By Rachel Welch
School is back in session! This means that the students and teachers in your households may come home with a lot more than just homework. What many parents refer to as "the back-to-school plague" can cause the early months of school to be fraught with sickness. From changing sleep schedules, new group settings, and different lunches, back-to-school season can be challenging for our health! Luckily, there are several ways to fight back. You just need an effective immune support strategy.
Merriam Webster defines immunity as "a condition of being able to resist a particular disease especially through preventing the development of a pathogenic microorganism or by counteracting the effects of its products (1)."
Immunity is developed in our bodies as we encounter germs. When the body is exposed to a germ or pathogen, it launches an immune response. In most cases, when that same germ comes back later, the body’s the response is stronger.. This is where group environments can be helpful for children, who are just developing their immune systems. By having more exposure to new bacteria, germs, and pathogens, the body learn how to effectively fight back. However, that doesn't mean that we shouldn't take precautions to make immunity stronger where we can.
The immune system responds well to rest, healthy foods, exercise, a healthy weight, and adequate sleep. On the other hand, other factors have the potential to disrupt our immune health. Sickness, stress, unhealthy foods, sugar, and a sedentary lifestyle are all correlated with lower immune system strength (2). Unfortunately, back-to-school season can prompt many of these changes. With new schedules, many families become busier which can cause healthier, labor-intensive choices to become less of a priority. For instance, when caregivers have less time and energy during the chaos of the back-to-school season, it may be challenging to maintain a healthy diet. In this case, you might consider daily vitamins as a way to help fill in the nutrition gap.
Supplements and vitamins continue to be studied for their health benefits. Many doctors prescribe health vitamins and supplements to patients, as they can be helpful for a variety of things. Here are just a few vitamins that can benefit your immune health.
Several studies have confirmed the use of these nutrients in their potential to boost immune health (3). This leads to a higher chance of staying healthy against things like the common cold, or "the back to school plague."
A hot topic recently has been immune support against COVID-19. It is important to note that while increased immunity will help your body's defenses overall, this is not necessarily a protection against COVID-19. The best protection against a virus, like COVID-19, is to receive the vaccine. Additionally, it is helpful to limit exposure by wearing a mask when you are around others, as recommended by the CDC (4).
As back to school season arrives, it is important to prioritize the immunity of yourself and the students or teachers in your household. You can do this by implementing the following steps.
Maintain a healthy sleep schedule.
The CDC recommends that school-aged children (ages 6-12) should get 9-12 hours of sleep per night. Teenagers likely need 8-10 hours, and adults ages 18-64 need 7-9 hours (5). A balanced sleep schedule will give your body time to heal, repair, and process events of the day. It will also keep your immunity strong.
Eat a Healthy Diet.
Much of our nutrition comes from what we eat and drink. By ensuring that we have colorful plates full of fresh and healthy foods, our bodies have a better chance of maintaining strong immune systems. It is also important that we hydrate properly, as water is the key to every function in our body. Make sure the body has electrolytes too—if it lacks those, water won’t be absorbed properly. Eating well and hydrating are excellent steps to add to your immune support strategy.
Consider Health Supplements.
If you feel that your or your family's diet lacks nutrition, consider supplementing those immune-boosting nutrients with health vitamins! Try to find high-quality and organic supplements without unnecessary fillers. If you need a place to start, Health By Principle can help!
In addition to eating, sleeping, and supplementing, our bodies also need to move! Moderate exercise has been proven to increase immune system strength (6). Moderate exercises like walking, steady cycling, yoga, and light hiking can all cause a boost in immune system performance. It should be noted that more intense exercise can have the opposite effect with a temporary decrease in immune strength. So, the next time you choose a more mellow workout, you can claim that it's for your immunity!
We wish you health and wellness this back-to-school season. Hopefully, by implementing your new immune support strategy, your immunity will stay strong!