Naturopathic Tips for a Healthy Start Back to School
It's that time of the year again, when we hit the stores and prepare our kids for another school year. In addition to fun school supplies and cool outfits, we can also teach our kids about healthy lunches, simple stress busting techniques and even mix some immune boosters into their smoothies. Making sure that our kids' immune systems are healthy will make the school year that much more fun and useful for the whole family.
Here are a few suggestions that will prevent sickness; in case one does catch a bug, it won't linger for more than a couple of days:
Healthy lunch/snack ideas- sugar and carbs are hard to avoid, but are still a must. I am not talking only about candy. Any carb, even a healthy one, will convert to sugar in our bodies. Bread, pasta,rice, juice, crackers, fruit - sounds like the typical content of a lunch bag, right? I would keep the fruit , maybe even brown rice, and an occasional healthy sandwich. But eliminate the juice, as it is high in sugar and low in fiber, plus it does not contain the vitamins it claims to have. Pack the fruit with veggies, lettuce-wrapped meat or vegetarian options, sushi and just good old water. You can flavor the water by adding fruit to the water jug overnight (strawberries, mango, cucumber, lemon etc.).
Probiotics - These friendly bacteria comprise 80% of our immune system! Studies on school-aged children have shown that more than 80% of kids had fewer illnesses while on probiotics. And even if they did get sick, the number of sick days was greatly reduced in the probiotic group vs. placebo. I recommend starting with probiotics in September, and taking them on and off throughout the school year. If there is a history of repeated antibiotic use, regular probiotic intake is a must. The quality of probiotic supplements vary greatly; in addition, kids of different ages require different strains. Please consult your ND before you purchase a probiotic; it saves money and creates quicker results.
Vitamin D3 - Seen as more of a hormone than a vitamin as it affects so many different organs and systems, this vitamin is an immune system booster. The best way of getting this vitamin is through safe sunlight exposure or UvB lights, supplements being second best. Proper dosage is of great importance here. It is best if a Vit D3 blood test is done before supplementing: one in August, when levels peak, and another one in March when the levels are lowest. After supplementing for three months, retest to make sure that the dosage is effective in normalizing blood Vit D3 levels. Finger prick tests can be ordered online, and are more popular with kids.
Fever - Even if your kid does end up sick, with fever, please do not panic! There is nothing wrong with having our immune systems being activated once in a while. In addition, fever is a very effective way of resolving an infection. Increased heat stimulates our metabolism and it also kills the infection. If we rush to reduce it with medications (which helps the parent more than the child), the body misses a chance to kill the infection and you might notice that after a day or two, the fever is back. I suggest monitoring the temperature throughout the day and making sure it is in the effective zone, i.e. between 38° and 39° C. If it goes above 39 (which is still okay for most kids), you can use wet towels and place them on hot skin to reduce it (e.g. forehead, chest). In this way, the parent can relax as there are is no danger of seizure in the temperature range of 38-39° (seizures being rare and mostly benign even if they do appear). Fever is our friend; an ability to produce fever is a sign of vitality and managing fever appropriately will strengthen one’s immune system.
Meditation for kids- Last but not least, addressing stress can be of utmost importance to the overall health of your child. Teaching kids to deal with stress effectively, as it comes, will serve them for life. I suggest these three approaches. Find out which one fits your child the best or alternate them to avoid boredom:
1. "Stop, breathe and think": this is a free app that lets a child choose a meditation based on their current emotions. These are mini meditations lasting up to 5 minutes and kids get rewarded with stickers!
2. Breathing techniques: diaphragmatic breathing, limbic breathing, mindfulness breathing... what great ways to fall asleep! If you are not sure how to do these properly, please consult a qualified practitioner (like me!).
3. "Tapping" (Emotional Freedom Technique): a simple technique of tapping on acupuncture points to release fears, anxieties and worries. Bring your child in for a tapping session; they will learn it in one go and can start using it the same day!