As parents, we want to do everything we can to keep our kids safe and healthy. Of course, that may prove challenging when all your child wants to do is play in the mud or hunt for worms, and even when they’re older and struggling to practice basic hygiene.
In recent years, we’ve gained an advanced understanding of the function of the immune system and the gut microbiota at its center. This has allowed us to develop the concept of immuno-nutrition—a form of nutrition that caters to the ideal physiological interaction between us and our gut flora, a key factor in developing a healthy immune system. More specifically, this form of nutrition targets certain specific nutrients such as prebiotic oligosaccharides (OS) that benefit the immune system. So how does immuno-nutrition play a role in the development of your child’s immune system?
Luckily, there are many things you can do to help your kids strengthen their immune system and stay healthy. Learn how your child’s immune system develops, what can weaken it, and how to boost your child's immune system naturally with supplements such as Teramune.
How Does the Immune System Work?
Your immune system is made up of white blood cells, specialized tissues and organs that work together to defend your body against pathogens—invasive substances like bacteria and viruses. To generalize, your immune response comes in two forms: innate immunity and adaptive immunity.
As the name suggests, the innate (or nonspecific) immune system is the one you have already developed at birth. Innate immunity is passed genetically from parent to child, so you can pat yourself on the back for all your efforts to stay as healthy as possible through your pregnancy.
The immune system consists of both physical and chemical immune barriers, such as the cough reflex, skin, mucous membranes, and stomach acid. All of these act as physical barriers that protect you from harmful pathogens.
Though it is less powerful than some other components of the immune system, the innate immune system is still your first line of defense against all foreign substances called antigens. This is especially important for a young child, whose adaptive immune system hasn't fully developed yet. If the antigens can bypass this first line of defense, adaptive immunity takes over.
Adaptive immunity is unique for everyone, and evolves constantly over your child’s lifetime. As we are exposed to various pathogens, our immune system is able to identify them and set up a targeted defense that attacks each pathogen based on its specific characteristics. When your body is under attack from a pathogen, the thymus gland releases B and T lymphocytes (cells). B cells produce antibodies and T cells directly attack antigens—structures on the surface of pathogens that your immune system is able to identify.
These types of white blood cells work together to protect your child against damage from the pathogen, including viral and infectious threats. Remarkably, your immune system is able to remember pathogens it has been exposed to—this is the adaptive component. When your body is re-exposed to a pathogen it’s already encountered, it’s able to launch a quicker, more targeted attack against it and get rid of it sooner. This is how your immune system develops and grows stronger over time.
How Does a Child's Immune System Develop After Birth?
As a parent, you might worry about your child during flu season, especially when they’re spending time in a full classroom every day. After all, their immune systems aren’t as strong as ours.
From birth, human milk has been shown to have important effects on the development of the bifidogenic flora and on the development of the immune system overall. Some infant formulas are fortified and proven to be effective in infants who cannot breastfeed. Regulation of the digestive immune system is a key step during the infant's first months of life. Around 15 days after birth, an increase in immunoglobulins—also known as antibodies—is already observable.
Several studies suggest that the process of the immune system’s development is largely influenced by external factors, especially on the microbial level. The immune system begins developing from the first hours of life, when the digestive tract first begins to be colonized by good bacteria. The contact, exchange, and communication between the antigenic structures of food or microbial with the flora of the intestinal mucosa makes up a very specific system in the body that results in your B and T lymphocytes (immune cells) being introduced to antigens.
These cells are then distributed over the entire length of the digestive tract in a process known as the “homing phenomenon.” Bacteria in the intestinal flora appear to influence the number and distribution of GALT cells, which are made up of lymphoid tissue found in the gastrointestinal tract. The lymphoid tissue makes up about two-thirds of the body's immune system and plays a crucial role in its maturation.
If a child does not have enough exposure to microbial stimulation, they will become predisposed to allergies and other forms of immune system dysfunction. So you can take a deep breath and relax about trying to sterilize everything your child touches.
What Causes a Child to Have a Weak Immune System?
What are common causes of low immunity in children? They are 2 types of immune deficiencies that can lead to a weakened immune system:
- Primary immunodeficiencies (PIDDs) are present at birth, though symptoms may not appear until later in life. Primary immunodeficiencies are caused by medication use, trauma, or poor diet or lack of nutrition of the mother during pregnancy. PIDDs are often hereditary, meaning that in addition to the factors above, people with PIDDs are often genetically predisposed to have it.
Acquired deficiency occurs due to a specific infection or environmental factor that impacts people who are otherwise completely healthy. Immune deficiencies are often caused by continual medication use due to an illness. This is not to say that you should stop taking antibiotics or other medications if they are necessary, but simply that medications should not be your go-to solution for every sickness as they have an impact on your immunity. Instead, consider trying some natural remedies such as resting, eating healthfully, and taking all-natural supplements before you resort to using medication.
How to Boost Your Child's Immune System Naturally
There are many things you can do to improve the immune system of your kids, many of which require a simple lifestyle adjustment.
