If our children all ate as well as they should and exercised as much as they should, perhaps they wouldn’t need to take any supplements. The best advice I can give is to offer your kids foods from the different food groups each day and prepare meals with nutrients that complement each other. That means eating fresh fruits, vegetables, lean meats, fish, whole grains, nuts, and legumes.
Unfortunately, children don’t always eat the way we would like them to eat. A picky eater might not get all the vitamins, minerals and other important nutrients he or she needs. Some kids eat healthy diets most of the time; most kids eat healthy foods some of the time; and a few children rarely eat anything healthy at all, gobbling down junk food instead (which most likely contains very little nutritional value—just unhealthy fats, sugar, and calories).
Imagine sitting in school all day when you have no energy, you can’t pay attention, and you’re having difficulty socializing with other kids. And all because your brain and body are starving for good nutrition.
That being said, we are fortunate in this day and age that many categories of supplements are available for enhancing and improving our bodies’ natural abilities. Kids who don’t get all the nutrition they need from their diets can take supplements as a good way to ensure that they get enough vitamins and minerals, as long as you keep in mind that taking supplements isn’t a cure-all or a substitute for a healthy diet.
- 1. Probiotics: The most important thing to remember is that probiotics are essential as an everyday adjunct to good health, not just as a solution to health problems.
- 2. BioGaia –BioGaia contains the probiotics L. reuteri, which produces the antimicrobial substance reuterin, which inhibits the growth of several kinds of unhealthy bacteria. BioGaia is available as chewable tablets, straws, and as Probiotic Drops designed to help infants who suffer from digestive discomfort including gas and bloating. You can even get BioGaia chewing gum for oral health. Just as there are bad bacteria in the gut, there are bad bacteria in the mouth. L. reuteri Prodentis has documented effect on balancing the oral flora and reducing the levels of bad bacteria associated with oral problems such as bleeding gum and tooth decay.
* Culturelle for Kids–Use Culturelle for kids to help improve digestion, reduce upset stomach, and help maintain regular bowel movements. Culturelle is also commonly given to help healthy bacteria thrive when one is on antibiotics. To use, simply empty entire contents of 1 packet into cool food or drink. Culturelle is completely tasteless and odorless, and is 100 percent dairy and gluten free.
* Natren – Natren Life Start is specifically designed for infants and toddlers, especially those who are formula-fed or are born by cesarean section (and so do not have the benefit of acquiring beneficial bacteria as they pass through the birth canal).
[a] Omega-3 Fatty Acid
One common deficiency in children’s diets is omega-3 essential fatty acid (EFA). EFAs are essential for proper nervous system and brain function, which is very important during those long school days. EFAs are critical for proper growth in children, especially for neural development and maturation of sensory systems. Recent studies have also suggested that supplementation with high-dose EPA/DHA concentrates may improve behavior in children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD).
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a normal component of breast milk especially important for the optimal brain and eye function. DHA is also important in the function and maintenance of the immune system, hormone regulation, and general health. Deficiency in DHA has been linked to dyslexia, aggressiveness, depression, reduced intelligence, manic depression, and more. We recommend that once a child is off breast milk or formula, you add a small amount of DHA (50 to 100 mg) to your child’s orange juice, oatmeal, or other food.
This essential fatty acid can be found in pumpkin seeds, cold oily ocean fish like salmon, tuna, halibut, and sardines, and in canola oil and flax oil. It can also be taken as a dietary supplement if kids don’t like the strong taste of oily fish or the other foods.
- Dr. Ron’s Ultra Pure Blue Ice Fermented Cod Liver Oil – From ancient Rome to Scandinavia to the South Seas, traditional cultures considered fermented fish oils sacred foods essential to well being. Blue Ice is available in capsules, unflavored liquid, or cinnamon flavored liquid. This product is additive free, and contains vitamins A and D as well as the essential fatty acids EPA and DHA.
- Dr. Fuhrman’s DHA Purity — This vegetable-derived formula was developed to maximize purity and freshness and is entirely vegan. That means there is no fishy taste or odor. This product comes in liquid form and you need take only a few drops a day, so it can be added to almost anything you drink or eat.
