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Going back to school can coincide with an influx of illnesses and colds, which means now is an ideal time to take a look at your family’s daily habits and establish new ones to support your overall health and well-being. Building and maintaining a healthy routine can make a huge impact on your immune health, and when the immune system is supported, everyone in your family (including you, mama) will be able to feel like their best selves.
Here are 6 easy immune-boosting tips for your family
1. Wash hands often
Washing hands often may be basic, but it’s so important! Frequent hand washing helps reduce initial exposure to immune challenges. Just be sure to wash for 20 to 40 seconds with warm water and soap. Now is the best time to teach your little ones how to do so properly so they can get into a routine of hand-washing when they come home from school and before eating meals.
2. Get quality sleep
Often overlooked but crucial for keeping the immune system in tip-top shape is getting enough restorative sleep. Adults should aim for at least 7 to 8 hours each night to recharge, and children typically need 9 to 11 consecutive hours.
With busy schedules and long to-do lists, this is easier said than done. If you or your kids have trouble getting to sleep, try incorporating a healthy sleep routine, such as turning off all screens at least an hour before bed, taking a warm bath or shower and setting the same bedtime each night. Our bodies respond well to a regular routine.
3. Boost your nutrition
Eating a wide variety of fruits and vegetables fuels the body with healthy antioxidants. Try to boost your family’s intake of nutritional powerhouses like leafy greens, dark berries and citrus fruits, which can help your body ward off viruses. If you have picky eaters in your house, try adding these foods to a morning smoothie. You can also add bananas, pineapple and frozen mangoes to sweeten the deal.
4. Take vitamin C
Don’t underestimate vitamin C, a key player in supporting a healthy immune response. Vitamin C accumulates in certain immune cells that help make up our defensive team. Interestingly, the vitamin is also stored in adrenal glands, where it’s used to make stress hormones. So, it stands to reason that when you’re under additional stress, you may want to supplement with additional vitamin C. Gummy vitamins are a tasty and easy way for families to get the boost they need.
5. Lower your stress
Your body’s immune response works best when your body isn’t also dealing with stress response, according to studies about the connection between stress and immunity. Take time each day to de-stress in whatever way works best for you—exercise, deep breathing, a walk outdoors in the sunshine, having a tickle fight (or a snuggle fest) with your kids, going to therapy or engaging in a creative practice like writing, drawing or dancing can all help you de-stress and boost your immune system.
6. Take care of gut health
With 70 to 80% of the immune system residing along the gastrointestinal tract, there is a strong connection between gut microbiota and overall health. Simply put, when your gut bacteria colonies are in proper balance, then you have a thriving population of beneficial bacteria supporting your immune system. Foods that improve digestion and your microbiome include whole grains, leafy greens, lean proteins and low-sugar fruits and vegetables such as avocado and banana. Taking a daily probiotic can also cover your bases.
A version of this story was originally published on March 12, 2020. It has been updated.