Part 3

{Have you read the rest of my Immune Boosting Tips for Kids series?  If not, catch up by reading Part 1 and Part 2 first.}

So far I’ve talked about things that kids can eat to help strengthen their immune system and prepare it for battle.

Today in Part 3, I’m talking about a number of lifestyle choices that play a role fighting infection, including things that can actually depress the immune system.

Lifestyle Factors

Kids can eat all the healthy food they want, but if they don’t consider these factors, their immune system will never be able to reach peak performance.

1. Sugar

We all know that sugar isn’t great for kids.  But how many people actually know why?  Well here is one reason – sugar has some serious negative effects on their immune system (and here are 141 more reasons – with reputable sources).   There have been a number of clinical studies showing that eating sugar suppresses white blood cell function within 30 minutes of eating it, and the impacts can last up to 5 hours!  So imagine what this means for a child who is given sugar multiple times a day – an immune system that is constantly compromised.

If there is one thing that will go a long way in helping your child avoid sickness this winter it is to cut way back on their sugar intake.

I know some of you think I’m crazy over here and that this is an impossible task.   Unfortunately, sugar intake in North America has increased dramatically over the last century – to a point where we think it is normal to eat sugar multiple times a day (check out this infographic for some startling statistics.)

Sugar is addictive, and by feeding kids’ sugar addiction, it will just get worse.  Try decreasing their sugar intake gradually, and replacing with fruit sweetened treats like my healthy snack cookies or a green smoothie or a dessert from one of my favourite sites Spoonful of Sugar Free.  Soon, their perception of sweetness will change and a nice fresh apple will start to taste really sweet and delicious.  And remember, it always helps when parents lead by example!

I could go on and on about this topic, but for today, just think about how great it would be to have a cold and flu season go by without having to deal with a cold and flu.  That is worth the challenge of giving up those sugary treats.

{And yes, I do realize that Halloween is just around the corner.  Stay tuned for a post on how to deal with all that Halloween candy.}

2. Processed Foods/Foods with Pesticides

Another reason to eat Real Food.  Processed foods can have a negative impact on the gastrointestinal lining, leaving kids more susceptible to the bad bacteria.  Pesticides and additives can affect the nutrient content of food (destroying vitamins and minerals or hindering their absorption) and many of the heavy metals contained in pesticides are known to suppress the immune system.

So avoid processed foods and yucky pesticides and feed your kids as much fresh, non-processed and organic food as possible.

3.  Sleep

When your kids don’t want to go to bed at night, just tell them that lack of sleep will suppress their immune function.  That will work, right? 🙂

In all seriousness, our T-cell numbers go down if we are sleep deprived, so the body is less able to respond to colds and bacterial infections.  Also, the body releases certain hormones during sleep that help with recovery.  So good sleep is important.

Make sure your kids are consistently getting enough sleep (see here for a good chart outlining sleep needs by age), and that they are napping if needed.  The best sleep happens in a dark and cool room.  The bonus?  We all know that a well rested kid is a much happier kid.

4.  Hand-Washing

Well this is pretty obvious, isn’t it?  Frequent hand-washing = prevention of infection, right?

Not exactly.  Hand washing does play an important role in avoiding sickness  (and stopping the spread of germs), and kids should wash their hands often, especially during the cold and flu season.  However, the current “anti-bacterial” craze is a bit concerning.  Anti-bacterials soaps can actually promote the development of bacteria as the body does not develop the resistance required to fight it.

Over-sanitization can also cause our bodies to attack things that are not foreign invaders, causing food intolerance or even autoimmune disorders.  And most anti-bacterial products contain harmful ingredients that when absorbed into the skin can cause a number of awful problems.

Most reputable medical experts agree that anti-bacterial soaps (and those hand sanitizer gels) are no more effective at killing germs that regular soap (see the opinion the Mayo Clinic as well as WebMD).  So with all the negative impacts, why use them when good old soap and water will do the trick?

So there you have it, the final instalment of the series and a few more tips and tricks that you can implement to potentially save yourself from the nightmare of dealing with a sick kid.

Wishing you all the best this cold and flu season!


*As an aside, I’m sure many of you are wondering why I have not mentioned the flu shot as a good preventive measure.   Personally, I choose not to get the flu shot or give it to Tyson based on many of the reasons discussed in this article.  Obviously any sort of vaccination is a very personal choice based on a number of individualized factors, and I feel that everybody should do their own research before making this important decision.

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