I can’t believe it is back to school wellness time already! In just a handful of weeks, students everywhere will be returning to school, and for many kiddos and parents this means back to picking up all the viruses and bugs from their fellow students. Resources for today's post:
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Back to School Wellness
I can't believe it is back to school wellness time again! Did you know that the average family gets an average of 10-12 viral infections per year? Many families I know get sick more often than that - because 1 person gets a viral or bacterial infection and then it spreads to the other 3+ members. Geeeez! You definitely don't want to be average in this case! I can’t imagine having one or all four of our family members sick EVERY. Single. Month. Constant acute infection, whether viral or bacterial, is a big red flag that you need a wellness intervention, STAT!
How can I keep my family well?
There are many questions that circulate my practice as the school year gets started and we head into the fall and winter, “how can I keep from getting sick this winter?” or “what supplements should I take when I have a cold/virus/bacterial infection?” or “what natural remedy can I give myself/my kid/my partner for their illness?”
I totally understand life and wellness are a balancing act. We are constantly testing the line with just what can I get away with and remain healthy, its human nature. When it comes to your family’s wellness and avoiding begin the “average” family may take a little forethought.
A good offense, especially when it is back-to-school time is always the best defense. And NOW is the time to start getting things on track so that you can beat all the bugs that will be going around when school starts soon.
Here are a few simple and sustainable solutions that if you implement now - will be a habit by the time school gets here:
Eat for your immune system.
Hippocrates famously said, “Make food thy medicine and medicine thy food.” When I am bombarded with the questions about “What can I take for ______?” it always starts with the nutrition that you put in your body daily. Sure you can take some herbal remedies but what if you didn’t have to feel crappy to begin with? THAT starts with your nutrition.
Every illness, whether it is chronic or acute, bacterial or viral, starts and ends with inflammation. That is why I preach about eating as anti-inflammatory as possible, and it's one of the reasons I host seasonal online detoxes (for the entire family). It’s not some diet culture stuffs - its because I want to show you and your family that food that is good for you tastes good. AND food that is good for you doesn’t have to be hard to make or cost-prohibitive! Here are a few simple tips to adjust your family’s nutrition towards non-inflammatory:
- Eat 5-8 Servings of brightly colored vegetables and fruits a day. There is no substitute or quick fix for this. No pill or powder or potion or juice that makes up for eating 5-8 servings of whole plant foods each day. Be sure to go organic whenever it is possible to. Sure, sometimes organic can be cost-prohibitive, but just as true, is that often, organic food isn’t cost-prohibitive and even it can be a savings.
Thanks to the Environmental Working Group’s website for putting out the “Dirty Dozen” list and the “Clean 15” list. These lists detail the 12 produce items you should avoid if they aren’t organic, as well as the 15 items that are a-okay to save money on by buying conventionally. You can print it out and use it while shopping. Additionally buying in-season organic produce helps too!
- Reduce and then eliminate processed foods, artificial dyes, and sweeteners. It’s one thing for your little to get these highly processed items outside of the house, but look in your fridge and pantry...are you buying this stuff for home use? Don’t trick yourself into thinking this is less expensive. Because these foods are lacking in nutrients, generally kids don’t feel satisfied when eating them, plus it causes illness. So, in the end, it costs you more in grocery budget and you can tack on medical costs.
It may seem like a lot to get rid of these products, but you will SAVE money and time doing this. If you can’t eliminate all three, start with one and work your way from less than once per day, to less than once per week, to total elimination. You can simply eliminate sodas/sweet drinks (Gatorade etc) and that can be a huge saving in the artificial junk department.
Solve the sweet tooth with natural sugars like honey, coconut sugars, maple syrup, dark chocolate, and fruit. Encourage desserts from these natural sources. One of our favorites is a banana sprinkled with cinnamon and drizzled with honey. Treat desserts as special treats reserved for Sundays, holidays, or birthdays. There is no need to have dessert every day or after every meal. Spend a little time prepping some snacks to avoid the packaged food mayhem that occurs. It will help your family feel better AND help reduce your footprint on Mama Earth.
- Limit cow milk and dairy (or remove it altogether). These are inflammatory and cause a mucous reaction in all people - just some react more than others. Remember, inflammation is the start and end of every illness, for all bodies, big and small.
There are many good seed, nut, and pea milk varieties on the market now to help with the general need for milk/dairy in cooking.
If you don’t have seasonal allergies or an outward dairy sensitivity or allergy, enjoy high-quality cheese on occasion but not regularly.
Eat Healthy Fats. Push out the stuffs the yucky vegetable oils, canola oils and soy oils that are causing inflammation by increasing the stuffs that help with inflammation like good fats. Eat plenty of nuts, seeds, avocados, and olive oils.
- Fermented Foods Weave probiotics into your family’s diet more routinely with fermented foods. Consider adding sauerkraut, pickles, (really any pickled vegetables) and kimchi to your meals just to name a few. Additionally, consider replacing the taste for sweetened beverages with some kombucha. You can even learn how to make kombucha yourself here. Our family really enjoys making kombucha as a group project.
Supplements to Keep Your Immune System Healthy
As I mentioned, I'm frequently asked “What can I take to help with _____?” and although there are natural remedies that you can take to help with lots of conditions and even to virus-proof your family...almost every supplement works better with a good nutrition base from which to start.
