Expert Advice

Immunity boosters for kids

NADIA naturopath and medical herbalist Annaliese Jones has a few tricks up her sleeve to help boost children’s immunity.

Ah, winter! On one hand there's the rain, the cold and the short, dark days, but on the other hand there are hot bowls of soup, crackling fires and cosy nights snuggled on the sofa.

Unfortunately winter also brings coughs and colds, and for children it can seem never-ending. Kids are more susceptible to viruses that cause colds because their immune systems are still developing. Our complex immune process and trillions of immune cells mature over time. Initially, we rely on our mother's immunity and it takes a few years of exposure to various microbes for our own immunity to fully develop.

In the developed world a child can have between five and eight colds a year, some lasting seven to nine days each. That's an awful lot of snotty hankies! These frequent disruptions to family life can take a toll, so what can we do to reduce the number of colds our kids come down with this winter?

Newborn immunity

If your baby is breast fed, colostrum and breast milk contain lots of the immune cell immunoglobulin A (IgA), which boosts a baby's digestive immunity and is absorbed into the bloodstream where it has a broader protective effect. If your baby is formula fed, a baby-specific probiotic can have a similar effect.

Nature’s pharmacy

Once kids are eating solids, focus on giving them foods that provide immune-boosting nutrients. Making fresh, home-cooked vegetables the hero of every dish will probably save the kids from a few sniffles this winter.

Zinc

I'm constantly trying to increase zinc levels in my mini clients – and my own kids! It's an important mineral and our soils are terribly deficient. Unless your kids like oysters, increase their intake of nuts, seeds, fish, red meat and whole grains.

Carotenes and vitamin A

These fat-soluble vitamins are well known for enhancing the health of our mucous membranes such as the respiratory tract and sinuses. Orange and yellow vegetables such as carrots, pumpkin, butternut squash and kumara will do the trick. Other good sources are dark green leafy vegetables, egg yolks, salmon and liver.

Vitamin C

An oldie but a goodie. Did you know that capsicum, kiwifruit and brussels sprouts have more vitamin C than oranges? You may not get the kids loving sprouts just yet, but most children are happy to eat raw capsicum and golden kiwifruit until the cows come home!

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