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Mother and daughter outdoors with happy expression

How to keep your family well

16 Feb 2024 • 4 min read

Our health should be our top priority no matter our age. Because when we feel well, we live well and that means we can fully engage with all the things we love, from the simplest pleasures like a walk in the park to the grandest adventures with our loved ones. It's not just about adding years to our life, but life to our years.

Understanding the intricate relationship between our lifestyle choices and overall wellness is crucial to nurturing our well-being, and ensuring that every moment is lived to its fullest. Understanding where to start in your journey to better health can often feel overwhelming, especially with the abundance of information out there. But remember, the journey to wellness is a personal one, and it begins with small, manageable steps. With 49% of the population rating their gut health as poor or fair, beginning with the gut is an excellent starting point for improving overall health.

The gut isn’t just a digestive organ; it's a critical partner to your immune system with about 70% of your immune cells resident in the gut, up close and personal with your gut bugs. As an immunologist, this makes me super happy because the science supports gut health as one of the ways to good immune health.

The importance of nutrition for children

For children, every bite, every play, and every dream-laden sleep is an adventure. Exposing children to a kaleidoscope of colourful produce both on their plate and by role modeling them lays the foundation not only for their physical development but for a thriving gut microbiome.

For children, every bite, every play, and every dream-laden sleep is an adventure. Exposing children to a kaleidoscope of colourful produce both on their plate and by role modeling them lays the foundation not only for their physical development but for a thriving gut microbiome.

Feeding our kids a healthy balanced diet full of colourful plants ensures we nurture their developing gut microbiome which we know influences the development and function of the immune system, especially in early life.1 In addition, a diverse and balanced gut microbiome can promote an effective immune response,2 and introducing fermented foods - like yoghurt and kefir - early on can be a stepping stone in fostering a resilient gut microbiome, supporting their emerging health.3

Nutrition is of course a cornerstone of our kids' health but food finds its ally in supplements which can help cover specific areas where a child may fall short. One example is vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin, which is recommended in the UK in winter due to low sunlight. Just remember that when considering supplements for children, it's crucial to seek guidance from a healthcare professional. This is important because the appropriate dosage of supplements can vary significantly depending on a child's age and weight. A healthcare expert can provide tailored advice to ensure safe and effective supplement use in line with your child's specific age and needs.

Your child’s hygiene

While hygiene is clearly important, keeping everything too clean might not be the best for their immune system. Overly sterile environments might not give the immune system a chance to build its defences effectively.

There's a theory called the "Old Friends" hypothesis which suggests that one of the reasons we see more allergies and autoimmune diseases these days is because we're not around the same variety of ‘good’ microbes that we used to be.4 These microbes or our "old friends," help train our immune systems to recognise what to fight and what to leave alone.

Getting outside and interacting with nature is great for helping our kids' immune systems get to know these "old friends." One study found that letting kids play in the dirt and explore the outdoors is good for their immune system.5 Of course, washing hands is still important, especially before eating or after touching something dirty.
However, our focus on keeping everything super clean and using antibacterial products might be stopping our kids from meeting these beneficial "old friends" that can help keep them healthy in the long run.

The importance of sleep

Sleep, the silent grower of dreams and bodies, is an irreplaceable ingredient in a child’s life. It's in the heart of the night that their young bodies weave strength and their immune systems fortify. 

Regular sleep patterns aren’t just a routine but a ritual of health. Good sleep starts when we wake, and kids are no different. Ensure they get lots of natural daylight, encourage outdoor play and sports as part of their daily routine, and then aim to avoid those bright screens in the hours before bedtime.t

Optimising your well-being as an adult

A diverse diet, including prebiotic-rich foods like garlic, onions, and asparagus, and probiotic foods like kefir and sauerkraut, supports a healthy gut at all ages but can become even more important as the wear and tear of life takes its toll on our health.