Many traditional Practitioners recommend a daily multivitamin. Most often, especially if you're eating whole plant foods, a daily multivitamin is simply a waste of money. If you do need a good vitamin and mineral boost, choose one that has enough of the vitamins and minerals to make a difference. There are many really expensive supplements on the market that don’t do anything for the body - they don’t necessarily hurt it either but don’t waste your money. You may have even heard me say “It just creates expensive pee” and that is accurate. Remember, supplements can not replace a nourishing food, no matter what they say in their marketing.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids are extremely important for adults and children alike. Depending on the age and size of the child the dose may be as low as 500 mg up to 5000 mg for adults. My kids take around 3000 mg per day and that is both my eight year old and eleven year old. Each child is different. Things to look out for include loose stools as a sign that you may have too much omega-3 and need to reduce your supplementation. Liquid supplements are easiest to use for children because you can achieve the recommended dose for less when compared to the gummies.
Most adults will need to take 3 to 5000 mg per day of a good-quality omega-3 supplement. I have linked a suggested brand in the resource, downloadable here.
Be very careful when buying omega supplements - many companies will sell you on a supplement that has multiple omegas - don’t buy it. You only want omega 3s, none of the 6s or 9s (those are inflammatory!).
Vitamin D3+K2 is an integral part of protecting your body via the immune system. It is especially important during the fall and winter months when adults and kids don't spend nearly enough time outside in the sun.
Even the time we do spend in the sun is not as strong as it is in the spring and summer because of the position of the Earth in relation to the sun during this time of year. The solution is to supplement with Vitamin D3, from kids to adults. You want to be somewhere between 800-2000 IU (International Units)/day, especially during the fall and winter months.
Adults, be sure your formula is a Vitamin D3 + K2 formula for cardiac health.
Probiotics are so very important for all ages INCLUDING infants. Recommended daily dosages vary widely, depending on needs, but most agree 1-10 billion CFU (Colony Forming Units) for infants, 10-20 billion CFUs for older children, and 30-50 billion for adults.
Taking probiotics does not replace the need for fermented foods. They are both important aspects of balanced and nourishing nutrition. Our health begins in our gut, and not just our physical health but our mental health as well.
Sleeping Your Way to Wellness
This is critical to wellness. You can learn about all the things your body does while you sleep, in my sleep episode and article here. Including specific help to catch your zzz's. Here are some general guidelines for the entire family:
No TVs in the bedroom. It's not a good idea to fall asleep while watching TV. It makes for difficulty falling asleep as well as difficulty staying asleep even if the TV falls off. It interrupts the patterns in your brain that allow you to get a restful night's sleep.
No screens for two hours before bed. The same goes for screens in general for the same reasons. Studies show that the blue lights in the screens activate chemical cascades that make it more difficult for you to fall and stay asleep. That goes for kids and adults as well. For adults that must work on a screen late in the evening, it is advisable to get blue light blocker glasses. They've come a long way and style you can find some here.
Cold and Dark. The bedroom should be kept cool and completely dark. If your child needs a night light to get started, put it on a timer so it turns off eventually or consider a colored light to ease the exposure to the artificial lights.
Routine. Try to get to bed around the same time every night and wake up around the same time every morning, even on the weekends.
Movement, Stress Management, Essential Oils, and Hydration
Movement is so important! Everyone needs to be moving at least an hour a day. It doesn't have to all be at the same time and it really should be outdoors whenever possible. Bonus points if you can get feet-on-the-ground earthing done during the same time.
There are no guidelines for this needing to be cardiovascular or lifting weights or any such thing like that. Just an hour of play/activity outside each day is all that it takes. And adults, you aren’t getting out of that either, this is especially important for you, too.
Stress Management. With all the activities and schoolwork and structure that our children have every single day, stress management is not just for the adults in the house. Increased stress weakens the immune system and can make your family more vulnerable to catching a virus. It's easy to teach kids as young as four or five years old to destress to manage anxiety and even to meditate and practice relaxing breathing techniques. The caveat is the parents have to remind them to do it daily. But it's also a good reminder for adults to be meditating once or twice a day themselves.
Hydration. Did you know that even becoming mildly dehydrated is a stressor for both kid and adult bodies and weakens the immune system?
Depending on where you're at in your families nutrition journey it's possible that your child does not have a taste for regular, plain water. Children must get used to drinking water as their primary beverage. To make it more appealing at first try creating “Spa” water.
It’s very easy. You can simply infuse plain old water with some fruits like berries, slices of oranges, or any other fruit. Here is a quick tip: children are more likely to try new things if they're involved in the process of creating it, so let them pick what fruit to put in the water!
This “spa water” trick also works with adults, for those of you who don't like the taste of plain water try adding citrus or berries or cucumbers or even herbs like basil and rosemary and mint.
Over time this will help you develop a taste for plain water. Plain water is the most nourishing thing for the body and we need lots of it to maintain your health. A good way to check if you are getting enough water is by looking at your pee. It should be plentiful, odor-free, and pale, pale yellow.
Essential Oils. No discussion would be complete about back to school germ warfare without talking about essential oils. We use thieves down our spines and on the bottom of our feet to help support our immune system and for an extra layer of protection for the start of school!
So let’s do a quick recap.
To wrap this up, let’s go over what you can do to virus-proof your family:
- Nutrition - focus on adding and amping up the good to crowd out the bad. Include things like 5-8 servings of fruits and veggies.
- Supplements - start with a good base and then download my Natural Viral Remedy Medicine Cabinet for uh-ohs.
- Water - drink it all! Honestly for most adults 80-120 ounces and for kids at least ½ their body weight in ounces.
- Hygiene - get back to handwashing basics and get rid of the hand sanitizer.
- Sleep - make sure the whole family has good sleep habits.
- Movement - an hour a day of play (bonus if it's outside and barefoot.)
- Manage Stress - there are many ways to do this, family or individual meditations are amazing.
- Thieves Essential Oil topically and aromatically (in the diffuser) NOT internally.
As always if you need more help? Be sure and check out AudreyChristie.com/work-with-Audrey to schedule a complimentary virtual session.
And thank you so much for reading, if you would like to contribute, be sure to share this with your friends and family! I would be so grateful.