Notebook? Check! Shiny new backpack? Yep. Probiotics, prebiotics and fish oil?? Triple check!
Helping your child develop a healthy immune system is so important because it will help them develop resilience, meaning that any sickness they do get will be less severe and the duration of their sickness will be reduced. Resilience also refers to the ability to bounce back after dealing with a stressful situation, whether that be a test or a disagreement with their friends at school.
Resilience can be cultivated from both a nutritional and lifestyle perspective, and doing so will give your children the tools to be the best version they can be! Here are 5 tips to follow to build resilience in children.
Eating a variety of colourful plant foods ensures that your child consumes lots of phytonutrients. (Phyto simply means “plant.”) Phytonutrients come in the thousands and they’re the beneficial compounds that give plants their unique taste, texture and colour, and they have hundreds of benefits for kids. Some phytonutrients act as antioxidants, protecting our cells from oxidative damage; others are anti-inflammatory and tame chemicals that would otherwise increase inflammation. Getting kids to eat a rainbow of foods and therefore consume plenty of phytonutrients is super important to raising a resilient child. However, research tells us that most kids are not getting enough variety, and 40% of fruit and veggie intake among Canadian kids comes from white potatoes and fruit juice. And the total daily servings of green veggies among Canadian children ages 2–8 is just one-third of a single serving.
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. I recommend giving kids probiotic foods such as sauerkraut, kefir, miso, tempeh and kombucha in addition to a multi-strain probiotic supplement. This is because a diversity of microbes from multiple strains is shown to be beneficial for reducing allergies and atopic eczema. Probiotic bacteria, such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus GG (LGG), L. reuteri and Saccharomyces boulardii are some of the best studied strains for helping reduce the severity of infectious diarrhea caused by rotavirus – very common in children throughout cold and flu season. In addition, research has shown L. Reuteri has an ability to reduce bloating in children and reduce absent days from school. L. rhamnosus, as well, has shown a reduced occurrence and duration of respiratory tract infections and a reduced duration of childhood diarrhea. There is developing research on the role of L. rhamnosus in supporting healthy mental outlook and cognitive function in children.
Just as important as probiotics, are prebiotics. In simple terms, prebiotics are the food for your gut bacteria. These are the non-digestible food components that benefit the microbiome by selectively stimulating the growth or activity of non-pathogenic bacteria in the colon. Simply giving your child a variety of plant foods will help maximize both their nutrition and prebiotic consumption. Some of our favourite prebiotic foods are raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, as well as rolled oats. fermented organic gut superfoods+ kids is also a wonderful supplemental source of prebiotic fibre. The combination of phytonutrient foods and prebiotic fibre has been shown to improve children’s cognitive function and mood, maintain healthy body weight, promote immune function and normal bowel movements.
Up to 84% of children consume less than one serving of fish/seafood per week, and have been found to have lower levels of EPA & DHA than adults. EPA & DHA are key nutrients in brain development, and Omega-3 supplementation has been shown to improve clinical symptoms and cognitive performance in children with ADHD. In addition, vitamin D helps support healthy development of the brain, eyes and nerves in children up to 12 years old. It’s important for cognitive health and brain function, as well as the development and maintenance of bones and teeth. Unlike most nutrients, it’s actually difficult to get an adequate amount of vitamin D from food but the good news is that our body has the ability to manufacture vitamin D. It’s commonly referred to as the “sunshine vitamin” because sunlight is the best way to get vitamin D in our bodies. Unfortunately, in cooler climates like Canada, we just aren’t getting enough sunlight to really get us the required daily amount of D, which is why I suggest supplementing with vitamin D from birth.
Getting outside in green spaces and being surrounded by nature has many remarkable research-backed benefits for human health – especially for kids – and the best part is, it’s completely free! It has been shown to reduce stress, lower the risk of depression and anxiety and improve overall mental health. In fact, according to a paper from Aarhus University in Denmark, kids who grow up surrounded by nature have a 55 percent less risk of developing various mental disorders later in life. It even benefits children positively diagnosed with hyperactivity and attention-deficit disorder by helping them have better focus and attention.
The great outdoors also helps us all be more resilient because green spaces help kids better withstand and recover from challenging situations. In fact, the University of Colorado discovered that schools with green schoolyards decreased children’s stress levels because they found “peace away from the stresses in the classroom and daily life.” In addition, children who play in outside, whether that be in the dirt or in a sandbox, have a greater microbial diversity. On that note, let them eat dirt!
Joy McCarthy is a Holistic Nutritionist and founder of JoyousHealth.com, an award-winning blog focused on healthy living. She’s a two-time bestselling author or Joyous Health and Joyous Detox and a World Gourmand Cookbook Award recipient. Her third book, The Joyous Cookbook, comes out late 2019. A trusted nutrition expert, Joy has been featured in hundreds of publications, both online and in print, and is a regular health expert of television, including Cityline and CTV’s Your Morning. Joy lives in Toronto with her husband, Walker, and their daughter, Vienna.
Joy has partnered with Genuine Health to launch Genuine Health-y kids, a line of supplements made with your child’s resiliency in mind—throughout the school year.
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