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Diet strengthening immunity

Read how diet can help a baby to strengthen his immune system, so no illness thwarts your plans for active time outdoors.
Edited by LOVI | 20 March 2014

Through a tummy to immunity

Many factors influence strengthening of baby's immunity. First of all, walks in fresh air are very important for good ventilation of the body, as well as for its contact with germs to learn how to fight them. Correct choice of clothes is important, so the baby is not overheated and his body learns how to correctly manage temperature, together with physical exercise and good atmosphere at home.

The immunity is also strengthened with appropriate diet.  The alimentary tract and the digestive system form one of the largest units in the immune system, mainly, because blood flowing through it is rich in lymphocytes, i.e., white blood cells responsible for control of germs, as well as due to probiotics produced by intestinal flora and preventing intestinal infections. Probiotics support the immune system by stimulating antibodies production and increasing lymphocyte activity. 

Water brings health

Without appropriate amount of fluids it is not possible for the body to mainatain balance. The best option is to teach your baby to drink water. Drinking mineral water is much better than drinking juice from cartons or coloured drinks with preservatives, because it removes toxins and contaminants from the body.

Fresh, green and rich

With spring around, later followed by summer, ensure your baby's diet contains fresh fruit and vegetables. Fruit and vegetables are not only a very well absorbed source of vitamins and mineral salts, but they also contain phytonutrients, not found in other products. These substances protect plants against bacteria, viruses and fungi, and in humans they improve immunity, help to control infections, and remove toxins from the body.

Saturation with unsaturated fatty acids (UFA)

Necessary unsaturated fatty acids (omega-3 and omega-6) are received only with food, and the body cannot produce them. The ratio at which these acids are supplied, is also important and should be 1:5, in favor of omega-3. Omega-6 acids are found in vegetable oil, and soy and sunflower oils in particular. Omega-3 acids, including docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) so important for brain development and correct cognitive processes, are found in oily saltwater fish.  UFA contribute to protection of the young body against allergies, have an anti-inflammatory effect and are necessary for correct development of the nervous system.

Pro-health probiotics

It is worth to add probiotics to a baby's diet. These are live cultures of beneficial bacteria, producing lactic acid and present in microflora of the digestive system. They bring a lot of benefits to the body: control the digestive system function, contribute to increased absorption of vitamins and minerals, have a beneficial effect on the immune system by improving resistance to infections. Probiotic dietary supplements available at a pharmacy are recommended during antibiotic therapy, while normally we recommend feeding children with food products rich in probiotics, such as natural yogurt, kefir, sauerkraut or pickled cucumbers.

Vitamins and mineral components

For the immune system to function correctly, it needs support in form of all components required for its good functioning. Therefore, you should include in your baby's diet products rich in:

vitamin A, protecting respiratory mucosa against germs penetration; a rich source of vitamin A is found in vegetables and fruit, including carrot, broccoli, spinach, pumpkin, peaches, or apricots.

B6 and other vitamins in the B group, responsible for correct growth of the body, necessary for correct functioning of the nervous system, allowing to store energy and increasing immunity of the body; the baby receives vitamin B6 with fish, also potatoes, spinach, red meat, poultry, eggs, grouts (particularly, barley and buckwheat), almonds, pumpkin and sunflower seeds are rich in B-group vitamins.

vitamin C supports control of viruses and bacteria, and stimulates synthesis of immune cells; its natural sources include oranges, black currants, raspberries, kiwifruit, red and green pepper, spinach or Brussels sprouts.

vitamin D, in the body it influences absorption of calcium and phosphorus, so it is necessary for correct growth and density of bones and healthy teeth, it prevents and alleviates infections, and skin infections in particular, and improves immunity; it is recommended to supplement vitamin D in infants and small children by providing vitamin D in the form of vitamin drops at a dose depending on a feeding system and on the diet, which should be individually arranged with a pediatrician;  fish such as mackerel, salmon and herring, as well as eggs, are a rich source of vitamin D.

iron, necessary for production of red blood cells, iron deficiency causes anemia, a condition in which body immunity is significantly weakened; a rich source of iron is lean red meat,  liver, fish, spinach, chard, broccoli, tomatoes, eggs, buckwheat and millet grout, hazelnuts, almonds, pistachios, sunflower and sesame; you should remember that good iron absorption is supported by vitamin C and folic acid (vitamin B9).

zinc, contributing to prevention of infection development, its deficiency results in lack of appetite and anemia; sunflower seeds, grouts, poultry meat and fish are rich in zinc.

magnesium is important for correct functioning of the nervous and the circulatory systems, helps to remove toxins (e.g., ammonium) from the body; sources of magnesium include bitter cocoa, buckwheat, oatmeal, hazelnuts and bananas.

sulfur, its deficiency reduces body's immunity and it becomes more susceptible to infectious diseases, too low amount of this macroelement leads to infectious skin diseases and delays cellular regeneration; sulfur is found in kohlrabi, black turnip, radishes, garlic and onions.

selenium increases the number of antibodies, and inhibits growth of pathogenic germs; this element can be found in fish, shellfish, and Brazilian nuts.


Replacing sweets
 
  • apple, pear or strawberry crisps dried in a fruit dryer or in an oven

  • fresh fruit

  • dried fruit

  • fresh vegetables, for older children, e.g., carrot or kohlrabi cut into sticks;  younger children should be given steam cooked vegetables

  • home-made fruit sherbet

  • natural yogurt

  • flaked almonds

We say no to these products

Sweets, fast foods, highly processed products should not appear in baby's diet at all, but when they are included, it should be as rarely as possible. Sugar has a bad effect on condition of body mucosa, which become more permeable to germs. Fast-food and highly processed food contain relatively small amounts of natural and easily absorbed nutrienta, while they contain many unhealthy fats, stabilizers and taste enhancers.

Not only what but also how is important.

Correctly understood diet is not limited to the food given to the baby, but also focuses on a way in which it is given. Way of eating is of great importance for an improvement in immunity. Of course, products must be fresh, from a verified source, washed, subjected to appropriate thermal processing, and baby's and our hands must be clean. Frequency of meals is also important. It is the best to serve 5 wholesome meals to the baby every 3–4 hours. A hungry body has limited resources available to combat germs and viruses, so it is more susceptible to infections.


Exemplary daily menu
 
breakfast
brown bread sandwich with fish spread and natural yogurt with banana and raspberries
 
2nd breakfast
egg, glass of freshly squeezed orange juice or kissel made of currant jam and potato starch
 
dinner
vegetable soup, e.g., pumpkin (with some vegetable oil)
veal stewed with carrots, potatoes or grouts (buckwheat/millet),
sauerkraut salad or pickled cucumbers
 
afternoon tea
fruit salad
 
supper  
oatmeal with dried plums, cranberries and apricots (pour warm formula over oats, and warm water over dried fruit, and when it is soft, chop them and add to oatmeal)
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