Your immune system plays a vital role. Without an immune system, you would not be able to fight harmful things that enter your body from the outside or deal with harmful changes that occur inside your body. A smooth-running immune system is required to stay longer and healthier, and the same applies to your child too.
While there are various ways to boost your child’s and your immune system, ayurvedic recommendations are powerful too. Read on to understand how your child’s immunity functions and what you can do to boost it.
Introduction to Immunity
Immunity refers to the ability of your immune system to fight against various infections and prevent illnesses. Your immune system is a wide network of cells and tissues that are always on the lookout for invaders (foreign substances such as microbes that include bacteria, viruses, or parasites) and are ready to attack (launch an immune response) when they find one.
The primary organs of the immune system include the bone marrow and the thymus.
The bone marrow produces your new blood cells (including the one that provides immunity).
Thymus produces the hormone ‘thymosin’, which in turn aids in the production of immunity cells (primarily T-cells and B-cells).
Basic Functioning of Your Immune System
When your white blood cells (WBCs), also called leukocytes, find a target, they multiply and send signals to other cells to do so. There are two main types of leukocytes - Phagocytes and Lymphocytes.
The phagocytes absorb pathogens and break them down, thus eating them. The lymphocytes help the body to remember previous invaders (targets) and recognize them if they come back to attack again, by releasing antibodies. The B-lymphocytes produce antibodies and the T- lymphocytes destroy compromised cells in the body.
Thus, when your body is attacked by the same invader again, your immune system generates the same immune response that it did the first time when your body was attacked, to prevent you from falling sick or from catching the same infection again.
Immunity in Children
Children fall sick or fall ill quite often, due to their low immunity. As a parent, even though you must be trying very hard to keep your children away from germs and bacteria that they are being exposed to, they could catch infection easily.
In children, immunity gets stronger as they grow up. Similarly to adults, children also have two types of immunity:
Innate immunity (present by birth) is a child's response to foreign body invasion.
Adaptive immunity, also called acquired immunity (developed when the body is exposed to microbes) develops from B-lymphocytes, after exposure of the body to certain invaders.
Owing to a weak and developing immunity, children are more at risk of developing cold, flu, diarrhea, ear infections, and food allergies when compared to adults. Following a healthy lifestyle and proper nutrition is enough to boost your child’s immunity naturally.
Before you look at certain ayurvedic recommendations to boost your child’s immunity, understand what is ayurveda and how its knowledge can be applied to the health of your child.
Ayurveda for Children
The knowledge of ayurveda is vast and can be applied to children as well. Starting your children with an ayurvedic lifestyle can build healthy habits that will stick with them forever.
Ayurveda is an age-old science of life and longevity. It works by balancing the body, mind, and spirit. In ayurveda, each individual is born with 5 elements of nature which are Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Space. The balance of these elements is known as Dosha, or mind-body principles.
There are 3 main doshas- Vata (energy of movement, composed of space and air), Pitta (digestion and metabolism composed of fire and water) and Kapha (structure and lubrication, composed of water and earth). An imbalance of one or more doshas results in illness and health problems.
It is believed that every child has one or two doshas which tend to be more dominant and determine your child’s characteristics. Knowing your child's prakriti or constitution (the unique combination of the three doshas) will better help you understand how to deal with the imbalances in your child.
Vata dosha governs what is always moving or flowing, whether it's your child's impulses, creativity, or waste elimination. A vata child is quick, sensitive, restless; will always have a cold, cough, dry skin, or constipation.
Pitta governs growth and development, metabolism (the sum total of all chemical processes happening in your body that keep you alive), digestion processes, and endocrine processes. Endocrine processes are systems that produce and secrete hormones, the chemical substances produced in your body that regulate the activity of cells or organs. Pitta children are charismatic, athletic, enjoy challenges and have a sharp intellect.
Kapha is the most dominant trait in childhood and is usually associated with the qualities of cold. Kapha children are slow, patient, and easy-going, with a loving and caring nature.
Boosting Your Child’s Immunity the Ayurvedic Way
The ayurvedic approach is the best to build your child’s immunity naturally. Ayurveda offers tons of effective healthcare and disease preventive measures for children. As per ayurveda, immunity is related to your child’s digestive system. Remember that children fall ill frequently mostly due to various digestive disorders.
Your child’s gut (or digestive system) contains immune cells and healthy bacteria that prevent the growth of microbes, fight pathogens and toxins that are ingested along with your child’s food. Thus, strengthening your child’s digestive system will naturally support and boost your child’s immune system.
