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Besides chicken soup and honey-sweetened tea, what foods will soothe a sick and uncomfortable kid? We spotlight eight of the most common childrens ailments to tell you which foods help alleviate symptoms — and which exacerbate them. (Just bear in mind that the following information is intended to complement, not replace, a doctors advice.)
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1: Common cold
While most children dont have much of an appetite when theyre fighting a cold, a handful of foods may help nudge them back to health: garlic and onions — especially in their raw form — fight pathogens and have anti-inflammatory properties (if youre cooking it, crush garlic and let it rest a while beforehand to maximize its healing potential); and oranges, strawberries, bell peppers, and broccoli, along with several other fruits and veggies, are packed with Vitamin C, which bolsters weakened immune systems.
And we all know kids need plenty of fluids when theyre sick, but if theyre drinking juice, make sure you dilute it to cut down on unwanted sugar. Studies show that excessively sugary drinks (and snacks) can depress the immune system.
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Diets high in antioxidants may improve asthma, so stock up on vegetables from the cabbage family, like broccoli, collards, and kale, as well as berries, kiwis, and citrus fruits.
According to the Asthma and Allergy Foundation of America, avoiding certain foods may help prevent attacks: dried fruits, white grape juice, and certain jams and jellies. These all include sulfites, which trigger symptoms in approximately 5 percent of asthmatics. Also watch out for sulfating agents in ingredient lists: sulfur dioxide, sodium or potassium sulfite, bisulfite, and metabisulfite.
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3: Seasonal allergies
After a particularly brutal allergy season, parents of children prone to seasonal allergies are still recovering from memories of miserable kids and sleepless nights. To help, the American Association of Naturopathic Physicians suggests temporarily cutting back on meat and feeding your kids plenty of fish. Red meat contains an acid that prompts the immune system to react with allergic inflammation, while fish such as salmon, herring, mackerel, and sardines are loaded with Omega-3 fatty acids that protect the body from allergic reactions. Other foods that might alleviate allergic symptoms: dark-colored vegetables like carrots, squash, spinach, and sweet potatoes and fruits such as cantaloupe, apricots, and oranges. They contain carotenes, which act as antioxidants and enhance immune function.
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For kids experiencing constipation, drinking tons of water and increasing fiber intake are musts. Tried-and-true dietary fixes include prunes; bran cereals made of oat, rice, or wheat; raisins; dates; figs; kiwis; whole grains, like brown rice; and green, leafy vegetables. In young children, chronic constipation may indicate an intolerance to cows milk, as evidenced by a 1998 study published in the New England Journal of Medicine; goats milk offers a fine alternative.
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Kids that are suffering from diarrhea must stay hydrated. Once the, er, active phase has passed, forgo dairy, fats, and oils, which may upset the stomach, and ply your children with apples, pears, bananas, carrots, and potatoes, all of which contain pectin, a binder. Papaya is also recommended to relieve constant diarrhea; it carries an enzyme that promotes healthy digestion.
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Five percent of American kids have anemia, which is most often caused by a severe iron deficiency. (Infants under 2 and teenage girls are most at risk. Symptoms include extreme fatigue.) Iron-rich foods well-suited for anemic kids include beef, pork, and shellfish; dark green vegetables like Swiss chard and spinach; beans; and dried fruit. While iron from meat sources can be absorbed into the body easily, iron from vegetarian sources must be combined with foods high in Vitamin C, which play a necessary role in the absorption.
Dont give anemic kids soda, excessive amounts of dairy products, or coffee; they all act as iron-blockers.
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7: Sore throat
Both pineapple and papaya contain anti-inflammatory enzymes that help soothe sore throats. Encourage older kids to gargle with either lemon juice and sea salt or cider vinegar and honey to kill bacteria. (A mix of hot water, lemon, honey, and cinnamon makes a more palatable, albeit less effective, gargle.) Steer clear of dairy, which ramps up mucus production.
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Caffeine and sugar, as well as a diet lacking in key nutrients, can sometimes lead to stress and anxiety in older kids. To help alleviate the symptoms, stick to whole grains, legumes, nuts, and Vitamin B-stocked vegetables, like collards. Other good choices include dairy products, potatoes, and root vegetables, all of which contain serotonin, a mood stabilizer. Also consider lean meat, which is packed with the protein for maintaining mood-coping mechanisms. Eliminating additives and flavor enhancers, like artificial food coloring and MSG, is a good idea, too. Evidence links certain additives and flavor enhancers to depression, which can be an underlying issue of chronic anxiety.
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