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Ask Elsa: Boosting your immunity

Q My two-year-old son is in a creche setting and seems to catch cold after cold, what can I do to boost his immunity naturally?

A The best way to boost your toddler's immune system is to ensure plenty of rest and make sure he is adequately hydrated with plenty of fluids such as warm water with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Try feeding him a vegetable and chicken broth which is not only bursting with nutrients and minerals, but also has an alkalising effect that will build the blood and encourage the immunity.

To save time make a big batch of it and freeze it in handy portions. Increase alkalising foods in his diet such as brown rice as well as plenty of fruits and vegetables.

Many small children suffer with excess mucus production and congestion which results in a constant runny nose. If this is the case he may benefit from reducing mucus-promoting foods such as dairy, wheat and sugar.

Gut health is also very important for building a child's defences. I recommend you feed him sugar-free natural yogurt that contains live cultures. Sweeten it with Manuka honey, which will strengthen the respiratory system and add chopped fruit for immune boosting vitamin C.

Q I get terribly restless legs in the evening time and while in bed. It’s disturbing both myself and my partner’s sleep, what causes it and what can I do to alleviate it?

A Restless legs syndrome (RLS) is a neurological condition that is characterised by the irresistible urge to move the legs. It is a real disorder that affects quite a large percentage of the population. For most, symptoms strike when they are lying in bed at night or after prolonged periods of sitting.

The most common symptoms involve feelings of burning, tingling, aching, itching, or crawling deep beneath the skin of the lower legs. Severity of symptoms varies but generally moving the legs tends to ease the discomfort for most people.

Restless legs can often arise as a result of a magnesium deficiency. I would recommend that you take a magnesium supplement about 30 minutes before bed. Magnesium citrate is an excellent form of magnesium which our bodies absorb well. Good food sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables as well as nuts and seeds.

Caffeine, alcohol and smoking can all trigger symptoms so avoid these and get plenty of exercise. In some cases, low levels of iron can result in restless legs syndrome. Consider getting your iron levels checked to assess if supplementation is necessary. Good food sources of iron include red meat, beans and lentils as well as nuts and seeds.

Elsa Jones is a nutritional therapist and presenter of How Healthy are You? which can be viewed on Wednesdays at 4pm on TV3. Elsa offers one-to-one consultations to meet your individual health requirements as well as group workshops. www.elsajonesnutrition.ie