Certain natural herbs that are beneficial for children are:
1. Curcumin (Curcuma longa). Curcumin is loaded with antioxidants and antimicrobial activities. It is also known as turmeric (haldi) and has strong immunomodulatory (the ability to moderate immune cell activity) action. Giving a cup of turmeric milk will boost your child's immunity and keep them away from catching frequent flu and cold.
Turmeric milk, also known as “golden milk” owing to its colour, is an effective remedy to reduce your child’s nasal congestion, or soothe a sore throat, during a fever.
Turmeric milk is safe to introduce to babies who are 9 months and older.
Boil a cup of milk with 1 teaspoon of turmeric in it and give it to your child once a day.
2. Amla or Indian Gooseberry (Emblica officinalis). Amla is a rich source of vitamin C and dietary fibers. Vitamin C is known to support the functions of your child’s digestive and immune system.
You can give them as whole raw fruit and in the form of murabba (sweet fruit preserve that is made with amla) as well.
Include amla in your child’s diet in the form of amla chutney (Indian condiment usually made with veggies, coconut, nuts, spices & herbs) or in the form of amla juice.
Excessive amla juice can cause digestion problems in your child. Introduce 1/4 or half a cup of amla juice in your child’s daily diet initially. Gradually increase the dosage as per your child's tolerance level. Chop 500g of amla into small pieces and blend it in a mixer to make a paste. Strain out the paste. Add water, pepper and honey to the strained amla juice.
3. Ginger (Zingiber officinale). Due to weak immunity, children are more prone to seasonal flu (characterized by a sudden onset of fever, dry cough, headache, muscle, and joint pain), or cold. Ginger is the best and safest remedy for its prevention as well as treatment at home. Ginger has powerful antiviral and antibacterial properties that help in strengthening your child’s immunity.
You can give ginger tea, or ginger with honey in lukewarm water to your children. Also, add some rock salt to it for better taste and greater immunity.
You can brew up a soothing tea by adding about 20-40 grams of sliced ginger into a cup of hot water. Allow it to steep for about 5 minutes and then add honey accordingly.
Ginger can also improve your child’s appetite & digestion, remove toxins from your child’s bloodstream and protect his/her liver.
4. Tulsi or Basil (Ocimum sanctum). Basil is considered holy in ayurveda. It has powerful medicinal properties that can boost your child’s immunity power. Tulsi is very safe and easy to consume and use. Antimicrobial properties of tulsi will help fight any kind of infections, both bacterial and viral.
You can give tulsi water to your child that has various health benefits - helps strengthen the digestive system, relieves cold, cough, and is effective in fever.
You can prepare it easily by boiling some tulsi leaves with a pinch of black pepper and jaggery and let your child consume it while it’s still hot.
5. Guduchi or Giloy (Tinospora cordifolia). Guduchi is a potent immunomodulatory herb that is beneficial for children. It has antipyretic (drugs used to prevent or reduce fever) action, hence helps in treating fever in kids.
The best way to consume it is to use a powder made from the stem of the guduchi herb. The powder can be mixed in water and honey.
In ayurveda, immunity is directly related to digestion. When digestion is dull, your child doesn't have a proper appetite. Impurities build up and immunity lessens. In fact, most diseases in children are seen as a result of the build-up of impurities or digestive toxins, called ama.
Following the principles of ayurvedic lifestyle and including immunity-boosting herbs and foods in your child’s diet can keep various diseases and infections at bay. Consult your ayurvedic doctor/ paediatrician to know more about how to boost your child’s immunity.
1. H., 2021. How does the immune system work?. [online] Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Available at: <https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK279364/> [Accessed 1 February 2021].
2. Kapoor MP, Suzuki K, Derek T, Ozeki M, Okubo T. Clinical evaluation of Emblica Officinalis Gatertn (Amla) in healthy human subjects: Health benefits and safety results from a randomized, double-blind, crossover placebo-controlled study. Contemp Clin Trials Commun. 2019;17:100499. Published 2019 Nov 27. doi:10.1016/j.conctc.2019.100499
3. CHOC Children's. 2021. Kids and the Immune System - CHOC Children's. [online] Available at: <https://www.choc.org/health-topics/kids-immune-system/> [Accessed 1 February 2021].
4. Who.int. 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.who.int/ceh/capacity/immune_diseases.pdf> [Accessed 1 February 2021].
Disclaimer: This article is written by Practo for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.