There’s little you can do to prevent your child being exposed to a cocktail of germs in the winter months. Everyone is stuck indoors together, with their hacking coughs and streaming noses.
Although small consolation when your child is sick, it is worth remembering that the occasional virus is a natural part of growing up and, in small doses, can be good for your child. Viruses provide an opportunity for the immune system to exercise itself and grow stronger so that it can go on to fight further attacks to the body as they arise.
In the meantime, providing your child with a healthy diet coupled with daily exercise and plenty of sleep will help to ensure that illnesses are kept to a minimum and don’t last as long as they otherwise might.
Here are five easy dietary measures to boost your child’s immunity during the winter.
1. Avoid refined carbohydrates (including white pasta and sugars)
Sugar suppresses the immune system for up to 5 hours after consumption (it can also negatively affect concentration and may result in hyperactivity so even more reason to avoid!).
2. Stock up on fruit and vegetables
Make sure you feed your child a variety of fruit and vegetables. In particular opt for brightly coloured or dark vegetables and fruit (organic if possible) as these offer the best source of immune boosting antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin E and beta-carotene.
3. Incorporate oily fish in your child’s diet twice per week
Oily fish (salmon, mackerel, sardines, trout) is rich in omega-3 essential fatty acids, which are necessary for healthy immunity and encourage healing. It’s also an excellent source of vitamin D – an essential vitamin for optimum immune function. Your child is spending most of the time indoors at this time of year so vitamin D has to come from their diet rather than from sunlight.
4. Ensure your child is getting enough fibre and water
Fibre (good sources are fruit, veg and pulses) reduces levels of toxicity in the body, which can put strain on the immune system. Water also helps to flush out toxins that can suppress immunity.
5. Restrict your child’s intake of fatty and processed foods
Saturated fats (found in sausages, bacon, and cheese and cream) can clog up the lymphatic system preventing lymphocytes (infection-fighting white blood cells) from circulating and reaching sites of infection; trans fats from processed foods (e.g. shop bought biscuits, margarines) encourage inflammation in the body which can undermine immunity.