As Jennifer Crain, licensed acupuncturist, herbalist and holistic pediatrics specialist with a DVD set called "Mommy's ER," points out, a varied and healthy diet of whole foods is always the best source of vitamins and minerals. "Provided that the child is healthy, with no chronic illness and no symptoms of health imbalance, I like to keep supplements at a minimum, " Crain said. "However, there are several supplements I recommend using on a regular basis for health maintenance."
Read on to discover which supplements Crain and other experts recommend for your children's health.
According to Crain, an estimated 85% of the immune system resides in the gut. "Many children don't have the gut flora they need for optimal immune functioning," Crain said. That's where probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, come in to play. "Probiotics can be found in the intestines. They promote healthy digestion and absorption of food, actively synthesizing certain vitamins and minerals and supporting healthy immune functioning. They can also reduce eczema, asthma and food sensitivities," Crain said.
Probiotics are good for both babies and older children, though Crain says bifidus is ideal for babies and acidophilus is beneficial for children who eat solid foods. "Many companies make probiotics that are especially formulated for either babies or children," she said. "I like varying the brand of probiotics that I use periodically to help expose children to different strains of bacteria."
For more details about probiotics, check out this article.
DHA is an omega-3 fatty acid that's found in breastmilk, algae and fish oil. "It's extremely beneficial for brain and nervous system development in infants and children," Crain said. "Studies have shown better mental acuity and vision with higher DHA levels."
According to Crain, high-quality DHA supplements are often safer than having your child eat large portions of fish, due to concerns of mercury contamination in seafood. "Make sure your supplement is third-party tested for purity."
"If your child isn't getting a variety of foods, then it's wise to discuss a high-quality, bio-available multi-vitamin with your primary care physician," Crain advised.
Ashley Koff, RD, celebrity nutritionist and featured nutrition expert on the CW's upcoming "Shedding for the Wedding," advises parents ensure children are getting sufficient magnesium to counterbalance supplement and food intake of calcium. "Magnesium turns off our stress response, allows our muscles to relax and is critical for strong bones, along with its partner, calcium. Potassium is also a key to counterbalance sodium for optimal hydration," Koff said.
"We need all the essential amino acids to ensure hormone health (hormones are our messengers), as well as to build muscles and maintain a healthy weight," Koff said.
Vitamin D is essential for bone health and for the proper absorption of calcium and phosphorous. The primary natural source of Vitamin D3 is UV light, so this is an ideal supplement for your child during the cooler months, when he or she is spending less time outdoors. For more information about Vitamin D, check out this article.
Crain suggests children begin taking general supplements as babies. "This is less necessary for breastfeeding children, since DHA and probiotics are present in breastmilk, but these are still great supplements for the breastfeeding mama to take," she said.
Koff points out that each child's supplement schedule varies depending on their diet and health. "It's important to pick a supplement that enhances your child's nutrition," she said. Before beginning the use of any supplements, it's best to see your child's healthcare practitioner. For more information about children and vitamin supplements, check out this article.
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