The world has waged a war against Covid-19, formerly known as the novel coronavirus. Precautionary measures include having a good hand-washing routine, wearing a mask when unwell and avoiding crowded spots. What else can we do to protect vulnerable ones, such as our young kids, from potent viruses? We should be boosting the immune system so we can lower the chances of falling sick or perhaps recovering quickly even if stricken. Here are 8 science-backed methods for immunity boosting.
1. Vitamin D
A free source of Vitamin D is sunshine! While some parents might want to stay in because of the viruses, going outdoors and getting a good dose of sunshine can help boost your child’s immunity. A lack of sunlight can cause people to fall sick easily. This also explains why more flu and cold cases show up during winter seasons.
In addition to effective calcium absorption plus bone strength and heart health, Vitamin D is important to reduce the risk of catching infectious diseases. It strengthens the immune system by turning on anti-microbial responses in the immune system to quickly fight off invaders before it develops into a full-blown infection. Clinical trials have also shown that Vitamin D can decrease the risk of developing pneumonia in children.
Other than sunlight, sources of Vitamin D include fatty fish, cheese, eggs, fortified foods such as cereal and milk! So the easiest way is – get out and play in open spaces drenched in sunshine!
2. Sufficient Sleep
Insufficient rest and sleep could leave you highly susceptible to viruses. Children should get the recommended hours of sleep every night. Preschoolers below 5 should get at least 11 hours of sleep per day, while children above 6 should be sleeping above 10 hours per day. If there is insufficient sleep, the body makes less of a protein that targets infection and inflammation – which results in a lack of immune responses. Chronic sleep loss can yield severe health problems including heart attacks, anxiety and hypertension. If the children are fighting sleep, it’s Captain Sleep to your rescue!
3. Physical Activity
Children are naturally full of life – bouncing off walls, jumping, hopping, running, scooting. Rather than discouraging them to move, physical activity is great for boosting the immune system. With the constant burning of calories, this promotes good circulation which allows cells and substances of immune system to move through the body. Besides circulation, exercise and physical activity slows down the release of stress hormones which reduce the chances of falling ill.
4. Vitamin C
Vitamin C as most would know is essential for a strong immune system. It helps grow and repair tissue, heal wounds, maintain healthy bones, teeth, skin and cartilage. It is also an antioxidant which fights free radicals in the body. Vitamin C can also help to reduce symptoms of ailments, thus lessening the misery of those taken ill. Be it orange juice, other citrus fruits, greens like broccoli and bell peppers – feed your children a dose of Vitamin C to keep them away from bugs.
Another immunity-boosting mineral is zinc. New studies have shown that zinc helps control infections by tapping the brakes on the immune response which prevents out-of-control inflammation. Taking zinc at the onset of a sickness can stems its effects. Zinc deficiency can increase one’s vulnerability to viruses. Where can we find zinc? Meat, legumes such as chickpeas and lentils, seeds, nuts, dairy products, eggs and whole grain! For kids who love chocolate, give them the dark chocolate variation for some zinc.
Probiotics are also friendly bacteria which gives your gut flora a good boost. Our gut contains trillions of microorganisms including bacteria, yeasts and viruses. Any food we consume heads straight into our bowels, gut wall then the blood stream. Hence, the gut is an important part of the body’s immune system. With a strong gut microbiota, it can guard us and our children from harmful bacteria and maintain a good balance of symbiosis – more good bacteria than bad. In short, probiotics can help protect against infections. From unsweetened yogurt, kimchi to probiotic drinks such as Yakult with reduced sugar, probiotics helps strengthen our gut microbiota and our immunity.
7. Reducing Sugar in Diet
I have a love-hate relationship with sugar, as with most parents. While sugar is often a desirable treat for bribery purposes, it is also not the best choices for one’s health and can also get kids on a sugar-high. While it is difficult to reduce sugar in all forms – fructose and glucose in fruits, glucose from starchy foods and carbohydrates – it is important not to feed excessive refined sugar to our kids. Refined sugar IS an immune suppressor and takes away minerals from the body to break down. Sugar impairs white blood cells from fighting against infections and diseases, which results in us falling sick. When purchasing cereals, drinks, muesli bars, watch the amount of sugar in the nutrition facts label.
8. Eating Healthy
Last but not least, making wise diet choices is a no-brainer. German researchers found a link between junk food, diabetes and heart diseases. No surprises there, unhealthy food can make the body’s defenses more aggressive in the long run and accelerate the development of diseases like diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Lab mice placed on a high fat, high sugar, low-fiber diet developed a strong inflammatory response in the body. Thus, make wise choices in your family’s diets – plenty of greens, whole grains, quality meat, fish and less processed food.
Immunity-Boosting with Plenty of Positivity
While anxiety might be in the air because of Covid-19, stay optimistic, go outdoors when possible, get some sun and choose foods wisely! With a strong immune system, we can stay healthy and make faster recoveries even if we fall ill.