- Carlson for Kids Chewable DHA — Carlson for Kids Chewable DHA is a fun and tasty way to provide your children with the nourishing benefits of DHA Omega-3 oil. Each orange-flavored chewable soft gel provides 100 mg of DHA. This product is regularly tested (using AOAC international protocols) for freshness, potency and purity by an independent, FDA-registered laboratory and has been determined to be fresh, fully potent and free of detectable levels of mercury, cadmium, lead, PCB’s and 28 other contaminants.
- Neuromins DHA by Vitabase — Fish oil is the most common source of the essential fatty acid DHA for dietary supplements; however, Neuromins® DHA is a unique fish oil DHA supplement because of a special formulation process that extracts DHA from algae, the fish’s actual source for its DHA. This high quality brand of DHA supplements is chemical-, pollutant-, and toxin-free
For decades, “experts” have told us to stay out of the sun and if we do go outside, to wear hats and immediately slather ourselves with sunscreen. Lately, though, a different story has emerged, especially where children are concerned. It turns out that they are not getting enough sun. In fact, a whopping 70 percent of American children are not getting enough vitamin D.
Vitamin D is often called the “sunshine vitamin” because the human body only makes it when exposed to sunlight. No one is suggesting that you allow your kids to sunbathe on the beach for hours unprotected. But we are recommending that you and your children be exposed to sunlight every day.
Vitamin D is crucial for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous, which have various functions, especially the maintenance of healthy bones. It is an immune system regulator; it has a key role in maintaining cognitive function; it can help reduce the severity and frequency of asthma symptoms; and has been shown to help lower the risk of certain cancers.
Children with low levels of vitamin D tend to have higher blood pressure and lower levels of good cholesterol than their peers, and have an increased risk of developing heart disease later in life. Those most at risk for vitamin D deficiency are darker-skinned children, particularly blacks and Hispanics, because their skin contains more melanin than lighter-skinned children, and melanin may prevent the skin from absorbing the sunlight it needs.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that:
- Breastfed and partially breastfed infants should be supplemented with 400 IU a day of vitamin D beginning in the first few days of life
- All non-breastfed infants, as well as older children, who are consuming less than one quart per day of vitamin D-fortified formula or milk, should receive a vitamin D supplement of 400 IU per day
- Adolescents who do not obtain 400 IU of vitamin D per day through foods should receive a supplement containing that amount
Foods that contain vitamin D include salmon, canned tuna, egg yolks, beef or calf liver, cheese, and fortified sources such as milk, yogurt, and cereals; however, it is almost impossible to get enough vitamin D from diet. That’s why you need to give your children vitamin D supplements, such as:
- Childlife Essentials Vitamin D3 Mixed Berry Flavor – ages 6 month & up — ChildLife Vitamin D3 is made especially for infants and children. Alcohol free, all natural ingredients, optimum absorption and natural berry flavor.
- Carlson Labs Baby D Drops -ages newborn & up – This product is sugar-free, soy-free, corn-free, wheat-free, gluten-free, and preservative-free. For infants less than 2 years old, place one drop onto a pacifier or mother’s nipple and allow the baby to suck for at least 30 seconds. For children over 2 years of age, it may be put on food, put in a drink, or taken from a spoon.
Adjunct Supplements for Specific Purposes
When your child’s diet is not able to meet all the nutrient needs of his or her body, supplements may be helpful to help treat specific problems. These are not supplements that need be taken every day; rather they are to be used only when a specific problem arises. As long as your child is eating a relatively balanced diet, there is no need for her to be taking a dozen different pills or liquids. Should you decide (after consulting with your health professional) to give your child supplements, here are some suggestions.
Iron is necessary for the body to make hemoglobin, the oxygen-carrying component of red blood cells. It’s important for young children and teens to get enough iron in their daily diets. Infants who are breast fed get enough iron from their mother; infants who are not breast fed should get iron-fortified formula. After 6 months of age, babies should be fed iron-fortified cereal. Some children are at risk for iron deficiency. Toddlers who may not be eating enough iron-containing or iron-fortified foods are at risk. Teen girls are at risk if their diets don’t contain enough iron to counteract the loss of iron during menstrual bleeding. And teen athletes may lose iron through sweating during intense exercise.
