This article first appeared on Mind Body Green.

As parents, we’re all driven to do our best, but sometimes we need to just embrace the messy moments that inevitably come up.

 

The start of a new school year can mean a lot of things, one of which is the inevitable exposure to a multitude of bacteria and germs. As parents, it is our responsibility to help keep our child’s health in tip-top shape and protect them as much as possible from getting sick. While it may be tempting to want to put them in a plastic bubble and send them on their way (if only), that is not reality.

Instead, we can take action steps at home to boost their immune systems so their bodies can fight off these bacterial and viral invaders on their own. In my functional medicine clinic, I see many children with weakened immune systems and have picked up a few kid-friendly tricks along the way. By doing a few key things now before summer is over, you can strengthen your child’s immune system so you both can hopefully take at least one less sick day.

 

1. Avoid unnecessary antibiotics

Antibiotics are prescribed more than 154 million times a year for anything from a wound to an ear infection in order to kill off bacterial infections. While they certainly have their place, the CDC estimates that at least 30 percent of antibiotic prescriptions are unnecessaryand have been shown to deplete the good bacteria in your microbiome.

Since close to 75 percent of your immune system is located in your gut, just one round of antibiotics can weaken your child’s immune system. It’s important to avoid antibiotics unless completely necessary and look for natural anti-bacterial options, such as colloidal silver, to avoid sending your child off to school with an already depleted microbiome.

 

2. Add in probiotic-rich foods

Start the school year off strong by re-establishing good gut bacteria through introducing more probiotic-rich foods into your child’s diet. While your kid is still at home, try feeding them fermented foods like sauerkraut or kefir (which comes in lots of flavors that your kid will, fingers crossed, love).

If you have an extra picky eater, there are many kid-friendly probiotic gummies on the market that will give them a hefty immune-boosting dose of good bacteria. Some still do contain sugar, though, so stick with whole food probiotic sources as much as possible.

 

3. Re-establish a sleep schedule

With the combination of the sun not setting until much later and the crazy summer activity and travel schedule, a regular bedtime can go out the window. As soon as possible, begin re-establishing a sleep schedule with a set bedtime and wake time—no more sleeping in or staying up late. Most children need between 10 and 14 hours of uninterrupted sleep every day for them to thrive. Starting this sooner, rather than later, will make going back to school less of a struggle and their bodies will be better prepared to fight off any germs that come their way.

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