Sophie and I sometimes go to a Mom and Baby cafe to play and the most recent time we were there, there were so many kids with snotty noses and loud coughs! It’s inevitable that as Sophie builds up her immune system she’ll catch some of these, but of course I want to do everything possible to boost her immune system. I’m sure you feel the same! Depending on the age of your child, here are five ways to boost your child’s immune system - and don’t forget that these also help for adults.
I’ve had Sophie on probiotics since she was about 6 weeks old. We started with a probiotic powder and as she gets older we will be able to move to a chewable probiotic. In one study, Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG, a strain of probiotic, modestly reduced the duration of respiratory tract infections in children. When looking for a probiotic, make sure you’re looking for a dosage in the billions - ideally 1B to 10B - as this is where most of the research has been done. You also want a probiotic with multiple strains.
If your child is over 3, the new Genuine Health advanced gut health probiotic kids is a great option. It is a chewable probiotic, which has actually been shown to reduce pathogenic bacteria in the mouth and throat, meaning better immunity and less sick days! It also contains L Reuteri, a strain shown to reduce bloating in children and reduce absentee days from school.
Elderberry syrup, coming from elderberries, is high in Vitamin C and in flavonols, a type of antioxidant. In a study that looked at travellers, those taking elderberry syrup had a significant reduction of cold duration and severity. This is suitable for kids over one as many elderberry products contain bee propolis and/or honey. A bonus is that because of the honey, kids love the taste of it!
We’ve talked about the benefits of these for adults, but these foods are truly powerful. The active ingredient in garlic is allicin, which is highly antibacterial and so effective that it’s known as “Russian penicillin”. In adults, I suggest consuming raw garlic when you feel a cold coming on, but that’s just too strong for babies/kids. Try well cooked garlic in your child’s meals. Sophie has had a lot of garlic in her bone broth and seems to like the flavour. Onion is in the same family as garlic, and while garlic would be my go-to, cooking with onions is also thought to stimulate the immune system.
Ginger has anti-inflammatory compounds called gingerol. In Tradition Chinese Medicine, ginger is thought to boost the immune system, especially nasal & throat area. Ginger is also great if your little one is experiencing nausea. Try steeping some slices of ginger with lemon juice in hot water.
If your child does end up getting sick, vitamin C is known to reduce the duration of a cold by supporting antimicrobial and natural killer cell activities in the body. Bell peppers are high in vitamin C; did you know they have more Vitamin C than oranges? Oranges, broccoli, and many other colourful fruit and veggies are excellent sources of vitamin C.
There are at least one hundred and one reasons to make sure your child’s vitamin D levels are good, but particularly for immunity. In one study, kids with lower respiratory tract infections were 11x more likely to have it if they were deficient in vitamin D; put simply, a vitamin D deficiency predisposes children to respiratory infections. For food sources, the only significant one is cod liver oil, but you have to check the dosage you’re giving to ensure it is enough vitamin D.