Tips to Maintain Kid’s Health All Winter Long

Be sure to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, because they are rich in antioxidant vitamins and nutrients that boost the immune system and help fight off infection. Top antioxidants include vitamins C and E, plus beta-carotene and zinc. To get enough of these antioxidants, eat brightly colored fruits and vegetables,

and consider taking whole food supplements daily.

Vitamin C is involved in many important processes in the body, including production of white blood cells, antibodies and interferon, all of which are critical for fighting viral illnesses. This anti-inflammatory, collagen-building nutrient helps to restore the respiratory system and builds a strong respiratory tract, which is the first defense against flu viruses. Dietary sources include oranges, strawberries and tomatoes.

Vitamin A helps keep the mucus membranes that line our respiratory tract healthy, promoting a healthy immune system that serves as a strong barrier against infection and prevents the entry of harmful bacteria. Dietary sources include liver, milk products, carrots, spinach and cantaloupe.

Vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, is a powerful immune system modulator. We may become deficient in cooler weather, when days are shorter and we spend less time outdoors, so a supplement may be in order.

Focus on whole food nutrition and choose healthy lean meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts and seeds, while minimizing unhealthy fats. Consume plenty of fresh purified water daily. Limit consumption of processed foods and refined sugars, understanding kids are the sickest during the winter months of October to February, correlating with high-level sugar consumption from Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years and Valentines Day.

Take a daily multi-strain probiotic to help maintain balance in the digestive track and prevent development of gutrelated illnesses such as gastroenteritis and food allergies. When the natural balance of good bacteria is lost through prolonged use of antibiotics, the immune system can be weakened and allow for entry of foreign invaders that cause havoc in the body, including recurring illnesses, inflammatory disorders and even autoimmune problems. Natural sources include kefir and yogurt. Plain Greek yogurt is a good choice because it is high in protein and low in sugar. Supplements should be based on recommendations from a healthcare provider.

Fatigue and lack of enough rest and relaxation time increases susceptibility to illness. Schedule in some downtime and get adequate sleep to reduce stress. Wash hands with soap and water, avoiding harsh antibacterial soaps and hand gels. They can do more harm than good.

Regular exercise increases the level of leukocytes, an immune system cell that fights infection. Exercise is also associated with increased release of endorphins, known to improve a sense of well-being and improve sleep. Exercising just 20 to 30 minutes daily can help reduce the risk of catching a cold.

Deborah Bain, M.D., is a doctor of pediatrics and owner of Healthy Kids Pediatrics, in Frisco. For more information, call 972-294-0808 or visit HealthyKidsPediatrics.com.

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