Many families with young children struggle their way through winter as they face an onslaught of colds. Catching a cold or flu is more common during this period since most of us spend more time indoors breathing less fresh air, and we are therefore more exposed to the microbes that spread illness. Because children love to touch things as well as put them in their mouths, they can easily expose themselves to more viruses. Fortunately, there are many ways to naturally boost a toddler’s immunity so that they can increase their resistance to the many germs they encounter.
One of the most significant changes a parent can make in their child’s diet to increase immune function is to remove sugar. Sugar (and that means all kinds) is known to suppress immune function by lowering white blood cell activity. White blood cells are the body’s front line defense system, fighting bacteria and viruses as they present themselves. If the action of white blood cells is reduced, they may not be able to fight any of these invaders with as much strength as they normally would. Parents should pay particular attention to foods with concentrated amounts of sugar such as many commercial cereals, candy, pop and fruit juice (even natural), baked goods and flavored yogurts.
Boost Vitamin C
Increasing vitamin C is key to maintaining a healthy immune system. Many foods such as oranges, tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage, kiwis, peppers, lemons, and strawberries have high amounts of vitamin C. Try incorporating a variety of these foods into their diet so that the child has access to natural forms of this vitamin. At times of weakened immunity, parents may wish to add some powdered vitamin C to provide extra support. The general rule of thumb is to stop supplementing for the day as soon as loose bowels are noted.
Garlic is really a miraculous food. It is a natural antibiotic and anti-viral, making it a wonderfully protective food to include in a child’s diet. Garlic should be eaten raw in order to obtain its healing benefits. Due to the strong taste and odor, it may be necessary to blend it into other foods to make it more palatable for children. The best way to get raw garlic into a toddler’s diet is through dips such as hummus, tzatziki, or bean dips or spreads.
Serve Plain Yogurt
Plain, natural yogurt will contain good bacteria which are labeled on containers as active bacterial cultures or “probiotics”. Incredibly, these bacteria can actually help make your toddler healthier by increasing their own intestinal stores of good bacteria, which in turn helps strengthen their immune systems. Good bacteria do this by increasing the ability of the body’s white blood cells to fight off invaders as well as inhibiting growth of bad bacteria inside the intestinal tract. Smoothies are a great way to introduce yogurt into a child’s diet.
Essential Fatty Acids
EFAs are another critical nutrient for immune function due to their effect on white blood cell activity. Including a fish oil supplement in your toddler’s day can significantly improve their resistance to infection. The good news for kids is that many of today’s fish oil supplements for children come in tasty formulas with an orange or lemon flavor.
Although it may not be possible to totally prevent your toddler from getting sick this winter, utilizing specific dietary strategies can at least help them to increase their resistance to most of the pathogens they come across.