It’s time to head back to school, but as kids pick out their first-day outfits and prepare to reconnect with classmates they haven’t seen in over a year, and parents get used to the new schedule, many may have questions about keeping themselves and their family healthy during this new school year. With districts throughout the U.S. planning on a full return back to school, there obviously will be interactions with larger groups of people, perhaps in tight spaces with close contact providing exposure to different types of germs. There are a few key ways to help boost your immune defense as we prepare to head back to the classroom.
Boost your immune system for the back-to-school season
There are some simple things you can do to support your immune system and build your body’s immune defense as we prepare to head back to school. Start these as soon as possible to give your body a head start, and help both you and your kids start adjusting to the idea of caring for your immune health.
Daily morning sun exposure – This helps set the circadian clock for the day and provides better sleep at night (you’ll want 7-8 hours of quality sleep). Better quality sleep allows our bodies to rest, heal and fight off any potential infection that may have been exposed to. Morning sun exposure could be as simple as having breakfast on your patio or in your backyard, but you’ll get bonus points if your daily morning sun involves some sort of exercise like taking a walk.
Diet – The fuel you give your body has a direct impact on its ability to do its job. You may have been splurging this summer, but it’s time to take a look at your diet and make sure that you’re giving your body what it needs to work properly. Help your kids rise above the statistics that show they are consuming over 60% of the diet as ultra-processed food, which puts them on the fast track to an unhealthy immune system. Hypoallergenic, anti-inflammatory whole foods with an adequate amount of protein are best. If you’re not sure what food sensitivities you may have, now is a good time to investigate that with your healthcare professional. You’ll want to avoid anything that could alter your immune system and cause inflammation, so tests like the Array 3X Wheat/Gluten Proteome Reactivity and Autoimmunity™ comprehensive lab could shed valuable insights.
Daily movement or exercise – This isn’t new information, but it is important. Some type of daily exercise offers a variety of benefits. Physical activity can help with brain health, strengthening our bodies, reduce stress, help us sleep better, help us fight anxiety, and more! It also helps our bodies fight off disease. Another great way to get in this daily movement or exercise is to practice shinrin-yoku, or “forest bathing.” Shinrin-yoku is the practice of being in a natural environment and it offers several health benefits. If you can, try to incorporate your exercise with exposure to nature. This could mean a hike followed by a rest partway through, or even a walk to your local park followed by some meditation on a bench or under a tree. Or just do a walking meditation!
Hydrate – Proper hydration is incredibly important to boosting your immune system. If the mucus layers of the mucosal immune system do not get enough hydration, they won’t work properly. In fact, dehydration has been shown to negatively affect the antimicrobial proteins in saliva which are a foundation for mucosal immunity. So, chug plenty of water throughout the day, but not too much at night so it doesn’t disrupt your sleep!
Daily nasal breathing exercise – This simple nasal exercise can encourage more nasal breathing, which is best for filtering out germs. Breathe in through your nose for five seconds, breathe out for five seconds. Do this at least five times in a row for five times a day.
Know your immunophenotype – One of the best ways to support your immune system is to know its strengths and weaknesses. There are 29 key biomarkers and determinants that can help identify patterns of imbalance.
The back-to-school season is always a busy and exciting time of year but is especially so this year as many students have been remote learning and away from the classroom. While it is exciting to be headed back, we also want to make sure that our bodies are in tip-top shape to fight off any invading germs. By following the tips above, you can help boost your immune defense and learn more about any food sensitivities/reactivities and immune system strengths and weaknesses that could affect your overall health. The more you prepare your immune system for a full return back to school, the more likely you’ll be to make it through without serious illness.
Dr. Chad Larson, NMD, DC, CCN, CSCS, Advisor and Consultant on Clinical Consulting Team for Cyrex Laboratories. Dr. Larson holds a Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine degree from Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine and a Doctor of Chiropractic degree from Southern California University of Health Sciences.