3 Low-Lift Ways To Support Kids' Immune Systems, From A Holistic Pediatrician
Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, immune resilience has remained front and center—you need to keep your immune system strong so it's ready to brave any infections that decide to come your way, full stop. As such, we've discussed at length what we can do as adults to support immunity (in case you need a refresher, meander over here).
But if you have a little one (or band of kids) at home, you might be wondering how you, as a parent, can bolster your child's immune system—not only amid this pandemic but as they continue to grow and develop.
Of course, you should speak to your doctor before making any changes to your child's daily regimen. But if you're looking for some general lifestyle interventions—low-hanging fruit, if you will—board-certified pediatrician Joel Warsh, M.D., is your guy. As he explains on the mindbodygreen podcast, there are a few simple changes that can make a huge difference:
1. Focus on organic, whole foods.
"No. 1 far and above for kids is diet," says Warsh. (A familiar notion, no? Many experts recommend prioritizing a healthy diet for disease prevention, at any age). "If [they] don't have all the nutrients and vitamins from the food that [they] eat, it can affect [their] immune systems, and they won't be able to fight off the virus or chronic disease that comes their way."
That said, he encourages parents to bring home healthy, whole foods—after all, parents often do most of the grocery shopping for their kids, so bringing home healthy options is key. "My No.1 tip, even before the pandemic, when it comes to food is to read the labels," Warsh adds. "Turn the box over and look at it. If it says, cranberries, almonds, cashews, it's probably OK, unless of course, they have an allergy. But if it says tetramethyl, or whatever, it's probably not good for you."
In addition to shopping for whole, healthy foods, "prepare the food as much as you possibly can," says Warsh. Of course, you may not have the ability to cook every single meal—that's fine! Just try to prepare food yourself when you can; chances are, you'll use more nutritious ingredients than prepackaged or preprepared meals.
2. Pay attention to the products in your home.
Another general tip but one that strikes a chord especially now: "We're in our homes more than ever right now," notes Warsh. "So you've got to think about all the things you're bringing in your home—all the cleaners and soap products that you're using." Of course, harsh chemicals can be found in a number of everyday household items (cosmetics, canned foods, receipts, and more), but your cleaning products are a relatively easy switch, says Warsh.
"You can go and buy nontoxic cleaners, or you can use oil and vinegar," he says. Or, you can poke through a list of gentler DIY recipes here, from an all-purpose solution to a heavy-duty drain cleaner. "Those small changes can have a huge effect on your overall health," Warsh adds.
3. Spend time outside.
Exercise is important for immunity, but Warsh touts another reason for a socially distant walk outside: vitamin D. "Vitamin D is the one thing that we almost know for sure, at this point, makes a huge difference in the pandemic. We need to have good vitamin D levels," Warsh notes. (He's not wrong: Along with solid research supporting vitamin D's connection to immunity and lung health, a randomized clinical control trial found that vitamin D supplementation nearly eliminated COVID hospitalizations).
While it can be tempting—for children and adults—to stay curled up on the couch in front of a TV, Warsh urges parents to get up and get outside with their kids. "You have to consciously decide to go for a walk today, to go to the park today, to go for a hike," he explains. "It depends where you live, but go somewhere where there are no people—just get outside and get some sun." With sunscreen, mind you, but that hit of vitamin D is still important.
Warsh's tips to strengthen your child's immune system may look strikingly familiar—that's because supporting immunity has no age limit. Diet, exercise, and a clean environment are all crucial for overall well-being, whether you're 5 or 50. So while you're looking to strengthen your kids' immune system? Well, these tips can better you both—so you can certainly join in.
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