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Back to School Supplements
Written by: Seeking Health
For many, the start of the school year is a return to routine and normalcy. This year, however, many of us are being forced to redefine our definitions of "normal". Many schools are transitioning fully to online education, or limited classroom sizes to enforce social distancing requirements. Despite the uncertainty of these new scholastic environments, one thing is certain: back to school is also a time where stress levels can increase, flu season begins, and the need to support your immune system should be made a top priority. The good news is that you can support your body nutritionally to handle anything you’re going through. These top seven categories of supplemental support can not only keep your body on track but promote ongoing good health.†
7 Supplements for School-Year Wellness
Nothing replaces the benefits of a healthy, well-balanced diet and a lifestyle that promotes wellness. You can’t out-supplement poor sleep habits, excessive stress, or too much junk food.
Supplements are good for filling gaps, however, and can help to be the balance between stressing yourself out to have the “perfect” lifestyle routine or ignoring it altogether.
One thing that Dr. Ben Lynch promotes when it comes to supplementation is the pulsing method. If you’re a healthy individual, certain supplements can be “pulsed” in and out of your routine or taken on an as-needed basis. This helps to ensure you don’t get too much of a good thing and mimics the same sort of support that you get from varying nutrients in your diet.
You don’t eat the exact same foods every day in the exact same amounts. In the same way, you should really only take certain supplements on days where you feel you need them. You can also set yourself up on a regular pulsing routine by taking your supplements every other day, three days a week, and so on.
The best way to know whether pulsing your supplements is good for you (and how often to do it) is by listening to your own body and checking in with your healthcare provider or nutritionist. Some nutrients are best when taken consistently, while others can fill in gaps when they’re taken as needed. Personalized nutrition and wellness advice is always best practice.
As you reestablish your wellness routine for the school year, consider these seven areas for wellness support.
1. Stress Response Support
Your adrenal glands help regulate your body’s response to stress. To do this they produce a hormone known as cortisol. While we need some level of cortisol to help distinguish the difference between safety and danger, it becomes problematic when it exists in excessively high or low levels for extended periods of time.
How can this happen? Cortisol can get and stay elevated in response to many things, such as:
- Work or school stress
- Relationship stress
- Health problems
- Poor sleep or insomnia
- Poor diet and lifestyle habits
If you’re struggling with always feeling stressed out, or you face certain aspects of routine life that tend to heighten those feelings (like problems with a coworker or taking a semester-long course on a subject that stresses you out), supporting your body with extra nutrients can be helpful.
Ashwagandha is an adaptogenic herb that has been used for thousands of years. It promotes a healthy stress response, supports the adrenal glands, and also supports other aspects of wellness like the thyroid and a healthy immune system. Ashwagandha can also support healthy cortisol levels and promote feelings of well-being.† (1, 2)
Being busy and eating on the run can both contribute to digestive problems. Whether you gravitate toward ready-to-eat meals or snack more at school or the office, excess snacking or eating nutritionally poor foods can take their toll on your digestive process.
Without optimal digestion, every aspect of your health can suffer. You need the foods and supplements you take to be fully broken down and absorbed by your digestive tract. When your body can’t properly break things down or absorb them, it doesn’t matter how many excellent supplements you take or how much good food you eat, you won’t be functioning optimally.
Enzymes help to break food down in the stomach and small intestine so that all of the nutrients can be properly extracted. Yet stress, poor diet, and eating too quickly (without efficiently chewing your food) can influence how well enzymes work.
Taking supplemental enzymes can support your body’s ability to digest foods well and to properly break down supplements. They can also help to reduce occasional digestive discomforts associated with indigestion like bloating, abdominal pain, heartburn, and nausea.†(3)
To be effective, digestive enzymes need to be taken before each meal and snack so they are present in the stomach to assist in breaking down foods and nutrients.
3. Healthy Immune System Support
The school year has lots of upsides, but also one major downside: it happens during flu season. Every year from October through the spring, influenza cases increase. Peak flu season occurs in December, January, and February. (4)
While there are many things you can do to support a healthy immune system—like eating a balanced diet, staying hydrated, and getting enough sleep—there’s also vitamin C. This tried-and-true supportive nutrient has been used for hundreds of years as support during times of suppressed immunity, and now it’s more crucial than ever.
