The first thing that comes to our mind when we talk about immunity is flu shots. However, the best way to build immunity is natural immunizations with the help of microorganisms / microbes . We have all heard of one such kind of microbe. Probiotics which are the beneficial organisms that we get from food. They help us improve our digestive and gut health.
This microbiome reside in all parts of our body and are affected by our lifestyle, environment, food, sleep and medications. Microbes and their number, the species and balance of good and bad ones decide our immunity and health. For the microbiome to thrive, we need to maintain a ratio of good and bad bacteria in our body at 85:15.
How do we improve our child’s microbiome and thus their immunity, health and growth?
The vaginal secretions inoculate the baby with microbiome while they pass through the birth canal. This is also why babies born via vaginal delivery have better immunity than those via C section. Experts recommend smearing vaginal secretions from the mother on the baby if it is a C – section. Mother’s microbiome also passes to the baby via breast milk which is crucial for the baby’s immunity, growth and health.
Eating the Right Food
Eat according to season and consume different kinds of organic and local vegetables, fruits, tubers, pulses and grains. This will help repopulate all the different species of beneficial bacteria. When local, organic and seasonal whole foods are included in diet, the need for prebiotic and probiotic supplements doesn’t arise.
Parent tip : A teaspoon of chavanprash every morning and a fruit as a school snack is a very good start.
Honey is one of the most delicious medicine and a prebiotic. Eating honey from your local farm or beekeeper gives your child microexposure to the dirt and pollen from your area. This will strengthen their immune system and reduce flare up of allergies . The pasteurised store bought honey will not give the same effect.
Plenty of free play time
Most developed nations and the WHO insist on a minimum of 180 minutes of physical activity a day for children under 2 years of age. It also recomends 120 minutes of free play time a day for pre-schoolers and atleast 60 minutes for children above 5. Outdoor activity is essential for:
- Getting more Sunlight which helps them build their immunity and improve their sleep.
- Getting Vitamin D which is crucial for bone strength and their growth.
- Improving personality traits like creativity, imagination, emotional stability, socializing skills and attentiveness.
Researchers have evidence that spending time in green spaces provide protection against ADHD, depression, diabetes, obesity and reduces anxiety. There are about 21 ways through which being out in nature can improve health.
Studies and research also prove that children who spend more time in nature tend to be happier adults.
Get hands dirty –.
Children by nature love to play with dirt, mud and soil. It is fine as long as it is with good dirt like the soil in your garden or sand in the backyard, beaches or parks.
Soil based organisms (SBO) as they are called are the most important and easiest way of getting our probiotics. It is an important way humans got their probiotics and immunizations long before nutraceutical industry flourished. Our skin absorbs the necessary microbes when we are in contact with nature (walking barefoot, working on a farm or garden, playing in mud and soil).
Research conducted in Ohio State University proves the kids who have early exposure to soil and dirt have less allergies and robust immune system.
Stop running behind children with sanitizers or anti bacterial soaps/wipes. Don’t prevent them from getting dirty or keep them sterile and clean all the time. Regular soap with warm water is good enough to wash away the bad bacteria and to keep the good ones.
While the above-mentioned points help us build the microbiome, one of the biggest disrupters are the use of OTC drugs and antibiotics. When a normally healthy adult has one round of antibiotics, it takes upto six months to get back the gut bacteria destroyed (by the antibiotics).
Poor diet with refined and processed foods, poor sleep , frequent travel, chronic stress, inactivity, smoking , alcohol and certain medications(read most OTC medicines and antibiotics) destroy upto 40% of the good microbe species in as little as 10 days.
Organizations like WHO have been reminding medical and healthcare professionals to reduce the use of antibiotics. Not only are we having too much of antibiotics in the form of medicines, we also have antibacterial chemicals added to personal care products. They are added to toothpaste, floor cleaners, deodorants, handwash and body soaps. The personal care products also have endocrine disruptors that cause hormonal imbalance. Antibiotics are also there in most of the food that we consume on a daily basis like dairy, eggs and meat and ( animals injected with antibiotics).
When we ensure that our kids have the right microbes in their body, they will automatically have a robust immune system .