Back to School Immune System Support

Somehow it’s already that time of year: the kids are head back to school and they are bringing a whole lotta germs back home with them at the end of the day. We’ve all been there. We hear that one student has a bug and the next thing you know, it’s gone through the class and their families like wildfire. That first whisper of illness doesn’t need to be a cause for panic, though. Here are some of my best tips as a health and nutrition coach to support your immune system for greater health this fall.

1. Practice good hand washing for the whole family

Why it’s important. It seems that everyone loves their hand sanitizer these days, and I get it – it’s convenient, it gives you peace of mind, it can be effective. However, there are numerous drawbacks to regular hand sanitizer use: dry skin, increased bacterial immunity, damaged skin cells, exposure to excess chemicals with unknown long-term results, and even a weakened immune system (our immune system works based on remembering exposures). Further, there is little to no evidence that hand sanitizers are any more effective than good old soap and water. In fact, they may be less so in some instances.

What you can do. Given all of that, I encourage you to keep the sanitizer use to a minimum and focus on hand washing and good hygiene habits. Teach your kids to wash their hands before eating, keep their hands away from their face and mouth before washing, and turn hand washing into a routine – maybe as soon as they get home from school, before every meal, and before bed. This will help keep immune systems healthier and germs to a minimum.

2. Get enough sleep

Why it’s important. Getting enough sleep is critical to maintaining good health, proper body function, growth and development, and normal energy levels. Without enough sleep, we are more susceptible to bacteria, viruses, and pathogens. Children require more sleep than adults do because they are building and growing little bodies into big bodies plus staying active and constantly learning and acquiring new skills. Sleep requirements will vary depending on how old your child is. Here is a great resource on children’s sleep needs.

What you can do. Keep your kids on a regular bedtime every night preceded by a bedtime routine. The regular bedtime will help them get in the habit of sleeping at that time. Having a bedtime routine focused on winding down will help your kids relax and they will come to associate it with preparing to sleep, making bedtime a little easier. It’s important that this routine: 1.) be low-key, not energizing, and 2.) not involve ipads, smartphones, or TV as blue light disrupts our natural sleep patterns. Some ideas: start with teeth brushing and a warm bath, incorporate story time in the child’s bed, keep bedroom lights low, give your little one a little soothing back rub.

3. Eat the Rainbow

Why it’s important. Eating as many different fresh fruits and vegetables will help keep your immune system healthy. Brightly colored plants contain phytonutrients – special defenses plants have evolved to protect themselves that can protect us and keep us healthy as well when we eat them. Different colored produce contains different phytonutrients so it’s important to eat a variety.

What you can do. We all know kids aren’t always the most open to new foods, vegetables in particular. Try these tips to help: 1. Make eating these foods as interesting and interactive as possible. Kids love color. Ask them what color string beans they want or challenge them to get as many colors onto their plate as they can. 2. Don’t make a big deal of them not eating the foods on their plate; this is not helpful and can create more issues. 3. Just keep on putting the foods in front of them time after time and eventually they will try them.

4. Spice It Up

Why it’s important. Most herbs and spices contain antioxidative compounds that can help support our immune systems, such as thyme, oregano, cinnamon, and rosemary.

What you can do. Don’t be afraid to get “spicy” in the kitchen. Sprinkle some cinnamon onto apple slices for a snack (or onto your coffee grounds before brewing!), sprinkle some fresh herbs onto your chicken, or stick a big sprig of rosemary into your bottle of olive oil to infuse it.

5. Stay Active

Why it’s important. Regular exercise or physical activity is also a great way to keep your immune system working well. The increased blood flow created by exercise massages the lining of your blood vessels, prompting them to release more compounds that act as natural “medicines” to keep us healthy.

What you can do. Make sure that your kids get plenty of opportunity for active playtime. This can mean taking them to the playground, signing them up for sports, letting them play in the yard, taking family walks regularly, or taking up family activities together like hiking, biking, or skiing. When the weather is poor, a game of charades or Hyperdash are great options. Our bodies were made for movement and it’s especially important that we move enough as growing children. Keeping active also means keeping screen time to a minimum.