When sickness strikes, avoid antibiotics if possible. Instead, take a more holistic approach to healing and consider making overall lifestyle changes to boost your kids’ immune system. We cover this in our blog about the connection of antibiotics and the immune system. (LINK)
Let Fever Run Its Course
Though it can often be worrying, a high fever does not necessarily indicate that your child’s condition is dangerous. In fact, fever is actually a natural response, and is your body’s way of fighting off sickness.
In some cases, minor illnesses can cause a high fever, while serious illnesses only cause a low fever. Sometimes other symptoms like confusion, difficulty breathing, or refusing to drink are much better indicators of the severity of the disease than your child’s body temperature. However, when your child’s temperature rises above 103 °F, although very rare, you have good reason to fear as this can be dangerous. You can read more about this topic in our blog about fever and the immune system.
Some experts even believe that prematurely reducing fever may prolong the sickness, as it is interfering with the immune system's natural response to infection. Therefore, healthy children rarely require treatment for fever. That being said, for children who have a health condition involving their lungs, heart, or any sort of brain disorder, fever can be damaging as it is very taxing on their bodies. If your child does suffer from one of these conditions, it’s important that you try to keep his/her temperature down.
Practice Proper Nutrition
As we reviewed in our chapter on nutrition, proper nutrition is essential to the health of your immune system. It’s even more important for your kids, as their immune system is still developing. A balanced, nutritious diet will help your child’s immune system grow stronger. Plus, you make it fun with plenty of variety and colors. If you’re wondering how to go about providing your child with the ideal diet, here’s a list of some of the most valuable substances the body needs to thrive:
- Healthy homemade food (limit processed foods)
- Simple wholefood ingredients
- Lots of vegetables, fruits
- Minimal added sugar
Make Sleep a Priority
A third of adults in the United States report that they usually get less sleep than is recommended. Sleep deprivation can have serious health consequences and is considered the cause of several chronic conditions including type 2 diabetes, heart disease, obesity, and depression.
These are the recommended hours of sleep per day for your child based on their age group:
- Newborn (0-3 months): 14-17 hours (National Sleep Foundation)/no recommendation (American Academy of Sleep Medicine)
- Infant (4-12 months): 12-16 hours (including naps)
- Toddler (1-2 years): 11-14 hours (including naps)
- Preschool (3-5 years): 10-13 hours (including naps)
- School Age (6-12 years): 9-12 hours
- Teen (13-18 years): 8-10 hours
Of course, actually getting your kids to sleep the recommended amount can sometimes prove challenging. Here are some tips on how to ensure your kids get a good night’s sleep. Remember, when you model good sleep behaviors for your kids, they will naturally follow.
Go to bed and wake up at the same time each day, including weekends
Keep their bedroom at a comfortable temperature
Remove electronic devices from their bedroom
Avoid large meals and too much sugar before bedtime
Make sure your kids are active during the day so they can fall asleep at night
Have a nighttime routine like taking a warm bath, brushing your teeth, and reading a bedtime story
Make sure the lights aren’t too bright while you’re getting ready for bed. Turn them off completely when it's time to go to sleep, unless your child needs a nightlight.
Let your kids have fun outside! It’s okay if they get a little dirty. It’s healthy for children to be exposed to nature at a young age, and research shows that kids who grow up with dogs and/or play outdoors tend to have stronger immune systems as they are exposed to harmless germs which can help strengthen their gut health.
Let Them Have Fun
Make sure your kids have time to have fun and enjoy themselves. Stress can affect anyone who feels overwhelmed, even young kids. In preschool-age children, separation from their parents can cause anxiety. As kids get older, academic and social pressures can create stress. That’s why it’s so important that they have space to have fun and relax at home.
Use Home Remedies
There are plenty of holistic remedies available that can be a great immune system booster for your kids and decrease their chances of getting sick. For example, you can try Teramune Immune Support or Cough & Throat Spray for Kids. Before you try out anything at home, we recommend that you get advice from your professional practitioner or pediatrician so you know the best approach to take.
Building your child’s immunity at a young age is a great way to promote their overall health and happiness. There are plenty of simple solutions for how to boost your child’s immune system such as providing them with a nutritious diet. Being disciplined with your kids and encouraging them to live healthfully will be beneficial to them for their entire life, not just their childhood. Remember, children develop their habits based on what they learn from you. By being a great role model, you can help your child live the best life possible!
Boost Your Kids’ Immune Systems with Teramune
For the best supplements to boost your kids’ immune system, choose Teramune. We’ve specially formulated a unique blend of edible essential oils that are gentle and easy for your kids to use. Our products are alcohol-free, non-GMO, vegan, and certified organic, so you can be confident you’re giving your kids the best remedies that will keep them healthy. Shop Teramune today and contact us to learn more about the immune system or any of our products.
- Reference pages
- Paruthi S, Brooks LJ, D’Ambrosio C, Hall WA, Kotagal S, Lloyd RM, et al. Recommended amount of sleep for pediatric populations: a consensus statement of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine. J Clin Sleep Med. 2016;12(6):785–786. https://www.cdc.gov/sleep/about_sleep/how_much_sleep.html
- https://www.parents.com/health/cold-flu/cold/boost-childs-immunity/ **
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