Your Back to School Checklist: Holistic Medicine, Learning, and Immune Support

Whether this year brings your child back to school in the classroom, living room, or beyond, kids need the right holistic support for a healthy, happy, and successful school year.

This article will show you the 5 aspects to focus on for a healthier, smarter back to school experience. Plus you’ll discover simple things you can begin today to help you connect lifestyle, nutrition, and brain chemistry.

Boosting Brain Power

We tend to overlook the connection of learning, focus, and memory from the health of the rest of the body. The foods we eat, the toxins we’re exposed to, and the way we maintain digestive health all play a role in our ability to learn, think, and grow.

We can help our children become healthier by making sure they have the right nutritional, emotional, and physical support.

Behavioral problems, ADHD, and learning difficulties can all have root causes in digestive dysfunction, nutritional deficiencies, and genetic variations like MTHFR. These symptoms can be positively altered through diet and lifestyle changes (1).

Holistic Tips for Attention, Memory, and Learning

Omega-3 fats are essential for brain function. A lack of these essential fatty acids is closely linked with ADHD (2). You can get these from fatty fish like salmon and mackerel, or supplement with a high-quality omega-3 supplement if your children don’t yet have the palate for strong flavors like seafood. 

Vitamin B6 is necessary for converting the amino acid, tryptophan, into serotonin, which promoties focus and learning. If children possess an MTHFR variant, they may not be able to carry out these metabolic processes as well, and may need to supplement with a fully active–or methylated–B vitamin.

Candida overgrowth is a common problem which can interfere with focus and attention, and is often overlooked–even in your doctor’s office. 

Candida naturally exists in our digestive tract, and many other places on the body, but in the right conditions–like with increased antibiotic use or a high sugar diet–it can proliferate and cause undesired symptoms, such as:

  • Brain fog
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Fatigue
  • Digestive upset

Eating a low sugar diet and taking a probiotic can help regain a healthy bacterial balance. For more, check out 6 natural ways to cure candida here. 

Strengthening Immune Function Naturally

Never has children’s immune function been more important–and with modern lives that damage proper immune health, it’s crucial we put into place a holistic foundation to make sure your child can fight off any intruder they encounter.

The 5 most important components of immune function are:

  1. Digestive healthNutrients for kids, back to school

70-80% Of your child’s immune system resides in his or her gut. The microbiome and health of the intestinal lining is the first line of defense when it comes to any invading pathogen. Avoid inflammatory foods like excess sugar, any food allergies, and evaluate for sensitivity to dairy or gluten, as these are common and can present as poor digestion or brain fog.

  1. Nutrition

The immune system needs a diverse array of nutrients to carry out proper function. Zinc, vitamin D, B vitamins, and vitamin C are crucial. 

Low levels of zinc are not only associated with decreased immune function, but also poor detoxification function, and trouble paying attention. Animal proteins, pumpkin seeds, and legumes are good sources of zinc 

Nearly 40% of the U.S. is deficient in vitamin D, and this can be a major blow to the immune system, as low vitamin D status makes your child more susceptible to illness (3). Eating more fish, and dairy (if well tolerated), and spending 10-15 minutes per day in the sunshine are great natural ways to increase vitamin D

  1. Sleep

Busy, hyperconnected days often lead to late nights and poor sleep. In one study, after missing just one night of sleep, participants produced more inflammatory markers and had a reduced immune response (4). 

For better sleep, stick to a consistent routine, remove devices from the bedroom (even TVs), and develop a nighttime routine for both adults and children that help wind down and prepare the mind for sleep.

  1. Screentime

In recent months, experts estimate that screen time in U.S. households has jumped from an average of 5 hours per day to almost 9. So much time spent on devices can pose potential problems for neuroinflammation, mental health, and sleep disturbances (4). 

While many (if not most) kids are learning virtually right now, it becomes that much more important to prioritize activities away from the screen, or outside where they can disconnect fully from their devices.

  1. Emotional support

Kids are resilient, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t susceptible to stress, anxiety, and mental health woes. Keeping an open line of communication through which they can express their frustration and stress will help you guide them through healthy coping mechanisms. 

Mental and emotional health are closely linked to physical health, and by supporting one, we support the other, and vice versa.

Keeping Physically Fitback to school kids

Maintaining physical fitness is a crucial part of a healthy back to school experience. With 1 in 5 kids now estimated to be obese, setting in place healthy habits for activity is beneficial to not only overall health but academic opportunity and learning as well (5).

Create consistent, daily activity. At school, kids have regularly scheduled recess time during which to expend excess energy and increase physical fitness. This serves two goals: it helps them stay healthy, and it helps to refocus their energy once they get back into the classroom.

If learning from home, try regularly scheduled movement breaks, either inside or out, temperature permitting.

Incorporate strength training in the form of games or even structured workouts. Depending on the age of your children, they may like to participate with you during your workouts. Strength training helps build muscle and encourages the development of motor skills which strengthens the brain AND body.

How to Help Kids Maintain a Healthy Weight

While children need plenty of energy for their growing bodies, sometimes increased body weight can be of concern to parents. To help your child maintain a healthy weight, be mindful of excess time spent on devices, too much sugar, and not enough sleep. 

Routine & Support

Children thrive in structured environments. Much like adults like to know what to expect so they can plan for their day, kids experience similar feelings. Familiar routines and schedules provide kids with security and safety they need to focus on higher-level tasks like learning and cognitive skills. If this school year finds you continuing your child’s education from home, sticking to a similar routine each day can help boost productivity and focus.

Wellness Check Appointments and Vaccines

Each child’s health is unique, and it’s important to develop a relationship with a practitioner you trust to discuss individual issues. Having a conversation with your provider about the necessary and recommended vaccines is a big part of a back to school checklist.

You can also use this time to update medications, discuss allergy information, and re-evaluate any dietary supplements your children may benefit from throughout the school year.

For the complete resource guide to a healthy, happy back to school season, click here for holistic methods to help your child thrive.