Boulder’s air quality has been all over the map this summer. Hazy, smokey days, even when the fires are not homegrown, are not as rare as they once were. As fires become more prevalent throughout the country, winds may bring smoke from just about anywhere; therefore, it is a good idea to know how to best support optimal respiratory health. If you can see it in the air, you are breathing it. It may be causing symptoms such as a stuffy nose and a frequent need to clear your throat. Accordingly, recent air quality reports suggest children stay inside – this, just as school is starting up, and just when they really need to be outdoors to blow off some steam. It can be a real real bummer! Here are some commonsense things you can do to increase the quality of air in your home during these times, as well as some herbal and nutritional safeguards you might want to know about. After all, we still need to move our bodies outside.

First of all, know your risks. Do you have a very young child in the home? If so, his/her lungs are not fully developed and so extra caution is in order. Do you have a lung disease, asthma, or other chronic lung condition? If so, proceed with caution. Even without these predisposing factors, anyone can suffer if breathing air with extra particulate in it. And with cold and flu season right upon us, the poor air quality can make individuals even more susceptible to germs going around.

Start with some common sense:

  • Check the air quality reports and recommendations (Colorado Air Quality or Weather Underground Air Quality Index), and use your own best judgement as to weather the risks outweigh the benefits for you or your children to recreate outdoors. Also, consider how long and how much exertion you are comfortable with given the air quality.
  • When the air quality is poor, consider closing your windows. If you have forced air and are able, turn on the fan so that the air is run through the furnace filter. Use the highest quality air filter you can. Look into the highest filtration 3M Filtrete filters.
  • If you don’t have forced air (or even if you do), consider purchasing an air purifier. These can range greatly in quality, price, and volume. Here are some options:
    • Austin Air & EnviroKlenz both sell a variety of top notch air purifiers – from single-room purifiers to whole house air purifiers. These are an investment, yet, if you suffer from respiratory health issues, worth the money.
    • Guardian Technologies GermGaurdian is a useful more economical option for a single room: Lightweight and easy to move from room to room as needed.

Herbal approaches you can take today to support respiratory health:

  • Drink a tea daily that supports respiratory health, such as Breathe Deep by Yogi Tea.
  • Use Lavender and Eucalyptus oils in a diffuser (for 10 years and older).
  • Use elderberry syrup by the spoonful or mixed in water for a tasty drink.

Nutritional approaches to respiratory health:

  • Consume a mineral rich diet heavy in fruits and vegetables.
  • Reduce or eliminate any known food sensitivities/allergies that could contribute to congestion and inflammation.

Lastly, exercise and breath work are actually in order, even outdoors, if your routine calls for it. Rigorous exercise dilates airways and helps us clear our lungs of particulate when we cough. Regular deep breathing exercises help us maintain the full working capacity of our lungs.

So, if you can, go ahead and take a deep breath right now. If you are struggling with the air quality and would like support beyond these simple measures, I can help.

Call today to make an appointment: 720-340-0193

Even the best-intentioned parents can get burned out on this never-ending school-year task. And with all of the allergies in the classrooms, you might have a challenge getting your child a yummy snack they will eat, not to mention something appropriately balanced to meet their nutritional needs, healthy, and also, safe for their peers. Fortunately, this article should help. We know a healthy diet is critical to optimal learning and getting things done, yet it also helps with other executive functions like organization and decision making.

First tip, only offer foods that you really want your kids to be eating. If you don’t want them eating something, don’t buy it and keep it in the house. While in our house we are omnivores, I do not stock much in the way of “snacky” foods: crackers, chips, puffed things, pretzels – these foods, when they are in our home – disappear quickly. Kids, like many adults, love the quick hit of a simple carb (yet it is important to remember, they turn to sugar in the body).

(Resource: Here is a fun class coming up with Laura McCall at The Birth Center – Foodies For Life!)

I counsel all my patients to have a little bit of protein every time they eat in order to increase satisfaction and maintain optimal blood sugar. This extends to snacks for our kids. Good choices for classroom friendly proteins include: seed butters, cheeses, greek yogurt, leftover meat, nitrate-free deli meats, summer sausage, or jerky.

