Do Kids Need Supplements? My Top Recommendations.
The world of supplementation can be overwhelming and confusing. When I was trying to figure it out for myself, I started to notice that certain nutrients were highly recommended for anyone, not just people with gut problems or other chronic health problems.
This made me start to wonder if my kids needed anything, other than the multivitamin gummies I was giving them! While it would have been nice to not have to worry about any of that, I also felt that if I was going to provide myself with the best supplements, how could I ignore the fact that my kids might need some of them, too?
So began my research to try to figure out what seemed absolutely necessary, to me, for my kids. I landed on several supplements.
Here is What I Give to My Kids, Either Daily, or on a Rotating Basis
Probiotics. This is an absolute must, in my opinion. The pediatric clinic I work in routinely recommends probiotics for a myriad of issues, including reflux in infants and children; chronic abdominal pain, diarrhea, and constipation, to name a few.
The fact is, in our world today, so many people have issues with gut flora. This can be due to a processed diet, as well as from taking various types of medications. Antibiotics can be necessary at times, but are one of the biggest contributors of gut flora disruption. If your child has ever been on antibiotics, or if they have any of the above mentioned stomach concerns, consider adding a probiotic to their daily routine.
I like to rotate our probiotics, to provide a variety of beneficial cultures. Ultimate Flora, Prescript Assist, Mega Food, and doTERRA PB Assist brands are among some of my favorites. Our clinic recommends up to 20 billion CFU per day, which should be adequate for most children. I recommend NOT getting gummies or chewable versions that have lower CFU's, but rather, just getting capsules and opening them up into yogurt, smoothies, or unsweetened applesauce.
For infants, my clinic recommends lower levels of CFU's, such as 3-5 billion per day. Talk to your pediatrician about probiotics for infants.
I noticed such positive changes in my kids' digestion and overall health once we added adequate amounts of probiotics!
Vitamin D3. Most of us are deficient in Vitamin D these days. This is from living in climates that do not have sun year-round, and/or from simply spending so much time indoors. Kids are no exception, as many hours per day are spent in school types of settings. If you live in a climate such as the Pacific Northwest where we do, it just compounds the issue.
I began supplementing both of my kids with Vitamin D3, about 2000 IU per day, on my own, based on general recommendations I had researched, and based our our climate. My kids' doctor agreed their Vitamin D levels should be tested, and we found that for them, this amount got their levels to the low end of normal, so we did increase the amount for each of them. Consider having your children's D levels tested so that you can feel confident in the amount you're giving them.
I have chosen to use a Vitamin D3/K2 supplement, based on the knowledge that Vitamin D is better absorbed when Vitamin K levels are also adequate. I do feel that Vitamin D3 in a liquid drop form is absorbed best, and it is very easy to add to liquids or yogurt.
And what about sunshine? I am not a believer lathering kids (or myself) up in sunscreen, or covering up every inch of the body every time we go out. Our bodies were MEANT to get Vitamin D from the sun, and truly, this is the best form we can possibly get. On the other hand, I AM a believer in preventing sunburns and sun damage. I try to find a balance between allowing my kids to get some natural sunlight, but applying a non-nano physical blocker sunscreen (like zinc oxide, rather than chemical based; here is my favorite) or clothing, like rash guards, if I know they will be out for a long time.
Magnesium. This is another nutrient that most of us are deficient in. It is mainly because of widespread soil depletion from pesticides and farming practices. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include leg cramps, insomnia, muscle pain, anxiety, high blood pressure, fatigue, migraines, and others.
Again, magnesium one that I requested to have my kids tested for, and found that they were indeed low. My favorite form to supplement with is magnesium oil/spray, since it is just so easy to do, plus it is well absorbed. It can cause a tingling sensation on the skin, so applying it to the bottoms of the feet can be helpful. Epsom salt baths are a another great way to increase magnesium levels.
