Guide your children to good health habits as the school year begins
By Dr. Deborah Chisholm of Chisholm Center for Health · Jul 21, 2021
Your children are likely headed back to school (or homeschool group) this month. Are you wondering about how to keep them healthy? Let’s talk about it.
First, let me introduce you to your God-given innate immune system. Fortunately, most of us (and especially children) have a robust, response-ready immune system that operates as the first line of defense against invaders such as bacteria and viruses. It is composed of physical barriers (like your skin and the cilia in your nose), various secretions (including mucus, saliva, and stomach acid), and a plethora of immune-functioning cells that all have different jobs but work synergistically on your behalf.
Broadly speaking, it is impractical to try to shelter kids from exposure to pathogens (also known as disease-causing organisms). I acknowledge that there may be cases of severe immune compromise that require special precautions. However, whether your child has a robust immune system or immune-system deficiencies, there are ways we can help equip our children’s immune systems to meet the health challenges they will face.
Ephesians 6:11 instructs us to “Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” I like to consider this verse when I think about equipping our immune systems to be able to handle whatever comes our way. As the saying goes, the best defense is a good offense.
Here are some recommendations when it comes to equipping and enhancing your immune system:
- Vitamin C is an important antioxidant that supports immune health and healing. While nutritional supplementation with vitamin C is generally safe, it’s a water-soluble vitamin, and in excess it can cause loose stools. Ascorbic acid is generally well-tolerated. Many choose acerola berry powder as a more natural source of vitamin C. It can be added to smoothies or made into homemade gelatin chews. Avoid vitamin C preparations with artificial sweeteners and dyes. Extra credit: Take vitamin C with bioflavonoids.
- Vitamin D is another nutrient that strengthens your immune health. Supplementation with vitamin D is also generally considered safe. Vitamin D deficiency is a common health problem; it would be ideal to know your child’s vitamin D level (aim for 40-60 nanograms per milliliter, unless otherwise directed). Without lab guidance, I consider it generally safe to supplement with up to 2,000 IU (international units) daily for school-aged children. Since vitamin D is fat-soluble, it is best absorbed in the presence of dietary fat, so give it with breakfast before they head out the door. Be sure to use the D3 form. For children, it’s easy to administer in liquid dropper form. Avoid soy or other cheap vegetable oil bases; higher-quality supplements will use MCT as the carrier oil in liquid or soft-gel preparations. FYI: Sensible sun exposure can also help your body produce vitamin D naturally.
- Practice effective handwashing. This doesn’t require antibacterial products. Simply develop a family habit of handwashing several times each day. Effective handwashing involves lathering soap all over both sides of your hands and beneath the nails for a total of 20 seconds, then rinsing well.
- Stay well-hydrated. Sufficient intake of water will allow the body to keep its defenses up since cells are better oxygenated and function well in a state of adequate hydration.
- Simple, whole foods are a better fuel for the body than sugary or processed foods. If possible, learn to make homemade meat stock and bone broth and incorporate these into your meals. These mineral-packed, digestion-supporting liquids are a powerhouse of nutrition for every cell in your body.
- Laugh often together as a family! Wake up your immune system with a healthy dose of humor worked into your home life. Numerous studies have pointed out the immune-boosting benefits of laughter, and it’s even Biblical. Proverbs 17:22 says, “A joyful heart is good medicine, But a broken spirit dries up the bones.”
- Make time for plenty of rest. Avoid sleep deprivation, which suppresses the immune system. This cannot be overemphasized. In general, school-aged children typically need nine to 11 hours of sleep, and parents can set a good example (and also maintain their own health) by keeping regular sleep hours for themselves.
Seek the Lord. Ask God for wisdom in caring for your children. James 1:5 says, “But if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all generously and without reproach, and it will be given to him.”
Lean on the Lord
While you won’t be able to protect your children from encountering disease-causing organisms in all their environments, the Lord has also made provision for you as a parent to lean on Him and not be afraid.
Here is some Biblical encouragement (translations New American Standard Bible):
Isaiah 41:10: “Do not fear, for I am with you; Do not be afraid, for I am your God. I will strengthen you, I will also help you, I will also uphold you with My righteous right hand.”
Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous! Do not be terrified nor dismayed, for the LORD your God is with you wherever you go.”
Psalm 27:1: “The LORD is my light and my salvation, Whom should I fear? The LORD is the defense of my life; Whom should I dread?”
Psalm 56:3-4: “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in You. In God, whose word I praise, In God I have put my trust, I shall not be afraid. What can mere mortals do to me?”
God’s blessings on your child(ren)’s upcoming school year!
Samaritan Ministries member Dr. Deborah Chisholm, MD, is a board-certified family medicine physician who created Chisholm Center for Health in Le Roy, Illinois, in 2014. She and her husband, David, have six children. Read more about Dr. Chisholm’s approach to health care.
The information provided in this article is for educational purposes and is not meant as medical advice. It is the opinion of the writer. The information is not meant to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified health care professional.