Back to School Wellbeing
With the little ones (and big ones) heading back to school, it’s a great time to focus on their wellbeing. A healthy immune system is a good start, because goodness knows they pick up all sorts from day care and school, and when one goes down they all quickly follow suit! By providing regular, wholefood meals, ensuring they get plenty of quality sleep, a safe home environment and space to play outdoors, we are able to help support their body’s own defences and ability to help fight infection. Sometimes, however - especially with the current global instability and feelings surrounding starting school - anxiety and stress can also have an impact on immune function. Occasionally, we all need a little extra support, and the great news is that a few lifestyle changes and health supplements can support immune function and coping mechanisms, naturally.
Let’s have a look at some of the most effective remedies, hints and tips to boost wee defences and emotional resilience:
Vitamin C: Of course you may already be aware of the benefits of vitamin C. A potent antioxidant found in broccoli, parsley, raw cabbage, pineapple, potatoes, rosehips and strawberries, vitamin C improves immunity and promotes healing. By providing for immune support and maintenance, vitamin C may reduce the severity and duration of colds and helps maintain antioxidant defence systems. When combined with bioflavonoids, the absorption of vitamin C is increased by 35%, making a brilliant duo of nutrients to help support minor allergies. Vitamin C also supports adrenal health – the organs responsible for our stress response. Nurturing the adrenals help children cope with emotional and physiological responses surrounding school.
Zinc: Zinc is a well-known mineral used for its impact on viral infections and its ability to help maintain healthy immune and digestive systems. Zinc can be found in beef, cashews, eggs, ginger, liver, milk, sunflower and pumpkin seeds and whole grains, and is often found with vitamin C in immune supporting natural health products.
Omega 3’s: Essential fatty acids (EFAs), such as EPA and DHA are ‘good’ fats that must be obtained through the diet. The best dietary sources of Omega-3s are fish, seafood, nuts, seeds and oils, however supplementation can be beneficial for children who do not consume fish or have a diet low in fish. EFA’s are required for healthy brain function, eye health and nervous system development. Further, EFA deficiency has been associated with impaired immune responses. Omega 3’s are the perfect accompaniment to any health regime supporting learning and immunity for kids, and are available in a range of yummy naturally flavoured chewable capsules or liquid products for ease of dosing (and compliance – after all, no one wants to swallow fishy fish oil!).
B Vitamins, Magnesium & Herbs: Stress and anxiety deplete the body of essential nutrients, especially B group vitamins. A general tonic may be in order as it will provide essential nutrients for general wellbeing and assist the body in coping with emotional states. A variety of B vitamins can be found in chicken, pork, eggs, salmon, tuna, walnuts, mushrooms, oats, liver, green veggies and wholegrain cereals, however supplements often combine all B vitamins as they all work together in the body to nourish the nervous system.
Additionally, herbs such as Chamomile are traditionally used in Western Herbal Medicine to reduce excess nervous energy and relieve irritability, relieve abdominal bloating, flatulence and digestive spasms in children, while the mineral Magnesium helps to support their little nervous systems. Of course no immune article is complete without the renowned Echinacea, which is also traditionally used in Western Herbal Medicine to relieve symptoms of common colds and flu, relieve mild fever and decrease mild upper respiratory tract congestion.
Probiotics: Gut health is essential for wellbeing and a fighting fit immune system. A multitude of things, such as the consumption of sugary foods and drinks, antibiotic use and stress/anxiety can disturb the functioning of the gut, and probiotics can be of great assistance in restoring digestive health. Probiotics may reduce the incidence and duration of symptoms associated with the common cold and upper respiratory tract infections. Look for blends of Lactobacillus acidophilus, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Lactobacillus gasseri, Bifidobacterium lactis with added Oligofructose in a good quality probiotic.
Emotional Support & Building Resilience: Although we care deeply for the little beings in our care and would do anything to keep them safe and happy, not everything is within our control. Teaching our children how to recognise and work through difficult emotions and challenging events is one of the most important roles we parents have. Of course they will learn through us, how we handle our emotions, how we react and how we reflect on our own actions. A few ideas here might include helping your child journal their feelings, allow them time and space to draw/colour/play out how they feel, listen and acknowledge what’s happening in their little world and giving them guidance on some breathing release exercises.
Further care of the stress response, nerves and sleep may also be in order. Valerian and lemon balm, which have been researched in children, have been found to have a good safety profile and are well tolerated when taken under the guidance of a health professional. Valerian and passionflower are used in Western Herbal Medicine to relieve restlessness, disturbed sleep and nervous energy.
You may also want to consider natural remedies for emotional balance, and flower essences may just be the answer. They work energetically to help release emotional blockages and are highly effective, especially for children (and pets!). By helping balance any negative emotions you/your child might be experiencing, such as anxiety, worry, fear, uncertainty or a lack of confidence, flower essences help restore and improve emotional balance. Just a couple of drops of the appropriate flower essence can be put into water bottles, food or on the wrist.
Hopefully these suggestions are a brilliant start if you are not too sure where to begin with natural solutions for your child – it’s never too late to start! Remember that as with all medicines and supplements, professional and qualified advice should always be sought. Your child may need a consultation to best establish which supplements or remedies are the safest and most suited to their unique needs, especially if they are taking medications or are under medical care. We encourage you to connect with us to discuss your child’s health, and wish you and your little (and big ones!) all the best for the coming year.
*This article does not replace medical advice and is not intended to diagnose or treat any conditions.