Posted by Dr. Matt Hand on Mar 5, 2019 10:36:15 PM
By Dr. Matt Hand
There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation when it comes to recommending supplements for children.When parents want to know if a specific vitamin or herbal supplement may work to help their child with their trouble sleeping, hyperactivity, digestive upset, or anxiousness, they often turn to their pediatrician for advice. *But some pediatricians and family medical practitioners don’t have a lot of experience with supplements.
While many scientific studies support the importance of supplementing Vitamin D, Omega-3 fats, iron, and zinc, it is crucial to make sure patients receive the appropriate dose.
Supplements labeled “pediatric” often have levels of the necessary vitamins and minerals too low to produce positive results. Kids love these products because they are loaded with sugar, but the nutritional value isn’t there.
This is confusing for parents because they may believe supplements don't work.
For example, if a dose for a particular child is 1,000-2,000 mg of Omega 3 fats and her parents purchase a pediatric supplement with 50mg of Omega 3 fats in three gummies, the child will have to consume a lot of sugar in order to get a sufficient amount.
Most children require 25 mcg per day of Vitamin D, but many pediatric versions of this supplement only contain 10 mcg. Well-meaning parents are likely to trust that the dose is adequate. They know how important it is for their child to get enough Vitamin D, but the product misleads them.
Low iron is a persistent issue with children in our society. Many practitioners believe low iron levels are one of the driving factors behind many common challenges such as sleeplessness, hyperactivity, anxiousness, and low mood.
Supplementing a child’s diet with iron sometimes causes digestive upset, so finding a pediatric iron supplement that kids like and doesn’t cause stomach problems is important to parents. However, they would be disappointed to learn the supplement contains only 2 mg of elemental iron when the appropriate dose for a child is 65 mg.
Many pediatric supplements on the shelves today are little more than candy marketed as health products.
Parents search for safe supplements designed for children, and the word “pediatric” invokes a feeling of safety. It’s crucial for parents to understand that an appropriate dose may be higher than the stated dosage on the bottles they're seeing in the store.
Proprietary blends that list the ingredients but doesn’t disclose the amount of each contained per dose is confusing as well. For example, a product that claims to help kids relax and get a good night’s sleep may list 18 herbs and vitamins, one of which is valerian root*. If the necessary dose of valerian root is 400 mg and the entire proprietary blend is a total of 500 mg, one can assume that the supplement probably won't deliver a high enough amount of the valerian root portion to have a positive effect.
Vitamin D is essential to support overall health. It's important for the immune system, mood, and many other processes in the body, including absorbing certain vitamins and minerals.*
It’s nearly impossible to get enough sun to produce the required amount of vitamin D during the winter months, especially in the northern areas of the United States. Even during warm weather, time spent indoors and sunscreen prevent the body from producing this crucial vitamin.
It’s tough for kids to eat enough of the right kinds of food with vitamin D, too. Fatty fish and liver are not staples in most kids’ diets. Vitamin D fortified cereal, orange juice, and dairy products increase intake, but these tend to be unhealthy sources and often still isn't enough.
Canadian practitioners recommend younger kids get between 15-75 mcg per day, and teenagers get 50 mcg per day. Vitamin D-fortified milk and orange juice offer 2.5 mcg in an 8-ounce serving, so it’s difficult for kids to ingest enough Vitamin D fortified foods to get an adequate dose of this vital nutrient.
Omega 3 fats are excellent at promoting a healthy inflammatory response and overall healthy cardiovascular system.*
An ideal diet would include adequate Omega 3s, but few people are willing to eat enough flax seed and fish to get the amount they need each day. High mercury levels in predatory fish are a valid concern for parents as well.
There’s a link between low zinc levels and anxiousness, low mood, and hyperactivity in children. Supplementing with zinc also supports immune response, which is essential for overall health.*
While it would be great if kids would eat enough of the right foods to provide all these essential vitamins and minerals without having to take supplements, many children eat processed foods because they are virtually everywhere. Kids who have added challenges can often struggle even more when it comes to eating food that provide them with the nutritional support they need.
Probiotics get a lot of attention for their ability to support a healthy microbiome.*
Gut problems are linked to abdominal discomfort, weight gain, and low mood, and unfortunately, we don’t eat a lot of fermented foods in Western culture. A excellent-quality prebiotic/probiotic supplement can help a child with digestive issues, while attempting to introduce those same helpful bacteria into their diet by providing fermented foods may not be as effective because of taste preferences.*
The vast majority of medical professionals agree that a child’s ideal diet would provide them with all the nutrition necessary to achieve optimal health. Unfortunately, even parents with the best intentions cannot control everything their child eats. Teenagers can also be challenging when it comes to meeting their nutritional needs through diet. This is why high-quality supplements provide the nutritional support needed for optimal health in most young folks.*
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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