Unhealthy habits start to creep in, chronic stress can be pervasive and the juggle of careers, kids, and caring for family members can start to take their toll. As we get older, we tend to move less and less. However, regular exercise supports our health in so many ways, including helping the immune system's ability to ward off infection.
A mix of cardio, strength training, and mobility exercise is ideal but so is finding movement activities we enjoy keeping us coming back for more; something is better than nothing. Quality sleep is crucial for everyone as it’s a time when our bodies and brains do some critical housekeeping functions. Establishing a consistent sleep routine and ensuring the right amount of restful sleep is crucial for sustaining long-term health and immune resilience.

While it’s true that sleep deprivation is basically a fact of life when you have a new baby or young children, that doesn’t mean that there aren’t things you can do to mitigate some of the negative effects. It takes a little planning, creativity, and support from others, but small things like ‘sleep when your baby sleeps’, practicing healthy sleep hygiene, and making a postpartum sleep survival plan that enlists the support of others.

Supplementing a healthy diet

As we move through the different chapters of life, supplements can be an effective strategy to support us when we need it. There are a variety of ways supplements can support women in particular across their lives. For example, if you’re considering pregnancy, specially formulated supplements for the prenatal stage are important because they provide essential vitamins and minerals that support the health of both the mother and the developing baby (NHS, Vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy). For example: 

  • Folic acid is crucial for preventing birth defects of the baby's brain and spine.
  • For perimenopause, there are a variety of ways supplements can help you manage symptoms and many women find relief from dietary and supplemental phytoestrogens.7
  • It is important to support your vitamin D levels during winter (as recommended by the UK Government) and omega-3 fatty acids can support eyes, heart, and brain health.
  • Also, certain probiotics can be beneficial for an occasional digestive upset, for example, traveler's diarrhoea.9 
  • Considering dietary supplements can be an effective strategy for adults who might have specific nutritional gaps due to lifestyle choices, like vitamin B12 for those following a vegan diet. 

Tailoring wellness for healthy ageing

Ageing can be thought of as an accumulation of changes over the life course. A person aged 65 years or more is often referred to as 'elderly' however, the ageing process isn’t uniform across the population due to differences in genetics and lifestyle factors.

Healthy ageing is much more than just the absence of disease; it's about fostering the qualities that allow individuals to thrive as they age. This includes ensuring nutrient-dense foods that are gentle on the digestive system such as oats and other whole grains, stewed fruits and gently cooked vegetables. As we get older our efficiency in digesting and absorbing nutrients can diminish. There may be cases where an age-appropriate multivitamin may be recommended to address common nutritional deficiencies in the elderly to support overall health and aid in the maintenance of proper immune function.
Healthy ageing is much more than just the absence of disease; it's about fostering the qualities that allow individuals to thrive as they age. This includes ensuring nutrient-dense foods that are gentle on the digestive system such as oats and other whole grains, stewed fruits and gently cooked vegetables. As we get older our efficiency in digesting and absorbing nutrients can diminish. There may be cases where an age-appropriate multivitamin may be recommended to address common nutritional deficiencies in the elderly to support overall health and aid in the maintenance of proper immune function.

Opting for smaller, more frequent meals, which are easier to digest can ensure a steady supply of energy and nutrients throughout the day. Equally important is staying adequately hydrated, as older adults can be at higher risk of becoming dehydrated and may need to remember to drink regularly throughout the day. Older people can be hardest hit during winter.

For the elderly, maintaining a comfortably warm environment, particularly during the colder months, is crucial. This isn’t just about comfort; it’s also about their immune system's efficiency. There is a decline in immune function with age and the body's immune response can be less effective at lower temperatures, so keeping warm is a practical way to support immune health in the elderly.

In summary, elderly wellness encompasses a holistic approach, integrating a nutritious diet, temperature management, gentle physical activity, regular sleep, and appropriate supplementation. By focusing on these key aspects, the elderly can significantly enhance their immune function and overall well-being, leading to a healthier, more active lifestyle in their golden years.

The final say

From the energetic play of children to the serene walks of our seniors, each stage of life presents unique health opportunities and challenges. Through balanced nutrition, regular physical activity, adequate sleep, and the use of appropriate supplements (checking with a health or nutrition expert first of course), every family member can do their bit to improve and maintain their health. 

