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Strengthening Your Child’s Immune System

Written by Jane Sheppard   
Wednesday, 01 December 2004 00:00
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The key to a healthy child is a strong immune system

When functioning properly, the immune system fights diseaseproducing organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi, and parasites. All children are continuously exposed to these pathogens, but exposure does not mean a child will get sick. A strong immune system provides a child with powerful natural defenses against disease. Conversely, a child with a weakened immune system is vulnerable or more susceptible to colds, flu, and more serious illnesses.

It is virtually impossible to germproof your child. Germs are abundant everywhere, especially in situations such as daycare or preschool. Being exposed to germs is a part of life, and not necessarily unfavorable. Exposure to different viruses and bacteria can actually strengthen a child’s immune system. Furthermore, acquiring innocuous childhood diseases such as chicken pox, measles, mumps and rubella can help to build immunity and give your child lifetime protection against these diseases. Lifetime immunity is important since these diseases can have serious negative effects if acquired as an adult.

Strengthening Your Childs Immune SystemIf your child is overly susceptible to illness, you may want to take steps to enhance his or her immune system and make it as strong as possible. Prevention is the way to avoid subjecting your child to continuing cycles of antibiotics or other medications. The powerful tools of prevention include breastfeeding, good nutrition, nutritional supplements, a healthy mental attitude and emotional well-being, a nontoxic environment, chiropractic care, avoiding unnecessary antibiotics and vaccines, low stress, and plenty of rest and exercise.


Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding for as long as possible is crucial to developing a strong immune system. Breastmilk supplies the factors necessary to protect your baby against disease, as well as all the nutrition he or she needs, including the essential fatty acids. Breastfed babies experience fewer infections than babies that are bottle-fed. Feeding a baby artificial milk (formula) deprives him or her of receiving the crucial protection that breastmilk provides.


Strengthening Your Childs Immune SystemNutrition & Nutritional Supplements

Good nutrition is essential to developing and keeping the immune system healthy and strong. Nutritional deficiencies may be responsible for chronic immune problems as it is easier for bacteria or viruses to take hold when important nutrients are missing. Critical nutrients that stimulate a strong immune system include vitamins A, C, E and essential fatty acids. The most important minerals include manganese, selenium, zinc, copper, iron, sulfur, magnesium and germanium. These nutrients can be obtained from an organic wholefoods diet consisting of fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, beans, and whole grains. Unfortunately, most of our food supply is artificially manipulated and processed with many ingredients and additives that contribute to poor nutrition. Processed foods, sugar, and soda can weaken the immune system. These “foods” add nothing in the way of nutrition, and if your children fill up on a lot of them, they are not likely to eat healthy foods with essential nutrients. This can lead to a weak immune system. You may want to consult a qualified nutritionist or naturopathic physician to find out if your child has any deficiencies.

Dietary fats can either enhance or impair immune function, depending on the type of fat. The wrong types of fats (hydrogenated oils found in deep fried foods, margarine and baked goods) can predispose a child to recurrent infections and inflammatory conditions. Essential fatty acids (the good fats) are essential to normal immune and nervous system function. They are found in flaxseed oil, evening primrose oil, hemp seed oil, borage seed oil, and fish oil. Cod liver oil is a great way for kids to receive essential fatty acids.