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 overcome insomnia, ADD symptoms, digestive upset, anxiety, or autism, they often turn to their pediatrician for advice. But some pediatricians and family medical practitioners don’t have a lot of experience with supplements yet.
Common Misconceptions About Pediatric Vitamins
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 a therapeutic dose.
Supplements labeled “pediatric” often have deficient levels of the necessary vitamins and minerals needed 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 therapeutic 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 may have to take the entire bottle in one day to receive a therapeutic dose.
Most children require 1,000iu per day of Vitamin D, but many pediatric versions of this supplement only contain 400iu. 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 prescribed product misleads them.
Iron deficiency is a persistent issue with children in our society. Many practitioners believe low iron levels are one of the driving factors behind ADHD symptoms, insomnia, anxiety, and depression.
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 a relief to parents. However, they would be disappointed to learn the supplement contains only 2mg of elemental iron when the therapeutic dose for a child is 65mg.
Many Supplements for Kids Are Low Quality
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 the therapeutic dose may be higher than the stated dosage on the bottles at the pharmacy.
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 therapeutic dose of valerian root is 400mg and the entire dose has 500mg, it's safe to assume that the supplement won't deliver a high enough amount to have a positive effect.
Supplements Can Help Fill Nutritional Gaps
Vitamin D is essential to support overall health. In the northeastern United States, 85% of children have a vitamin D deficiency.
It’s nearly impossible to get enough sun to produce the required amount of vitamin D during the winter months. 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 it still isn’t enough.
Canadian practitioners recommend younger kids get between 600-3,000iu per day, and teenagers get 2,000iu per day. Vitamin D-fortified milk and orange juice offer 100iu in an 8-ounce serving, so it’s difficult for kids to ingest enough Vitamin D fortified foods to get a therapeutic dose of this vital nutrient.
Omega 3 Fatty Acids
Omega 3 fats are potent anti-inflammatories that are sometimes referred to as “nature’s Motrin.”
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 symptoms of anxiety, depression, attention deficit disorder 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 dealing with issues like ADHD or insomnia have an even more significant challenge when it comes to eating food that provides them with the extra nutritional support they need.
Prebiotics & Probiotics
Probiotics get a lot of attention for their ability to support a healthy microbiome.
Gut problems are linked to irritable bowel syndrome, obesity, and depression, and unfortunately, we don’t eat a lot of fermented foods in Western culture. A excellent-quality prebiotic/probiotic supplement can help a child overcome serious digestive issues, while attempting to introduce those same helpful bacteria into their diet by providing fermented foods may not be as effective.
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 prove especially challenging when it comes to meeting their nutritional needs through diet. This is why high-quality supplements in a therapeutic dose provide the nutritional support needed for optimal health in most children.
Little DaVinci offers doctor formulated supplements that enhance the health and well being of kids using quality ingredients.
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