Remember, what works for one may not work for another, so always consider personal health needs, and consult with healthcare professionals. By taking proactive steps today, we can all look forward to a healthier tomorrow.

*70% of the immune system is in the gut



1. Hojsak I, Benninga MA, Hauser B, Kansu A, Kelly VB, Stephen AM, Morais Lopez A, Slavin J, Tuohy K. Benefits of dietary fibre for children in health and disease. Arch Dis Child. 2022 Nov;107(11):973-979. doi: 10.1136/archdischild-2021-323571. Epub 2022 Mar 11. PMID: 35277379; PMCID: PMC9606532.
2. Saeed NK, Al-Beltagi M, Bediwy AS, El-Sawaf Y, Toema O. Gut microbiota in various childhood disorders: Implication and indications. World J Gastroenterol. 2022 May 14;28(18):1875-1901. doi: 10.3748/wjg.v28.i18.1875. PMID: 35664966; PMCID: PMC9150060.
3. Kok CR, Hutkins R. Yogurt and other fermented foods as sources of health-promoting bacteria. Nutr Rev. 2018 Dec 1;76(Suppl 1):4-15. doi: 10.1093/nutrit/nuy056. PMID: 30452699.
4. Rook GAW. The old friends hypothesis: evolution, immunoregulation and essential microbial inputs. Front Allergy. 2023 Sep 12;4:1220481. doi: 10.3389/falgy.2023.1220481. PMID: 37772259; PMCID: PMC10524266.
5. Roslund MI, Puhakka R, Grönroos M, Nurminen N, Oikarinen S, Gazali AM, Cinek O, Kramná L, Siter N, Vari HK, Soininen L, Parajuli A, Rajaniemi J, Kinnunen T, Laitinen OH, Hyöty H, Sinkkonen A; ADELE research group. Biodiversity intervention enhances immune regulation and health-associated commensal microbiota among daycare children. Sci Adv. 2020 Oct 14;6(42):eaba2578. doi: 10.1126/sciadv.aba2578. PMID: 33055153; PMCID: PMC7556828.
6. NHS, Vitamins, supplements and nutrition in pregnancy. https://www.nhs.uk/pregnancy/keeping-well/vitamins-supplements-and-nutrition/​
7. Blencowe H, Cousens S, Modell B, Lawn J. Folic acid to reduce neonatal mortality from neural tube disorders. Int J Epidemiol. 2010 Apr;39 Suppl 1(Suppl 1):i110-21. doi: 10.1093/ije/dyq028. PMID: 20348114; PMCID: PMC2845867.
8. De Franciscis P, Colacurci N, Riemma G, Conte A, Pittana E, Guida M, Schiattarella A. A Nutraceutical Approach to Menopausal Complaints. Medicina (Kaunas). 2019 Aug 28;55(9):544. doi: 10.3390/medicina55090544. PMID: 31466381; PMCID: PMC6780855.
9. Vitamin D supplementation during winter: PHE and NICE statement https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/vitamin-d-supplementation-during-winter-phe-and-nice-statement
10. Dighriri IM, Alsubaie AM, Hakami FM, Hamithi DM, Alshekh MM, Khobrani FA, Dalak FE, Hakami AA, Alsueaadi EH, Alsaawi LS, Alshammari SF, Alqahtani AS, Alawi IA, Aljuaid AA, Tawhari MQ. Effects of Omega-3 Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids on Brain Functions: A Systematic Review. Cureus. 2022 Oct 9;14(10):e30091. doi: 10.7759/cureus.30091. PMID: 36381743; PMCID: PMC9641984.
11. Collinson S, Deans A, Padua-Zamora A, Gregorio GV, Li C, Dans LF, Allen SJ. Probiotics for treating acute infectious diarrhoea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2020 Dec 8;12(12):CD003048. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD003048.pub4. PMID: 33295643; PMCID: PMC8166250.



Dr Jenna Macciochi




Specialising in understanding how nutrition, movement, and lifestyle interact with the immune system in health and disease, Dr Jenna Macciochi is on a mission to break down the science behind our health. With over 20 years of experience, she wants to share the scientifically proven secrets of being well for good.
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