Packing for University? Don’t Forget Your ABC’s and Other Supplements Too!

September 1, 2019

Heading off to university or college can be both exciting and a bit daunting. Some sensible nutritional planning can help see you through.

At this time of year, everywhere seems focussed on back to school and the start of the new term. We are surrounded by rows of school jumpers and sports kit. Lunch boxes and pencil cases are leaping off the shelf at us. For older students heading to college or university, the attention is on how many frying pans you might need and how to survive a week of parties at the start of term.

Along with the excitement of new beginnings, making new friends, freedom to explore new things away from home, it is easy to forget that maintaining good health is an all-important factor in helping you get through all the exciting new stuff.

Considering that what you take probably needs to fit into one car, it might be a good idea to prioritise what you really need to take. Have a look at Save the Student for some sensible advice on what to take. They even have a checklist you can edit and download. Remember, unless you are lucky enough to be heading off to some far-flung place to study somewhere very remote, there will be shops nearby or online shopping for everything else. You often find that shops near colleges and universities offer s student discount too.

We have all heard of Freshers Flu, students falling ill in those first few weeks of term. Some suggest it is peculiar to the UK, but it doesn’t make it any less uncomfortable for those that are suffering. High temperature, flu like symptoms of aching and tiredness, sneezing, coughing and feeling that you would rather be hiding under the duvet than heading out to class, is no fun.

It is not actually flu, but you can still feel pretty awful. It is generally considered that it is arriving from the fact that a whole bunch of people from lots of different places are suddenly all living in very close proximity. Each bringing with them, their own set of ‘bugs.’ That coupled with tiredness, not eating properly, stress and homesickness can all lower your defences so that you pick up anything that is going around far more easily.

Freshers flu may be considered unique to the UK, but it doesn’t make the fact you feel like rubbish, any better!

If you are packing you bags or if you are a parent preparing to send your student off soon, here are a few ideas that can help support the body and mind through these changes.

For all the excitement of starting something new, it can also be rather stressful. Not just for the student, but for the rest of the family too. Parents worry about their child coping with all the changes, students can be apprehensive about meeting new people, being far from home and how to find all their lectures just to name a few.

Stressful or Exciting?

It can be great fun and very exciting when you are planning your new adventure, but when the reality of it all kicks in, it can be a bit stressful too. And not just for the student.

If you find you are getting stressed, whether you are the student or the parent, consider taking a B Complex. B vitamins play a role in helping the nervous system and normal psychological function. They are not going to make you drowsy, but you may well find you are more relaxed and sleep better because of that.

The mineral magnesium is another good nutrient to consider as it is needed for psychological function and is involved in the reduction of tiredness and fatigue. When looking at magnesium supplements, Magnesium Bisglycinate is worth looking for, magnesium with the amino acid glycine which not only helps you utilise the magnesium but has relaxing properties of its own. Have some B vitamins in the same formula and you are giving yourself some really good support.

Do you find that a decent cup of tea helps relax you? Tea contains the amino acid L-theanine and research suggests that this is one of the reasons we find tea calming as theanine helps calm and relax without making you sleepy or sluggish. If the start of term includes a lot of intense study and essay deadlines, it is a useful supplement to have in your cupboard. Of course, there is also nothing wrong with a decent cup of tea in a favourite mug to give you a boost.

Wellness not Illness

When it comes to supporting the immune system, vitamin C is perhaps the most well-known, if you are not eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables (‘come on mum, I’m a student!’) your intake of vitamin C is reduced just when you could really do with it! A supplement, even as part of a multi vitamin and mineral could top you up. Include Zinc in the formulation and you are giving your immune system the nutrients it needs to properly function.

If you prefer a plant-based supplement, consider Olive Leaf Extract. Olive leaves contain an active principle called oleuropein, it has been shown to have antiviral and antibacterial properties. An ideal supplement for the new student! It is safe to take everyday and can be taken alongside vitamins and minerals.

Everyday Support

A multi vitamin and mineral is a great way to keep your nutrient levels topped up on a daily basis. Providing you with a full spectrum of vitamins and minerals, they won’t replace a healthy diet but ensure you are getting something of everything, every day.

Vitamin D plays a role in supporting the immune system research is also showing that it may play a role in mood levels and hormone health. It is available as drops, gummies as well as traditional capsules, so easy to take even if you don’t like swallowing tablets.

Other supplements that might be useful include Co Q 10, a co enzyme that is an antioxidant that works in the mitochondria of the cells. It is an ideal supplement if you are doing a lot of sport too.

Gingko is from the Gingko tree, rich in flavonoids and supports peripheral circulation. Research suggests that it is good for the memory.

Ayurvedic herbs including Bacopa monnieri and Panax ginseng could also be considered, especially in combination with nutrients such as Pantothenic Acid (B5). This vitamin contributes to normal mental performance and normal energy yielding metabolism. It also contributes to normal synthesis and metabolism of vitamin D and some neurotransmitters. Pantothenic acid can also contribute to a reduction of tiredness and fatigue. When the workload really piles on, this can be a useful combination.

Things to remember:

Register with a local surgery or the campus health centre.

If your symptoms are severe or don’t clear up within a few days, speak to a doctor or a pharmacist or call NHS 111.

If you are feeling anxious, worried or would just like someone to talk to, the university will have a student welfare support team, you can also contact organisations such as the Samaritans or 7 Cups of Tea for free and impartial advice and support.

If you are feeling really under pressure, talk to someone. There will be plenty of emotional and mental support on campus should you need it.

Eat regularly! It doesn’t have to be complicated, simple breakfasts such as porridge or overnight oats can be nutritious and cheap!

Team up! Can you share and exchange skills with your fellow flatmates? Is someone really good at cooking a curry, but you are better at creating a perfect pizza? Maybe you could cook for each other occasionally and share a meal – good food and some company can make a difference if you are feeling a bit lost and homesick.

Sharing skills with flatmates can be a useful thing to do. Are they a great cook? Could you offer to wash up or do some shopping in exchange for a great meal?

Keep hydrated. Drinking water is not just good for your overall health, when you are hydrated, you think better too. Plus, water is free!

Not only is drinking water good for mental function, it is also free!

Keep an eye on your bank balance, it is not easy living on a student budget, but it helps if you are aware of where you are. If you feel you are getting into financial difficulties, talk to your bank, your family, Citizens Advice Bureau or debt charity such as Stepchange.

Get to know your supplements, some you may wish to take daily others are for when you feel you need them. Being aware of what you have means you can start taking it when you need it.

Have fun! It may not be perfect all the time, there will be essay deadlines and exams, days where you miss home and times where you really need to be careful with your budget. At the same time you can build friendships that can last a lifetime, study something that you really want to, learn new skills and have new experiences. Enjoy!

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