The great debate: should kids be given supplements or not? Does age make a difference? When are they necessary, if at all? If so, what and how much? Also, how do you know which ones you can trust? Which foods best take the place of supplements? Some see taking vitamins as an insurance policy, especially for picky eaters. What should a mom or dad do for their babies, toddlers and school children?
I would like to briefly discuss the medical facts about nutrient supplements, give you guidelines to follow when making your own decisions. In other words, l will educate you so you can customise what is best for your own family.
Nutrition is incredibly important during childhood, but unfortunately for some parents it can be difficult to get kids to eat a nutrient dense diet on a consistent basis therefore deficiencies in the diet occur. Although I can’t stress enough how important prioritizing your child’s diet is, if there are times where nutrients are lacking for whatever reason, then thankfully there are supplements for children that can help replace some of the missing things your child needs to grow up healthy and strong.
It’s no big secret that using supplements with my son isn’t my favourite thing. I would rather put my energy, effort, and money into improving my child’s diet over giving him tons of daily supplements. However, I do realize that this idealistic approach isn’t always realistic. It’s unfortunate that our diets can’t always meet all of our needs, especially for growing children, therefore deficiencies may occur. This means that supplements for our children may be necessary from time to time.
Today I want to get specific with supplements for children… as in why they may be needed from time to time.
Cod Liver Oil – This supplement has been around a while, but it seems that it’s recently making a comeback. Some parents try to make their children’s diet as dense as possible. As soon as they could take it, they are given cod liver oil to boost their consumption of omega 3 fatty acids. Small kids are not yet eating foods that contain omega oils such as fish and nuts. Therefore some parents give their small kids egg yolk every day which helps with brain development, but some parents wish to supplement with the cod liver oil knowing that the added omega oils are great for additional brain development in young children. Does is it work? I think so. There’s evidence that cod oil helps children improve their learning, speaking, and memory abilities.
What kind of cod liver oil should be used? Different brands are great in their own way but some are superior. They will each fit different needs and different budgets, and they can all be used during different times in your child’s life.
Probiotics – This is another must-have supplement. Probiotics do so much for our bodies. In fact, we probably don’t even know how necessary and beneficial they really are… but we have an idea. Thankfully, we can get probiotics in our diets via cultured and fermented foods, but those are two things that are lacking in a lot of diets these days. Even those that do include these things in their diets, it’s questionable as to what amount is enough to keep our guts healthy with these foods alone. This is where supplementing with probiotics comes into play.
Probiotics help keep our guts balanced with beneficial organisms. This promotes good health as the healthy gut flora help to keep harmful organisms at bay, assist in digesting foods appropriately, breakdown toxins correctly, aid in manufacturing vitamins B and K2 for us, and aid us in mineral and nutrient absorption.
So why probiotics are needed so much with children? Well, you’ve heard the saying, “all disease begins in the gut,” right? Healthy gut flora has been shown to have a positive impact on the immune system from before baby is born until well after he comes into this world. We know that the immune system is vital to having healthy, thriving children, therefore consuming probiotics is not something to ignore. Plus, with the amount of things our kids are being exposed to these days (like the overuse of antibiotics), their guts can use all the help it can get!
When choosing a probiotic for children, there’s debate over whether the best probiotics are from soil based organisms (strains of beneficial bacteria found in the soil along with our foods – don’t take up residence in the gut) or from traditional lacto-based probiotics (strains of probiotics in cultured and fermented foods – take up residence in the gut). I’m not going to go into the difference in these much.
I’ve looked around quite a bit about this topic and it seems that SBOs (from soil based organisms) are better for children while lacto-based probiotics are better for adults. This seems to be because children have less damage to their guts than adults do and they can handle the SBO probiotics better than some adults that already have gut problems.
Note: The vitamin K2 produced by healthy gut bacteria is now thought to not be an absorbable source of vitamin K2. Although it’s produced by gut flora, it’s not a usable source of this vitamin for our bodies.
For more information about probiotics you can read this article
Multi-Vitamin - Like I said at the beginning of this post… I’m not big into using supplements with kids, and I don’t recommend using them all the time. Obviously I’m referring to fairly healthy children and not to children with persisting nutritional challenges. I really only recommend using them occasionally when you think your kids need them. This is especially true when it comes to daily multi-vitamins. I definitely prefer for kids to get the majority of their nutrients in what they eat. Unfortunately, for most families this isn’t always possible.
