It’s the start of a new school year in Hong Kong! Usually it’s around this time of the year I start to see concerned parents taking their kids to our clinic for a wide range of issues — from repeated colds and flus, digestive problems, allergies, asthma and eczema, to learning and behavioural issues. We all know that big city living can be tough on health. With pollution, stressful living conditions, nutrition-depleted foods and more, it’s no wonder children’s immune, emotional and cognitive systems are challenged. Here are my top tips for giving your kid the healthy kick they need for the start of the school year!
1. Give Immunity A Boost
The most important thing to staying healthy is to have a strong immune system. The immune system needs certain nutrients to be strong and fully functional. Essential vitamins such as A, C and E, and minerals such as zinc and iron support a good immune system, while sugary foods – especially soft drinks – can suppress the immune system for hours. Fruits and vegetables are major sources of vitamins and antioxidants, and, as most parents already know, five servings of fruits and veggies are recommended a day!
Eating assorted colours of fruits and vegetable is a great way to ensure your child is getting a wide variety of nutrients. Remember that whole fruit is better than juice, but if your kid really prefers something they can slurp rather than chew, go with freshly-squeezed juice for maximum nutrients.
If you have trouble getting your kid to eat veggies, you may want to consider dietary supplements. I’ve recommended green food supplements in the form of gummy bears or chocolate-flavoured drink mixes to parents and it goes without saying that the kids love them!
2. Vitamin D and the Sun
One of the most common causes of a weakened immune system for children and adults alike is vitamin D deficiency. Research shows that those who are deficient in vitamin D have nearly twice the frequency of colds over the winter months! A study conducted in Asia concluded that 63% of the subjects had vitamin D below the recommended level (30 ng/mL), which is required for general health. It is a common but largely ignored health problem.
Sun exposure on bare skin is a major source of vitamin D, which is synthesized in the body when we are in the sun. You can get enough vitamin D if you expose your face, arms and legs to the sun, without sun cream, in mid-day, for about 20 minutes every other day. So it is actually a good idea to let your kids play under the sun for 20-30mins on a regular basis (of course, apply sunscreen as needed for longer periods of time outdoors!).
Vitamin D supplements are also another option. For children, the recommended intake is 400-1000 IU daily.
3. The Friendly Bacteria
Another key cause of weakened immunity is the overuse of antibiotics. While antibiotics are effective in killing off bacteria, they also wipe out the good flora in the intestines, which is an integral part of the immune system. When a course of antibiotics is prescribed, your child gets better from the illness but the immune system gets weaker. So your child is more likely to pick up the next bug passing around at school or on the playground. Scientific research has shown that infections recur two to three times more often after antibiotic treatments!
To rebuild the intestinal flora and overall immunity, we recommend clinical grade probiotics, herbs, homeopathic remedies and nutritional supplements such as vitamin D and fish oils that are especially designed for children. Contact your family physician for more information on additional steps to take.
4. Detect and Address Hidden Culprits
Is your child dealing with learning or behavioural issues? The underlying cause could very possibly be an undetected food intolerance, which can profoundly impact your child’s health, wellbeing, cognitive function and behaviour. Food allergies and intolerances affect many people. While a “food allergy” gives an immediate allergic reaction, a “food intolerance” is a delayed, low-grade inflammatory response. Because of this, most people don’t know of their intolerances until they take an IgG test.
In my 25 years of experience as a Naturopath and Homeopath, I have seen many kids with hyperactivity, attention deficits, aggression, poor sleep and fatigue, and the underlying cause of their health problems has been food intolerances. Once these are diagnosed and properly treated, I find a significant number of children with ADD or ADHD are able to regain normal classroom behavior and better manage their moods.
Other conditions such as eczema, asthma or body tension and pain can also affect your child’s learning and behaviour at school. Who could be at their best with wheezing, irritation, aches and pains or sleep disruption? Poor quality of sleep from any cause is often a major stressor, leading to hyperactivity and even aggression, as well as short-term memory loss and sleepiness in the classroom.
This is why it is very important to identify and treat the underlying causes of learning and behaviour issues in order to support your child towards a balanced and productive path!
So if you haven’t done so already, schedule a back-to-school health check with your local clinic or physician to make sure they are 100% healthy and ready to tackle the school year ahead!