Back to School- Building the Immune System

The mornings have a chill in the air, and with that season comes….I’m going to say it….’back to school!’

Now not only are the kids sighing, but everyone is because they all know the cold weather is coming with that stage in the year; the cold, the snow, being cramped indoors and in small spaces with a bunch of germs around. It hasn’t been uncommon in recent years for the flu to have an outbreak even the first week of school.

And since we are prepping our kids backpacks and gearing our parents to tackle the increased stress load of juggling schedules, don’t forget that taking care of your nutrition, exercise, and sleep is vital in staying healthy through the season.

Some tips and tricks for a healthy beginning to Fall:

1. Get the family back on a decent sleep schedule.
Start heading to bed earlier and rising earlier. This in general is less stressful on our bodies, therefore decreasing cortisol levels and improving our immune system, as well as our general fatigue! Morning is also the best time of the day for some movement and exercise! Add in 5 minutes of gratitude journaling, devotions, prayer and meditation to get your day off to a great start!

2. Take some probiotics!
Generally in our house, School Open House is time to get our morning routine back in gear with taking our supplements and making our smoothies for out the door. Probiotics are the first line of defense in a strong immune system. Having a diverse population of strong bugs in your gut leads to stronger natural ways your body can fight off infections.

3. Get your Prebiotics!
Now you could take a supplement but I am a fan of getting multi-purpose out of foods. Prebiotics, simply put, are certain vegetables and fibers that in a sense create a nice home or nest for your probiotics to grow and thrive. Without a good home to live in, they just keep moving along the intestinal tract. My all-time favorite prebiotic with a punch at kicking out infections is GARLIC! Add it to meals, eat it raw, take a supplement. Don’t be afraid of smelling like garlic, there are supplements that are excellent at getting you high doses of the active properties without wondering about smelling like you are warding off vampires. But I suppose if you have a teen that you would like to keep away from a certain special someone, this could be a dirty parental trick?!

4. Get your Vitamin D!
In general, Minnesotans are the most likely to exhibit vitamin D deficiency leading to immune weaknesses. But, I must say last year I had a large number of my patients in a good range because they are knowledgable, getting their labs done, and getting it in. Our bodies need about 1 hour of sunshine per day, and with days getting shorter and staying inside longer, increased stress (which depletes minerals and affects liver function which converts vitamin D), levels may soon drop in the early months of Fall. Some people may not ‘hold on to’ their summer vitamin D levels. Some people begin to deplete if they aren’t supplementing. My best advice is if you are objectively curious, blood tests are very helpful in determining how you are using vitamin D from Fall to Spring (either your MD or our office can help you with that).

5. Protect yourself from oxidant damage with antioxidants: Vitamin C and Zinc!
Our environment is stressful, so consider being proactive. Berries, Nuts and Seeds are a great food source but you may also consider supplementing at times when illness that may be around you.

6. How many cups of vegetables are you eating per day?
This is my favorite topic of every day. The answer is 6-9 cups of dark green veggies per day. And 9-13 if you are overachiever! Veggies tie in with antioxidant support as well as prebiotic support to lead to less inflammation in the gut and therefore a stronger immune system.

People may struggle with this vital part of the diet, but consider adding in some Nutri-Dyn Fruits and Greens to fill the gaps. The flavors are out of this world and can really help you feel energized and great. My kids are loving mixing their own and coming up with their own concoctions, they become flavor wizards in the kitchen in the morning!

Giving kids responsibility over how to make their shake or how to cook their veggies and help in the kitchen may lead them to try new things. This is really where a healthy lifestyle begins. Teach and learn to enjoy flavors from your kitchen. Spices can make all the difference in a veggie rich diet.

Planning ahead
Can’t believe the nights are already cooling down and the kids are prepping their school bags. But as a Mom I know planning ahead for that crash landing into the long school day stuck inside with a petri dish of germs is something we need to prepare for. There is no avoiding it, but with prepping our kids and giving them ownership of how to take care of themselves, it doesn’t have to add on more stress. Knowledge is power and action is success.

Cheers to a great start to Fall!
– Dr. Christine

PS…. if you are curious about stocking your natural herbal cupboard with more specific illness related formulas, we can help you. We have items for runny noses and sinus infections, coughs, sore throats, and so many others that you can just let us know and we’ll help you along!