How to Stay Healthy In College – 7 Items You Want to Bring
Whether you (or your children) are leaving for college for the first time or returning for another semester, there can be some uncertainty about how to remain healthy when entering an environment that seems less controllable than your home environment – especially if you are moving into a dormitory and eating cafeteria meals.
Many people return home after their first year of college worn-down and fatigued with taxed adrenal glands. Often, they have developed a chronic infection like Epstein Barr Virus, mold toxicity, or gut microbiome imbalances. For many of my patients, formulating a plan that supports health and allows for balance between having fun and staying healthy becomes key.
Common habits that get people into trouble include irregular eating and sleeping schedules, especially as the semester gets busier and exams start. By falling out of line with nature, ones’ health can start to decline rather quickly. I recommend waking up early, by 7:30 a.m., and going to bed by 10:30 or 11:00 p.m. on most days. Structuring mealtimes is also important, as well as sitting down to eat each meal. Have three meals per day, including a good breakfast, and make eating a priority. Incorporating at least 30 minutes of exercise every day into the schedule is also very important for overall health and the ability to cope with the mental and emotional stresses of college life.
If you live in a dormitory and eat cafeteria food, make sure to choose from among the ‘real food’ options — food that is whole / unprocessed, mostly plant-based, and without a lot of additives or preservatives. Pick 2-3 servings of vegetables with each meal – steamed, raw, or lightly sautéed — and not overcooked vegetables that are mushy and devoid of vitality and nutrients. If whole grains like brown rice and quinoa are available, choose them, and add a good quality plant-based protein like beans. If you eat meat, select a small portion that is not battered and fried, but ideally cooked into a soup or stir fry with lots of vegetables. Avoid the highly processed foods like fish sticks, chicken tenders, and French fries that are common in most cafeterias. Also, avoid processed sugar, because it is one of the most toxic foods to your body. Eat whole fruits like apples, berries, and pears if you feel you need something sweet.
Along with eating clean food, focus on having clean air and water in your living environment by drinking filtered water and buying an air filter for your living area. Filters help remove toxins from your environment and save your immune system’s energy for fighting unwanted viruses and bacteria that contact you. Keeping your immune system strong is extra important when you are in shared living spaces and packed classrooms during cold and flu season.
What are some of my favorite ‘tools’ for college or university survive-and-thrive pack? Below are my top 7 items to take with you that will help maintain your health.
Miso is one of the most health-sustaining foods and is particularly useful for rebalancing an acidic condition after eating sugar or drinking alcohol. It is also a great probiotic and prebiotic food that supports gut health and the immune system. If you don’t have access to a kitchen, don’t worry: you can simply add 1 teaspoon of miso paste to hot water, dissolve it, and drink it warm like a tea. Mitoku brand makes a nice brown rice miso that doesn’t need to be refrigerated. If you have a refrigerator, you can purchase refrigerated misos at stores like Whole Foods or Sprouts or purchase online from healthgoods.com.
Elderberry extracts can help ward off infections. You can take elderberry syrup daily, at any sign of an illness coming on — excess fatigue, sore throat, or mild fever — or if you know you have been exposed to a cold, flu, or other virus. My favorite elderberry mixture is from Designs for Health, as it doesn’t need to be refrigerated and has reishi mushroom and wild cherry for an extra immune boost.
Real food snacks like nuts, nut butters, and dried or fresh fruit are highly preferable snacks compared to packaged chips and crackers. It’s also easy to make your own trail mix by combining raisins or another dried fruit (make sure they aren’t coated in sugar) and your favorite nuts like almonds, cashews, pecans, and/or walnuts. If you have a refrigerator, you can keep carrots, celery, broccoli, and hummus on hand for quick low-sugar vegetable bites.
This twig tea is dark, earthy, and can stabilize an upset stomach from poorly cooked cafeteria food, as well as mitigate the effects of sugar and alcohol. It alkalizes your body and supports immune and gut health. You can find it in bags at Whole Foods or Sprouts, or you can order online from healthgoods.com.
Dormitory rooms are known for stale air that is often contaminated with viruses, bacteria, mold, and chemicals like volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Air filters can help purify your space, and some even remove heavy metals. My favorite air filters are from Air Doctor and from Austin Air. If these options seem too big for your living space, there are other smaller versions available.
Finding clean drinking water can be a challenge, especially between classes, so it’s best to bring your own rather than leaving your trust in hallway water fountains. I recommend that you drink filtered tap water using a high-quality filter that removes heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, as well as chlorine and preferably fluoride. My favorite portable filter is the Berkey Water Filter. They make a travel size that is small enough to place on the corner of your desk. You may have to fill it up frequently, so purchase a small bucket to do this easily, but it will be worth the trouble!
Bottled water is both toxic to the environment and to our bodies, so it is not an option. The bottles leach BPA and other plastic compounds into the water, along with the other toxins that aren’t removed prior to bottling. Purchase a good quality water bottle, preferably glass or stainless steel, fill it up with your own filtered water, and take it with you to meals and to your classes.
So, there you have it — my top 7 things that I would bring to college to start on a healthy path to success and happiness (Elgin has a little while before I can take him shopping for dorm supplies, but I have my list ready). If you’re a student in the Nashville area who is facing challenges with energy, digestion, or brain fog, I can provide personalized consultations to identify the root causes and get you back on track towards that degree.