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  • Dr. Jenna Arts

10 Ways to Optimize Your Child's Health this School Year

Updated: Sep 23, 2020

Older boy and sister smiling at camera with their backpacks before the first day of school

1. Regular chiropractic checkups: Whether your child is just starting kindergarten or wrapping up their final year of college, September is a stressful month. New schools, classes, schedules and friends are just some of the emotional stressors that can push your child’s growing nervous system into a sympathetic dominant “fight or flight” state, leaving them anxious and overwhelmed. A specific chiropractic correction helps your child adapt to stress better, making them better able to transition into a new school year.

2. Quality sleep: School aged children require much more sleep than we think…about 9-11 hours a day. Ensure their bedroom is quiet, dark and cool. As a family, I recommend avoiding all electronics 2 hours before bed to establish a healthy circadian rhythm (sleep-wake cycle) that has likely been messed with over the summer months. Quiet downtime or naps after school can be extremely helpful too as your child is making up from a sleep deficit.

3. Nutrient dense food: The food your children eat literally fuels their developing brains and bodies for their school day. Choose whole foods, which are ones that you could find in nature and eat with minimal processing the majority of the time. Hint: whole foods only have one ingredient (apple, coconut, salmon.) And do your best to limit processed foods high in sugar and inflammatory ingredients as they can wreck havoc on your child's hormones, behaviour and immune system.

4. Essential supplements: Real food should be the basis of your child’s diet, but essential supplements help fill in the gaps when they are having a hard time meeting all of their nutrient needs. Vitamin D supports their immune system, probiotics ensure a healthy gut flora and digestions, and Omega 3s support brain and neurological development. The dose will vary depending on your child’s age and current health status, so ask me at your next appointment for specific dosage and brand recommendations.

5. Movement: Movement literally powers your child’s brain. Without it they can feel lethargic, restless or have a difficult time concentrating. Aim for at least 60 minutes of movement a day, which can occur in the form of a structured activity (soccer, gymnastics, tag etc.) or unstructured play where they are simply moving all the joints of their body through their full ranges of motion (crawling, jumping, running, squatting, climbing etc.)

6. Nature time: Summer is full of outdoor time, which can often come to a halt once classroom time starts in September. In our fast-paced, technology-influenced modern world, connecting with nature improves your child’s sensory stimulation, increases their serotonin (happy hormone) levels, exposes them to vitamin D, helps their vision, increases their attention span and encourages creative play and imagination.

7. Good hydration: Children show signs of dehydration by expressing poor concentration and fatigue. Hydration should come primarily from water, aiming for 5-7 cups of water a day. Allow your child to choose a water bottle they love, that they can easily drink from and refill at school without assistance.

8. Safe backpack guidelines: If your child is carrying a backpack that’s too heavy, has unevenly distributed weight, or isn’t fitted properly it can distort their growing and developing spine. This causes poor posture, can change their gain, may cause muscle strain, and can even contribute to headaches, back, neck and arm pain. Click here for our safe backpack checklist.

9. Immune system support: Getting sick is an inevitable part of childhood, and while no parent likes to see their child uncomfortable, it’s important for you to recognize that congestion, coughing and a moderate fever are all intelligent natural defence mechanisms that help your child’s body process through that illness.

10. Awareness of “something’s not right” signals: Your child’s body is smart and will leave clues that it’s struggling or not performing as optimally as it could be. It’s your job as a parent to pay attention to them. Watch for signs like chronic mucous (runny nose, cough), asthma flare ups, digestive problems (constipation, diarrhea, irregular bowel movements), skin changes (eczema, rashes, acne), inadequate sleep, poor behaviour (low concentration, hyperactivity, fatigue.)

I hope you found this helpful.

Make it a great school year,

- Dr. Jenna

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