Just the thought of going back to school can give you a headache as parents, I know, because I am one. Your child’s health should rightfully be a top priority, hence the timing of this article – to help you and your kids get ahead in wellness not just at the beginning but throughout the school year.
Get Back To Routine – One of the fun parts of the summer is to enjoy the relaxed lifestyle with plenty of spontaneity, watermelon, barbeque, and ice-cream. But once school starts, tight structure and time constraints come into play. This imposes stress on every member of the family. A transition period with a gradual increase in structure and routine a couple of weeks before the actual class start date can help everyone to ease into the school routine.
Resting Well – A lack of sleep can affect brain activity, impair motor skills, decrease performance and even alter emotions. Inadequate sleep diminishes creative activity and can make operating machinery or driving risky. Insufficient rest disrupts the hormones that regulate glucose metabolism and appetite. Without sleep, healing is slowed, immunity is impaired, energy is drained, and mental fatigue and depression begin to set in. A 2006 study of 1,600 adolescents found that one in four high school students falls asleep in class at least once a week. Children ages 5 to 12 should sleep for 10 to 11 hours a night, adolescents 9 to 10 hours and a solid 7 to 8 hours for adults. No supplement, stimulant or diet will make up for lack of sleep. It would be wise to have school-bound children to establish their school-day sleep routine at least one-week before classes start. If you are tired but having trouble sleeping consider Herbal Sleep, 5-HTP, or Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) formula Nervous Fatigue.
Nutritious Breakfast – Breakfast should provide nutrients to nourish your brain and ample energy fuel to get you through the day. While carbohydrates are a part of the nutrients we need, donuts, white bread, many of box cereals, juices, and even coffee will not do the job. These simple carbohydrates may give you an instant jolt to your energy level, but they won’t last beyond mid-morning. Protein needs to be a major key component of your breakfast, because it breaks down to amino acids which your brain uses as neurotransmitters. Additionally, proteins are a great source of energy that lasts much longer than simple carbohydrates. Protein is best taken at breakfast and not dinner, because that’s when your stomach’s hydrochloric acid is highest to help digest them. Some of you might be asking, are you talking about the oily sausages, processed hams, and bacon? If you mean from a processed package of feedlot cow/pork raised on commercial feed, the answer is NO – simply because of their final “denatured” state and the harmful additives in them. However, if it is organic, or preferably “grass fed” animal, they are not only pure and nutritious, they are delicious. When protein from animal sources is not a desirable option, there are plenty of excellent botanical alternatives that are great for breakfast. Spirulina, chlorella or blue-green algae supplements found individually or together in the Super Algae product is excellent for breakfast. Protein powders from the whey, soy, rice, or other sources all may work as well. We recently discovered a pea protein powder product called Love & Peas that works great for our family. We either take it in a smoothie form with assorted berries, banana, and kiwi, or we simply mix the protein powder with water in a cup and take it along with yoghurt.
Healthy Snacks – Young children have small stomachs. As a result, they cannot get all the nutrients they need through regular meals alone. Snacks therefore do play a role in healthy eating. However, when you survey the popular snacks available in the market today, you’ll find very few healthy choices. A study published in Health Affairs on March, 2010 showed that up to 27% of children’s daily calories come from snacks. They concluded that our children are snacking not for satiety’s sake but because the snacks are abundantly available everywhere. You know what I mean if you are a soccer mom or attending a birthday party, school break or church event. Even more alarming is the very low-quality ingredients these snacks are made of. The same study showed children are consuming less fruit and more salty snacks, candies, juice and soft drinks – essentially junk food with little to no nutrient value. Is it a wonder that childhood obesity is at an epidemical and alarming level?
By shopping carefully, parents can get their children started in healthy eating habits.
Avoid soda drinks and salty, high-calorie prepackaged snack foods. Replace milk or juice with servings of fresh fruit or vegetables and grains and nuts instead. Finally, as parents, model good snacking behavior for your children by helping yourself with healthy food and snacks daily!
Brain Hazards – There are many common chemical substances we are exposed to daily that are hazardous to our health and brain function. For example, neurotoxins such as heavy metals and food additives can cause depression; headaches; lack of mental acuity and concentration; mental confusion; allergic & asthmatic reactions; endocrine disrupters may contribute to infertility, PMS, and other glandular related issues; liver and kidney toxicity; and carcinogenic effects. You might be more prone to chemical exposure than you think – in 1989, EPA reported that common household cleaning products, often dispersed in fumes, are three times more likely to cause cancer than other air pollutants. I would suggest an herbal liver (Tiao-He TCM) and/or heavy metal detox to reduce the chemical toxins in our body before school starts. Drink purified water and avoid processed food additives. Even better, consider removing all household cleaning products containing any form of hazardous chemicals and replacing them with all-natural and environment-friendly cleaning products that contain natural cleaning agents derived from plants while leaving no residues nor harmful fumes. They are also pH neutral and biodegradable. Examples – Nature’s Fresh Bamboo Dryer Sheets, plant-derived enzyme spray to break down carpet stains and house odors, and plant-based surfactants derived from coconut kernel and essential oils to replace laundry soap and dish-washing liquid.
ADD & ADHD – Parents with an ADD or ADHD child are especially challenged for obvious reasons. The most common underlying causes, according to Dr. Mark Hyman of the Institute for Functional Medicine, are a nutrient depleted diet caused by overwhelming processed foods and sugars, toxic environment (addressed above), unremitting stress both at home and school, immune and inflammatory triggers from continuous exposure to allergens and infections, childhood vaccinations and hormonal imbalance.
Here are a few simple but important steps you can take as parents:
1. Identify and reduce food allergies by process of elimination.
2. Eliminate foods that cause over-stimulation – all simple sugars, artificial sweeteners and caffeine-based soft drinks.
3. Do a detox as mentioned in this article, particularly liver and/or heavy metals.
4. Feed the nervous and brain system functions using lots of Vitamin B complexes and other foundational whole-food based vitamins and minerals.
5. Take herbs and combination herbal supplements especially designed to enhance neurotransmission, memory, and focus. I would also add antioxidants to protect brain function.