Tips for a healthy school year
Shift in Health
By Wendy M. Henrichs
Board certified chiropractic pediatrician and nutrition counselor
The days are getting shorter and the nights a little cooler signaling that fall is on its way. Another school year is upon us as well. For many, the usual anticipation and excitement of a new school year has been replaced with uncertainty, fear and unanswered questions regarding COVID-19. There are many factors that cannot be controlled, but you can control your state of health. Viruses need a host and thrive in a host that is not healthy. These are some strategies to improve your and your child’s state of health and decrease susceptibility to any type of infection including colds, flu and COVID-19.
I talk about removing added sugars and eating a clean, organic diet in many of my articles. It has never been more important to make clean eating a priority. Added sugar causes inflammation in your body which can lead to lowered immune function and production of inflammatory cytokines. Eating an organic diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables is especially easy this time of year, as the farmers market and gardens are overflowing with produce. Fresh fruits and vegetables are loaded with antioxidants which will help to support and boost immune function. Organic produce is higher in nutrients and lower in toxins so choose organic whenever you can. Work towards eating 7 -10 one-cup servings of different fruits and vegetables every day. Consuming a whole food drink such as Dynamic Fruits and Greens, which has 20 servings in every scoop, is a way to add the benefits of fruits, veggies and antioxidants into your diet.
Eating wild-caught fish, grass-fed meats, organic-free range poultry, nuts and seeds will add good quality protein to your diet, but most importantly will add omega-3 fats. Omega-3 fats decrease inflammation in your cell membranes, tissues, brain and nervous system. Inflammation will decrease your immune function and increase your risk for a poor outcome from COVID-19. If you do not consume wild caught, cold water fish daily, an omega-3 supplement is an easy way to add more of the anti-inflammatory omega-3 fats into your diet.
Sleep is an important nutrient for proper immune function. Sleep is when your body heals and regenerates itself. Just think of a time you let yourself get run down, you probably got sick. Sleep deprivation has a significant effect on your immune system’s ability to fight infections and disease. Just one night of poor sleep, four hours or less, will reduce your T killer cells (first line of defense) by 70%. Sleep deprivation increases the inflammatory response in your tissues and increases cell damage. Lack of sleep increases the stress hormone Cortisol. Just one night of poor sleep can increase cortisol by 40%. Cortisol will depress your immune function over time and increase inflammation and inflammatory cytokines. As you can see, sleep is a very important nutrient. Children and teens require 9-12 hours of good quality sleep whereas adults only need 6-8 hours. Turn down the temperature and turn off electronics 30 minutes or more before bedtime for better slumber.
Exercise is important at any age, but especially for children. Not only will it help develop their brain and nervous system, improve memory and attention, but will also improve immune function through lowering the stress hormone cortisol. Children feel the stress of what is happening around them, but do not fully understand it and do not have the ability to reason like adults do. Regular exercise is an excellent combatant to cortisol which as discussed above decreases T-lymphocyte production, your first line of defense from bacteria and viruses. Exercise also reduces the production of inflammatory cytokines which are prevalent in poor outcomes from COVID-19. Just 20 minutes of movement or exercise will increase your immune system function and decrease inflammation.
Vitamin D has many beneficial functions which include improving immune function. A deficiency in Vitamin D can lead to increased susceptibility to infections. Vitamin D has also been shown to decrease inflammation, a major contributor to poor outcomes from COVID-19. The recommended normal range of vitamin D3 is 30-80 ng/mL. You can get a blood test to find out if you are in the normal range or deficient. I recommend working to get your vitamin D3 levels between 55-80ng/mL.
The Endocrine Society of Clinical Practice (ESCP) suggests the following maintenance doses of vitamin D3:
1000 IU/d for infants up to 6 months
1500 IU/d for infants from 6 months to 1 year
2500 IU/d for children aged 1–3 years
3000 IU/d for children aged 4–8 years
4000-5000 IU/d for everyone over 8 years
Decrease the uncertainty and fears that may be associated with your child returning to school by making better choices in your diet, adding more exercise, and ensuring good quality sleep.Let us all do our part to help make this school year a healthy and happy one. Remember, it is never too late to make a shift in health.
Dr. Wendy Henrichs provides comprehensive chiropractic care at Timber Land Chiropractic in Rhinelander. For a complimentary chiropractic, nutrition or lifestyle counseling consultation, visit TimberlandChiropractic.com, Facebook, Instagram @drwendyhenrichs, LinkedIn, or call 715-362-4852.