Optimum nutrition is vital for our children’s health and wellbeing, ensuring that they have the necessary building blocks for a lifetime of good health. The main focus is general healthy development. As children grow, it is important that their nutritional needs are met to help support healthy bones, brain and immune system. Useful nutrients include zinc to support growth and immunity, vitamin D and calcium for healthy bones and teeth, essential fats for brain development and live bacteria to help support digestion and immunity
Immunity is the way we defend our bodies against threats such as bacteria and viruses. Did you know the single most important thing you can do to support your child’s immunity is to top up their gut bacteria? Of course children are very prone to Upper Respiratory Tract Infections, including otitis media, tonsillitis, bronchitis and the common cold. And certain factors can make them more vulnerable, including stress, lack of sleep, nutrient deficiencies, and low levels of gut bacteria.
Other nutrients such as vitamin A can strengthen the barriers and boost the activity of the immune cells. Vitamin D is crucial to help the immune system recognise invaders and enhances the response against a range of different invaders. Since it’s quite easy to become deficient in vitamin D, especially in winter, supplementing a good amount every day can help to strengthen the immune system. Zinc can also be a helpful immunity boost. Gut bacteria can help keep the harmful bacteria at bay and stimulate the immune system. Certain live bacteria when given as supplements have been shown to prevent and help fight infections in children in recent research.
Extra nutrients that can have antibacterial/viral properties of their own can be quite useful during times of infection such as the well-known antioxidant vitamin C. Elderberry contains plant chemicals can blunt virus spikes and stop them from entering the cells. This could be really supportive for bouts of flu for example.
A great idea for all parents is to keep a Natural Health First aid kit to hand for times of acute illness and infection. We suggest you keep a stockpile of vitamin C in powder form, vitamin d drops, live bacteria in powder form and a combination of elderberry and zinc in liquid. You can also use coconut water for times of diarrhoea and dehydration, soups or Bone broth to replace lost nutrients. Manuka honey with lemon and crushed garlic for sore throat, tummy bug or colds, and porridge oats for a poorly tummy. And of course lots of rest, sleep and love and attention!
As children develop into little adults, life can get a bit tough with pressures socially and academically and lots of demands on their time, with afterschool clubs and music lessons.
Did you know that imbalanced gut bacteria or leaky gut may also children’s attention, behaviour and mood? This is because the beneficial bacteria in our gut can interact with neurotransmitters to make sure they are produced and regulated properly. They are the chemical messengers the nerve cells use to communicate, having an effect on our mood and behaviour. Without the microbes ‘looking after’ our neurotransmitters, stress hormones are no longer regulated, having an impact on our child’s social interaction, learning, confidence and positivity. In fact, certain research has shown that low gut bacteria has a direct influence on a child’s ability to sit still, listen and focus.
A good balance of activity and stimulation is vital, such as being out in the fresh air to expend energy and clear the mind. Making friends through after school clubs and sport clubs for example is a really important for developing social and communication skills. A loving and nourishing environment encourages a better stress response which carries them through into adult life. Days out, going to the park, reading their favourite book and helping with their homework are all key ways of showing love and dedication to them.
Making these dietary and lifestyle changes, even just one step at a time can make a difference, as nutrition has the power to improve not only their general health but also reduce infections, improve memory and behaviour. We cannot protect our children from the outside world but we can give them the correct foundations, for them to protect themselves and have a happy and fulfilling future.
I hope that you feel empowered to try some of these recommendations but if you would like more tailored support, please feel free to contact us directly.
For free expert nutritional advice feel free to pop in to our store, Guava Health at 164 Great Western Road and we would be more than happy to have a chat and help where possible.
- Segerstrom Psychological stress and the human immune system: a meta-analytic study of 30 years of inquiry. Psychol Bull (2004) 130(4): 601–630.
- Cunningham-Rundles et al. Mechanisms of nutrient modulation of the immune response. Allergy Clin Immunol. 2005; 115 (6): 1119-28.
- Aladag et al Efficacy of vitamin A in experimentally induced acute otitis media. Int J Otorhinolaryngol 2007;71(4):623-8.
- Piemonti et al. Vitamin D3 Affects Differentiation, Maturation, and Function of Human Monocyte-Derived Dendritic Cells, The Journal of Immunology, 2000, 164: 4443-4451.
- Foster, McVey Neufeld. Gut-brain axis: how the microbiome influences anxiety and depression. Trends Neurosci. 2013; 36 (5): 305-12.
- Bravo et al. Ingestion of Lactobacillus strain regulates emotional behaviour and central GABA receptor expression in a mouse via the vagus nerve. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. 2011; 108 (38): 16050-55.
- Previc FH. The Dopaminergic Mind in Human Evolution and History. 2009; Cambridge University Press