Back to School – 5 Tips to Keep Kids Healthy
It’s time to get ready for school. Does back to school often mean more illness in your home? Often parents lament that when their children get sick and bring home “bugs” from school, the rest of the family tends to get ill also. There are a few easy steps to take to strengthen your child’s (and your) immune system. Stronger immunity will lead to a more productive school year and a healthier overall family.
1. Out With the Bad! Sugar is the enemy of the immune system. In fact when ingested, its negative effect on the immune system is almost immediate. Bacteria and viruses “love” sugar and they feed on it. Therefore if you feel a little “off” and think you’re getting ill or others around you already are, eschew all sugar immediately. It can make the difference between successfully fighting off the “bug” or succumbing.
Working to lessen sugar consumption and eliminating ALL high fructose corn syrup will strengthen your child’s immune system and make him or her less vulnerable to the “bugs” that other children have.
Remember it’s not only the sugar you eat, it’s also the sugar you drink in the form of sodas and other sweetened drinks. Even fruit juice is high in sugar, often. Make sure your children (and you!) attempt to drink half of the body’s weight in ounces of water each day. Active children need to stay hydrated.
Simple, refined grains such as white flour and processed breads, crackers and pasta, also fall into this category since, due to their highly refined nature, they turn into sugar very rapidly.
Note: A healthy immune system WILL successfully defend you against infections and colds, despite having others in your environment who are ill. The idea that if someone close to you is sick mandates that you too will get sick is false, fortunately!
2. In With the Good! The best way to strengthen your immune system is to arm the body, on a daily basis, with certain key nutrients. Phytonutrients, or plant nutrition, is well known to provide the body with a strong defense against invading organisms. The key is to consume a minimum of 5+ servings per day for children and 7 to 9 servings for adults of fresh, organic and raw or lightly cooked vegetables and fruits.
The list is long of the foods that fit into this category, but some key fruits, vegetables and herbs (organic, or at least not GMO) to emphasize are:
- Citrus – loaded with vitamin C and alkalizing, which helps immunity.
- Blueberries – a potent immune booster
- Raspberries – high in antioxidants
- Pomegranate – very high in antioxidants that “scavenge” unhealthy, disease-causing substances.
- Avocados – full of vitamins C and E, they have anti-cancer properties and boost the immune system. Note: peel the avocado with your fingers after cutting it in half to preserve the darkest green part – this is where the best health benefits reside.
- Kale – a nice immune booster and a one cup serving has as much calcium as a glass of milk! Hint: “Sneak” kale into many dishes by chopping it up finely. It’s in my chili, pasta sauce and I have a great kale pesto recipe on YouTube that no one will ever guess is kale!
- Broccoli, cauliflower and Brussels sprouts – superfoods in the crucifer family and loaded with great immune protection.
- Chlorella – this is an algae but easily found in high quality greens powders. Throwing a little in a smoothie is an easy way to get it into your kids, or your, diet. Chlorella is full of chlorophyll and acts as a detoxifier and blood purifier.
- Bok choy – ridiculously low in calories yet filled with antioxidants and anti-cancer properties
- Tomatoes – another anti-cancer, high in antioxidants fruit. Note: don’t store it in the refrigerator; it loses its flavor.
- Mushrooms – rich in fiber, vitamins, protein and minerals, mushrooms contain compounds called beta-glucans that enhance the immune system through their infection fighting abilities. Best types are: reishi, shitake and maitake.
- Onions , scallions and leeks – they are high in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory. Try to eat one each day.
- Garlic – it’s anti-bacterial, anti-viral and anti-fungal. Try to eat some fresh garlic every day. If it isn’t fresh (meaning consumed within about an hour), it’s of no benefit, so cook with it fresh, never from a jar.
- Turmeric – very high in antioxidants and anticancer properties. It’s 5 times more powerful than vitamins C and E and very anti-inflammatory.
- Black pepper – helps to improve the availability of the good nutrition coming from the foods you eat with it. Think of it as a nutrient booster.
- Oregano – high in antioxidants.
- Cinnamon – has strong anti-bacterial and anti-inflammatory abilities.
- Green tea – more for adults than children, but green teas are rich in powerful antioxidants and it also has anti-cancer properties.
3. Fermented foods – items such as sauerkraut, pickles, kombucha and others contain friendly bacteria that boost your body’s immunity. Not everyone loves the taste of these, but with a little searching you should be able to find a kombucha drink that you and your kids will like. (Personally we enjoy the one with chia seeds, providing an added omega-3 benefit.)
4. Coconut and coconut oil – if you’ve ever heard someone say that saturated fats are always bad for you, they don’t know the truth about coconut oil. It is excellent for thyroid health, and boosts your metabolism, helping you lose weight. It is rich in a fatty acid called lauric acid that converts to monolaurin, an immune booster.
Lauric acid’s immune boosting abilities comes from its ability to alter and weaken the fatty membranes of invading organisms. Basically it’s a “bad guy” killer.
You can cook with coconut oil, put it in smoothies, use the milk instead of cow’s milk or just enjoy the coconut meat itself.
5. Get Those Zzzzs… Is it hard to get your child out of bed in the morning? On the weekends how many hours do they sleep when they don’t have to get up for school? It is well worth the effort to discover how many of hours sleep your child needs (and you too for that matter) in order for them to arise, effortlessly, with great energy and ready to greet the day. It will not only help them be more productive and do better at school, but since the immune system is most active when you are at rest, it will assure that it is as strong and robust as possible.
And one more…. Get Moving! Exercise is beneficial for so many parts of the body, but with increased circulation comes better immune function, so get in a daily habit of exercising with your children. Whether it’s walking or biking to school or a nice romp in the park once they get home, daily exercise will set them and you up for better health overall.
I hope you start implementing these easy dietary changes and reap the benefits of a strong immune system for your children and your entire family. I raised three children who never had a single antibiotic the entire time they were growing up and my husband and I never “got sick” because they did. Sound impossible? I assure you it isn’t if you have a healthy immune system.
Lastly I would be remiss to not mention the negative effects of undiagnosed food sensitivities, leaky gut and underlying factors that can weaken the immune system. If you try the above and are still struggling, definitely let me know. Our destination clinic treats patients from across the country and internationally. We are here to help and you can always reach out to receive a FREE phone consultation. Call us at 408-733-0400.
To your fabulous health,
Dr Vikki Petersen, DC, CCN, CFMP
Founder of HealthNOW Medical Center
Author of “The Gluten Effect”