It can be exciting to send the kids back to school and have time for yourself. However, it can quickly become a germ fest, especially in current times. Thankfully, there are ways to support the immune system with nutrition to keep your entire family healthy going back to school.*
If you have undergone metabolic and bariatric surgery (MBS), including gastric band, gastric bypass surgery (roux-en-y), or sleeve gastrectomy (aka gastric sleeve), you may already be on the right track to better nutrition through lifestyle change. However, getting the whole family on board can be difficult, especially with children in the house. It’s essential to support your immune system, especially after surgery, as most of your body’s immune system resides in and around your gut.
In this article, we share our top immune-supporting nutrition tips to implement in your household.*
Nutrition & Your Immune Response
Nutrition is certainly not the only risk factor that affects your immune response. It’s hard to deny, however, that following a balanced diet and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a prerequisite to supporting optimal immune system function.*
Inflammation is a natural part of immune function. If levels grow too high, that’s when health issues can become a concern. Certain nutrients have been studied and are known to support healthy inflammatory responses in the body.*
Foods high in vitamins and minerals such as vitamin C, vitamin E, vitamin A, vitamin D, zinc, and selenium are critical in regulating the growth and function of immune cells. (1)
However, getting the nutrients your body needs after metabolic and bariatric surgery (MBS) can be challenging. Food consumption is restricted after bariatric surgery because the surgical procedure alters the anatomy of the intestinal tract. Since the body relies on an adequate supply of nutrients for baseline functions, it is essential to take your daily bariatric-specific supplements to support your health and immune system after surgery.*
Healthy Inflammatory Responses
Specific food ingredients can affect the body’s inflammatory state. A diet high in refined sugar and processed foods, and low in fruits and vegetables, can lead to a higher risk of inflammation in the gut. (2)
A healthy bariatric diet requires limiting your intake of processed foods and refined sugars. Instead, high fiber, high protein, and various fruits and vegetables are recommended. By simply following these recommendations, you are already on the right track to supporting healthy inflammatory processes and a healthy immune system.*
Keeping your kids healthy is essential for a healthy household overall. When following these recommendations for your own health, implement them when packing your child’s daily lunchbox. Educate your children on healthy food choices and their effect on the body. Include your children in grocery shopping and meal prep. Being involved will teach and inspire them to make healthy food choices. Explain to your kids that a healthy diet is the best way to support their immune system all year.
Best Foods For The Immune System
As if there isn’t enough on your plate after weight loss surgery, finding time to take care of your family can also add to the stress.
It’s all about balance. You can still enjoy fun foods on occasion. However, it shouldn’t be a daily occurrence. Besides, there are tons of snacks, desserts, and meal alternatives that taste great and satisfy any craving. Check out our Bariatric Recipe archive here.
When selecting ingredients, consider their nutrient density. Specific vitamins and minerals are well known to support the immune system, which relies on particular nutrients to function.*
Getting nutrients through food first and then supplements as needed is always encouraged. Look for these essential nutrients to include in school snacks and mealtimes.*
This mineral plays a role in many aspects of the immune system.* Zinc plays a vital role in the normal development of immune cells. (3)* Good food sources of zinc include:
- Fortified breakfast cereals
This vitamin is essential for overall immune function, as many of the immune cells in your body require it.* Vitamin D can also specifically support healthy respiratory function.* Evidence suggests that supplementation of vitamin D in children strongly supports respiratory health when faced with immune challenges. (4)*
Good food sources of vitamin D include:
- Fortified orange juice
- Fortified dairy
This vitamin supports the body’s barrier against pathogens, contributing to immune defense and healthy immune system function. (5)*
Dietary vitamin C can be obtained through:
- Bell peppers
- Orange juice
Prebiotics and Probiotics
Our bodies are made up of trillions of bacteria, good and bad. The gut houses a wide range of these bacteria. Unfortunately, the balance of good and bad bacteria can be easily disrupted. When there is an overgrowth of harmful bacteria, digestive functions and immune health can be compromised. (6)*
Proper bacterial balance in the intestinal tract can support the interaction of immune cells, gut health, and nutrient absorption that can promote immune response.*
Prebiotics and probiotics can be found in both foods and dietary supplements. Some of these foods include:
- Fermented foods
Other Immune System Risk Factors
Physical activity: Make sure you keep the kids moving. Get involved with family activities. Regular exercise is a pillar of good health, and that goes for supporting immune function, too.
Adequate sleep: You need at least 7 hours/night to support immune function. Practice good sleep by doing your best to go to bed at the same time each night.
Healthy diet and lifestyle: It goes without saying: avoiding smoking, alcohol, and other toxins are going to give your body and immune system the best shot at ongoing health. Try adding a new recipe to your repertoire each month. Soon, healthy cooking will be second nature!
Digestion: Improper digestion can lead to food not being broken down thoroughly, which in turn can trigger unwanted immune responses.* Consider a bariatric-designed digestive enzyme + probiotics with your meals to support healthy digestion and immune responses.*
Personal hygiene: It’s easy to forget, but hand washing before every meal (and after being in public) is one of the best ways to keep your immune system from being exposed to germs.
- Stress management: Ongoing stress can affect the immune system in many ways. It can suppress it, but over the long term, it can also lead to an overactive immune system and autoimmune issues. It’s essential to find activities that help you cope with the daily stressors of life. Teaching your children how to manage their stress from an early age is one of the best things you can do to support their health for years to come!
Sending the kiddos back to school can be relieving and stressful at the same time. Make sure to prioritize your health so you can give the kids what they need to also support a robust immune system.*
When packing lunches, focus on nutrient-dense foods that support healthy immune responses. Work on implementing these changes in your family’s routine by getting the kids involved in grocery shopping and meal prep. Bento boxes make packing and eating lunch fun. All the little containers make it easy to provide a variety of foods with a rainbow of nutrition!
Certain nutrients are required for immune system health. It’s ideal to get your nutrition from foods first and then supplement as needed. If you feel additional supplements may be necessary for you or your child, consult a healthcare provider on which supplements are best suited for your individual needs.*
This blog is for information and education purposes only. This information is not intended to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Please follow up with your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions in regards to a medical condition or other comorbidities. A qualified healthcare professional can best assist you in deciding whether a dietary supplement is suitable based on your individual needs.*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.