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The children's immune system

Dr. Adrian Weingart

The children's immune system

Swallowing becomes torture, your throat burns, your nose runs and your forehead burns - the flu season says hello! For children, this means: kindergarten or school is canceled again. This also has consequences for parents. Everyday life gets mixed up, quite apart from the worries about the offspring.

Hardly anyone gets away scot-free during the cold season. Children in particular are particularly affected, for whom 8-9 infections a year are normal. Right now, strengthening the immune system is more important than ever. For children and for the rest of the family!

Our immune system is complex and multi-layered. In the first years of life, it develops, grows, thrives and learns new things all the time. It is a long process before the immune system is fully developed. The process begins in the womb. The placenta supplies the unborn child with important antibodies that protect the small, fragile body system from initial contact with bacteria and other pathogens. This supply continues through breast milk. The newborn is more or less equipped with antibodies that the mother has developed through contact with certain pathogens. This means that these defense mechanisms can differ depending on the environment. However, this protection weakens again in the first year of life, as the child's body becomes more independent and is now on its own. So the immune system is still very weak, armed with a basic but simple base that the system is now gradually building on.

This passive immunization, which takes place in the womb, provides two crucial components of this system: the so-called killer and scavenger cells. They are part of the white blood cells and are omnivores, so to speak, because they can recognize and destroy a number of dangerous pathogens. It doesn't have to be a specific pathogen, the little wonder weapons just fight and can even trigger chemical reactions that destroy the cell wall of various invaders.Although we are born with an unspecific immune system, it too becomes stronger and more successful in its mission over time.

In addition to the non-specific immune defence, there is the specific immune defence, which represents the main artery of the development of the immune system. This defense force can specifically recognize each pathogen and thus marks the memory with certain antibodies. These antibodies can then immediately identify who it is in the event of repeated attacks by the intruder. As soon as this assignment has taken place, the pathogen is passed on to the scavenger and killer cells as food. In this way, an infection can be warded off quickly and effectively. When an encounter of this kind has taken place, the body can develop a specific immunity, for example against measles, mumps, etc.

Yes, in the beginning a small body has to fight quite a lot of enemies... Whether in the toddler group, playing in the sandpit, or at school - children are constantly in contact with other children and the outside world. Thus, they are constantly exposed to bacteria and viruses from the environment. In schools and kindergartens, this topic is always present - whether middle ear infections, colds and respiratory infections - gastrointestinal infections are also part of it. The motto here is: Obstacles and difficulties only make you stronger! Every new infection contributes to a better equipped immune system, so that on average from the 10th By the end of the year the worst is over and the immune system slowly returns to the level of an adult. It is a very strenuous process for the organism to get to this point, but at the same time it is also a crucial, vital training for a robust body system.

But what are the causes of a weakened immune system in children?

Especially in the cold winter months, the immune system is more susceptible and susceptible to infections. At these times, the body can fight a real fight against infection and so easily gets sucked into the re-infection. Small children are often in close physical contact with others and cannot understand and comply with hygiene measures such as regular hand washing and blowing their nose as adults can. In addition, the lack of important nutrients, psychological and physical stress or insufficient sleep are often the culprits of this chain reaction. With each new attack, the immune defense system loses strength and energy. That is why it is all the more important to actively support the body with good nutrition and additional vitamins! The whole family can join in, because the parents' immune defenses are also challenged by contact with new pathogens, but ultimately strengthened.

A strong immune system needs fuel to work diligently and effectively. This fuel is found in the form of valuable nutrients, mostly obtained from the right foods. But despite the abundance of food in our modern society, such an "immune system fuel shortage" often occurs.

But why is that? In fact, the cause can be traced back to the fact that we have almost too much choice and therefore make choices that aren't necessarily best for our health. Children, in particular, value taste the most, rather than thinking about the health effects of consuming certain foods. That is why they are known to have a relatively one-sided diet. Of course you can't blame them for that. What child doesn't love it colorful and cute!? Although there is a variety of colors and playful shapes in popular offers for children, the essential nutrients are usually very low or non-existent.

Healthy!? I don't like it!

A long-term study conducted by the Robert Koch Institute shows that children in Germany do not eat enough fruit and vegetables when you consider the amount that is generally recommended. The DGE (German Society for Nutrition) also found that German children do not consume enough fruit and vegetables on average. That's why parents must see it as their task to familiarize their offspring with healthy food, to develop an understanding of the exciting variety of healthy food and thus give them a good basis for the future. Because if you eat healthily as a child, you will probably do the same in adulthood and will therefore remain more vital and fit.

