Although it may often seem that your children bring home every single virus, this is actually a good thing. The exposure to viruses and bacteria in their world challenges and strengthens their immune systems so they can grow into resilient teenagers and adults.
Support their microbiome
Long before a baby is born, the microbial communities in the baby’s mother are sharing immune cells with the developing fetus. From day one, bacteria start educating the immune system. And, after birth, when a mother breastfeeds, she’s passing along microbes. Among other benefits, this sharing of bacteria has been associated with a decreased risk of allergies.
You can support your child’s immune system beyond infancy by ensuring that they get adequate phytonutrients, prebiotics, and probiotics.
Phytonutrients are the compounds that give plants their unique taste, texture, and colour. They have many health benefits, one of which is supporting the growth of beneficial microbes. For example, eating broccoli (a kid-favourite in my household) has been found, in research, to directly impact bacterial communities in the gut.
My advice for getting children to eat their veggies is not to give up! Give your child a variety of different plant foods so they develop an appreciation for a variety of tastes and textures. But when that doesn’t work, I often recommend children take a whole food-based superfood made from a variety of fruits and vegetables to maximize their phytonutrient intake.
Prebiotics are food for our gut bacteria. Giving your child a variety of plant foods will maximize their prebiotic consumption. Some of our favourite prebiotic foods are raspberries, blueberries, and blackberries.
We make smoothies with organic frozen berries, and cookies with rolled oats, both prebiotic foods full of healthy phytonutrients. There’s research to suggest that intake of probiotics and prebiotics can help to prevent infections in children in daycares.
A diverse set of gut flora teaches the immune system to differentiate between friend and foe, and having the right set of gut microbes boosts the activity of immune cells in the gut.
Probiotics like Lactobacillus rhamnosus, L. reuteri, and Saccharomyces boulardii are some of the best studied species helpful for reducing diarrhea caused by rotavirus, common in children during flu season. Probiotics are also beneficial for reducing allergies and atopic eczema. Probiotic supplements are regarded as safe (GRAS) and are well tolerated by children.
Raising resilient children is no small task, but it is an important and rewarding one. As parents, we have an opportunity to make a positive impact on our children’s lives by supporting their microbiome with phytonutrients, prebiotics, and probiotics.
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