It is widely believed that a baby’s immune system is fully developed by the time it reaches the end of its first year of life, however this belief is unfounded. Scientific studies on primates and humans suggest a more accurate estimate is 6 years of age.
Simple Steps to boost a child’s immune system
1. Make sure your child drinks enough water. There’s really no need for juice, carbonated drinks, hydration drinks etc. If a child is offered water when they are thirsty they will be almost certainly properly hydrated. Also unlike other liquid options, it will not interfere with their appetite. A properly hydrated body is an efficient body that will support digestion and absorption of nutrients from food. Sufficient vitamins and minerals are essential to support a healthy immune system.
2. Aim to offer your child up to 9 (yes 9 not 5) portions of vegetables a day. Even if you don’t achieve this it is an excellent goal to have. The healthiest diets are those that include the most vegetables (not fruit and vegetables). Research has proven this time and time again. Although fruits provide nutrients they also provide a lot of sugar and so should be included in moderation. Very rarely do children eat enough vegetables these days.
3. Ensure your child’s carbohydrates come from whole grains as these contain essential Vitamin B complexes for the body to use. Foods such as wholegrain rice, flour, pasta, bread, quinoa, buckwheat are all excellent choices for a growing child. Unlike their whiter alternatives, which have been stripped of nutrients to improve their shelf life in the supermarket.
4. If your child’s diet is not an optimum one consider giving them a multi-vitamin everyday. Even if your child eats a healthy balanced diet it is usually a good idea to give them a daily multivitamin. This provides a very broad spectrum of nutrients. Meaning that when your child’s nutrients are lacking in certain areas their multi-vitamin will fill the gap.
5. Work on including more Omega 3 and 6 into their diet. Most of us do not eat enough Omega 3. Omega 3 can be EPA (ecosapentaenoic acid) or DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) both are found mainly in ocean fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines. Omega 3 is also found in flax seed oil as ALA (alpha linolenic acid). It’s very easy to add flax seed oil to shakes or salad dressings.
6. Fish Oil Supplements are an easy way to supplement Omega 3 in the diet. Which is one of the reasons why fish oil supplements are so popular. There are many to choose from these days and come in a variety of forms and flavours. One of which should be easy enough to convince your child to take.
7. Vitamin C is a fantastic immune booster to help fight off infections of any sort. The recommended daily allowance for Vitamin C is set at 60mg for adults and 45mg for children. This is ridiculously low and was probably only set to prevent scurvy. Go to www.vitamincfoundation.org for more information.
8. Garlic is known to have anti-viral, anti-bacterial and anti-fungal properties. It’s the active ‘Allicin’ in garlic that provides these health benefits. However Allicin in garlic is very unstable and it would be difficult to eat enough to have the same immune boosting effect as taking a supplement such as ‘AllicinMax’. AllicinMax is a one of a kind product that can be given to children over 3 years of age. Other garlic supplements you see don’t contain active Allicin, instead relying on your body being able to generate it from the garlic.
9. Colloidal Silver in a liquid form as well as a spray is an excellent immune booster and first aid tool. It has been called natures anti-biotic. Colloidal silver can be used virtually anywhere on the body i.e. on cuts, sore throats, ear infections to kill bacteria and promote healing.
10. Grapefruit Seed Extract acts like an antibiotic but does not destroy beneficial gut bacteria. It can be used to combat upset tummies when bacterial ingestion is suspected.
11. Tea tree Manuka Honey is a natural and pleasant antibacterial for sore throats or coughs. The higher the UMF the more active the antibacterial ingredients are.
12. Eucalyptus Oil is both antibacterial and anti-viral and known to be an effective decongestant inhalation for colds and catarrh. Just one or two drops in steam inhalation not only eases congestion but stops proliferation of the cold virus.
13. Zinc deficiency should always be considered as one of the factors for a poor immune system. New Zealand soil is known to have low levels of zinc. Zinc levels should be assessed by a health practitioner as excess zinc can deplete copper. Poor zinc levels may be a factor if symptoms include; poor wound healing, more than two white spots on finger nails, hang nails, dandruff, poor sense of taste or smell, pale skin, poor appetite, stretch marks, greasy or spotty skin. Zinc drops are an easy way for your child to take extra zinc but beware of those that use unwanted ingredients to preserve them.
Additional factors that may adversely affect a child’s immune system are poor maternal diet, caesarean delivery that may result in the baby having poorly balanced gut bacteria or bottle feeding (which may result in the baby getting low omega).
A good immune system is established by providing nutritious food, sufficient water and nutritional supplements where necessary. See our section on children’s health for suitable supplements.