In these tough times when the COVID 19 pandemic is set to return with the third wave, growing children need a lot of extra nurturing and nourishment. Bodies are being built and minds are being developed. Boosting immunity is paramount not just for their health now, but also for them to grow into healthy adults.
As a parent you cannot protect them from the spreading Coronavirus, pollution, allergens and toxins or the disease producing organisms such as bacteria, viruses, fungi and parasites around. What you can do, however, is to prepare their bodies by giving a boost to their immunity and giving them natural defenses to fight off the deadly disease. While you cannot prevent viruses and germs from attacking, you can ‘germ-proof’ your kids. Ayurveda, the ancient Indian medicine system considers prevention to be as important as treating the disease. I bring to you some super easy ways to boost your children’s immunity. Read on…
- Nutrition and digestion :
- Nothing compensates for balanced daily nutrition for children’s proper physical, mental and psychological growth. Nutritional deficiencies make children more prone to falling ill.
- Encourage a diet filled with ‘natural foods’ – food that is found in nature. You can opt for whole grains, vegetables, greens and fruits vs. pre-packaged, processed (with artificial colours, preservatives and additives), frozen, refined (food stripped of its nutrition) canned, genetically modified, non-organic (grown with toxic chemicals and pesticides) food. Your child’s ideal diet should include a variety of organic whole grains, fresh fruits, leafy greens, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds and beans.
- White sugar and excess salt greatly reduces our body’s natural ability to defend itself against bacteria and virus. Brown sugar, honey, jaggery, stevia etc. are natural and healthier alternatives to white sugar and sea salt, rock salt are more wholesome choices to table salt.
- Limit consumption of aerated, highly sweetened, caffeinated drinks that weaken the immune system instead and offer fresh fruit juices, buttermilk, smoothies and coconut water.
- Instead of the high calorie zero nutrition snacks and boxed cereals stock your kitchen with homemade healthier options like granola bars, til chikkis (sesame crackers), roasted nuts and seeds, baked chips etc
- Eat local, seasonal, organic and freshly cooked food.
Indigestion: Along with what goes into the body, it’s also important what stays in and comes out. Ayurveda believes the root cause of all disease is indigestion. The semi-digested or undigested foods produce ama or toxins and clog the body. This toxic build up makes the body susceptible to disease. Making sure that your child’s digestion and elimination is regular and working well to guarantee he is less vulnerable to falling ill.
- First thing in the morning a glass of warm water, lemon and honey (preferably Manuka honey) acts to alkaline the body, cleanse the system and give it strength while boosting immunity.
- A banana in the morning (optional sliced banana with Amla powder and honey) and a glass of fresh orange juice (optional with passion fruit juice) is a great kick start for the day. Citrus fruits and Gooseberry (Amla) have high vitamin-C content which boosts immunity while Bananas are rich in vitamin B6, folate, fibre, sugar and potassium; fuel to the brain and muscles.
2. Rest, Relaxation and Sleep:
Today’s children don’t enjoy the ease of childhood like the generation before. Stress and anxiety have become part of their lives too. For building immunity, adequate and sound sleep, emotional balance and ‘quiet me time’ are essential. Ensure they follow a regular sleep routine by sleeping at a reasonable hour and waking up on their own feeling fresh and rejuvenated. Our bodies grow, repair and renew themselves only when we are asleep. Ensure there is a gadget and electronics free time for at least an hour before they sleep. Dim the lights and use to listen to peaceful music, take a warm bath etc. to relieve stress and relax. Ensure they sleep in a dark room; no night lights, no electronics charging etc. Aromatherapy works wonders for children. Use different pure therapeutic grade essential oils to increase focus (peppermint, grapefruit), distress (rose, lavender), sleep sound (ylang ylang, sandalwood), decongest (rosemary, eucalyptus smithi) etc,
3. Exercise and sunshine
One of the most effective ways to build strength and boost immunity is to ensure the children have plenty of time outdoors, in fresh air, doing unstructured activities. Nature is the evergreen immune stimulator; sunshine provides for their daily dose of Vitamin D while being outdoors gives them lungs full of oxygen while building body strength and honing social skills. Playing with sand/mud, running barefoot in the grass, climbing rocks, swimming in the seas, all stimulate different brain points and result in happy, healthy children.
Ayurveda stresses on a daily massage or Abhyanga. It keeps the lymphatic system at its optimum, keeps body hydrated and boosts the circulation strong, thus energizing and cleansing us. While a one hour Ayurvedic massage might not be convenient or practical daily for children, a quick 10-minute one after a bath is definitely doable and immensely valuable. Children have a thinner skin than ours, thus allowing most of what is applied topically, to be absorbed. So choose oils which are natural and preferably Ayurvedic blends. A good bath/body oil also lubricates the skin preventing dry rashes, eczema, hives etc.