Introducing children to healthy eating can sometimes turn into a struggle, because children ask themselves: Why should I just eat something that I don't like? Legitimate question. But you can also make vegetables & Co more tasty for children! We'll tell you the expert tips:

The motivation instead of coercion method has proven itself well so far. Because forcing children to eat up can actually do the opposite of a positive attitude towards healthy eating. Experts continue to advise against using food as a measure of reward or punishment. Many know it from childhood when you first have to “earn” something sweet, especially when you have to eat the “bad” vegetables first. Sweets are thus associated with something positive, while fruit and vegetables are associated with something negative. Finding a balance by not banning everything sweet or unhealthy, but allowing it in moderation, is a very effective measure. Because it all depends on the quantity. Finding a middle ground is also great discipline training! In addition, children can be involved in shopping and cooking in a fun way. A nice idea would be a children's cookbook or choosing seasonal products together and letting the children decide. Trying out new things regularly also brings more fun and variety to the children's eating habits. In this way, the “unknown” is better accepted and not immediately rejected without even giving the food a chance. It can actually take up to 7 attempts before a child can clearly state its attitude towards a certain food - or whether it doesn't taste good or not. If all else fails, you can also hide the unwanted vegetables - for example in sauces, soups or purees. In any case, it is important that you show yourself as a good role model and celebrate the meal - if possible - together at the table!

Now to the all-important question: What exactly does a child's immune system need in order to be optimally armed against pathogens?

Vitamins and trace elements form the necessary building blocks for stimulating the immune system. For example, they are responsible for generating new defense cells and substances. Proper nutrition provides the body with fundamental micronutrients.

We have listed a few examples:

  • Iron: red meat, whole grain bread
  • Vitamin D: salmon, eggs
  • selenium: kohlrabi, peanuts
  • Zinc: Cheese, Potatoes
  • Vitamin C: citrus fruits, peppers

Except in rare cases, the human organism is not able to produce vitamins, trace elements and minerals itself. That means our body relies almost 100% on the nutrients provided by our diet. The right supply is not only important during growth, but micronutrients are indispensable throughout our lives. The metabolism, the energy balance, the nervous system and ultimately the all-encompassing immune system depend on these building blocks.

If vitamins & Co are not taken in sufficient quantities, there is the possibility to help with food supplements. Dailybacs for children are true all-rounders, because a special selection of highly effective wonder weapons are concentrated in a single small capsule: a formulation of probiotics for improved digestion and thus improved nutrient absorption, supplemented with important immune system boosters. The combination of biotin, magnesium, vitamin C, vitamin D, folate, zinc, iron, iodine and calcium is a real defense bomb to support the existing defense system. Regardless, these elements also contribute to specific mechanisms. Iodine, for example, is a mineral that supports a child's normal growth.

Apart from nutrition, the children's immune system can also be strengthened with other aids. Here are a few valuable tips:

  1. Lots of exercise - Team sports such as football or volleyball are great fun and at the same time create workload and balance. Exercise is essential for a strong immune system.
  2. Get some fresh air - Regardless of the weather, with the right equipment you should definitely take the opportunity to get some fresh air. Contact with the environment strengthens the body through thermoregulation and thus arms it against infections. Other stimuli such as dirt and other organisms are important companions for the formation of the immune system.
  3. Quiet time - if you are bored, you have to rely on your own creativity. Such moments are also important, because a well-planned week can build up stress and thus weaken the immune system.
  4. Sufficient sleep - Even children attending elementary school need 10-11 hours of peaceful sleep.
  5. Support intestinal flora - With probiotics, fiber, vitamins, trace elements and vegetable protein for the formation of antibodies and immune cells. Of course, this also includes a balanced diet. Dietary supplements can provide the missing substances and boost absorption a little!
  6. Regular hygiene, but no hygiene madness - Teach children from an early age to wash their hands regularly. A little tip: There are a lot of charming children's books that explain it clearly. On the other hand, a hygiene craze should be avoided - because an over-sterile environment does not offer the immune system enough stimuli to train for a better defense system.
  7. Drink enough - From a medical point of view, water or unsweetened tea are the only recommended drinks. The mucous membranes must remain moistened to ward off pathogens. They dry out easily in winter because we spend a lot of time in heated rooms and the humidity is very low.
  8. Kneipp applications - Apply cold-warm baths to the children's legs to activate the immune system. You should pay very close attention to the temperature, because too great a temperature difference can overwhelm the body. Children are more sensitive to temperature differences than adults.

With all these tips, the children's immune system should be optimally prepared for the cold winter months and already form a fundamental, strong basis for the coming time and into adulthood. With continuous support through proper nutrition, probiotics and important micronutrients, a healthy balance and fun, nothing can stand in the way of the little immune weapons!