The summer is coming to a close and our precious children are heading back into the Petri dish, I mean classroom. Do you have a family history of lots of colds during the school year? Don't panic, a few simple steps can help make this year different by building up your kiddos defenses.
Wash Face & Hands: Washing our hands is always a smart idea, kids touch EVERYTHING. But taking it a step further to wash their forearms, necks and especially faces helps reduce susceptibility to illness. Germs can enter through our nose and mouth, so washing their face not only lets them feel a bit refreshed after a long day, but takes off a layer of offending germs from touching their faces and talking too closely to others.
Minimize Sugar Intake - A diet high in sugar and refined carbohydrates cuts white blood cell count at least by 40% and this lowered immune reaction can last 4-5 hours. (Click to view study)
Pro & Prebiotics: our gut environment has a profound impact on our health. It is so intertwined with our well being that the gut wall houses about 70+% of the cells that make up our immune system. When they are not healthy, we are not healthy. Our gut can impact chronic inflammation, brain functioning, mood, mental clarity, skin conditions, ADHD, cancer, fatigue and more! Giving your kids a daily dose of quality probiotics on an empty stomach can help change the tide in their favor (here is a suggestion of a chewable for them. Also, prebiotics are fiber that feed the good bacteria, so you will want their dietary intake to consist of vegetables, small amounts of whole fruits like berries and instead of "whole grain" gluten-laden cereals, pancakes and breads use recipes for alternates that use almond flour and coconut flour (you will find a lot of fun recipes on this site with those ingredients!)
Colostrum - yes, this may sound familiar from your days of breastfeeding your infant. Colostrum is the substance produced before a mothers milk comes in. It serves to support many biological processes within the newborn. Colostrum in supplement form is from pastured cows. It can have great benefits for our immune system. It contains lactoferrin, immunoglobulin antibodies (igA) and growth factors which support optimal health. "Lactoferrin acts as a prebiotic and stimulates the growth of good bacteria in the gut such as lactobacillus and bifidobacterium. It also has been shown to support health of the gastrointestinal tract by promoting cell growth in the intestines. This helps to soothe inflammation and heal a damaged gut.", says Dr Will Cole. Read more on our colostrum blog post. Here are the two chewable colostrums we use: Jarrow Chewable and Symbiotics
Deep Breathing - teaching our children ways to cope with stress, like deep and slow breathing can help lower cortisol, the stress hormone, that can have a cascade effect on our immune system. Try these printable Breathing Cards from Childhood101 to help kids practice calming techniques.
Regular sleep pattern & good sleep hygiene - A lot of healing goes on while we sleep. Helping your children get adequate QUALITY rest is important for keeping them healthy. Turn off TV's, iPads, phones and all other lighted screens 1-2 hours before bed time. Taking a shower or bath or if you only have time to do a quick "washcloth" bathing, make sure those kiddos feel fresh before tucking in. Establish a calming routine that happens around the same time every night.
Maybe is is doing those deep breathing flashcards in #5 together or reading a few books all cuddled up.
Keep heavy foods like fried foods, refined sugars and caffeine out of their evening routine.
Be prepared. The night before school, pack your school bag, plan lunch and snack, lay out clothes, down to the shoes and hair accessories. Wake your child early enough that they have time to SIT DOWN to a healthy breakfast and not feel rushed. It is a parents responsibility to help their child learn time management and respect for being on time to our/their commitments. This will also help them not feel anxious over being late or being made a spectacle of if they are late. Not feeling rushed or anxious will help keep cortisol levels lower and help send happy signals through our gut-brain connection instead of stress signals that get our tummies queasy and lower immunity.
Hydrate! This is a BIG MUST DO to help us all stay healthy. Every cell in our body requires water to do its job. Your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste, and lubricate your joints. Water is needed for overall good health. To truly stay hydrated we need more than just water, we need to give our kiddos electrolytes too. That means sodium, potassium and magnesium to keep our muscles functioning, our heart rhythm normal, stave off headaches . According to eHealthMedicine.com, "Electrolytes allow cells to generate energy, maintain the stability of their walls, and to function in general. They generate electricity, contract muscles, move water and fluids within the body, and participate in myriad other activities." Try these solutions for getting electrolytes in:
Nuun Tablets - drop 1/2 - 1 whole tablet (small children may only need 1/2 while bigger more active kids may want a whole tablet) mixed with a club soda or water.
Make Guac! Avocados boast more potassium than a banana, so smash up an avocado and smear it open faced gluten free toast or scoop with our favorite grain-free chips!
Sip on no-sugar added coconut water - I cut 4 oz of real coconut water with 2 oz of water to keep sugar lower but rehydrate Makayla quickly.
Have fresh veggies and fruits at the ready for snacking and meal time - like cucumbers, lettuces wraps, carrots, berries, watermelon, cantaloupe and broccoli. These provide water, electrolytes, minerals, phytonutrients and prebiotic fibers to help further fight off illness.
Bonus Tip! Sit down to meal time as a family. Not only does this allow for a better digestive experience which leads to more nutrient absorption and hopefully more home cooked meals, but this is also a good time to talk about your child's day. This helps them feel emotionally supported (that sends happy signals to our gut!) AND you may find out some things going on in your childs' day that may be compromising their immunity.
For instance, I have learned so far this year with my Kindergartner:
they are made to wash their hands upon arrival to school, before snack time and lunch time like they were at her VPK school last year. (Ugh!) I asked her to keep her good habits and be a leader in washing her hands regardless of the teacher asking or not.
interactions between her and her friends - are they all hugging or even kissing each other - I talk to Makayla about not kissing friends because that is how germs can get spread. We discuss other ways of letting friends know we care and how to ask people to back off a bit if they are too touchy.
I have learned about a little girl having a nose bleed and took that as a opportunity to teach Makayla's not to touch other people's blood and explained why. These are all important teaching moments if you take the time to listen to your child's day in a non-interrogating way. Meal time is a great way to do that.