It is the time of year when the backpack needs to come out of the closet and lists of school supplies are purchased, ready to be loaded in the pack for the return to school. Whatever fun the summer held, you can always predict returning to school means lots of time your children will spend on buses, in classrooms and mingling together in lunchrooms, playgrounds and over classroom projects. Which means exchanging germs. Lots of new experiences and new bacteria, viruses, germs and stresses, as well as stories of their summer adventures.
We cannot guarantee that the children will wash their hands as often as they should, nor can we depend on them not to sneeze on each other or remember to cover their mouth when they cough. But we can boost their immune system before the onslaught of new bugs hit them. We can make sure that their diet and supplements are conducive to the best possible protection when we are not there to care for them, whatever age they are! We should also be aware of the new stresses and potential anxieties they may experience, and how to support them in this area, since it is so strongly linked to overall health.
As well as stocking up on pencils and stickers for school, also stock up leafy green vegetables and fresh fruits for boosting their immune system. Cut out the high sugar and processed foods, cut down on processed dairy foods which increase inflammation and phlegm, often leading to ear infections, coughs and congestion that seem to linger longer than the cold that seemed to start the issue.
School lunch tends to be an area where parents lose control. Parents send their children off to school with the food they would like their child to eat. At school the children trade their lunches with other children. There is no way for the parents to know if their child actually eat what was sent. Another nutritional nightmare is birthday parties, which tend to include sugary snacks which are known to lower the immune system. Before school providing the child with a healthy breakfast and having healthy snacks available for after school will help the child get nutrients needed to prevent a weakened immune system. Breakfast cereals are usually not the best food option for children. They tend to be high in added sugar. The recommended amount of added sugar daily for a child between 2-18 years is 25 grams. This is equivalent to 6 teaspoons of sugar. The top sold breakfast cereals contain between 9-17 grams (~2 - 4 teaspoons) per serving. That does not leave much room for additional sugar. Children tend to be surrounded by a lot of sugar: cookies, candy, soda, and breakfast cereal -a recipe for a weakened immune system.
Healthy Snack Ideas
Carrot sticks, celery sticks, bell peppers, or cucumbers with hummus
Sliced fruit with nut butter
Start by cutting down on sugar. That also means cutting back on fruit juices, or making sure to cut them with vegetable juice, to reduce the amount of sugar intake. Fruit juices do not contain fiber. Fiber helps regulate bowel movements and keeps the sugar in check. Too much sugar, in any form, can lead to weakening the immune system. Make sure they get a good daily dose of protein, such as beans, nuts and seeds, avocado, and fish or lean meats. Beans, nuts and seeds contain the important mineral zinc which is an immune boost and reduces the likelihood of viral infections, including colds, sore throats, coughs and the nasty bugs that lead to absences from school work and prescribed antibiotics, which tend to run the immune system down further.
Zinc can also be given in the form of a lozenge or for younger children, a liquid. The recommended doses for age groups: 6 months to 3 years of age is 2-3 mg per day; and 14-18 year olds need 10-15 mg per day. For those children between these ages, check with a practitioner for the correct recommended dosages.
Other vitamins to supplement to make a difference are: vitamin C - around 1,000 mg - buffered ascorbic acid; and Vitamin D3 - Babies up to 1 year need 400 units per day and 10+ years old can take 1000 - 2000 units per day. Check with a practitioner for everyone in between.
Probiotics are important, since many imbalances start in the gut. Maintaining a good healthy balance helps to prepare children, and adults, with good bacteria to battle and eradicate the bad bacteria that cause stomach upsets and viruses that cause colds. Start sooner rather than waiting for the actual day they set off for school, so everyone can build strong immune systems for protection. They are less likely to develop upper respiratory tract infections, so less misery and time off from school.
It is important for the child to take a high quality multivitamin. This will help make sure they get the needed nutrients to help their growth. Remember while at school there's no control over what food your child actually consumes.
Something that is not always discussed is the emotional support that many children, and also some parents, require to overcome the fears and insecurities of starting or changing things in a new school year. If a child is happy about returning to their classroom and seeing their friends, that’s wonderful, but if they are suffering emotional turmoil, this puts detrimental stress on their immune system. Much can be done to support children’s emotional balance; food choices can help, as well as herbs and homeopathy, when there are known issues. Fear, anger, depression, aggression, loneliness, lack of motivation and lack of concentration can be helped by herbal remedies specific for children. Some food items can trigger emotional issues, so check that the food choices for your child do not contain dyes, chemicals, high doses of sugar and food sensitivities or allergens.
Homeopathic remedies can help with specific school related issues, such as nervousness, social anxiety, focus and more. Homeopathy safely works to ignite the body’s innate healing mechanisms in order to enhance health and wellbeing on all levels - mentally, emotionally, and physically. The remedies can be individualized to fit the specific psychological and physical needs of each and every person.
These are very common challenges that students face whether entering a new school year, transferring to another school, or encountering a new social environment. There are several remedies that can help address these issues and allow students to smoothly transition to school.
Lycopodium is a great remedy to consider for students who are nervous and have low self-confidence about their self-image when entering a new social scene. This nervousness is usually accompanied by stomach related ailments such as gas, bloating, or empty stomach sensations. All symptoms are generally worse between 4pm-8pm.
Arsenicum is another remedy with a strong affinity for both strong anxiety and nervousness as well as gastrointestinal related problems, especially stomach burning and food poisoning. Students needing this remedy will express extreme restlessness, a pathological need for order and cleanliness, and will have numerous strong fears, especially around health and crowds. Their restlessness can also result in difficulty sleeping, especially between midnight and 2am.
