In a world saturated by fast food, fast paced living and increased exposure to environmental toxins, it is imperative that we as parents and adults understand the importance of a robust immune system, especially in our youth.
Our immune system is comprised of certain tissue types, cells, and organs which play a remarkable role in the protection of our bodies. Since the beginning of humankind, our immune systems have always been on alert for potential threats and invaders. However, in the more recent years there has been an increase in overactive immune responses, which if occurs for prolong periods, can lead to chronic health complications and even autoimmune diseases. In addition to overactive immune responses, we also have under-active immune responses, which means our bodies are not responding to serious threats adequately.
Our children are bombarded daily with high exposure rates to toxins, predominately environmental. So how do we as parents combat and protect our tots from terrible diseases? We can guide and educate our children to build optimal immune systems, as a preventative measure against serious pathogens and foreign invaders. Before we dive into the suggested tips for immune boosting, let’s breakdown what our immune system is. We do not need to discuss the extraordinary role that NK (natural killer) cells, macrophages and antigens, but rather we must understand the way our bodies respond to perceived threats.
We have three types of immunological responses, innate, adaptive/acquired, and passive. Innate is exactly what it sounds like, its the immunity we are born with. Adaptive/acquired immunity is constantly evolving, and is formed by exposure to disease and through vaccinations. Passive immunity is usually referred to as a “redirected” or “borrowed” immune response, while it’s effective it is typically very short lived. Now that we have a general understanding of our immunological responses, we can begin to apply some natural methods which will not only support, but boost your child’s immunity for optimal health.
- Proper nutrition is vital for a thriving child and their immune systems. Without adequate levels of vitamins and minerals we leave our children’s body depleted of real energy and the proper mechanisms too illicit an effective immune response. You would think that malnutrition only occurs in poverty stricken countries, which isn’t the case. We are seeing a significant rise in cases of malnourishment amongst children due to poor dietary habits. Childhood is a state of rapid growth mentally, physically and emotionally, which means the demands for vitamins and minerals are that much more important.
- Breast feeding really does give your infant an added protection against pathogens that the mother has already been exposed too, and successfully fought off. This is an example of passive immunity, and while it is short lived it is effective and essential for newborns who have nearly no adaptive immunity.
- Reduce cortisol levels (stress hormone) in your home. You can do this by limiting screen time, participating in active play with your child, and encouraging them to go outside and play. When cortisol levels are elevated, it inhibits the immune response and as a result can weaken and/or delay the response entirely. Additionally, adequate amounts of sleep are required for optimal cortisol levels. Ensure that you have a well balanced nighttime routine to allow for the maximum amount of sleep time.
- Stay hydrated, with filtered water. Our bodies eliminate waste via urine, sweat and fecal matter. Without sufficient water consumption our children will have a difficult time expelling waste from their body. If this occurs regularly, it can cause the body to become overwhelmed. Staying hydrated means drinking water, not supplementing with high fructose juices and soda’s which cause more accumulation of waste in the body.
- Let them eat dirt. Just kidding, don’t encourage your child to eat dirt however, you can encourage them to get dirty. Going outside and playing can boost your child’s immune systems for numerous reasons such as, increased vitamin D synthesis, excretion of waste via sweat, and increased exposure to less serious pathogens allowing their adaptive immune system to build up
Jessy Goldthorpe, AMCC student