In this day and time, we can be as careful as we possibly can, but we can never say when the virus may come knocking at our door. One of the big things that really separates those who fall prey to it and those who manage to escape it or who recover quickly, is a strong immune system. A healthy body will be able to fight viruses and infections much faster than an unhealthy body.
So here are a few ways you can build your child’s immunity and keep them strong and prepared to fight infection:
1. A healthy diet
What we put into our body is vital to our body’s health. Foods to avoid are junk food (like pizza, chips, burgers, etc.), processed food (maggi noodles, ketchup, etc.) and sugary food (sweets, pastries, aerated drinks, etc.). Our Indian diet is full of healthy food and we need to make sure our children are getting a balanced diet with the 5 food groups.
Here are some foods that can really help build their immunity:
- Nuts: Nuts are high in protein and lots of minerals. It is a bit expensive, but consider it as an investment into your child’s health, and you can carefully ration it out to them. Every morning, I give my children a bowlful of mixed nuts and seeds (cashews, almonds, dates, figs, cranberries, apricots, sunflower seeds, chia seeds, flax seeds). I just put one or two of each nut, but it’s a very wholesome, filling snack and super healthy too.
- Curd (Yogurt): Another very healthy food. Full of probiotics, calcium and vitamin D. Curd also keeps your child’s gut healthy. Research suggests that a flourishing network of gut bacteria can help your immune cells differentiate between normal, healthy cells and harmful invader organisms (a). Try to give it to them without sugar. If they don’t like it plain, maybe add some honey or fruit into it or make a smoothie (curd and fruit blended together).
- Fruits and Vegetables: Add as many fruits and vegetables into your child’s diet. Try to increase the variety. Each fruit and vegetable contains different nutrients that are vital for their immunity. Fruits and vegetables high in vitamin C (which is the vitamin that helps fight infection) are papaya, guava, strawberry, gooseberry (amla), orange, red capsicum, broccoli, spinach, etc.
- Eggs: Egg is another super food. It is considered a complete food in itself. It is high in protein, vitamins and minerals. It is full of vitamin D which plays a critical role in promoting immune response. It has both anti-inflammatory and immunoregulatory properties and is crucial for the activation of immune system defences (b). Make sure the child eats the whole egg – white and yolk. You can give it as boiled egg, burji, add it into pancakes, etc.
- Other foods: Honey, garlic, ginger, aniseed, turmeric, chilli, caripatta, drumsticks, etc. are excellent immunity building foods.
This is something that is so underestimated but yet so essential. Immunity and sleep are very closely related. Research shows that people who are sleep deprived, or consistently miss out on quality sleep, are not only more likely to get sick after being exposed to a virus, but their bodies take longer to recover when they’re hit with an illness. (c)
A pre-schooler must have atleast 11-13 hours of sleep everyday. Night time sleep is very important and sleeping by atleast 9pm is very crucial for the body’s functioning. Lack of sleep is a major precursor for illness and lots of other issues like irritability, dullness, hyper activity, etc. Avoid letting the child watch TV or use a screen before bedtime as this can affect their sleep.
It is very important for children to be able to run around and play. During these days of social distancing, your child may not be able to play with other children, but try and take your child to open spaces where they can play. If that is not possible, try and include an exercise time during the day, where your child does some star jumps, squats, spot jogging, skipping, hoola hoop, obstacle race, etc. It is found that exercise helps regenerate the immune cells regularly (d).
Immunity doesn’t build up overnight. It takes weeks and months for your child’s immune system to develop. So do remember that this is not a quick fix, but something that needs to be practiced and persevered with. Think of it as a long term investment into your child’s future, that money cannot buy!
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