How to support immunity in teens when they’re too busy to think about it
With a full school load, sports and hobbies, a possible part-time job, and an active social life, how many teens actually have time to pay attention to what they’re doing to support their immunity?
It’s no surprise that teens are often too busy to be mindful of their bodies’ defences, but that doesn’t mean this innate response system shouldn’t get some love. A strong immune system is crucial for a healthy body and mind and can be particularly helpful when hanging out with other teenagers, being exposed to new environments, and leading a hectic life.
Even though it may not be top of mind, an application of purposeful and simple lifestyle techniques may be all it takes to help this vital component of health flourish.
Keeping a healthy diet, plenty of movement, good sleep, and proper digestion in mind, here are a variety of creative ways to boost immunity in teens.
When a teen is running late in the morning, it’s easy for them to skip breakfast. However, a grab-and-go meal can be just the thing to fill with them with nutrients that nourish the immune system such as vitamin C, vitamin D, omega-3 fatty acids, antioxidants, and zinc (found in such foods as citrus, strawberries, soy or animal milk, flaxseeds, and nuts).
Some options are:
- nutrient-packed smoothies with as many nutrients and superfoods as you can manage to get in
- a travel mug of hot green tea and a sandwich or wrap
- seeded or sourdough toast with cream cheese and smoked salmon
- yogurt or kefir drink with strawberries and sliced almonds
Stress management techniques
Stress is often harmful for immunity, so learning how to manage it properly as a teen helps them create a lifelong tool for good health.
These techniques should be customised per individual teen, but some ideas are:
- quiet/meditation time in their room
- learning breathing techniques for anxiety at school or in sports
- writing in a diary at the end of the day
- Epsom salt baths
- participating in a hobby they enjoy
- yoga at a local gym or from an online class
- use of adaptogenic botanicals such holy basil and ashwagandha
Sleep is when the immune system restores itself, making it an essential part of a teen’s life.
For a good night’s rest, try:
- a schedule that allows for 8-10 (or more) hours of sleep each nigh
- shutting off technology at least one hour before bed
- creating a bedtime ritual such as reading or meditating
- use of essential oils such as lavender and chamomile in a tea or diffuser
- supplementing with adaptogens, especially ashwagandha
Much of the body’s microbiome that helps eliminate harmful bacteria and viruses lives in the large intestine, meaning healthy digestion is a must for immunity.
Probiotics (such as those that are live in foods like yogurt, kefir, sourdough bread, and kimchi) are helpful to the gut, as well as probiotic supplements that can be taken as a pill or added to smoothies, teas, or other drinks.
Movement in nature
Whether a nightly stroll around the neighbourhood or a weekly hike through the countryside, relaxing movement in the outdoors can stimulate the parasympathetic nervous system, providing rest and repair time for the immune system.
Not all teens have the healthiest diets, so supplementing with extra nutrients and health-promoting herbs can help boost immunity when food-based nutrients are lacking.
Some immune supporting supplements are:
- vitamin C
- vitamin D
- omega-3 fatty acids
- mushrooms, such as reishi, chaga, etc.
Also consider encouraging them to take a high-quality multi-vitamin.
In addition to sleep, resting the body can be key to the immune system fighting off unwanted pathogens. If a runny nose comes on, a break from after school sports or a part time job can help the virus run its course faster with less intense symptoms before it turns into a serious sinus infection. Help teach the teen to take care of sickness by resting as soon as a symptom comes on so the immune system can fully do its job, rather than waiting for it to get worse.
Immunity may not be at the forefront of every teen’s mind, but with little tweaks to daily living, they can still learn to support it for good health – and that is something their school results, after-school jobs, extracurricular activities, and social lives will love just as much as their bodies.