My lovely friend Danielle Roberts is a Holistic Nutritionist (BSc Human Nutrition) at Fuel Nutrition Ltd. She was kind enough to put together these tips for fending off the winter bugs that seem to hit our household every year! For more information from Danielle visit Fuel Nutrition Ltd on Facebook.
Babies and young children are usually very naturally in tune with what their body needs. If they feel unwell and choose not to eat due to high fevers, just make sure they are well hydrated. Try fruit smoothies with coconut water, easy for them to digest (no stress on the digestive system), and coconut water contains a natural balance of electrolytes. Fevers are just the way the body’s immune system fights the infection, so monitor it (beyond 39 degrees always seek professional help), keep a close eye on them if you can, but don’t freak out and panic because the body is doing what it’s supposed to do.
It is much better to do the best that you can to prevent winter bugs being caught, however sometimes if you’re going to get sick you’re going to get sick so the best thing you can do is help them to create an environment to bounce back quicker. Below are a few ways to help create the best environment possible for your babies and kids to have healthy and optimally functioning digestive and immune systems.
1. Eating whole nutrient dense foods
Reducing processed foods; processed sugar and fat, this also includes too much dairy and too much wheat/gluten. Reducing processed foods has said to have great benefits for the digestive and immune system functions. Dairy has biochemical properties that can be damping to the body, as having too much can create excess mucus production. The wheat grain we know today is very different from the ancient wheat grain. Wheat is no longer nutrient dense and it now contains a molecule of carbohydrate that with a lot of people can be a gut lining irritant, mounting immune system responses of inflammation (Note: chronic inflammation can cause wide-spread systemic issues). Outwardly appearing as bloating, indigestion, even diarrhoea and/or constipation. All of which stops us from absorbing nutrients and having an abundance of energy. Gluten gets its name from the glue like form it takes when digested in the stomach – slowing down digestive system functioning and impaired breakdown of whole foods that it’s eaten with, hence stopping the absorption of a lot of our vitamins and minerals.
Therefore, whole foods to consume more of are:
- Citrus Fruits – High in Vitamin C like orange, mandarin, kiwifruit, lemon. All really great fruits for Vitamin C nourishment and also for keeping the bad bugs from overpopulating our gut and affecting our immune defences. As our gut lining is the first line of immune defence in our bodies. Some of the compounds in the citrus fruits especially in the lemon are natural cleansers. As our gut is also linked to our skin, this will also mean healthier, clearer more glowing skin. Making it an everyday habit to have lemon in warm water first thing in the morning will be the best wake up brew for your immune system. This part may sound odd but dentists are now recommending that to protect the enamel of your teeth, you should really be making sure you drink this brew through a straw. This is not for you to fear drinking lemon in your water because it has amazing benefits for your gut this is to bring awareness to what you can do as a preventive measure especially if the structure of your teeth is already compromised i.e. you get cavities a lot.
- Banana and kiwifruit – high in potassium which is great for whole body alkalinity aiding reduction of inflammation on a whole body scale.
- Pineapple – acts as an anti–inflammatory, anti-diuretic, and aids digestion of proteins.
- Fruit/Berry/Spinach/Kale Smoothies – nutrient dense, but light on the digestive system, so stress is reduced so the immune system can do its job, since as mentioned above the first line of immune defence is in the gut.
- Broccoli and green leafy vegetables like kale and spinach high in B vitamins, zinc and magnesium great for keeping the metabolism running as it should. This means proper energy is being created for you to keep your vitality high. Also has a huge array of antioxidant compounds to protect cells from free radical damage, allowing organs and organ systems to do their jobs.
- Red Capsicum – high levels of Vitamin C and beta carotene, great antioxidant for keeping the integrity of our skin cells healthy, as our skin also acts as a great line of defence for the immune system.
- Garlic – contains compounds to fight infection.
- Ginger – contains compounds to lower risk of getting cold in first place.
