By August 2, 2022
It’s hard to believe that it’s already August. For a lot of people, the end of summer means the beginning of back-to-school season, which also means back-to-school germs. If you’re looking to protect your family this school season, here are some tips for keeping those kids healthy!
Increase their Vitamin C, Vitamin D, and Zinc intake.
Vitamin C is a critical micronutrient that we’ve all heard for years helps to support immunity. It does this by supporting multiple cellular functions that are part of your adaptive immune system. In addition, Vitamin C is a strong antioxidant, fighting free radicals in your body to reduce inflammation and prevent those long term immune responses. Because we can’t synthesize Vitamin C ourselves, it’s critical to get the nutrient from the foods we eat. Some lunch-box friendly sources of Vitamin C include:
- Bell pepper strips served with dips
- Broccoli, lightly steamed to brighten the green
- Chimichurri – a dip made from parsley that tastes amazing!
Vitamin D comes both from the food we eat, and can be made in our skin through exposure to sunlight. Typically, we hear about Vitamin D in relation to our bones, where it plays a critical role in helping the body to both absorb and retain calcium and phosphorus. However, Vitamin D is also great for helping to control infections – lowering the risk of illnesses like the flu. Some great vitamin D sources include:
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Shrimp cocktail
Zinc has had something of a renaissance in the cold-prevention/cold-shortening realm in the last decade or so, with supplements showing up all over drug stores and grocery stores as soon as flu season strikes. Luckily, studies backup this trend – showing that zinc taken soon after cold symptoms appear can help to shorten the length of a cold. Thankfully, there are some great whole food sources of zinc that we can include in lunchboxes to help prevent that cold from ever taking hold:
- Roast beef roll-ups (from grass-fed beef)
- Shrimp cocktail (again )
- Lightly steamed asparagus spears
- Pumpkin seeds (pepitos are tasty)
- Green peas, lightly steamed
Sugar seriously slows the immune system’s response to viral or bacterial attack! So, instead of a sugary drink, give your child water along with a packet of Seeking Health’s Electrolyte powder (link to my website) or some lemon wedges for flavor.
Be sure to read the label of the foods and beverages you buy so you know just how much added sugar is in the foods. For example, some yogurts have lots of added, unhealthy sugar. An 8 oz serving of plain yogurt will naturally have 4 g of sugar. Any more than that is added sugar. One popular brand of yogurt has 25 g of added sugar. That is nearly 6 teaspoons and the upper limit for the entire day for children according to the American Heart Association. Instead of buying yogurt loaded with sugar, try adding fresh fruit and a little honey to sweeten.
Give Your Child Probiotics
Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria that live in our digestive tract. As we come to understand more about the gut biome, we’re finding out that it impacts so much more than just our digestion! Supporting a healthy gut biome can actually lessen the impact of colds and other illnesses, as well as boosting your immune system.
I highly recommend MegaSporebiotic (link to website). If your child can’t swallow pills, simply open the capsule and mix it with yogurt or milk. Some food sources for probiotics include:
- Yogurt (again, check the sugar levels or buy plain yogurt that you sweeten yourself)
- Kombucha – this is a delicious drink made from fermented black or green tea, and is loaded with probiotics!
- Some cheeses – cheese like Gouda, mozzarella, cheddar, and cottage cheese may contain healthy bacteria – just check the label for “live cultures” or “active cultures”
Sleep is super important in supporting immune function. Summer time is usually marked with later bedtimes so take a couple of weeks to acclimate to earlier bedtimes and wake times before the school year starts. Lack of sleep can result in poor immune responses because your body doesn’t have the time to produce the proteins your immune cells need.
The amount of sleep needed varies by the individual, but in general, school-aged kids should be getting up to 10 hours of sleep/night, teeneagers need 9-10 hours, and most adults need 7-8 hours of good sleep. To improve your sleep, try to limit screen time (and the dreaded “blue light”) for at least an hour before bed, and stick to a consistent wakeup time.
Exercise really helps burn excess energy, boost immune function, and to deal with stress in a positive way. Moving your body helps to circulate your immune cells, which means they can react faster to intruding illnesses. Working out can also temporarily raise your body temperature, which can kill off harmful viruses and bacteria (similar to how a fever works). It also helps to promote restful sleep, which (as we already learned) is ALSO important for fighting off those colds and flus that circulate every school year.
Ask your school to allow kids to get out at least twice a day for some movement and take your kids to the park after school if possible.
Of course, these tips are good for the whole family! But if you think you or your loved ones could use a little extra immune boosting this school season, don’t hesitate to reach out and schedule a consultation!