Fish Oil. Omega-3 Fatty Acids from fish sources are incredibly important for brain health, and for keeping inflammation levels in check. Ideally, humans were meant to keep their consumption of Omega-6 to Omega-3 fatty acids from a 1:1 to a 4:1 ratio, but the average American diet has far higher levels of Omega-6 fatty acids, which contributes to inflammation. Note that Omega-6 fatty acids from industrial seed oils have been found to cause the highest amounts of inflammation, so I would recommend avoiding those, and instead using coconut oil, avocado oil, olive oil, and butter or ghee.
The best form is arguably a high quality Cod Liver Oil. I must admit, though, it would be nearly impossible for me to get my kids to swallow this. Instead, I give it to them in gummy form. Be absolutely sure to get a high quality fish oil like the ones I've linked to, that is tested for purity, including heavy metals.
Eating plenty of cold water fatty fish, like wild salmon, is a wonderful way to get good amounts of Omega 3's, but often we just don't eat enough of these to truly provide adequate levels.
Greens Supplementation and Multivitamin. I choose to do juice and greens supplements for my kids, because while they do have fruits and vegetables with every meal, I have not quite been able to get the variety into them that I would like. I really like Juice Plus and greens powders like Terra Greens or Amazing Grass. The Juice Plus is one they get daily, and the greens powders I rotate in and out of. I do find that their immune systems seem stronger with these supplements!
I do also do a multivitamin for my kids, now. I have truly come to believe that we just can't get all the micronutrients we need from even the healthiest diet, and this is because of the declining quality of our soil. However, you must choose a high quality multivitamin if it will be of any use! Most multivitamins contain the vitamins and minerals in their synthetic forms, or at least in partial forms (for example, ascorbic acid instead of whole Vitamin C). Synthetic and partial forms are not well absorbed, and at the very least, could be a waste of money; at the worst, could cause more harm than good.
a2z is my absolute favorite children's multivitamin. It includes nutrients in their most bioavailable form, so that they are well absorbed.
Collagen Peptides. This is not one my kids get daily, but is so amazing for intestinal health, and health of skin, hair, nails and joints. I always have collagen peptides on hand for my own daily use, so I like to give them to my kids with their smoothies when I can. This brand is from humanely/pasture raised cows, and does not contain pesticide residue.
Vitamin C. Lastly, I do give my kids a high quality Vitamin C powder every day. It helps with daily immune system maintenance and provides great antioxidants. In times of illness, I increase the amount they are getting every day. Vitamin C is water soluble, so it is unlikely to overdose on it, but certainly talk to a doctor if you have questions on daily amounts.
Disclaimer: Please remember that it is best to talk to your childrens' health care provider about supplementation, because the amounts they need may be very dependent on what their blood levels are. This is especially the case for Vitamin D and Magnesium, but it certainly a good idea to talk to a health care provider about any supplement you choose to start. Supplements are not regulated by the FDA, and are not intended to diagnose, treat, prevent or cure any disease.
And speaking of... do we really need to draw labs on our children? This is kind of a daunting thought! As a Pediatric RN, trust me, I know. I worked in a children's hospital for about 5 years, where I had to personally draw blood on small children. It was not fun for them, for the parents, or for me.
So, this is why I recommend talking to your doctor! It's not like we want to do labs on our kids, but on the other hand, we don't want them spending many years being deficient in anything. It's a great idea to plan to do any extra labs along with any routine labs that the pediatrician may recommend, so that everything can be done all at once. Most health care providers are well-versed on testing for Vitamin D levels, at a minimum.
I'll admit, there are days that we forget to give every supplement, or, we just simply run out of time. My husband jokes that our kids get "every letter of the alphabet", and the kids definitely like to go along with that joke. But mainly, it is just a part of the routine, and quite honestly, I have seen definite benefits to their overall health. My main goal is to give them a good foundation for them to build off of as they grow, and to keep their immune systems strong.
How do you feel about giving your kids supplements? Do you already, and if so, what benefits have you seen?