It's back to school season which, for those of us with school-age kiddos, means we're in the midst of a back to school shopping, planning, and adjusting. However, prepping for the year ahead means so much more than gathering up all the necessary school supplies, it also means helping prep our children's immune system for a completely different change of pace. Yep, it's time to armor up for (microbial) battle.
It comes as no shock to parents that germs spread like wildfire in school settings. However, what may be more surprising is that getting sick throughout the school year isn't necessarily inevitable. The key is helping to build and support a strong immune system for our kiddos.
Here are 6 tips on how to do it:
1. Diet is key
If eating habits have gotten a little lax this summer (hey, it happens...) it's time to re-focus on healthy eating as a foundation for health and wellness. A child's immune system can become suppressed by too much sugar or processed foods that often contain additives and/or preservatives. Many children also suffer from food intolerances (wheat, soy, and dairy, we're looking at you...) which can seriously tax the immune system over time. It's time to re-focus on plenty of fresh veggies and greens, fruits, nuts, seeds, raw nut butters, superfoods, whole grains, legumes, etc. Do you have a picky eater on your hands? Try making tasty green juices with green leafy vegetables, celery, and cucumber, a touch of lemon, and plenty of apples to sweeten it up. Green smoothies are also a great option. Most children will eat or drink greens if they taste sweet and fruity!
2. Go with their GUT
No conversation about immunity can take place without addressing gut health. Probiotics are the friendly bacteria that naturally occur in the GI tract. They protect our digestive tracts, help us digest our food, break down nutrients so they're more easily absorbed, assist in toxin and waste elimination, and shield us from invading bacteria and viruses. It's important to replenish the gut with friendly probiotics on the daily. Think kid-friendly cultured foods like coconut yogurt with their favorite berries, granola, and a drizzle of honey, probiotic beverages like plant-based kefir, and organic food-based probiotic supplements.
3. Take rest
Sleep is imperative to a strong immune system, and many children are simply not getting enough. According to many pediatricians, depending on the age of the child, they may need between ten and 14 hours of sleep per day. And like many things, quality, not just quantity, matters too. In order for our brains to secrete the proper amount of melatonin (our sleep hormone), we need to be mindful of light levels while we sleep. For children, this may mean going sans nightlight if possible, and also unplugging any electronics that may be glowing or blinking. Certain essential oils can also be beneficial in working with the child's limbic system to calm the nervous system, balance the emotions, and support a deeper more restful sleep. Try diffusing Cedarwood or Lavender, or look for blends that are specifically formulated for sleep and children.
4. Stay calm and cool
In today's modern age, it's pretty easy for the entire family to be overwhelmed and overstressed. Stress causes cortisol and adrenaline levels to rise, two important hormones related to our fight or flight response, but which, if secreted day after day, can wreak havoc on our immune system and sense of wellbeing. As parents, stress-reducing activities should be a family affair. It means focusing on better managing our own stress levels, and also helping our children find ways and tools to calm down, relax, and manage the stress in their own life.
5. Fever as friend, not foe
As parents, there is really nothing worse than seeing our child in pain or suffering, for instance with a fever. Sometimes, however, it can be beneficial to let the body go through this critical healing process. Fevers are the body's immune response to an infection, and without it, the infection can persist longer. That being said, a fever that runs too hot or too long can be very dangerous, so take extra precaution with this tip. Monitor your child carefully, keep them comfortable, cool, and well hydrated, and consult with a doctor to ensure the fever is safe for your child.
6. Supplements and herbs to the rescue
Make sure your child is loading up on foods rich with immune boosting Vitamin C and zinc, and that they're getting adequate levels of Vitamin D. There are many organic, food-based supplement brands on the market that help give us parents the peace of mind that our children are getting the critical nutrients they need to thrive, even if their diets aren't completely ideal (they're kids, after all...). Certain herbs can also be highly beneficial in supporting immunity such as elderberry, astragalus, and medicinal mushrooms like reishi. Spirulina or chlorella algae powders are also a great option for adding plenty of vitamins, minerals, omegas, antioxidants, and plant-based protein to a child's diet. They can be added to smoothies or sprinkled on popcorn with a little nutritional yeast for a tasty savory snack. Omega 3 fatty acids are also highly beneficial and are often lacking in a child's diet. Try adding more hemp oil, chia seeds, or consider an algae oil omega 3 supplements. This is also a great superfood for boosting brain health and concentration. Please note, it's important to consult with your child's pediatrician before beginning a new supplement or herb regimen.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food & Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.