Are you a social butterfly with an endless list of fears and phobias?
Then Phosphorus may be right for you. This remedy can help calm students from hyperactive over-excitement and it is also a prime remedy for students dealing with focus issues such as ADD or ADHD. It also works well for students that are very thirsty, get sick easily, and have excessive nosebleeds and bodily bleeding.
An additional remedy to consider for better focus in school is Pulsatilla. Pulsatilla is a wonderful remedy for students transitioning from one school to another, or from one stage of school to another (e.g. high school to college, middle school to high school). Pulsatilla is generally geared for sweet, female students (but not exclusively) who are sensitive and desire emotional connection with others. They can get emotionally hurt very easily after a disagreeable experience, which can lead to emotional upsets, excessive sobbing, and clinginess. Consider this remedy if the person is better when eating carbs and in the open air, and is worse from stuffy, hot rooms.
If the school transition is very sudden and leaves the student in shock or in a traumatic like state, whether before or after initially starting school, and the student is immediately worse from cold, dry wind, then Aconite should be considered instead. This remedy can also be used for students that are immediately affected when receiving sudden, shocking news in school, such as a bad grade, being called to the principal's office, or when being traumatically confronted by bullies.
Calcarea phosphoricum is a must for students who have been used to a particular social structure or school environment and then must transition to a new setting. The move to another school setting can be very upsetting to them, as they depended on their previous setting for comfort and emotional security.
Baryta Carbonica is another remedy with an affinity for brain processing and focus, especially for mental retardation, ADD, and ADHD. This remedy works to rebalance general mental functions in students that react very slowly to conversations or event and are extremely clingy. Calcarea carbonica is another remedy to consider for slowness both physically and mentally, especially where stubbornness and nightmares are manifested.
Considering that the school year generally begins towards the end of the summer, Gelsemium should definitely be a remedy that one should consider for use. Gelsemium works excellently for students dealing with summer colds accompanied by drowsiness and droopy eyes. On a more mental, emotional level, Gelsemium should be considered for introverted students that are very quiet and reticent and are very nervous when dealing with any task, big or small.
Here are several other back to school homeopathic remedies to consider:
Use Arnica for first aid bruises and injuries (it can also be used alongside conventional first aid methods). For puncture wounds, consider Ledum. For injuries that damage the nerves, such as having a door closed on one’s fingers, consider Hypericum.
Apis should be used for insect stings.
Consider Ipecacuanha for intense and consistent vomiting.
For emotional upsets:
use Staphysagria for psychological and/or physical ailments from indignation or suppressed anger. If the anger results in a strong hate for another and an intense desire for anger, consider Nitricum Acidum.
for strong hysterical outbursts and emotional crying from past or present negative experiences, consider Ignatia. When the upsets are more depressive and silent, as well as not expressed as intensely as Ignatia over past disagreeable events, consider Natrum Muriaticum.
Emotional upsets leading to more resigned and apathetic forms of depression are strong indication for Phosphoricicum Acidum.
Staphysagria can also be used for stabbing wounds from sharp objects, such as scissors or sharp school supplies.
Many people receive their yearly checkups right before the school year, which sometimes involves vaccinations. Silica and Thuja are two homeopathic remedies that should be considered for post-vaccination and can help to offset the potential side effects of vaccinations for students of all ages.
There are certainly more homeopathic remedies that can be suggested for acute back to school uses. The above remedies are a great list to start with as you add more remedies to your homeopathic repertoire. Alternatively, you can also purchase a homeopathic remedy kit containing the most common homeopathic remedies on the go, including many of the above mentioned remedies.
On the herbal list for starting school are some liquid mixes, which are easy to dose young children with helpful, supporting herbs to calm emotions and restore confidence, such as Calm Restore, a blend of herbs formulated for children from 1 month to 13 years of age. Chamomile Calm, for a calming support, or Minty Ginger, for those children whose anxiety translates to upset tummies. Rescue Remedy for Kids is another natural relief for stress.
Something else to add to the lunchbox, or backpack, is a small pack of natural hand sanitizer wipes or a small spray. Alcohol-free kid safe products are important, and Clean Well, Meyer’s or EO are excellent hand sanitizers to carry, since you cannot be there to supervise the length of time and the amount of soap used prior to eating their snacks or lunch. Small steps can have big improvements. The choice of scent is actually the essential oil, and lavender is antibacterial, antifungal and has a calming effect. Tangerine can help with focus; vetiver can help with anger issues. A word of caution with the use of lavender: Use this essential oil sparingly and test first for children with autism or ADD/ADHD. Always dilute essential oils. The younger the child the more dilute the oil should be. You can also make your own hand sanitizer, and involve your children in the project.The reason to avoid alcohol in hand sanitizers is because it dries out skin and can lead to cracked skin, which is then open to bacteria when used on a regular basis.
Dietary supplements can support brain function and add extra protection against viruses, such as liquid cod liver oil in a tasty strawberry flavor or the liquid First Defense, a blend of herbs to ward off sniffles.
Supporting the family in their health and development is very important when going to school, whether kindergarten or college. Please come in to talk to a practitioner about what to stock up on, for each family member, and get started early. Plan to have a healthy and happy start to the new school year.
Sally Warren, PhD
Board Certified Traditional Naturopath
Metro Integrative Pharmacy
Karen Wright, CNS, CDN
State Licensed Nutritionist
Metro Integrative Pharmacy
Ariel Baradarian, CC
Board Certified Homeopathic Practitioner
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Metro Integrative Pharmacy
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. The information in this article is for educational purposes only.