5. Natural tonics and herbal supplements
There are a lot of natural foods, spices and herbs that have been used since millennia to strengthen immunity making our bodies more resistant to falling ill. Here are some easy tips that I try to follow –
- Honey is a natural tonic that has remarkable immunological benefits.
- Virgin Coconut oil is a rich source of lauric acid and has strong antimicrobial and antifungal properties. You can give kids by hiding in smoothies or enjoyed straight off the spoon.
- Twice a week I give my children an Ayurvedic Triphala tablet that helps improve digestion and elimination, builds resistance against common cold and flu and helps to increase the number of red blood cells. Triphala (means three fruits) is a combination of three fruits from the herbs – Haritaki, Amalaki and Bibhitaki. It can be also given in powdered form with or without honey and to children above one years of age.
- Chyawanprash an Ayurvedic jam made from herbs and spices is a fabulous energy and immunity booster. One spoon a day gives my children with anti-oxidant properties strengthening the body’s internal defense mechanism. (It should be given to children over age 5)
- Yoghurt and Buttermilk are rich in probiotics or friendly bacteria which are essential for boosting the health of our gastrointestinal tract thus promoting immunity and health.
- Flaxseeds are loaded with omega 3 fatty acids, and may be added to your child’s diet to balance fatty acids and maintain health. Can be taken 1tsp a day (for children aged 2-12) in either form – ground flaxseed or flaxseed oil.
- 4 soaked and peeled almonds in the morning are wonderful immune boosters and nutrient for the nervous system. Hailed as miracle nuts in Ayurveda, almonds help in improving intellectual levels and memory and increase longevity.
- Sesame /Til chikkis made from roasted sesame and jaggery including into regular diet, can help in building strong teeth, bones and hair. Sesame seeds are rich in Magnesium, copper, zinc and calcium while jaggery is a powerhouse of iron, micronutrients and minerals.
- ‘Energy balls’ are immune boosters made with dates, walnuts, flax seeds, sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, wheat germ and olive oil. One a day gives them a power boost while increasing immunity power to resist common infections and allergens.
- A tablespoon of Ghee a day is one of Ayurveda’s favorite elixirs. Although a saturated fat, its molecular structure is unique in the sense that it contains huge amounts of calcium, phosphorous and vitamin A and D; all the right ingredients for boosting immunity. What also makes it special beyond adding vitality to the body and lubricating joints, is that its unique molecular structure bypasses layers of tissue that are otherwise impermeable, like that of the brain. Delivering it nutrients and taking away toxic buildup helping the brain to function optimally.
- 6. Detox your home
Immunity of your child is adversely affected by exposure to harsh chemicals which pervade our homes from household cleaners, furniture and upholstery to personal cosmetics. While it may not be possible to completely protect them, an important step is to reduce this exposure. Create a healthy home environment by using non-toxic natural safe alternatives. Use bedding made from natural fibres and consume organic food. Do remember however a little bit of dirt and germs is actually good for them to build immunity while regular use of commercial disinfectants actually reduces their immunity.
7. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics and vaccines
Antibiotics are being prescribed in excessive amounts for all kinds of ailments ranging from viral colds to more serious ailments. While I am not suggesting you make it a rule to not use them, what I am definitely asking you is to understand how they work and administer them only when they will actually benefit. Antibiotics can gravely weaken a child’s immune system since they build up a resistance to the medicine itself.
Modern medical science often injects nearly 20 to 30 doses of various viral and bacterial vaccines before the age of five. This is huge this overload is a major cause of chronic immune dysfunction amongst children today. Remember, vaccines may provide immunity for a specific disease but they do not increase overall immunity. Be conscious and make informed choices.
8. A Happy Family
Last but by far not the least, the best way to boost immunity is with love! Children surrounded by love, positivity and peace turn out to be healthy and happy. Conflict, stress and arguments unsettle the children and decrease their immunity. So go ahead hug, tickle and kiss your child. Spend quality time actually listening to them, their dreams, fears and feelings. Eat at least one meal as a family and finally be the best role models for them. Share jokes, watch a funny movie; laughter is the best immunity booster. Building and boosting your children’s immunity, like all other things in life is a question of balance. Rather than being on extremes, where you prevent all ‘junk’ food etc to being completely permissive leaving it to destiny, it is best to stay in the middle lane.
Be Balanced. Be Natural. Be You.