Herbfacts

Children’s Health: how to keep them happy and healthy

Children come into contact with bugs every day and building your child’s immunity is key to longer term health.

Clinical nutritionist, Suzie Sawyer, shares her top five tips for boosting children’s wellbeing.

It’s that time of year again when all the family become more susceptible to bugs usually brought into our homes by our children or their friends, who tend to pick up whatever nasties are flying about in the school playground.   There are also several health issues that tend to plague the younger generation.  But the good news is with some mindful planning around their nutritional needs, many of the more common health issues can be prevented.

AVOIDING WINTER BUGS

Vitamin C is one of the key nutrients for keeping the immune system in good shape. Encouraging your children to eat as many fruits and vegetables is clearly important, particularly all types of berries and citrus fruits. Interestingly, an old favourite, black elderberry has long been associated with boosting immunity and is found in a number of supplements, especially during the winter.

Every morning get your children into the habit of having a warm drink with lemon, together with a teaspoon of Manuka honey, which contains wonderful anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties.

SHARPENING THEIR CONCENTRATION

Keeping children focused can certainly be a challenge at times! There has been an enormous amount of research generated on how sugar affects brain function, but especially a child’s ability to concentrate and to write. Sugary, fizzy drinks are probably the most disruptive to brain function, so try to encourage your children to drink plain water as much as possible.

Additionally, sprinkle some lecithin granules onto their cereal in the mornings; they’re a great source of phospholipids – needed for good brain function; your children will hardly notice them in their breakfast bowl.

HELPING THEM TO SLEEP

Sleeping can often be problematic for children whatever their age. Avoiding sugary foods and drinks for at least three hours before bedtime is key. Additionally, the minerals calcium and magnesium help to relax the muscles (and the brain) and are a great combination to take about an hour before bedtime. They are often available from health food shops in a palatable drink form so it’s worth asking in your local store. Finally, it may seem obvious, but a regular bedtime routine involving some quiet time, a warm bath and a story can really help; sometimes the simplest things work the best!

SORTING OUT TUMMY TROUBLES

Children can sometimes get tummy upsets for no apparent reason. As with everything, prevention is better than cure. Aloe vera, a well-loved botanical remedy, can provide great digestive support; it also helps to encourage regular bowel movements and promote the production of digestive juices. Aloe vera contains some great anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties to help support good immunity.

Additionally, probiotics or friendly bacteria not only support the digestive system but also are a key factor in keeping the immune system in great shape. Look out for specific supplements containing the most common friendly bacterial strains such as Lactobacillus acidophilus and Bifidobacterium bifidum. These are all available in health food stores.

IMPROVING MOOD AND BEHAVIOUR

Children (and, indeed, adults) are frequently deficient in the essential omega 3 fatty acids. The best sources are oily fish, such as salmon and mackerel, or nuts and seeds, which are foods that many children don’t eat. Omega 3s are important for the developing and growing brain and a deficiency can sometimes lead to poor concentration, mood swings and behavioural problems – not great!

Unfortunately, fish fingers contain very small amounts of omega 3s so do try to encourage them to eat salmon a couple of times a week. Homemade fish cakes containing salmon can be very popular!

By making some fairly small changes you can make big improvements to your children’s overall health, and especially their immunity.