September is ‘going back to school month’! There is a lot to think about. The family outings to the store to buy school supplies and new clothes are very likely completed by now. School has already begun for many of our children. The weather is still warm and the sun is still shining. Our kids are filled with excitement and anticipation about the new school year. This is the perfect time to think about how to strengthen our family’s immune system. With flu season around the corner, there are many wonderful strategies that can be implemented to support a healthy body and clear mind. Here are some ideas:
1. The beginning of the school year is a great time to remind our children to wash their hands regularly. This simple action is vital for prevention. As we all know, our children learn best by watching. Institute a new household rule that upon entering the home from school, work, or other outings/activities, everyone must first wash their hands. For younger children, it is helpful to have them sing ‘Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star’ or the ABC’s while they are washing their hands—this will help them know how long to wash for and make the activity more fun!
2. Create a more relaxed nighttime schedule that allows for plenty of sleep—Rest is an essential ingredient to support a healthy immune system.
3. Avoid processed foods and sugary snacks. Many of these foods have a lot of preservatives and other harmful ingredients that can affect the way we learn and behave. They can also make us feel lethargic. Keeping the house free of these types of foods and only offering wholesome snacks in the home will help to teach our children about better options.
4. Daily vegetables and fruit: Vegetables and fruit contain many nutrients and enzymes to support a healthy body. In addition, eating daily vegetables and fruit can support a healthy bowel. Bowel elimination is essential to a healthy immune system.
5. Drink lots of water! Water is required for every function of our body. It is also important for maintaining moisture of the lining inside the nose, which is our first line of defense. This mucous membrane traps dust, dirt, and bacteria and prevents them from getting into the lungs. Drinking five to eight glasses of water daily can help to optimally hydrate our body and maintain this moist membrane.
6. Nutritional supplements can help to strengthen our immune system as well. Here are some suggestions:
*Daily essential fatty acids: Every tissue in our body is made up of cells. The wall of each cell is comprised of essential fatty acids or EFAs. With any trauma or infection, at a cellular level, there is a tear in the wall of one or multiple cells that make up a structure such as an organ or vessel. To repair this tissue, the body needs essential fatty acids. But EFAs are not produced in the body—they have to be included in our diet. Unless we eat 2 tins of sardines every day, we are lacking optimal essential fatty acids! A great way to get the right amount of EFAs in our diet is to supplement with ‘fish oils’. Fish oils house concentrated EFAs. Some options would include daily cod liver oil or fish oil gel caps.
*Daily probiotics: Probiotics provide our body with healthy bacteria to fight off infection. It provides us with immune strength. Daily probiotics is a helpful way to ward off illness. Probiotics can be taken by capsule and can also be found in yogurt. Probiotics can also help maintain a healthy bowel.
*Daily multi-vitamin: Multi-vitamin supplements supply the body with many important vitamins and nutrients that are essential to our body’s health. For flu prevention, in particular, it is helpful to supplement with antioxidants such as vitamin C, vitamin A, and vitamin D, which can all be found in a good quality multi-vitamin.
*For further flu prevention, it may be helpful to supplement with herbs such as Astragalus, Andrographis, and Echinacea. These herbs have immune stimulating properties.
*Gluten Elimination: In addition to supplementing with good herbs and vitamins, it is equally important to maintain a healthy diet free of inflammatory foods. Gluten is a ‘pro-inflammatory’ food, which means that when ingested, it contributes to more inflammation in the body. Inflammation is at the root of every illness in our body. By eliminating gluten from our diet, we can support greater health and recovery. For children, eliminating gluten can also support quicker recovery from injury as well as a reduction in common issues such as allergies, learning and behavioral deficits, and more. A good resource on gluten sensitivity and implementing a gluten elimination diet is: http://www.gluten.net.
*In addition to eliminating gluten from our diet, it is also very beneficial to eliminate refined/processed sugar. Certain processed sugars are considered neurotoxic. When the nervous system is exposed to high levels of refined sugars, it promotes a breakdown of our nervous system, including our brain, which is essential to learning and behavior. The following list includes many common processed sugars that are helpful to avoid, especially for our children as their brains develop: sugar, brown sugar, sucrose, cane sugar/cane syrup, glucose, dextrose, fructose, corn syrup/sugar, sucanat, turbinado, aspartame, nutrasweet, saccharin, equal, splenda. Some healthier options include the following natural sweeteners: raw honey, pure maple syrup, brown rice syrup, blackstrap molasses, stevia, unprocessed fruit juice, raw organic agave, coconut crystals/syrup, date sugar, palm sugar.
*Lastly, there have been so many positive changes throughout the country in school cafeterias. More and more schools are working towards offering healthier food options. Take the time to inquire and find out what the options are. By asking questions, we can accelerate this process of change.