Back to School Already?! How to Keep You and Your Family Healthy
You did it. You made it. The heat, the sun, the water, the barbeques, the concerts, the travel, the cocktails, the laughs and the welcome time off from work: You came, you saw and you won! It’s time to catalog all those memories, catch your breath and bask in the post-summer gloriousness of changing into fall weather and the end of smoky skies and looming fires. And, if you’re feeling like me, then you’re also ready to get back into a routine with the family. It’s time to buckle down and get ready. Summer vacation is over and it’s time to transition back into the school groove.
This shift from the carefree days of summer to the rigors of academic concentration is both exciting and potentially stressful. The return to testing, sports, parent nights, projects, clubs, and homework assignments is a busy and demanding time that affects our kids as well as ourselves. And, as you could probably imagine, all of this action takes a major toll on our immune system. Luckily, there are plenty of good recommendations on how to improve stress tolerance, calm jittery nervous systems and reduce susceptibility to all the microbes in our environment just waiting to set up shop in some neglected alley of our immune system.
As I see it, there are two fundamental parts to staying healthy during and throughout the transition back to school. The first idea is principled on staying healthy by minimizing the potential for transmission and susceptibility. The second part involves preventing self-sabotage by improving our bodies ability to manage all the immune challenges we face.
Essential to this first concept are both hygiene and diet. Stressing healthy habits at the start of the year can set a precedent for avoiding sick days both at work and school. Wash hands frequently, avoid sharing food and drinks and use a dab of natural hand sanitizer a few times during the day to minimize the chances of facing an immune fight.
Emphasize a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains and healthy omega 3, 6 and 9 fats. Minimize blood sugar imbalances at the start of the day by making sure everyone gets plenty of protein as part of a healthy breakfast. Limit and discourage junk food, soda, candy and processed snacks; all of which have a negative impact on your immune system, bone health, digestive flora and cellular function. If time is short and you have too much on your plate (pun intended), consider at least making a morning smoothie using a nut-milk, 1-2 scoops of protein powder, a tsp of flax seed oil, a tbsp of soluble fiber such as flax, chia or hemp seeds, a scoop of ‘greens’ powder and some berries.
Secondly, I would recommend supporting your immune system using some basic principles to ensure we are always ready to fight off any feisty critters. External stress affects us all and getting enough sleep and water is unequivocally paramount to staying healthy in this regard. At least 8 hours per night of sleep and 1/3-1/2 your body weight in ounces of water per day should be the goal for you and your kids.
If you’re looking for that added advantage, there are, of course quite a few nutritional supplements that have been proven to support a healthy immune system. My top choices in this regard include taking additional vitamin D3, zinc, probiotics and vitamin C. Secondarily, to improve stress tolerance and (over)-taxed nervous systems, my two favorite recommendations would be Siberian ginseng (eleuthrococcus) and Cordyceps.
By following these simple tips, you and your family should have a smooth start to the new school year. It’s never too late to start good sleep habits, healthy dietary shifts and good quality supplements. Even if you can only start a few things at a time, you’ll still get a benefit.