What does the immune system do?
Their immune system is a complicated network of cells and tissues all over the body. The system is a bit like a “police force” that protect against nasties like virus, bacteria and parasites that cause infections. It stops them from getting in and doing further damage. It also help in repairing and healing.
The common places where infections happen in toddlers is in the throat, nose, lungs and gut. This is because it is easiest places for viruses and bacteria to get in. This is the main cause of colds, flu and tummy or intestinal upsets. It’s not surprising that those places have the most immune activity. In the gut, this is helped by the microflora which protect its ability to absorb nutrients.
How do toddlers develop immunity?
Infants get most of their immune nutrients and other goodies from breast milk. This provides them with protection in the first 1000 days of life, as their own system begins to switch on and just reacts to anything. As toddlers grow, they develop ‘acquired immunity’. This is a more sophisticated ability that recognizes different kinds of viruses and other bugs. Every time a new bug is encountered, the immune system goes into action by making antibodies, after your child gets sick or after an immunization.
Toddlers do this naturally, by just going about their normal behavior. They are always putting things in their mouths and touching their faces, while playing, or being exposed to other children in places like day-care or outdoors. So, it might seem like children are always getting sick, but their immune system “police force” is actively patrolling, using the antibodies to “make a list of the latest suspects”.
Nutrients and the immune system
Like all growing systems in the child’s body, the immune system may not work properly unless it has reliable supply of nutrients. Deficiencies in some vitamins and minerals may lower its responsiveness, making infections last longer, happen more often, or move around the body.
Some important nutrients and dietary factors include:
Zinc: an essential mineral with essential functions:
a mineral that helps replace new immune cells all over the body
helps with healing and recovery after infections
children with deficiency may increase the risk of viral diarrhea. This also slows their growth.
Vitamin D3: the vitamin naturally formed from sunlight, which:
supports growth recovery after illness
helps some parts of the immune system to kill viruses and bacteria
can lead to slower growth if there is not enough in the diet
Omega-3’s (DHA, EPA): essential fatty acids that help:
Supply “building blocks” used by the immune system to make new cells
B-cells, the special cells that make antibodies
reduce inflammation during illnesses
The main source of iron in breastmilk, derived from the protein part
Prevents foreign germs from attaching to the intestine
Supports gut microflora (prebiotic effect)
Improves resistance to colds and flu
a polysaccharide derived from dairy products
used to improve bowel movements and regularity in toddlers (part of dietary fibre)
supports the Bifido- strains of bacteria (prebiotic effect)
a type of polysaccharide derived from plants such as oats, mushrooms and yeast
help stimulate and feed different kinds of gut microflora (prebiotic effects)
immune-boosting effects on the intestine’s own cells
reduces the duration and frequency of colds & flu in 1-4 yr olds
Good nutrition and bad nutrition
Because toddlers are now eating solids, it is important to make sure they get a balanced, nutrient rich and varied diet including fruit and vegetables, whole-grains and protein.
Nutrients can be deficient even when we think our toddlers are eating enough, but it could be enough of the wrong foods, such as those overloaded with saturated fats, sugars, salt and high protein levels. Although they are nutritious, they can lead to “overnutrition”, which can lead to weight problems and may be missing key vitamins and minerals.
Children with obesity are prone to getting sick more often, because their immune system doesn’t work as well as children in the normal weight range.
Little Étoile Nutrition’s Stage 3 Toddler formula is formulated with 39 essential nutrients and special immune supporting ingredients lactoferrin and Wellmune® beta glucan.
Article supplied by Little Étoile.