If I could, I would always stick to fresh foods, but I know that convenient, non-perishables sometimes win. When I buy pre-packed non-perishable snacks, I let my kids know they are for away-from-home snacks, and not to eat them at home. Instead we stick to fresh foods, even when we go out as a family on excursions. Creative and portable home-packaging, like reusable wax cloth or metal containers, will work for most fresh items. I like to have fruits and veggies readily available, and accompanying complementary proteins (see above). My no-brainer school snack looks like this: fruit + veggie + protein (see photo). A common question that I get is about snack bars. They are almost universally shockingly loaded with carbs and have relatively little protein.

Lunches can be tricky too, so just keep it simple. Honestly, dinner leftovers make the best school lunches. Yet, my kids don’t like leftovers for lunch, which is fine because I love them ;-). Sometimes my kids have packed sammies with lettuce, avocado, tomatoes, shredded carrots, cheese or meat – mmmm! Other times, I take the ingredients of a sandwich and put them in separately, like little appetizers, adding up to a complete meal. As long as it is well-balanced and has veggies and protein, I let them eat what they want, and it is usually pretty simple. A great benefit to packing lunches for kids is that when they get home, they can finish what they didn’t eat at lunch, before grabbing a new snack from the fridge. This will also reduce food waste.

A word on school hot lunches: It is a good idea to offer your child some control and choice. Years ago, I started letting my kids look at the school lunch calendar and pick out what day they wanted to eat a school lunch. Last October, my mom passed away and some of my “what should the kids eat at school tomorrow” bandwidth just fell by the wayside. As a result, my kids ate hot lunches for almost the entire year last year. I am grateful that we have such a good lunch program where I live. I often inquired what they had for lunch, and at least at the elementary level, my son was sent back on more than one occasion to get another “food color” or to choose a protein…to my absolute delight! These are things that our kids have learned at home, and it is wonderful to see them reinforced at school. Still, taking the time to pack food for your child (or letting them pack it with your guidance or within your guidelines), feels right and offers all the benefits discussed above, not the least being optimal nutrition. However, if you need to use the school lunch program, here in Boulder Valley anyway, we have it pretty good. Coach your kids at home to make good choices on their own. And then relax about it.

As our children leave summer behind and head back to the rigorous routines of fall, it is important to revisit sleep habits. Due to the extra hours of daylight (not to mention the ability to sleep later during summer break), many of our children find themselves struggling at the start of the school-year. Suddenly staying up a little later becomes a liability once they have to get up earlier for school. This can make for a hard transition into the academic year. Starting the year off well can set the stage for success for the rest of the year. Help your students be successful by consciously going back to the night time habits that promote enough sleep.

What happens when we sleep? We gain many different benefits from sleep: memory consolidation (solidifying learning), normal daytime wakefulness and hunger/satiety signaling (research shows kids cannot learn well when hungry), as well as optimal immune system function (less sick days) all require appropriate amounts of sleep (see chart below). Similarly, less than optimal sleep can contribute to an inability to concentrate, make the best decisions, or be engaged socially. Getting good sleep is important for everyone, but especially important to consider as our children make the transition back to school.

The National Sleep Foundation is an excellent resource for all things sleep-related.

If you or your child needs help problem-solving your sleep, call me to setup an appointment: 720-340-0193.

Additionally, if you have a baby affecting your ability to sleep, consider working with our fabulous sleep coach at The Postpartum Wellness Center/Boulder, Jessica Schaeffer

Optimal executive functioning allows the ability to process complex information/instructions, plan, organize, and complete a task. Executive Functioning takes place in the slow-to-develop frontal lobe, which explains why some kids simply can’t get organized. Seth Perler, Executive Function coach for middle, high school, and college students (see sethperler.com) states that the foundation for having optimal executive functioning (what he simply calls the ability to get things done) is restful sleep, food that nourishes the body, and adequate exercise; alternatively he notes what makes executive functioning worse. The top 3 items… processed foods, sleep problems, and lack of exercise.

Not surprisingly, a healthy diet, adequate restful sleep, and exercise are the foundations of overall well-being!

If your child could benefit from holistic support with executive functioning &/or ADHD, call to setup and appointment: 720-340-0193.