Our immune systems are established when we are born. It consists of organs, proteins, cells and tissue whose sole purpose is to fight off invaders and support healthy function within the body. Recent studies have shown that the gut bacteria are responsible for majority of your immune responses.
We are not born with gut bacteria but rather it is passed down from mother to baby during the birthing process through secretions in the birthing canal which enters the baby’s orifices. In contrast babies which are born through C-section lack these secretions and tend to acquire the bacteria of the doctors and nurses who handle them at birth instead.
There are then things which suppress this immune system and others which promote it. Things which suppress the immune system include
- Anti-inflammatories. Inflammation is your immune system’s response of fighting off an invader. By taking an anti-inflammatory you cause the body’s immune response to be “shut down” and the invader to thrive which is why you then require antibiotics
- Antibiotics can cause havoc to any immune system. Remember when we said that our immunity is made by gut bacteria? Good! Then you’ve probably figured that an antibiotic kills all good bacteria in the gut as well as any bad bacteria which may be lurking. Recurrent infections? Those are because you’ve just wiped out your immune system which is supposed to support you.
- Sugar has been found to suppress the immune system by up to 45% for up to 5 hours after eating it. Trying to figure out why your child has had a flu, bronchitis and hand, foot and mouth disease in a span of 5 months? Perhaps consider looking at their diet.
- Staying indoors. Vitamin D is obtained by being exposed to the sun. It is responsible for regulating the immune system and keeping things like allergies and intolerances. The second reason staying indoors is bad is because your child is not being exposed to various microbes and as such they cannot build any immunity and promote good gut health.
What can you do to strengthen the immune system?
Homeopathy for one is the best treatment for children as the remedies stimulate the body’s immune system to start healing itself.
Other things you can do to stimulate your children’s immune system include:
- Playing outdoors: Allow your child to get dirty and dusty in order to expose them to microbes so that they may build their immunity
- Diet: A diet low in sugar and artificial flavourants and colourants and high in vegetables and fruits will provide a well-balanced intake of nutrients.
- Multivitamin: A good multivitamin is a great idea for children, especially the picky eaters who don’t eat their veggies!
- Stop the Antibiotics. Unless necessary, avoid antibiotic use. If completely necessary supplement your antibiotic with probiotics (ensure they are given 2 hours apart with the antibiotic being given first)
- Breast feed your baby. IgA is an antibody which is found in human breast milk and which your newborn is deficient in. As your baby breastfeeds it obtains 0.25-0.5 grams of IgA daily via the breast milk. This IgA is the main defence mechanism for the mucosal membranes which are found in the gastrointestinal, genito-urinary and respiratory tracts.
Hanson , L. A. & Söderström , T., 1981. Human milk: Defense against infection. Progress in clinical and biological research, 61(1), pp. 147-159.
Round, J. L. & Mazmanian, S. K., 2009. The gut microbiome shapes intestinal immune responses during health and disease. Nature Reviews Immunology, 9(5), pp. 313-323.
Spector, T., 2015. The Diet Myth. New York: The Overlook Press.