Supplements for Children…
Another time when nutrition is incredibly important and sometimes difficult to accomplish is during childhood. I can’t emphasize enough how important a healthy diet is for growing children, but some nutritional gaps can still occur because of soil deficiencies, lack of variety in the diet, or environmental factors.
A high quality and varied diet should absolutely be the top priority but there are some supplements that can help fill in any holes in a child’s diet. Just as during pregnancy or nursing, this is a time when one should be very careful about the supplements given and choose only high-quality supplements from verifiable sources after checking with a healthcare practitioner.
On top of making sure that kids are consuming a lot of protein from quality sources, an abundance of green veggies and plenty of healthy fats, I often find that children benefit from:
If they’ve ever been on antibiotics, children can greatly benefit from quality probiotics. Their gut flora is still developing, and supporting gut health during childhood will have much more of an effect than attempting to supplement later in life (though I recommend it then too). We use several different types of probiotics on a rotating basis, and alternate between:
- Bio Kult probiotics, The kids prefer these and they are small and easy to swallow (or even to chew for really young kids!). The capsules are individually wrapped and don’t have to be refrigerated, which makes them much more convenient. One capsule is typically adequate for children up to 12 years old. I take 4 of these capsules a day and others may need more or less. We’ve also given large doses of this to one of our sons while he was on the GAPS protocol.
- Probiotics + Prebiotics– Another really potent strain of probiotics that also includes prebiotic strains (which feed probiotics and can help them colonize). These capsules are a little larger and don’t taste as good so they aren’t a favorite with our kids, but we do rotate them in occasionally.
- Probiota 12– A broad spectrum that we also rotate in and out, especially if we ever have to use antibiotics. These are also shelf stable and small capsules which the kids prefer.
It is unfortunate that probiotic supplements are even necessary. Once upon a healthier time, we were able to obtain all the strains of probiotics we needed from the food supply. Vegetables were not irradiated and sterilized so they contained soil based probiotic strains. Foods were often fermented to preserve them, creating a wide variety of native probiotic strains, and we didn’t use and overuse antibacterial soaps and antibiotics, which can alter gut bacteria.
With the constantly emerging evidence about the importance of gut bacteria for all aspects of health, this is one area I don’t skimp on with our family. Though we ferment foods like sauerkraut and water kefir for probiotics, don’t shy away from gardening and interacting with dirt, and don’t over sanitize, I still feel it is important to provide a variety of probiotics on a regular basis to support gut health.
I am hopeful that with all the emerging research, we will again start to understand the importance of living, probiotic-rich foods and bacterial exposure from other sources and address this problem on a wider level as well.
Just as we used to effortlessly get Vitamin D from the environment (the Sun) as we did probiotics from food and soil, modern living has interrupted this normal pattern.
I’m a firm believer that kids should be getting their Vitamin D outside, in the sun, and preferably barefoot. This works great in the summer, but it is more difficult in the winter, or if you live in an area where you don’t have access to direct sun daily. We make a sincere effort to spend time outside gardening or playing each day in the summer to get both probiotics (from soil) and Vitamin D (from sun) but in the colder months, I am more careful to supplement if needed.
Most children’s vitamins contain Vitamin D but the issue of supplementing Vitamin D in children can be controversial. To make sure my kids don’t get too much or too little, we check their levels about once a year in the winter and supplement based on the results. I’d definitely recommend this, especially if you plan to give your children higher doses or supplement on a regular basis.
I always keep Vitamin C on hand, and we’ve avoided many trips to the doctor because of this and Homemade Elderberry Syrup. I add about 1/4 tsp of vitamin C powder to the kids water or smoothie once a day (it is bitter!) to keep their immune systems bolstered… mainly in the winter. During illness, we take Vitamin C powder more often until the illness passes.
Cod Liver Oil/Butter Oil
Cod Liver Oil is one of the toughest one to get kids to take, but the one I notice the most difference in their mood (much calmer) and concentration when they take it. It comes as a gel, and I typically add it to smoothies or spread on a banana nut coconut muffin to get them to take it (it tastes pretty awful by itself!) There are capsules of this, but my littler kids can’t swallow capsules, so we stick to the gel or liquid versions.
We also regularly consume high quality seafood and other health sources of fats to help absorption of all of these supplements.
Magnesium Spray + Baths
Magnesium has been a miracle mineral for me and it also helps my kids sleep well. Our favorite is this topical magnesium spray which can be sprayed on the whole body for absorption. It doesn’t burn or tingle like some brands do and I’ve also never had trouble with it drying out my skin like some types of magnesium do. I spray this on myself and my kids each night and it helped me avoid morning sickness with this pregnancy.
Another easy way to give kids a magnesium boost is to add about 1/2 cup of epsom salts or magnesium crystals to their bath water so they can absorb it through their skin.
Gelatin is excellent for intestinal health and for hair, skin and nails. We try to eat homemade bone broth regularly, but I also occasionally make the kids healthy jello and gummy vitamins to give them some extra gelatin intake. I drink it in smoothies or in warm water, and also sometimes sneak it into the kids smoothies. A kid-favorite treat at our house is homemade probiotic marshmallows with gelatin. I’ve been able to verify that this brand is from grass-fed, humanely raised cows and doesn’t contain any additives or pesticide residue.
We don’t routinely give our kids a multivitamin, but we have given them this brand before, especially during the winter or if there is a lingering illness just to give us all an extra boost.
Do your kids take supplements? Which ones do they take? Share below!