- Turmeric – is a fantastic anti-inflammatory for all the body systems.
- Almonds, avocados – contains Vitamin E, which is an antioxidant protecting the cell membrane of our cells. Vitamin C helps to recycle Vitamin E in order to help it continue its role in the body.
- Sweet Potato (orange) – contains large amounts of beta carotene and quercetin (acts as a natural anti-histamine), great for those who suffer from Asthma and Eczema. Asthma and Eczema are also related to proper digestive system functioning so with that being said most likely have higher chance of getting sick more often.
- Chicken – small shreds of cooked chicken breast (small as to not put pressure/stress on your digestive system) in a chicken soup – contains B6 to help boost the number of red blood cells in the body (important for oxygen and iron transfer in the body) and gut healing proteins (glutamine).
NOTE: For babies still on soft foods, mashed vegetables (sweet potato – orange), smoothies (could blend in avocado), stewed fruits, and the broth of the chicken/vegetable soups would be great additions to babies diet.
2. Gut bacteria
Create environments of greater amounts of good bacteria. Probiotics or natural unsweetened probiotic yoghurt (dairy–free options are now available i.e. coconut yoghurt) are fantastic for those who are experiencing digestive issues and/or are sick and/or have just finished an antibiotics cycle. If the population of bad bacteria gets too high, then digestion of food and nutrient absorption decreases. As mentioned above this is all very much connected to the functioning of the immune system.
If you can help it be careful how often your child has antibiotics in the early years. I say this because antibiotics wipe out all of the bacteria good and not so good. If they do have to have antibiotics then make sure you get them onto some good child-friendly probiotics.
3. Getting enough sleep
Babies and children are in high states of growth and development. Sleep allows and creates the space for necessary cellular repair to occur. This is because our cells are in a constant state of cellular breakdown or repair. This is just on a maintenance level, hence when a child or baby is sick they need more sleep and rest to reduce as much stress on the physical body as possible to allow the immune system to heal the body faster.
4. Reducing stress
As it does for adults, stress and anxiety also affects the correct functioning of the digestive system and immune system. The stomach and digestive area is usually the first part of the body to be affected by stress i.e. you can recognise this as pain, tension, needing to go to the toilet or butterflies. Hence the more under stress the baby/child is the greater the digestive system will play up and the greater the immune system will also be affected. This scenario is also a double-edged sword with the fact that, stress also robs our body of vital nutrients like magnesium and B vitamins which are needed for creating optimal amounts of energy and nervous system functioning (which is essentially the main messenger system from the brain to all other areas of the body). Himalayan Salt Lamps from Health Stores, Rescue Remedy for Kids and calming (nature, flute or harp) music are great natural remedies for reducing stress with kids and babies.
5. Give yourself and your children lots of love
First and foremost, as hard as this may be you need to put yourself first. You cannot look after your family to the best of your abilities if you are trying to give from an empty cup. It just doesn’t work. Also don’t make up excuses either; you need to start loving yourself enough to know that you are worth nourishment and replenishment too. I will openly admit that I’m not a parent, but I understand how important self-love is, having given all my energy away to others many a time before and I became quite ill from it. So I can imagine how many parents also do this but with their children. They are then wondering why they feel low in energy, usually when the family needs them the most, because the tank hasn’t been replenished for the times when the energy is required.
Secondly release the various frustrations and fears you have around your children’s lives. As a parent it is natural to feel the need to protect them. But sometimes the approach with which it is carried out also creates frustrations and fears for the child. The energies of fear and frustration are mental/emotional stresses which affect the physical body. Stress is not what we want, to keep a child happy and healthy. Instead feed them love, encouragement and empowerment. Teach them to also love themselves unconditionally for all that they are and to build a solid foundation of self-love. Tip 5 is the most important, yet hardest point to carry out as many people are not taught about self-love, even though it creates the greatest abundance or vitality and happiness we can receive.
The best way to improve the life of your family is also to become the change you want to see happening.