Tips for staying healthy this school year
As soon as September rolls around, many of us get that back-to-school-feeling – and yes, this even applies to fully-grown adults. For both learners and educators, returning to uniforms and textbooks can bring up a mixed bag of emotions. So, how can you embrace the start of a new term feeling your best? We take a look below.
Develop your natural immunity
Coughs and colds often linger in school corridors. Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to support your immune system as you head back to the classroom. It may surprise you to learn the immune system and gut don’t operate in isolation. As it happens, 70-80 percent of immune activity takes place in the gut. This means that feeding the bugs that live in your gut – collectively known as the ‘microbiome’ – also means supporting your immune system.
Immunity boosting foods
Aiming to eat 30 different fibre-rich plant foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, herbs, and spices) every week and increasing your intake of fermented foods, such as kimchi, kefir and kombucha are some of the best things you can do for your gut. Including more natural soluble fibre from the carbohydrate Fructo-Oligosaccharides or FOS, derived from the inulin family, may also play a role in intestinal health. Teachers and students over 18 might even consider taking a live bacteria supplement, like Acidophilus Extra 10 Billion, for additional support.
Eating a mainly whole-food diet will also help educate and balance your immune system. Whole foods are minimally processed, as close to their natural form as possible, and immediately identifiable (vegetables that look like vegetables, for example).
Supplements for immunity
For a more targeted approach to immunity, try to pack your diet with plenty of zinc – found in whole grains, nuts, seeds and lentils – and vitamin C – rich in broccoli, oranges, kiwi and spinach. Increasing your intake of antioxidant foods, like carrots, beetroot, squash and elderberries, may also support immunity.
Vitamin D3 is, without a doubt, our favourite supplement for the back-to-school season. Since the body synthesises vitamin D3 from sunlight, taking a high-strength formula will provide the nutritional coverage needed to support your immune system throughout the darker autumnal months. For learners under 16, we recommend our Vitamin D3 Drops; for educators and those over 18, we recommend Vitamin D3 1000iu.
Last but not least, always wash your hands! Washing your hands for at least 20 seconds after you blow your nose, cough or sneeze is one of the best ways to prevent infection from spreading at school.
Healthy school lunches and snacks
Thankfully long-gone are the days where school canteen meals lacked nutritional lustre, they’re improving all the time. If, however, you choose packed lunches over canteen meals, a well-balanced lunch box may include a chicken and salad sandwich, crackers with spread, fresh fruit and raw veggies such as carrot/cucumber sticks. Want to know more about nutrition for children? Read our article here. We also have some great tasting, healthy recipes to inspire your lunchbox creations, take a look by clicking here.
Take supplements for brain health
For both learners and educators, school requires a great deal of brain power. From lesson planning to exam revision, your grey matter is well and truly put to work in the classroom.
To sharpen your smarts ahead of the new term, consider upping your intake of DHA, the omega-3 fatty acid found in fish oil and plant algae, which plays an important role in brain function. If you struggle to get enough omega-3 in your diet, we recommend Omega 3 Chewies for students under 16, and Fish Oil 1300mg or Vegan Omega 3 for educators and pupils over 18.
Get ample sleep
Getting enough sleep (especially if you’re a teenager and need anywhere between 8 and 10 hours a night) is critical for memory, learning, and overall cognitive function. To learn more about supporting your sleep hygiene, see continue reading below.
Movement is also tremendously nutritious brain food. Not only does it support emotional health, decreasing feelings of stress and anxiety, but it can also improve focus and concentration, as well as promote the growth of new brain cells. Find an activity that you love and stick to it. Remember, exercising little and often will help, too. Perhaps you could walk to school, get off the bus a few stops earlier, or join an after-school activity?
Oh, and you may wish to pack a bottle of rosemary essential oil in your school bag. Some studies suggest inhaling rosemary oil may improve memory function and mental alertness (1).
How does school affect mental health?
For many people, the thought of venturing back to school after a long summer break is met with anxiety and trepidation. And that’s okay. You’re not alone.
To support your mental health, diarise plenty of relaxation during the school week. You may wish to start journaling, meditating, or spending more time in nature. Connecting with the people you love and trust is also important. And if you need to get something off your chest, know that you can always seek help and guidance from those inside and outside of school.
Supplements that help support mental health
L-theanine, ashwagandha and 5-HTP are often recommended for their role in emotional health – and would make great additions for educators and learners over 18 who need extra support. Powdered magnesium citrate, meanwhile, may be useful for students under 16 since magnesium is involved in psychological function.
Sleep better - We’ve already touched on the importance of sleep and its role in cognition. But, in truth, sleep impacts every area of school life: energy, mood, motivation, vision and even weight.
In our brightly-lit, technologically-advanced era, many things can rob us of our precious Z’s: social media, endless TV shows and the 24/7 news cycle. To optimise your sleep, consider disconnecting from all blue-light-emitting devices 90-minutes before bed because blue light inhibits the secretion of melatonin, your sleep hormone.
Establishing a healthy bedtime routine is also hugely important. Following the same rituals every night – around 30-90 minutes before bed – trains your body and mind to wind down for rest. The only caveat is these rituals need to be relaxing: soak in an Epsom salt bath, diffuse some lavender essential oil, do a few minutes of deep breathing, or read a book by a soft lamp.
Magnesium is always a great addition for sleep. Educators might also find Valarian useful since it’s often recommended for the temporary relief of sleep disturbances.
For more information on improving sleep hygiene, please take a look at our dedicated Sleep Health Hub.
There are plenty of ways to support your health and wellbeing as you venture back to school. If you need further guidance and advice, please reach out to our team of expert Nutrition Advisors., who are always on hand to help.
Filiptsova O. et al., The essential oil of rosemary and its effect on the human image and numerical short-term memory.. Egyptian Journal Of Basic And Applied Sciences. 2017;4(2), 107-111.
You Might Also Like
Olivia Salter has always been an avid health nut. After graduating from the University of Bristol, she began working for a nutritional consultancy where she discovered her passion for all things wellness-related. There, she executed much of the company’s content marketing strategy and found her niche in health writing, publishing articles in Women’s Health, Mind Body Green, Thrive and Psychologies.