08 Jan Back to School Tips – ADD, ADHD and Immune Guide
Back to school is here. Where did the summer go? With back to school come many health issues that can be approached very simply with my 4 Pillars of great health. The biggest issues facing moms and dads at this time of year are keeping the kids healthy and the issue of “ADD/ADHD”.
When it comes to immune health, most parents don’t think of the huge financial impact that having a sick child can have on the family. With most parents working these days, a sick child means taking a day’s vacation or a sick day to stay home with your child. With paying the doctor, missing work, buying OTCs and maybe even prescription medications the cost is huge. Remember, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. In order to keep you kids healthy (and you happy) I recommend staying ahead of the game. The following recommendations are intended to help improve immune health and help reduce the incidence of sickness for your child and the rest of the family.
1. Diet changes will play a huge roll in the health of your child throughout the school year. Of the recommendations listed below, removing sugar and refined foods have the biggest roll in supporting a health immune system. Examples of refined foods are bagels, most cereals, pasta, “white foods” etc. Sugar may seem obvious, but most parents only think of candy as being the source of sugar. Believe it or not, sugar is found in many other foods including; ice cream, cakes, honey, sodas, sports drinks and even fruit juices. Sugar and refined foods (convert easily into sugar) negatively impact your immune system. As a pharmacist, I used to notice that after Halloween, Valentine’s days, birthday parties, etc. children would get sick. It wasn’t until I got involved in natural health that I realized why this happened. My children (9yrs and 5yrs) realized on there own the impact of “sugary” things on whether or not they would get sick. They self-limit their intake of sugar and refined foods on their own if they are starting to feel sick. The following are the basic dietary changes I recommend to improve immune health.
- Good Fats (EFAs)
- Whole Foods (Veggies & Fruits)
- Refined foods
- Bad Fats
- Dairy (milk containing products)
- Exercise- Getting some sort of daily exercise or activity can significantly improve immune function. When it comes to our children, play time is critical to helping them get and stay healthy.
- Rest (Not really one of the 4 Pillars) is another key for everyone when it comes to keeping your immune system happy. I always say that the reason we are stuck in bed when we are sick is because your body is making up for lost time from the past. Getting 8-10 hours of sleep every night will do remarkable things for your immune health and your mental health.
- Spirituality- Research shows that prayer and attending church on a regular basis positively impact general health and more specifically recovery from illness.
- Supplementation- This section could be endless. Sticking with my modified 4 Pillars of Great Health (adding in the Dietary Supplement Pyramid), we need to start with a good multivitamin and mineral. A trip down the vitamin isle will provide you with many options for your child. For the younger child, I recommend Kinderlove (Flora). This is a liquid multivitamin designed to support the general needs of younger children. The next step up would be a chewable. Technology provides us with the traditional chewable tablets and the Gummy version. With most children’s vitamins there will be a small amount of sugar in each serving. Don’t worry about it! The sugar is the lesser of the evils in this case. Your child needs to get those important vitamins and minerals and a tiny amount of sugar won’t hurt.
Special needs products for immune health will fall into two categories; Support and Stimulation. Support products are those that can be taken on a daily basis to support the natural function of the immune system. Stimulation products are for acute cases-first onset of symptoms-and to be used for 5-14 days max. My favorite example of support for the immune system is WGP 3-6 (Beta Glucan). This supplement activates the immune system, preparing it to do battle with any foreign invader (bacteria, virus, fungus). My family uses WGP 3-6 daily to support immune health and without it, we notice a difference in the frequency of illness. (see below for other immune support supplements) For acute cases of immune weakness there are several choices (endless). If your child requires a liquid, then I would reach for either Sambu-Guard or Sambucol. These two products contain Elderberry extract-excellent for immune health-a great tasting herb. For older children, I recommend Esberitox. Esberitox is chewable (or can be swallowed) and provides three different herbs which all impact immune health quickly. Again, stimulating supplements are not intended for long term use. (See below for other immune stimulating supplements)
- Support Stimulate
- Fish Oil (Coromega®)
- Green Tea
- Medicinal Mushrooms (Host Defense)
- Cat’s Claw
- Wild Indigo
- Vitamin C
- Thymus Extract
As mentioned above, ADD/ADHD is a major concern of parents and our schools. Some believe these health issues are due to bad parenting skills or diet alone. I believe they are caused by a mix bag factors. This article is not the long winded version on these conditions, but more of the quick reference to support the mental health of your child. Keeping with my 4 Pillars of Great Health theme, a four pronged approach is key here too. Luckily, the dietary changes needed for ADD/ADHD are similar to those mentioned in the immune section above. The only additions to this list would to have your child tested (ELISA) for allergies and sensitivities. Many different foods can be triggers for poor attention, hyperactivity and behavior. Food additives like artificial flavors, colors and preservatives can play a huge role in the health of your child. Refer to www.parentsofallergicchildren.org for more info on the link between allergies and behavioral health challenges.
Exercise is so important to the health of our children. Many schools are now cutting back on Physical Education classes and Recess which opposite of what they should be doing. Increasing activity will help our children burn off that extra energy as well as improve circulation and mental health and well-being. Play time after school before beginning home work is a great routine. Computer games and Television should be limited and used as relaxation time prior to bed. Our children sit all day and need to have activity to keep them mentally fit.
When it comes to supplementation, the foundation is still a good multivitamin and mineral (see above). The selection of special needs supplements can get a bit crazy. (As if you’re ADD child doesn’t drive you crazy to begin with). To simplify this for you I am going to list the supplements I would use with my child if I wanted to use the “shotgun” approach. The following is that list with a brief explanation of why each would be used.
B-Complex- Sticking with my belief of giving the body the tools it needs and it will fix itself, B-Complex is key. B-vitamins-more specifically B-6, Folic Acid and B-12 are important for neurotransmitter production. I would start with a basic B-Complex (in addition to the vitamins found in a multivitamin). Getting excessive on certain B-vitamins-especially B-6- can be detrimental to your health. Taking excessive amounts of any supplement should only be done under the supervision of a qualified health care professional.
Magnesium- Science has discovered that many children with ADD/ADHD are magnesium deficient. Beside being important or these children, I always recommend magnesium to be taken with B-Complex. B-6 in particular works hand in hand with Magnesium in the body. Magnesium is also responsible in some aspects of neurotransmitter production. As little as 200mg per day can provide noticeable changes in your child.
Omega-3s- Deficiencies of essential fatty acids (EFAs has been seen in children with ADHD. I recommend the use of Fish Oil as your source of Omega 3’s. I remember as a child people saying fish was “BRAIN FOOD”. Now as the Herbal Pharmacist, I understand what people were talking about. Fish Oil is an excellent source of EFAs. It is high in both EPA and DHA. Of these two, DHA is the important nutrient. DHA has been linked to improving memory many aspects of mental health, including ADD/ADHD.
Too many of us try to find a magic pill to address our health issues. Incorporating the 4 Pillars of Great Health into your family’s daily life is great way to avoid problems in the future. The use of Pharmaceuticals is the easy way out and in my opinion is not the answer for your child’s health needs. Unwanted side effects and long term (unknown) effects are a great reason to “go natural”. If my brief recommendations above don’t get you where you need to be in 3 months, the addition of other nutritional supplements may be required.