Vitamin C, unlike some common beliefs, cannot prevent getting a cold in the general population. However, research on other products shows that the nutrient can shorten the duration of a cold by as much as 14 percent, when taken daily or when started at the onset of cold symptoms.(5)
If you aren’t getting enough high-quality sleep each night, it doesn’t matter how great the rest of your wellness routine is. You’ll still have a higher likelihood of dealing with stress, weakened immunity, and cognitive dysfunction.
Sleep is crucial for being healthy, yet sleep problems are very common. Whether you don’t get enough sleep or the sleep you get is poor quality, one or both of these scenarios can have a significant impact on health. The negative health effects that can occur include: (6)
- Increased levels of stress
- Changes in blood sugar and insulin and increased risk for type 2 diabetes
- Increased risk for high blood pressure and heart disease
- Disruption in your circadian rhythm
- Increased inflammatory response
- Reduced quality of life
- Emotional changes and distress
- Mood disorders
- Cognitive and memory problems
- Weight gain
- Lowered immunity
If you have trouble sleeping, it’s important to address this with your healthcare professional. Supplemental sleep aids can also be beneficial in optimizing sleep without becoming habit-forming.†
Natural ingredients that can lead to improvements in sleep quality include:†
5. Cognitive Function
For the brain to be firing on all cylinders, it needs a good combination of rest, nourishment, and the absence of chronic stress.
Cognitive function is especially important during the school year and the workday. If you’ve addressed lifestyle factors that contribute to issues—such as sleep, stress relief, and diet—there are additional factors that can promote good cognitive function.
Phosphatidylserine is an amino acid compound that is found in high amounts in the brain. When supplemented, it can support healthy memory and cognition.(10) It can also serve to maintain focus when the brain is under stress. (11) It can even help to optimize performance under physically fatigued conditions.* (12)
Typically available from soy-derived forms, Seeking Health’s phosphatidylserine formula is soy-free, derived from allergy-friendly sunflower lecithin for those who need to avoid soy.
Electrolytes are minerals, vitamins, and amino acids that help the body to maintain a proper fluid balance. Keeping hydrated is essential at all times of the year, but especially when the immune system could be taxed or when you could more easily become sick.
Magnesium is one of the most common electrolytes, and Seeking Health’s Optimal Electrolyte also includes taurine and creatine. The health benefits of each of these nutrients, as far as a healthy immune system is concerned, include:†
- Magnesium promotes healthy sleep and supports a balanced immune system (13, 14)
- Taurine supports the body’s natural antioxidant defense systems (15)
- Creatine helps the body generate energy more efficiently, especially under times of high demand (16)
Fruits and vegetables provide a large amount of vitamins and minerals in the adult’s diet in the U.S., yet only one in 10 are getting the amount they’re supposed to. (17) This can result in being chronically low in important nutrients that support overall well-being and immunity.
Taking a daily multivitamin or pulsing it as needed can help to supply necessary nutrients. Not all multivitamins are the same and should be chosen based on the individual’s needs. Seeking Health has a variety of multivitamin options in different formats, with differing amounts of B vitamins, with or without iron, and some that are paired with protein. Micronutrients are vital for proper immune performance, so even if a multivitamin isn’t always required, it can be beneficial before and during the school year when exposures to infections, viruses, and illness are higher than normal.† (18)
Cautions & Who Should Not Take
The supplements mentioned in this post are designed for adults. Regardless, you should always check with your healthcare provider before starting new supplements or changing any existing support.
Parents who wish to support their children nutritionally should always seek the counsel of their pediatrician.
The Bottom Line
Supplements are excellent additions to your wellness plan. Supporting your body during the transition back to school and throughout the autumn and winter months is a smart way to promote good health.
Even with a great diet, regular exercise, and healthy sleep patterns, it can still be easy to fall to the pressures of daily and weekly schedule stressors. Boosting your routine with additional supplementation can be the perfect way to make sure this is a great time of year for you and your family.
(1) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23439798 (2) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19718255 (3) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4094108 (4) https://www.cdc.gov/flu/about/season/flu-season.htm (5) https://examine.com/supplements/vitamin-c/ (6) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5449130/ (7) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21199787 (8) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5713303/ (9) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15146330 (10) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20523044 (11) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18616866 (12) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22017963 (13) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21199787 (14) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/14506478 (15) https://examine.com/supplements/taurine/ (16) https://examine.com/supplements/creatine/ (17) https://www.cdc.gov/media/releases/2017/p1116-fruit-vegetable-consumption.html (18) https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6212925/