Back-to-School Immune Support
We have been talking so much about vaccinations, masks, and social distancing - all very essential – but let’s not forget the simple steps we can also do to support our immune system.
Back to school presents itself with Delta, in addition to all the “normal” bugs that float around and make their way into our home. Here are some key reminders for you and your family as we head back to school.
Make sleep a priority. Every evening you have an opportunity to do one of the most effective immune supportive therapies- sleep! Create a ritual for yourself and kids that divide day into night.
At our house that looks like having some tea, closing the downstairs blinds, and heading up stairs for bath and books. If you have older kids, encourage cell phones and ipads be kept out of the bedroom at night so they can begin to learn and appreciate good sleep hygiene practices.
When we sleep our immune system is at work by regenerating and increasing the white blood cells necessary to fight infections.
Food as Medicine
Limit intake of sugar and processed foods. Sugar and processed carbs, (carbs which easily get converted into sugar), can suppress our immune response. Initially I wrote “avoid” sugar but, as a mom of three, that is just very hard to do. But limiting sugar and processed foods we can all definitely do.
Put some thought into meal and snack planning for the week and explore new, easy recipes, that can replace the goldfish and pretzels. Kale chips and roasted garbanzo beans are a hit in our house.
Also, include dark leafy greens and colorful vegetables which are loaded with phytonutrients essential for a strong immune response. For my youngest, vegetable adverse daughter, I hide bits of broccoli inside her lentil penne, and always throw some spinach into smoothies without her noticing.
Increase omega 3 fatty acids which further help support the immune system, such as wild salmon, sardines, flaxseed oil, flaxseeds, hemp seeds, and pumpkin seeds. And stay well hydrated.
Being active and moving your body helps to support your immune system. Make sure you and your kids are moving your bodies every day. Even a walk around the neighborhood can count, just make sure to get off the couch, or desk chair, and move every day.
We know from numerous studies that stress affects our immune system. Kids and parents put so much pressure on themselves to do well in school and take all the right extracurricular activities.
Parents have the stress of balancing it all and sometimes it can feel too much. Recognize that stress affects our immune response. Honor when you feel overwhelmed or stressed.
Take a moment to recognize the trigger and do whatever stress reducing activity works for you whether that is meditating, exercising, journaling, expressing gratitude, or breath work.
And, an important skill that is often overlooked, the power of saying “no” and keeping your boundaries to protect your mental health.
I consider the above lifestyle recommendations more important than any supplement but there are some key nutrients that help support you and your kids’ immune response. Each of these works to support a healthy and strong immune system.
These are the foundations of a healthy immune system which allow you and your kids to take actionable steps which directly support your immune system.
So, let’s wear our masks, wash our hands, socially distance, AND prioritize sleep, eat well, minimize stress, move our bodies, and take targeted immune supportive nutrients.
Dr. Maggie Ney is director of the Women’s Clinic at the Akasha Center and mom to 3 girls. She specializes in health aging and hormonal balance.