Supporting immunity naturally
COVID-19 has made all of us think about the state of our health, and our children’s health. There is, understandably, a heightened sense of fear around it and the prospect of children returning to school in September is a concern for many parents. So we wanted to share the things we can all do to naturally to support the immune system, to help ensure we are as healthy as possible in the coming months.
Firstly, the body is an incredibly complex and incredibly clever machine. From the moment of conception to our last breath, it is working tirelessly to keep us well. For example, we get a fever when we are ill in order to create an environment the pathogen can’t survive in. It isn’t a malfunction – it is a very smart way of trying to get us back to full health. The body is amazing and we should have trust that it’s got our back! The key thing we can do to help it is to reduce the pressure we place on our bodies so it can focus on the job in hand!
- Microbiome – the billions of little bacteria in our guts play a hugely important role in our immune systems…our guts house around 70% of the cells that make up our immune system! So feed those bacteria well to stay well. Fibre is the most important way to do this – plenty of fruit, vegetables, lentils and pulses, as well as any fermented foods your kids like, such as yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut and miso
- Sleep helps our immune systems! Ever wondered why we sleep so much when we are ill? It gives the immune system a chance to work its magic much better than when we are awake. Children should get between 10-12 hours a night. You can help by including sleep inducing foods at dinnertime such as oats, bananas, chicken and eggs, and try to limit screens at least 1 hour before bed
- Exercise – we were designed to move our bodies. As little as 6 minutes of running around can double the amount of circulating immune cells in children, but we should be striving to make sure children have the opportunity to exercise for at least an hour a day (by going to a park, running around outside in break times etc). Exercise also helps release any stress hormones that have built up during the day
- Sunshine – Vitamin D is a very important part of the immune system. For example, it is needed to produce the antimicrobial proteins that kill pathogens. Did you know we are all entitled to a free vitamin D blood test once a year as the NHS recognise its importance when it comes to our health? For children, we need to make sure they get outside and have an opportunity to absorb vitamin D (let them have 10 minutes before applying sunscreen) as well as offer them vitamin D rich food like fatty fish, cheese and eggs (make sure they are from free range chickens…chickens that have been cooped up inside and don’t see the sun produce eggs with less vitamin D!)
- Food – our food philosophy is to eat real food and reduce processed food. Real food is nutrient rich and processed food is not. For example, minerals come from soil – all fruit and vegetables are grown in soil, so by eating them you are also eating minerals, many of which are essential for healthy immune systems like zinc and magnesium. Food produced in a factory, like haribo sweets, have none unless they are added in artificially. Try to eat a rainbow of colours from fruit and vegetables each day – this will help ensure children get the key nutrients needed to support the immune system, such as Vitamin A in yellow and orange foods like carrots and mangos, Vitamin C in green food like spinach and broccoli, and antioxidants in purple food like blueberries
We have lots of recipes on our website to help give inspiration for healthy bakes and meals made with real nutritious food, and September's cooking kit is a carrot cake making box with an extra savoury recipe for carrot and potato cakes, and a little bit of extra autumnal fun included too!