It’s that time of year again! But this year back-to-school is facing some twists. Some kids are doing virtual-programs, some are doing full time and still others have a split virtual/ live program. This year more than others in the past building system support should be part of every parent’s plan. Here are several tips for maintaining a strong immune system throughout the school year!
Getting into a normal sleep pattern is important for building a back-to-school schedule. Not getting enough sleep can lead to health issues, such as memory problems and depression, but it can also lead to a weakened immune system. Lack of sleep is correlated with higher levels of cortisol, the body’s stress hormone. Stress is known to suppress the immune system. Studies have shown that less than 5 hours of sleep negatively affects the immune system, and that 7 to 9 hours of sleep is ideal for adults, and 9 to 11 hours of sleep is ideal for school-age children.
Regular, moderate exercise boosts the cells responsible for attacking bacteria. These cells also appear to work faster in those who exercise, which better equips your immune system against viruses and infections. However, be aware that immune response may dip for several hours after intense exercise. A 30-minute bike ride with your kids or grandkids is a great activity to improve your immune system.
A diet healthy in fruits and vegetables is essential for optimum immune health. Foods high in Vitamins C, D, and E, as well as beta-carotene, a form of Vitamin A, are key for healthy immune systems. Some foods that boost the immune system are:
- Fruits: such as grapefruit, oranges, clementines, papaya, kiwi, lemons, and tangerines
- Vegetables high in Vitamin C: like spinach, red bell pepper, and broccoli (the last two are also high in beta-carotene)
- Garlic: which has antiviral, antibacterial, and antifungal properties, and is known to boost the immune system, thanks to the sulfur-containing compound, allicin
- Yogurt: which contains active cultures and Vitamin D that help support the immune system
- Almonds: which contain Vitamin E, and just half of a cup provides nearly 100% of the recommended daily amount of Vitamin E.
As the adage goes, laughter really is the best medicine. Laughing lowers the levels of stress hormones, while simultaneously boosting white blood cells that are responsible for fighting infection. In one study, men who were told three days in advance that they would be watching a funny video experienced a drop in stress hormones.
Do kids have different nutrient needs than adults?
Kids need the same nutrients as adults — but usually require smaller amounts. As children grow, it’s vital for them to get adequate amounts of nutrients that help build strong bones, such as calcium and vitamin D. Moreover, iron, zinc, iodine, choline, and vitamins A, B6 (folate), B12, and D are crucial for brain development in early life. Thus, although kids may need smaller amounts of vitamins and minerals compared to adults, they still need to get enough of these nutrients for proper growth and development.
Back-to-school is one of the happiest times for most kids, so do your best to make these days as normal as possible during these turbulent times.