Is Your Chlid “Fit for School”?

It’s that time of year again!  The summer is wrapping up and parents are preparing for back-to-school.  But in the midst of thinking about new clothes and schools supplies, are you taking the time to prepare your kids immune system for the onslaught of back-to-school bugs?  It seems that as soon as they go back, they’re out flat.  In a small town, it’s easy for colds and the flu to spread, so what simple steps can you take to keep your kids healthy?

We all know the basics, but it’s good to be reminded.  Adequate sleep is important to keep up everyone’s immune health, but this is especially true for growing kids.  School-aged children need 9-12 hours per night.   Parents.com has a great age-by-age sleep guide to help figure out what is optimal for your child.

Diet is another important building block of the immune system.  The nutrients needed to keep the immune system strong are readily available in a whole foods diet that includes a rainbow of colourful fruits and veggies, along with nuts, seeds, beans and whole grains.  Protein is needed to make immune cells, so choose your meats carefully, remembering wild, free range, grass-fed and organic options are optimal.  Processed foods are high in sugar and hydrogenated fats, which not only have a direct negative impact on the immune system, but also fill kids up without the important nutrients they needs to build their immune defences.  Who has room for a healthy main course if you fill up on white bread as an appetizer?

Plenty of fresh air, sunshine, exercise and regular hand washing round out the basic everyday things that help keep our kids healthy, but are there any other “basics” to consider?  

More and more studies are showing that the health of our gut, and the bacteria that live there, is directly related to the health of our immune system.  The development of a healthy microbiome starts from the day we’re born.  Factors such as breastfeeding, diet, stress factors and antibiotic use all impact the levels of good bacteria in our system.  Luckily, there are many well researched probiotic formulas to help support the gut at various ages and stages of life.  A 2014 study, called the PROCHILD Study, looked at the impact of taking a specific probiotic combination (12.5 billion CFU of Lactobacillus acidophilus CUL60 and CUL 21, Bifidobacterium animalis subsp. lactis CUL34, and Bifidobacterium bifidum CUL20), combined with 50 mg of vitamin C, on frequency and intensity of upper respiratory tract infections (URTIs) in 3 to 6 year old preschoolers.  In comparison to the placebo group, the probiotic group had: 33% less incidence of URTIs; significantly fewer days with URTI symptoms; 30% less school absenteeism; and significant reduction in cough medication usage.

As always, it is important to discuss with your medical doctor or naturopathic physician if this, or any other natural health product, is appropriate for your child.  There are other situations that are beyond the basics, and important to discuss with your health care practitioner.  Conditions such as asthma, allergies, eczema, digestive concerns, food sensitivities and autoimmune conditions may indicate that the immune system is being challenged and requires individualized care.

So let’s all do our part to make this year a healthy one and keep our kids “Fit for School!”

Written by Dr. Erika Buckley-Strobel, ND