions regarding COVID-19, there are additional steps that you can take to help your children best strengthen their immune systems. It is important to note that these are general guidelines to a healthy immune system and lifestyle, and cannot guarantee that your child will not become sick. We recommend following the CDC guidelines for COVID-19 prevention in addition to our recommendations below.
The immune system defends the body against various disease-causing microorganisms. However, it is not a perfect system, and certain lifestyle choices can cause the immune system to become weakened or compromised. Luckily, there are ways you can help boost the immune system and we are here to tell you how.
Boosting the immune system is easier said than done as it consists of many parts of the body. However, through various lifestyle and dietary changes, it can be accomplished. Here are five lifestyle recommendations that will help strengthen your child’s immune system keeping it healthy and strong.
1. Encourage your child to consume a well-balanced diet.
Much of the immune system relies on a healthy gut. Encourage your child to eat a well-balanced diet with plenty of whole foods such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, and legumes. These foods are rich in nutrients that will decrease inflammation and keep the digestive tract healthy. Pick colorful foods with plenty of antioxidants such as vibrant peppers, oranges, leafy greens, carrots, and strawberries.
Limit your child’s intake of sugar and refined carbs as these can significantly contribute to the development of obesity, cardiovascular diseases, and diabetes which suppresses the immune system. Read the labels of food products to ensure your child is eating real ingredients that contain less salt and sugar.
Consider upping your child’s intake of probiotics. These are foods that contain healthy bacteria. Common probiotics include fermented foods such as yogurt and kimchi. If fermented foods don’t make the menu, you can also consider probiotic supplements as another option.
Encourage your child to exercise regularly.
Moderate daily exercise is a great way to reduce inflammation and promote healthy cell turnover improving the immune system’s response. Aim to schedule 30-60 minutes of exercise a day throughout the week for your child. It doesn’t have to be intensive, but the most important part is for your child to move his or her body and stay active. Walking, swimming, biking, and hiking are all great options. Remember, the key to exercise is moderation.
3. Make sure your child gets enough sleep.
Sleep allows the body to rest and restore itself to prepare for the day ahead. Inadequate amounts of sleep can lead to a weakened immune system, leaving your child more susceptible to sickness. Teenagers need around 8-10 hours and younger children up to 14 hours.
For better sleep, we recommend sticking to a regular sleep schedule and avoiding caffeine and electronics at least an hour before bed. Adding dark curtains to block out light and lowering the temperature can also help your child achieve a good night’s rest.
4. Supplement your child’s diet with essential vitamins for a healthy immune system.
Vitamin C, vitamin B6, and vitamin E are especially helpful in boosting the immune system. Let’s take a closer look at the importance and benefits of each:
Vitamin C- It is essential to provide vitamin C to the body regularly as it is not produced or stored by the body. A vitamin C deficiency can make one more prone to illness, so we recommend eating plenty of the following: spinach, kale, broccoli, oranges, grapefruit, bell peppers, tangerines, and strawberries. Your child’s diet should supply all of the Vitamin C needed to help him or her stay healthy and most people do not need to take a vitamin supplement.
Vitamin B6- This vitamin is important in aiding biochemical reactions in the immune system. Foods that are rich in vitamin B6 include chicken, coldwater fish such as salmon and tuna, chickpeas, and green vegetables.
Vitamin E- This antioxidant is helpful in helping the body fight off harmful infections. Foods rich in vitamin E include nuts, seeds, and spinach.
5. Stress Management.
Older children and teenagers may struggle with stress throughout the school year. Although you can’t avoid stress in life, you can help your child adopt healthy strategies and methods to manage stress levels better. Stress, mental health, and the immune system are intricately linked as stress can overwhelm and weaken the body’s defenses.
Exercising, meditation, breathing exercises, and yoga are great practices that can help reduce stress levels. Lower stress levels will help keep the immune system well balanced and functioning properly. If you notice your child is feeling overwhelmed, it is best to take time to unwind.
Maintaining a healthy lifestyle is important to the immune system functioning properly. For more information on how to better the immune system, contact Southern Indiana Family Practice Center and Rejuv Aesthetics today.