6.  Stay hydrated

Why it’s important. Our bodies depend on water to stay optimally functional. Being hydrated helps keep our muscles lubricated and moving, helps us absorb water-soluble nutrients from the foods we eat, helps keep our bowel movements regular, and helps flush out our bodies.

What you can do. For children, the current recommended water intake is 1 ounce of fluid per pound of bodyweight per day. For adults, it’s 1/2 ounce of fluid per pound of body weight per day. This can be asking a lot, not just in terms of consuming that much, but time spent eliminating that much as well… if you know what I mean. What I advise is: 1. drink before you’re thirsty, especially if you’re sweating or active, 2. make water the number one option for beverages, and 3. in general, if your urine is clear and light yellow in color, you’re in good shape for hydration. You can encourage kids to drink more water in a number of ways: give them a fun cup or straw they like to drink out of, toss some fresh or frozen fruit in it, and keep soda and juice out of the house.

Healthy Dorm Room Essentials

It can be a challenge to keep health a priority in college with so many demands on your time and energy. So today I wanted to share with you some of my favorite products that will help make staying healthy easier.

  1. This sleep mask that is super comfortable and provides complete blackout

We all know that sufficient sleep is critical for our health, but between night owl roommates and screens casting blue light all around us, there are so many sleep disruptors in college. This sleep mask can solve many of them! The eye pads are adjustable to any face so they provide complete blackout without putting pressure on your eyes. It’s also comfortable regardless of sleep position and stays in place. Plus, it comes with a set of ear plugs and a handy travel case that also keeps it intact in the washing machine.

manta sleep

2. These resistance bands that will make it easy to squeeze in a workout in your dorm room

I love these loop bands because they are compact and portable and allow you to get in a highly effective strength or resistance workout anywhere at any time. The variety of resistance levels means you get to choose the challenge of your workout. If you’re short on time, you could even use them while you’re studying!

resistance bands

3. This durable water bottle that will help keep you hydrated on the go

The water bottle will withstand being bounced around, dropped, and who knows what else a busy college student will throw at it. That’s what I recommend this water bottle to help you stay hydrated anywhere you find yourself.

hydroflask

4. These slider disks will help you get a core-burning workout in your dorm room

When I teach barre classes, I incorporate sliders into most of them because for something so simple, they are crazy effective. If you’ve been too busy to make it to the gym, you can get an intense core workout in just a matter of minutes with these sliders. Plus, they take up next to no space even in the smallest dorm rooms. A strong core is critical for good posture, which is especially important when you spend a lot of time seated at a desk.

sliders

5. These nutritionist-developed snack bars

There are 2 things I know to be true: 1. eating healthy is really difficult in college, and 2. most snacks bars have a weird texture and taste like crap. Plus, a lot of popular “health” bars are actually not really healthy. As a health coach, I love Zing bars because they are a nutritionally balanced AND tasty option for snacking on the go.

Zing Bars

6. This pretty yoga mat

I think everyone needs a good yoga mat, even if you just lay on it while you’re reading. I like this mat from Gaiam because it is thick and durable and it comes in a variety of great patterns.

gaiam mat

7. This set of stainless steel food containers with leak-proof lids

Don’t skip a meal because you have a paper to turn in. Grab your dinner before the dining hall closes in one of these containers and take it to go. Or you can pack up some snacks and take your studies on the go to the library or the grass in the Quad. The leak-proof lids are key and the stainless steel means there are BPA free and you don’t have to worry about them shattering like a glass set could. It also means easy cleaning.

stainless food containers

8. This amazing, aluminum-free deodorant

I have tried A LOT of natural deodorants with one of two outcomes: a. they don’t work or, b. I have a painful, irritating reaction to the baking soda in them. After seeing a bunch of ads and reading some testimonials, I decided to give Lume a try and I’m so happy I did. This deodorant is free from aluminum, parabens, and phthalates as well as baking soda so you are not rubbing chemicals on your body right near some very important glands and you are also not risking a skin irritation either. The other thing I like about Lume is that a little bit goes a long way and it even lasts up to 72 hours – that’s nuts.

Lume

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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