A healthy immune system has never been so important.
The four pillars of health are essentially four areas that provide integral foundational support to uphold good health including our kid’s immunity. Which means….less days off school and daycare!
They can be oftentimes overlooked or not given the attention they rightfully need as life continues to get busier and busier.
Without strong foundations, the walls around us are fragile and at risk of collapsing when faced with danger.
When we reflect on this in terms of immune system for our kids, strong foundations will create better resilience and a stronger ability to face life’s challenges; be it a cold, a cough, a tummy bug, an allergy, a skin reaction or a gut complaint.
The four pillars are
- Stress Management
The food our kids eat will dictate how well our kids are able to fight off infections and how long it takes for them to get back on their feet. It also affects their risk of developing chronic health problems such as recurring infections, eczema, allergies, and asthma.
A strong immune system relies on a balanced, nutrient-dense diet high in zinc, iron vitamin C, vitamin A, vitamin D, quality protein, and special immune-boosting, anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial substances found in foods such as garlic, onions, ginger, turmeric, fermented foods, mushrooms, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower).
There are some foods that are immune system depleters. The big one is sugar. A high intake of sugar has been shown to actually suppress the immune system which means no one is on guard when say a virus comes by. Sugar also throws our kids gut balance out by feeding the unwanted gut bugs. This then creates inflammation in the gut that places extra work on the immunes system there behind the gut wall. Sugar also affects our kids appetite for more naturally flavoured foods risking the emergence of the ‘fussy eater’.
Good sleep is about both quantity and quality. We are aiming for a good amount of sleep with few or minimal disruptions. We’re aiming for a happy and well-rested child the next morning.
Good sleep allows for our body and brain to carry out many important tasks that cannot be done while we are awake.
For example, research suggests that while our kids are deep asleep their immune system is taking note of the bugs they have come into contact with that day and sorting out how to deal with it most appropriately.
Lack of enough sleep and or quality sleep increases our kids’ susceptibility to infections and makes it harder for them to shake.
You can help create better sleep for your child by starting with the following tips
- Create a bedtime routine that helps your child relax and wind down starting at least 2 hours before bedtime- this includes no screens
- Create a sleep-promoting bedroom environment- darkness, comfortable temperature and device-free.
- Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, even weekends
Movement is another foundation of balanced health. It helps increase the flow of blood around the body making sure it reaches every nook and cranny and tips of the body- especially the brain.
Increased blood flow helps get the immune surveillance crew and soldiers where they need to be and primed for action.
Movement is also essential to help move the circulation of another fluid in your body called the lymph. The lymphatic system runs very closely alongside the blood but unlike the blood who has the heart working as a pump to keep it moving around, the lymph relies on us moving. The lymph plays important roles in removing unwanted substances from the blood and it is also filled with immune soldiers and stations where the lymph fluid is screened for unwanted guests.
Movement is therefore important to increase immune surveillance, immune action and clearance of unwanted guests from the body.
It also is an important strategy for stress management.
Our kids experience stress in numerous ways and they don’t necessarily have to be big emotional events such as seeing parents argue or go through a divorce, being in a family struggling financially or being bullied at school
Stress can also come from the little everyday things such as worrying about schoolwork or grades, having problems with friends or finding a group they fit into to. Or it could be balancing school with after-school activities, adapting to parent’s busy schedules and having limited down-time. Too much screen-time, going through changes in themselves physically and emotionally all can take a toll.
For most kids, small doses of stress helps them adapt and become more resilient. Life presents a challenge and forces them to pick up new skills to work through it. For some kids, even small doses are too much. These kids are already wired in a way to not be able to tolerate change and new challenges and require some extra support to figure out why. For all kids, excessive and/or continuous stress will affect their feelings of safety and security. It increases their risk of becoming stuck in that ‘fight, flight or freeze’ response and affect many areas of their health and wellbeing.
When our kids are stressed, their ability to fight off infections is reduced. Stress will burn through a lot of nutrients that are needed for their immune system to be on guard and defend.
When our kids are chronically stressed, their immune system becomes dysfunctional. They are at higher risk of developing chronic health conditions such as recuring ear infections and viral infections, allergies, eczema, asthma, anxiety and depression.
The key with stress is helping your child learn the skills they need to work through challenges and respond in healthy ways.
As parents, we are their role models. A lot can be taught by example alone. Manage your own stress in a healthy way and create balance between rest, work and play. Create open communication channels and be there to just listen to your kids. Help them work out how to tackle their problems without lecturing them or be overly judgemental. Help them feel positive about themselves by providing encouragement and affection, getting them to understand the emotions behind the events as opposed to punishment for bad behaviour triggered by the stress. Know when their schedules are too full and allow time for family connection, time to just feel bored and time to spend outdoors and in nature.
Take home message
Working on the four pillars of health provides for strong foundations that may very well be all your child needs for a strong immune system. We are not suggesting your child will never get sick but we are hoping that the strong foundations will help them fight whatever they are faced with well and in good time.
For extra support, contact us today to see how we can help.