School is almost over, and summer break is upon us! Students — especially those who struggle with ADHD, anxiety, chronic fatigue, frequent colds, and other concerns — must be thrilled. Their parents may also feel relieved to have a temporary break from emails about their child’s inattention, disruptions, or difficulties in the classroom.
You may be inclined to give your child (and yourself) a break from all these concerns, but summer is actually the perfect time to get proactive about your family’s health. Students aren’t as overwhelmed or overbooked, and holistic health can be made a priority.
Humans are largely a ball of chemical reactions — from hormones to neurotransmitters — that can bolster or hold back our ability to thrive physically, mentally, and emotionally. Imbalances, whether too much or too little of certain chemicals, can cause our health and performance to suffer.
So how do we pave the way for students to have success when school’s back in session?
Get your child a complete workup. Your child may not love the idea of more tests, but lab work is essential if you want to understand how things are functioning internally. This may include routine blood tests (CBC, thyroid panel, etc.), as well as some specialized tests, such as food and environmental allergy tests, hormone panels, and a comprehensive digestive analysis.
Follow the gut to boost the brain and immune system. Research has shown that our gut microbiome (all the bacteria in our digestive system) plays a huge role in our immune system. We’re also learning more about what’s called the “gut-brain axis,” through which the brain and gut communicate and impact each other. Unbalanced gut microbiomes have been linked to depression, lower stress tolerance, and cognitive issues, so it may be a good idea to have a microbiome analysis performed for your young one. Then, take a look at your family’s diet with an eye toward diversifying and including foods that encourage a healthy gut microbiome to flourish, such as fermented foods and probiotic supplements.
Get a handle on anxiety. Anxiety can take a big toll on students who also deal with ADHD, ASD, or learning disabilities, or have any condition that creates an additional challenge in academic and social engagement. Take some time to understand your child’s anxiety triggers and develop a plan for disarming them. Some of the therapies that have been shown to help are acupuncture, reiki, and craniosacral therapy.
Optimize cognitive performance. LENS is a neurofeedback technique that’s had positive effects combating insomnia, chronic fatigue, depression, and anxiety. This type of neurotherapy can improve overall brain function in those who struggle with mental or cognitive troubles, as well as those who just want a boost. Some of the benefits we’ve seen are elevated mood, improved mental clarity, better sleep, increased attention and focus, and reduced hyperactivity.
Develop a “first aid kit”. No, not the kind you need for cuts and scrapes — this kit will help your child throughout the year. Understanding your child’s struggles and needs using the methods mentioned above allow for the development of a health plan that becomes their very own “first aid kit”. Knowing what to do in times of high stress or acute illness offers a sense of security for the whole family, and may go a long way to easing your child’s anxiety and ensuring more positive outcomes. Be it specific nutrients (either in the form of supplements or from particular foods), targeted therapies, or herbal medicines this “first aid kit” serves as a means to support your child’s immune system, their overall development and academic performance.