Now I’m not going to go into details about why I think a lot of daily multi-vitamins are a complete waste of money. What I am going to talk about is what to look for in a good quality multi-vitamin.
First off, I’d always recommend going with a liquid vitamin over a chewable or pill/capsule type vitamin. Why? Because liquid is more absorbable, and your child will get more out of it. Sure chewable vitamins are the next best option, but I feel that so much of the pill/capsule type vitamin benefits are wasted in the digestive process.
Next, I’d always look for a whole food vitamin that is processed using low temperatures over a synthetic vitamin any day. Why? Because the vitamins in whole food vitamins are from concentrated food and herbal sources which is something our bodies were actually designed to absorb. Synthetic, lab-produced vitamins are cheaper and more readily available, but they aren’t as easily recognised or broken down by the body, therefore they can cause damage to the body.
Trace Minerals – This is something that’s on the newer side for most parents as far as supplements go. However, those who have heard of trace minerals before usually think that trace minerals were those minerals that we needed in really small amounts for our health, and that we got enough of them from our foods. Unfortunately, thanks to the depletion of our soils and the processing of our water, the trace mineral content of commercial foods and municipal water is diminishing. The majority of diets are lacking in these important elements and mineral deficiencies are on the rise.
Where are our minerals going? It’s thought that the soils minerals are being washed away into the oceans because it’s there that these trace minerals are found in sufficient amounts that our bodies need.
Trace minerals play an important role in our health and the health of our children. If you believe the Holy Scriptures, we were formed from the dust of the ground and these trace minerals are part of what makes up the dirt we came from therefore our bodies need them. Our bodies also function thanks to chemical and electrical processes, and these trace minerals play a vital role in making sure that all of that works well. We deplete minerals all throughout the day from various activities so it’s important that these minerals are replaced.
Many trace minerals can be replaced if your child is taking a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, but again, there are problems with these being natural vs. synthetic sources and whether or not the body is actually absorbing what’s in the vitamin or not. Although a lot of our soils are depleted these days, there are things we can do to make sure we get these minerals in our diets so that our kids aren’t deficient in them.
Vitamin K2 - This is not your regular vitamin K that’s found in dark leafy green vegetables and helps with blood clotting. That’s vitamin K1. Vitamin K2′s role in the body extends far beyond blood clotting to include protecting us from heart disease, ensuring healthy skin, forming strong bones, promoting brain function, supporting growth and development and helping to prevent cancer – to name a few. In fact, vitamin K2 has so many functions not associated with vitamin K1 that many researchers insist that K1 and K2 are best seen as two different vitamins entirely.
As you can see, this is a much needed vitamin… especially for children. It is most commonly found in traditional foods such as grass-fed animal sources (MK-4) and fermented foods (MK-7)… two things modern diets don’t get much of. Vitamin K2 is also produced from healthy gut flora (MKs 6-8 and MKs 10-13) in the GI tract, but like I said earlier, it’s not thought to be an absorbable form of vitamin K2.
So how do you get enough vitamin K2? You can obtain some of it from the food sources recommended above, but it’s thought that even with foods, you can’t possibly consume enough to get adequate levels of this vitamin. You can, however, take a supplement of course. Currently, there are two forms of vitamin K2 supplements on the market. MK-4 supplements, which are synthetic so those are a big “NO” and MK-7 supplements which are the better choice.
I get asked this question A LOT. Many parents are told by their paediatrician that children are deficient in vitamin D these days and need to be on a supplement. This is true… to an extent. Many kids are deficient in vitamin D, but there are a few things you can do to remedy that situation in a natural way.
First, you can get your kid outside more often and skip the sunscreen as much as possible. Next, you can feed them more vitamin D containing foods. Lastly, you can supplement with cod liver oil, not over-the-counter or prescription vitamin D supplements as these are synthetic and most times not the type of vitamin D your child’s body needs. Not only that, but the body has a hard time recognizing synthetic vitamins and you can become toxic with synthetic forms of vitamin D. This does not happen when getting vitamin D from natural sources.
It’s also important for me to note here that if you do end up supplementing with a synthetic form of vitamin D, that you also give your child a vitamin K2 supplement to prevent vitamin D toxicity. This article from Dr. Mercola goes into more detail about why vitamin K2 is needed with supplemented vitamin D and how this helps prevent vitamin D toxicity in children. Remember, vitamin D, vitamin K2, and calcium all work together in the body.
I hope that if you managed to get to the end of this blog you have what is needed to make your own choices regarding dietary supplements for your children.