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Spring has officially arrived, and it’s such a beautiful time of year (in most places). That said, unpredictable weather and whirling microorganisms in the air can really stir up seasonal congestion and upper respiratory problems. And when you have a kid who catches everything, the onset of spring can be incredibly discouraging.
But fear not! Here are some super-simple ways to naturally boost their little immune systems so you can enjoy the warmer weather.
1) Get some shut eye. Not only does a good night’s sleep encourage proper mind-body development, but a 2011 study published in US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health suggests that loss of sleep can leave children more susceptible to a sub-par health, as it’s linked to interfering with key areas of the body like the function of the pituitary gland and the production of the mighty immune system cells needed to fight off anything and everything that can leave us feeling under the weather. Try starting your bedtime routine a bit earlier, turning off TV and electronics a couple hours before bed to let the body’s natural responses kick in and help your child get quality rest.
2) Let the sunshine in. When the summer months hit, you can find us all slathering on the sunscreen and shading ourselves from the sun’s “harmful” rays. But a lack of sun exposure (even in moderation) can actually keep your child from producing Vitamin D, an immune-boosting vitamin essential to his or her growth and development. So spend some time (15 to 20 minutes) outside in the sunshine with your family. Don’t overdo it, though. And when using sunscreen, aim for natural sunscreens that aren’t packed with crazy ingredients you can’t pronounce. You can also try a liquid Vitamin D supplement if you don’t have time for a small dose of sunlight.
3) Get active. Research indicates that physical activity can benefit kids in the long-term, increasing the number of powerful immune cells that can help keep you feeling your best. But as with anything, monkey-see monkey-do. Your kids are depending on you to be a great role model, so engage with them and consider going for a family bike ride or walking them through your yoga routine. Have you ever seen a 3-year old play tennis? It’s hilarious. Get out there and have some fun together!
4) Health-hack your snacks. My kids are like professional snackers.
And of course, the snacks that are most convenient for modern parents are often full of sugars and unnatural ingredients that can weigh heavily on fragile immune systems.
Can’t get your kid to eat a kale salad or quinoa bowl? Don’t worry. Focus on immune-boosting snacks rich in Vitamin C, such as cherries, oranges and other citrus fruits (kiwis are a favorite around our home!), as well as heartier foods like bananas or baked sweet potato fries that are rich in prebiotics. Walnuts are a great choice, too, as they’re rich in omega-3s, which studies show can help reduce temporary inflammation as well as enhance immunity. Try preparing some snacks for the week in advance, so you’ll have them on hand for the next time your kids are ready to raid the pantry.
5) Make gut bacteria a priority. Did you know that 80% of your body’s immune system cells reside in the GI tract? The human gut is actually home to trillions of microbes, and your immune system depends on a strong presence of good bacteria (also called probiotics) to help your immune system keep the bad guys from gaining a foothold on your body and your health.
You see, mothers pass on bacteria to their babies at birth, and prebiotics in breast milk and first foods help to feed the good bacteria so that it colonizes and creates the strong building blocks for your child’s immunity.
Unfortunately, a range of factors like the early use of antibiotics, toxins in our food and medicines, and environmental elements can put major stress on our gut environment and influence growing immune systems.
It’s a great idea to pay attention to these factors, and to choose food and hygiene products that are all-natural; limiting your child’s exposure to harmful chemicals and foreign substances that can wreak havoc on the delicate balance of their gut bacteria.
6) Try natural supplements and herbs. There are many natural supplements that can really give the immune system a lift, but be sure to choose wisely! Many supplements are made with additives, fillers, and other ingredients that can be counter-productive when dealing with the heart of immune health.
A great place to start is with a clean, potent probiotic designed for kids. There are many on the market, and you’ll want to stick with an ingestible (if you can find one). One excellent option is Hyperbiotics PRO-Kids. While swallowing a pill may sound intimidating for young children, you might be surprised to find that some are super small and easier for little kids to handle. Some are even small enough to sneak into cold foods like yogurt or applesauce.
What you probably didn’t know is that many chewables, powders and gummy probiotics are sweetened with sugar, plus they don’t do the best job of really getting deep into the digestive tract, where kids need them the most. You see, when probiotics are chewed, a majority of the good flora are killed by the acidity of saliva, and without some sort of protection, the rest will likely be killed by stomach acids — meaning that they never make it to the small and large intestines where they are meant to set up shop and perform their miraculous work.
Have a kid who’s not feeling up to par right now? Herbal supplements that have helped us get through the crazy spring weather include Briar Rose and Lithy Tree. A few drops of each in water or juice delivers a powerful punch of immunity goodness. You can find them at your local natural food store or family health market. The goal with any supplement or herbal extract is to exercise caution and pay attention to the ingredients, making sure you’re choosing a 100% natural product and the highest quality immune support for your family this spring.
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