It's easy to forget about the importance of the immune system while it's quietly going about its business.
It's only when our kids wake up with a rotten cold that we tend to give it any serious thought. But the immune system is hard at work all year-round, supporting your children's health and wellbeing and letting them get on with everyday life, not to mention helping them navigate the bacterial diversity of school and childcare.
It's time we stop thinking of a child's immune system as a seasonal thing - a sort of wall we should build in winter - and instead support it holistically and all year round.
Our natural defence system
The body has evolved a wondrous system of barriers against unwanted microbes.
Before even entering the body, a brave microorganism has to fight its way past a whole barricade of natural defences.
Our skin secretes oil with bacteria-killing properties. Our lungs can trap foreign particles. The antibodies and acids in our stomachs kill microbes. Even our tears and saliva contain antibacterial enzymes. And these defences are active 24/7, 365 days a year, not just when a cold arrives on the scene.
If an unwanted microbe does make it past the outer defences, it still has the immune system proper to deal with. Remember, up to70 per cent of the body’s immune cells live in the gut, so it's supporting your child's microbiome with a gut-friendly diet is something to be mindful of.
Fibre-rich foods, such as whole grains and legumes, can increase beneficial bacteria in the gut and support the healthy bowel function of your kids. Zinc, which can be found in red meat, shellfish, seeds and nuts, is also helpful in supporting the health of the young immune system.
Dirt can be good
There are many other ways you can give your child's immune system a helping hand.
Exposure to a good diversity of bacteria can help to support immune system function, so encourage your children to play outdoors with other kids, give them an opportunity to play with animals, and avoid over-sterilising your home. It’s okay for your kids to get a bit muddy every now and then - bad news for laundry day, maybe, but good news for bacterial diversity.
Regular outdoor activity has many benefits for the immune system: along with healthy exercise and exposure to bacteria, your child will produce vitamin D from the sun. Exercise can also encourage good sleep, which again benefits your child's immune system health.
It can be helpful to take a holistic approach to immune system health. While it's important to look after the dietary and physical side of things, don't forget that positive emotions can also have a positive effect on wellbeing. So be sure to offer your children an environment of love, encouragement and support. Let yourself be silly with your kids.
Probiotic supplements are an additional avenue of immune system support for your kids.
Premedy™ probiotics can help maintain a healthy immune system by supporting the levels of beneficial bacteria in your child's gut. Premedy™ Children's Immune Probiotic, in addition to three strains of naturally sourced probiotics, contains zinc and vitamin D to support immune system health.
The common cold is just one reason why a healthy immune system is so important. For the times when colds do sneak through, Premedy™ Children's Immune Probiotic also contains elderflower, which has been traditionally used in western herbal medicine to relieve symptoms of the common cold.
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your healthcare professional. Not to be used in children under two years of age without medical advice. Supplements should not replace a balanced diet.