These health tips will help you boost your child’s immune system

During uncertain times, keeping our children safe is our top priority. Among changing routines, questions around the school, and social time, there is one constant that can benefit each child. And that’s a healthy immune system.

To help bolster your child’s immune system, integrative M.D. Taz Bhatia has narrowed down 5 key things you can do to support your child’s immune system.

Limit sugar: Added sugars and refined starches might be the biggest immune offenders kids struggle with today. High sugar diets can create immune dysfunction, and also contribute heavily to an overgrowth of Candida, which can create chronic inflammation.

Get enough protein: Protein is critical for immune function, and inadequate protein can increase the risk of worse outcomes due to infection. Most proteins are also great sources of nutrients, such as B vitamins, omega-3s, and zinc, which the immune system also needs. Most Americans consume adequate protein, but if you have a picky eater at home, or follow a vegetarian or vegan diet, you’ll need to keep a close eye on protein intake. Aim for about one gram of protein per kilogram of body weight, sourced from high-quality, clean animal proteins (grass-fed beef, naturally-raised poultry, or wild-caught fish). Plant-based options like nuts, seeds, beans, or legumes are great, and you can also incorporate non-GMO soy or tempeh into dishes.

Eat foods for a healthy microbiome: About 75% of your child’s immune system resides in their gut. A healthy intestinal lining and the “good” bacteria that colonize it help determine friend from foe, and communicate with immune cells to mount a response if necessary. Fermented foods such as grass-fed yogurt (plant-based if necessary), kefir, kimchi, sauerkraut, tempeh, and miso help to support healthy gut bacteria and digestion.

Promote quality sleep: As a parent, you’ve seen the subsequent trainwreck that happens after a couple of nights of poor sleep. This includes your younger kids, all the way through to your teenagers. They’re irritable, quick to get upset, and it’s impossible to get them to focus on anything. Device usage can play a significant role here, as well. The combination of not enough sunlight during the day, plus more blue light in the evening can alter melatonin production and disrupt circadian rhythm.

To promote good sleep, make sure to keep devices out of the bedroom, limit screen time, and give kids time adequate physical activity. It’s also useful to stick to a consistent sleep schedule. Younger children need closer to 12 hours while older children need about 10 hours of consistent sleep.

Manage stress: Teaching kids emotional resiliency isn’t something we do with one action or even a few, but with every aspect of their lives–from the food they eat to the ways they cope with “big” feelings, and everything in between. Make sure to let your kids know that you’re there to help them through their emotional ups and downs. Prioritizing physical activity, a well-rounded diet, and plenty of time to decompress after a busy day will be great for managing health.

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