There are a number of iron-rich foods that should be a part of your child’s diet so that iron deficiency does not occur, including:
- Dark poultry
- Red meat
- Dried beans and peas
- Dried fruits
- Leafy green vegetables
- Blackstrap molasses
- Enriched grains
- Iron-fortified breakfast cereals
If your child is in one of the risk categories previously mentioned or is not getting enough dietary iron, it may be necessary to give them iron supplements.
Healthy Immune System
When your child eats a balanced diet, including a variety of fruits and vegetables, she is literally feeding her immune system. Since many children go through phases when they don’t eat as well as they should, their immune systems are not always working at peak efficiency. In addition, they’re often exposed to more germs and illnesses than adults are because of their close proximity to other children at school. Every parent knows when a “bug” has hit the schoolyard—soon whole classrooms are sneezing and coughing and half the class is staying home. At these times it’s especially important to keep your child’s immune system well nourished and give it a boost with a few powerful supplements.
Zinc is a mineral that is essential to good health, as it is involved in hundreds of chemical reactions that take place in the body. It is an important contributor to a healthy immune system (it activates white blood cells to fight infection), and plays a critical role in growth and development. It’s particularly important for infants, children, and pregnant women to get enough zinc. Zinc also helps add calcium to bones and teeth, lowers blood sugar, and improves brain function.
Zinc deficiencies can lead to chronic fatigue, diarrhea, insulin resistance, and loss of taste or smell. It can make it more difficult for the body to fight off infection, and can cause night blindness, poor appetite, poor memory, and possibly attention deficit disorder.
If you eat a healthy diet, you probably get enough zinc already. The best food sources of zinc are red meat, crabs, lobster, wheat germ, wheat bran, nuts, seeds, and oysters (not exactly kid friendly). Cocoa powder is also a good source of zinc, so if your kids want a sweet snack, a small square of dark chocolate is a delicious, nutritious alternative. Vegetarians usually need more zinc supplementation than meat eaters, since meat is high in bioavailable zinc and may enhance zinc absorption. In addition, vegetarians typically eat high levels of legumes and whole grains, which contain inhibit zinc’s absorption. Poor dietary habits such as excessive consumption of sugar or carbohydrates are also known to reduce zinc absorption.
In the past several years, there have been a number of studies looking at the possible link between zinc and ADHD. Some studies suggest that children with ADHD might have lower levels of zinc in their body than children without this disorder. Researchers have reportedly seen improvement in children with ADHD who took zinc along with traditional ADHD treatment. Several studies have shown zinc supplements can reduce hyperactivity and impulsivity. More research is needed in this area. Needless to say, if you’re thinking of adding zinc supplements to your child’s diet, this is something that must be discussed with your health professional.
Zinc, in the form of zinc gluconate glycine lozenges (which can be found in any drug store), can also be used to reduce the duration of the common cold. Of the 62 million common colds requiring medical attention in the United States each year, more than 80 percent affect school-aged children. Treatment with zinc gluconate glycine lozenges has been shown to significantly decrease cold duration and antibiotic use in school-aged subjects. So if your child comes down with a cold, zinc lozenges, which dissolve in the mouth, can shorten the number of days the cold will last.
The best way to give your children more zinc is to add zinc-rich foods to their diet. If you do go for zinc supplements, here are a few we recommend (check with your health care provider for use in children under the age of 12):
- Cold-EEZE — Cold-EEZE reduces the duration and symptoms of the common cold including cough, stuffy nose, sore throat, sneezing, post-nasal drip and hoarseness. The Cold-EEZE proprietary (zinc gluconate glycine) formula is believed by researchers to interfere with the cold virus’ (rhinovirus) ability to reproduce. Cold-EEZE uses natural flavors and has no preservatives or colors.
- Life Extension Zinc Lozenges – Zinc lozenges have become popular supplements to use when people feel a runny nose coming on. When zinc is sucked in the mouth in lozenge form, it binds to specific cell receptor sites in the nasal/oral cavity that inhibits the ability of undesirable entities to take hold. This product contains no milk, egg, fish, peanuts, crustacean shellfish (lobster, crab, shrimp), tree nuts, wheat, yeast, gluten, or rice. Contains no artificial sweeteners or flavors.