One of the more common questions I get asked about from new parents, and one area that can be a pretty confusing to navigate is the world of vitamins and supplements and should my child be taking them? This is certainly understandable given how much more information there is nowadays about all the amazing benefits of ‘x’ or ‘y’ supplement all over the news and social media…but what do I as a parent need to know in order to make an informed decision?
In our office, we like to keep things simple and the simplest way of looking at vitamins and supplements is this; our body has nutritional requirements that must be met in order for you or your child to express your full health potential. If you give your body the proper fuel, it innately knows what to do with it and will keep you healthy and well. Therefore, what I choose to include in my diet is done with that purpose in mind. This means lots of vegetables, fruits, organic meat and avoiding as much as I can processed foods and meat, sugars, dairy, fried foods, GMO and ‘junk’ food. So how do vitamins fit in?
If we acknowledge that our bodies have requirements that if met will lead to health, then it stands to reason that by that definition we could be deficient in one or more areas. Makes sense doesn’t it. This can be seen in many different ways – someone who is 80 lbs overweight for example can be seen as deficient in exercise. When we look at the body that way three common deficiencies stand out;
- Vitamin D
- Omega 3
Vitamin D: If you live in Canada, chances are you are deficient in this vitamin. Our bodies can take the suns rays and make this vitamin, however there is not enough sunlight in the fall and winter in this country and research has shown it is extremely unlikely you are getting enough. Vitamin D is helps the body absorb calcium and strengthen bones. It also helps fight infection like the cold and flu, reduces risk for cardiovascular disease and cancer. One study in Japan found that giving school children 1,200 units of vitamin D in the winter time reduced risk of influenza infection by 40%.
Probiotics: These are live bacteria and yeasts that live in and are very beneficial to your digestive health. They have been shown to reduce irritable bowel, diarrhea, ulcerative colitis and symptoms of IBD and IBS. Research is also showing a link between some autoimmune and attention deficit disorders, food sensitivities and food allergies and having an imbalance of probiotics. These are best to buy at a local health store on their own as unfortunately most of the foods they are added into are usually also full of sugar and processed ingredients.
Omega 3 fats: These are essential to your overall health and do not make you fat. They help reduce heart disease risk, normalize and regulate your cholesterol, help protect against autoimmune disorders, ADHD, rheumatoid arthritis, breast, colon and prostate cancer as well as irritable bowel and Crohn’s disease. Omega-3 is often sold as a combination with Omega-6 and sometimes Omega-9. For the purposes of keeping things simple today, stick with an Omega-3 only and avoid one that includes Omega-6. The recommended ratio of Omega-3: Omega-6 is anywhere from 1:1 to 1:4…yet studies are showing the average north American to have ratios of up to 1:25. Too much Omega-6 leads to too much inflammation and can lead to a host of other health problems.
Those are the three that I personally stick with, as they are required vitamins for good health. Are there circumstances where some children might need to take other vitamins on top of these three? Of course and a qualified naturopath can help you identify other areas that may be lacking. But as a starting point, stick to those three and see your child’s mood, digestion, immune system and concentration improve.