Children and Back-to-School Health
Nutritional Strategies to Bolster Kids'
When children return to school, they are
exposed to a constant parade of bacteria and viruses. Huddled
together in one room, it?s nearly impossible for youngsters to
In addition, whether a child is attending a friend?s birthday
party or is munching on pizza in the school cafeteria, he or she
may encounter a wide array and constant stream of
insulin-raising foods that replace the healthier meals prepared
at home. This under-consumption of antioxidant-rich vegetables
and fruits, and overconsumption of sugary, refined foods impairs
their immune systems and leaves them even more susceptible to
colds and flus.
The following nutritional strategies may help parents support
their children?s health during this vulnerable time of year.
Propolis, Echinacea and Vitamin C
In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study
published in the Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine,
an herbal formula containing echinacea, propolis and vitamin C
prevented respiratory tract infections in children.1 (Children
allergic to bee stings should not use propolis.)
Researchers studied 430 children ages 1 to 5 years. The herbal
preparation, which included 50 mg/mL of echinacea, 50 mg/mL of
propolis and 10 mg/mL of vitamin C, was given to 215 children.
An equal number of children received a placebo for 12 weeks.
One- to three-year-old children in both groups were given 5.0 mL
twice per day, while four- and five-year-old children received
7.5 mL twice daily. Children who had acute illness received age
appropriate doses four times daily.
Of the initial group of subjects, 328 children completed the
study. In the group treated with echinacea, propolis and vitamin
C, 160 children remained while 168 children remained in the
The group treated with the herbal formula experienced a
significant 55 percent reduction in the number of illness
episodes compared with the placebo group. In treated children,
the mean number of episodes per child was decreased by half. In
addition, the mean number of days each child suffered from a
fever was reduced by 62 percent. Furthermore, the total number
of illness days was significantly lower in the group taking the
herbal formula compared with the placebo group and the mean
duration of individual illness episodes also was decreased in
the treated subjects.
Few subjects experienced side- effects; adverse reactions that
did occur were mild, transient and similar between the treated
and placebo groups.
Researchers called for studies that compare demographic
characteristics between treatment groups and that include a
larger number of subjects.
Treating young children with zinc in addition to standard
antibiotics significantly reduced the duration of severe
pneumonia, according to a study in the Lancet.2 In the
double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, researchers studied 270
children being treated for severe pneumonia at a hospital in
Bangladesh. The subjects, 2 months to 23 months old, were
randomly divided into two groups: one group receiving 20 mg of
zinc daily the other receiving a placebo. Children in both
groups also were given standard antibiotics used to treat
In zinc-treated children, the duration of severe pneumonia
symptoms and signs was shorter than in placebo-treated children.
Zinc appeared to reduce such symptoms as indrawing of the chest
when breathing, severely raised respiration rates and low oxygen
concentration in the blood. Zinc reduced the duration of severe
pneumonia and overall hospital stay by an average of one day.
All of zinc?s positive effects were greater when the study?s
authors omitted children with wheezing from the analysis. In the
zinc group, only two children failed to respond to treatment
with the initial standard antibiotics compared to 11 children in
the placebo group. Children using zinc also were less likely to
need to change the antibiotic they were using.
According to the researchers, the study results indicate that
zinc therapy could help reduce bacterial resistance to
antibiotics by decreasing exposure to multiple antibiotics.
A low-glycemic sugar substitute known as Xylitol can satisfy
sweet-tooths without raising insulin levels. Baked into
lunch-box items, Xylitol serves as a satisfying replacement to
goodies served in school cafeterias or vending machines.
Xylitol not only keeps kids away from insulin-raising sweets?it
also may help maintain children?s oral health by inhibiting the
sugar-thriving, cavity-causing oral bacteria Streptococcus
mutans. In the low pH conditions of the mouth, S. mutans easily
adheres to teeth and produces plaque. Xylitol raises the pH of
the mouth, inhibiting the growth of S. mutans. Xylitol?s
anti-cavity effect is long lasting and possibly permanent. Years
after trials are completed, low decay rates persist.3
Furthermore, Xylitol helps children avoid sinus and ear
infections. Research-ers asked 306 Finnish children to chew gum
sweetened with either sucrose or Xylitol. The average age of the
subjects was five years, and most had been selected because they
had a history of recurrent, acute otitis www.(middle ear
infections). At the end of two months, the group chewing xylitol-sweetened
gum had a 40 percent reduction in the incidence of otitis
www.when compared to those who used the sucrose-sweetened gum.4
Using coconut oil in baked goods made with low-glycemic flours
(such as almond meal, quinoa or brown rice flour) or drizzling
it on other lunch-box items is another healthy alternative.
Coconut oil contains the fatty acids lauric acid, capric acid
and caprylic acid, which kill a range of bacteria, viruses and
When children enter the school environment, they are
particularly vulnerable to germs. Yet, parents may be able to
help their children?s immune systems stay strong by implementing
the above nutritional strategies.
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1.Sangvai S., Chianese J., Morone N., Bogen D.L., Voigt L.,
Shaikh N. Can an herbal preparation of echinacea, propolis, and
vitamin C reduce respiratory illnesses in children? Arch Pediatr
Adolesc Med 2004 Mar;158(3):222-4.
2. Brooks W.A., Yunus M., Santosham M., Wahed M.A., Nahar K.,
Yeasmin S., Black R.E. Zinc for severe pneumonia in very young
children: double-blind placebo-controlled trial. Lancet 2004 May
3. Isokangas P., Alanen P., Tiekso J., Makinen K.K. 1989,
Long-term effect of xylitol chewing gum on dental caries.
Community Dent Oral Epidemiol (1989) 17:200-03.
4. Uhari M., Kontiokari T., Koskela M., Niemela M. Xylitol
chewing gum in prevention of acute otitis www. double blind
randomized trial. Br Med J (1996) 313:1180-1184.
5. Fife, B. The Healing Miracles of Coconut Oil. Colorado
Springs: Health Wise Pub; 2003:58
6. Kabara, J. Health oils from the tree of life (Nutritional and
health aspects of coconut oil). www.coconut oil.com/research.htm.
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