By Dr. Nicole Meier, ND
2020 will go down in history as the most anxiety-provoking back to school experience in recent history. Many parents are weighing the risks and benefits of a return to the classroom. This is understandable and realistic. The threat of COVID looms, but other viruses are also going to make the rounds this fall and we can’t forget about those! What can you do to keep your child healthy and your family safe this fall? LOTS. Let me first qualify that Naturopaths in Ontario are not permitted to make claims about treating or preventing COVID specifically, despite the fact that we have the skills and knowledge to help keep you healthy (politics). But what we can do is give general recommendations to our patients on immune wellness through lifestyle approaches and supplementation.
My top five approaches for staying healthy this fall are as follows:
Children sleep up to 90 minutes less per night than they did in 1970! This generation of children are chronically sleep deprived and its wreaking havoc on their health and mood. How much sleep does your child need? How much sleep do you need? Children under the age of 6 require 12 hours per night to remain cognitively and immunologically balanced. Children between 6 and 8 require 10-11 hours. 9-11 year olds need approximately 10 hours and over 12 need 9-10 hours. Adults of all ages require 7-8.5 hours. Setting a bedtime schedule and routine this fall will benefit the whole family.
A diet low in colourful vegetables and high in sugar and processed food predicts a large variety of diseases like diabetes, obesity, ADD and cancer. Making a meal plan and eliminating junk in your child’s lunches will make a big difference in their short term and long term health. Pay particular attention to sweet beverages like juice and chocolate milk – which offer no health benefit and contribute to obesity.
Immune fortifying supplements
Vitamin C. Good evidence exists that vitamin C can treat viral illnesses. Most children over 2 years can take 500mg of a chewable or powdered supplement daily. Vitamin C with bioflavanoids can help manage environmental allergies as well (hayfever).
Probiotics. Given that most of your immune system resides in your digestive tract, a healthy microbiome is key for immunity. Probiotics act like tourists in your digestive tract, spending money and improving the economy while they pass through. They can promote the healthy balance needed for a solid immune response. Specific children’s probiotics have strains that are proven to increase immune function.
Vitamin D. Did you know that vitamin D status can predict survival from severe viral illness? Children under 12 can take 400 IU/day and children 12 and up (including adults) 1000 IU/day. I prefer liquid forms that are suspending in oil for best absorption.
While it might be tempting to keep you children inside this fall, outdoor air and nature provide a much needed change of pace and scenery. A famous Japanese study found that people who walk in the forest have a significant improvement in their immune cells, over those that walked in urban areas. Daily exercise stimulates healthy immune function and mitigates the risk of obesity – a huge factor in outcomes from viral illness.
A change of clothes and a good hand washing after school may go a long way this fall. While changing clothes is not a proven approach to prevent spread, droplets can be on all fabrics, not just masks. Washing the masks after use and having “at home” clothes is conservative and reasonable advice.
Wishing you a safe and healthy return to school this fall!