Below are our top 10 back to school health tips for moms. Follow these tips and you will be giving your kids a great defence system when they go back to school this year.
1. Hand Washing
This may seem simple, and it is, but it is an effective way of reducing their exposure to germs that could make them sick.
One of the strategies we use here is to make hand washing automatic. Routine, routine, routine! Whenever we go to the bathroom, we cover, flush and wash! Or when we come in from outside, we take off our shoes and coats and wash our hands. Have everything they need in reach, to set them up for success.
When washing their hands just use regular soap and water instead of anti-bacterial soap. We don't recommend the use of anti-bacterial soap. This is because: it could also kill our beneficial bacteria that is there for protection; companies have not been able to prove it is any more effective than soap and water; it may lead to the creation of antibiotic-resistant super bacteria; and some of the ingredients such as triclosan may actually be harmful leading to hormonal imbalances.
Dr. Bronner's organic soaps are what we often use.
2. Low or No Sugar
Sugar has the ability to suppress the immune system by significantly impacting our white blood cells and their ability to engulf bacteria. In fact, for every teaspoon of sugar they ingest, their immune system is suppressed for up to 4 hours! The body’s micro biome is made up from trillions of good bacteria that help their little bodies absorb nutrients, digest food, and provide a first line of internal defence against germs and disease. When kids consume too much sugar, it alters the balance of the good and bad gut bacteria which weakens their immune system. At a time when we need our kids immune systems to be in top form, reducing or eliminating sugar will be important. This includes refined grains (like white flour) as well.
3. Lots of Sleep
According to the National Sleep Foundation, toddlers and preschoolers need about 11-14 hours of sleep in a 24-hour period. Children aged 6 to 13 need 9-11 hours of sleep.
When our bodies get run down our immune systems aren't operating properly and we set ourselves up for illness. Going back to school can often leave our kids worn out at the end of the day. Making sure they get to bed at a reasonable time so their body can build up strength and properly repair from the previous day will help support a strong immune system.
4. Eat Healthy! Lots of Fruits, Vegetables, and Protein
Fruits and vegetables are loaded full of beneficial vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients that are essential for our health. It's important to ensure that our kids are getting enough of these foods at every meal to ensure their body has what it needs to function. For kids that are picky eaters look for ways to sneak them into their meals. Smoothies, soups, sauces, etc are great places to start. Also make sure that your kids are "eating the rainbow" meaning that they are getting fruits and vegetables of all different colours. Yes this includes the dark green ones too!
Proteins provide important building blocks for our kids immune systems. Ensuring they get protein at every meal from both animal and plant sources will help make sure their body has what it needs.
5. Take a Multi Vitamin and Mineral Supplement
As a mom I do my best to ensure that my kids get all the nutrients they need from the food they eat. However, it can be challenging on some days to ensure all nutrients are accounted for and in optimal amounts. It's for this reason that I provide high quality supplementation as an insurance policy to help ensure they are getting everything they need.
This is our favourite multi vitamin and mineral supplement for kids over the age of 1. It is a powder so I mix it into Austin's milk or water and he loves it. It's great because it doesn't contain all the harmful added ingredients that most kids multi's have and the company uses high quality medicinal ingredients (which unfortunately most children's multi's do not).
6. Vitamin D
Vitamin D plays a critical role in supporting our immune system. Individuals who are deficient in Vitamin D are more susceptible to infection. It's essential to ensure that our kids are not deficient in Vitamin D. A great way to obtain Vitamin D naturally is through exposing our bare skin to sunshine (bare skin = no clothing and no sunscreen). This is often more difficult to achieve when kids are in a classroom for most of the day and when it's cold outside.
As a result, we often recommend supplementing with Vitamin D to ensure adequate levels are met. This is the supplement we recommend because it contains both Vitamin D and K2, and is delivered in fat which is important for absorbing fat soluble vitamins.
7. Vitamin C
Not only is Vitamin C helpful for treating illness when we get sick, it is also important for prevention. If we are deficient in Vitamin C we are more susceptible to getting sick. In addition if we do get sick, a deficiency in Vitamin C could result in the infection becoming more serious. Great food sources of Vitamin C include papaya, bell peppers, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, strawberries, pineapple, and oranges.
In addition to including these foods in your kids diet it can be helpful to add a food based Vitamin C supplement to provide additional support. Camu camu berries are one of the most concentrated botanical sources of Vitamin C in the world. We use the acerola vitamin c powder and sprinkle a little bit in drinks, smoothies, or on food to provide additional support.
Eighty percent of your child's immune system resides in their gut. The correct balance of flora plays a large role against harmful pathogens. Ensuring that we have a healthy gut full of beneficial bacteria will help our body defend itself from harm. A great way to get these beneficial bacteria from our food is through eating fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, yogurt, kimchi, etc.
Since it can often be challenging to get our kids to eat enough fermented foods every day, taking a probiotic supplement can be beneficial. This is the probiotic we recommend for kids over the age of 1. It is a powder which we like because it makes it easy for them to take. It also contains 11 billion organisms per scoop which will help provide excellent protection for our kids.
9. Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil provides important Vitamin A, Vitamin D, and Omega 3's in a food source. These nutrients are important for supporting our kids immune system. In fact, Vitamin A plays a key role in the development of white blood cells which are essential for immune response. Vitamin A also helps to maintain the integrity of the skin and mucosa which is the body's first line of defence against infection.
You can give cod liver oil to them right off a spoon. If they don't like the taste of it, you can squeeze a bit of orange juice on the spoon as well or just add it to a daily smoothie. This is the cod liver oil we recommend because of its high quality.
10. Increase Garlic, Onions, Ginger and Spices
Garlic contains allicin and onions contain quercetin which both help to support our immune system. Ginger as well as spices like turmeric also have positive effects on supporting the immune system. Try adding these foods into your kids meals as much as possible to give their immune system the support it needs this fall.
As a parent I know how difficult it can be when our kids get sick. Not only can it be scary at times and difficult to see our kids feeling unwell, but it can also be disruptive to family schedules. Implementing these 10 tips will help to give your kids a great defence system. In addition, it can help to ensure their immune systems are strong so that if they do get sick they have the ability to fight it quickly.
Do you have any other tips that you use for supporting your kids immune systems? If so, please share in the comment section below. We would love to hear from you!