Wednesday, April 16, 2014

ask the expert: do kids need vitamin supplements?

With so many self-proclaimed experts and authorities on the internet I came up with the idea for an occasional series where I ask an actual expert (ie. someone with tertiary qualifications and experience as a practitioner) a question about nutrition or health and wellness.

Thankyou Georgia Harding, naturopath and blogger at Well Nourished for agreeing to answer:

Do kids need to take vitamins and mineral supplements or any other regular supplement?  

Over to Georgia...

This is a question I'm frequently asked and the answer is yes… no… maybe… sometimes!  Let me explain.

Hippocrates, the father of medicine said 'let food be thy medicine' - this is a wisdom I value greatly and the very reason I started Well Nourished and not an online supplement company (though I'm sure the supplement business is way more lucrative)! 

The 'cover all bases' multivitamin

There are no short cuts when it comes to health.  Therefore I believe that your time, energy and focus needs to be firmly grounded in making every mouthful count with whole, nourishing foods.  No supplement can replicate the life force and balanced nutrition in real food.

However, I'm a realist and I understand that for many reasons, sometimes things go a little pear shaped and some not-so-nourishing foods are handed out to 'fill a gap.'  A good quality multivitamin may be something you'd like to consider on these days. I see it as a bit of an insurance policy, offering perhaps a little protection (but that's your call).  Practitioner only products from your naturopath are best.  Other brands I'd consider are Blackmores or Swisse kids multis.  The 'lolly' or gummy bear type supplements I've looked at so far are a complete waste of money.

Supplement to correct deficiency ?

I'm a naturopath and well versed in the art of supplementation.  Supplementation for frank deficiency is important and necessary to avert or treat disease and disorder.  For example if a child has a blood test and is found to be suffering iron deficiency anaemia, then iron supplementation will be necessary for a period of time.

However, it is important to understand that there is ALWAYS an underlying cause that predisposed the child to any deficiency and this needs to be identified and corrected (whilst supplementing).  It may be dietary or it maybe something else like poor digestive function.  It is NEVER enough to simply supplement in the hope that the cause will correct itself. 

Also a word about iron - a lot of parents give their kids iron to 'pep' them up.  Iron supplements should ONLY be given if a blood test confirms deficiency.  Excess amounts of supplemental iron is very toxic.

You are what you eat, but also what you absorb.

One of the most common underlying causes of nutritional deficiency in children is poor absorption and assimilation of nutrients.  If you suspect that your child's digestion is below par, if they have taken antibiotics or other medications including pain relief in their lifetime, if they suffer with allergies or they aren't eating a nourishing whole foods diet, then a regular probiotic supplement can also be enormously helpful.  Practitioner only probiotics or Inner Health are your best bet.  All probiotics (at least the good ones, need refrigeration).  Of course consuming daily serves of fermented foods such as sauerkraut, kimchi, natural full fat yogurt or labne are wonderful ways to maintain your child's important gut flora too.

Disclaimer - Please always seek the advice of your health care professional before supplementing.

Do visit Georgia's site if you haven't already, it is full of wonderful recipes and health tips and for serious lunchbox inspiration her facebook page is the place to look. Thanks Georgia!

Was this helpful? Tell us about your experiences with children and supplements. 

1 comment:

  1. I think probiotics are so essential - for immune health and just general good health, even psychological health - and there is no way I could get Olive to eat all the fermented foods we do, so I give her a dose of a good quality practitioner range kids probiotics every day. And she usually has a teaspoon of either fish oil or cod liver oil each day, too - for a healthy brain and also for her immune system. Cod liver oil is particularly helpful through winter with it's vitamin A and D. I've been taking all these things while I'm pregnant, and I'll continue to do so while I'm breastfeeding too, for this next babe. And hopefully it'll be as healthy as Olive! Kellie xx


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