Nutrition is incredibly important during childhood, but unfortunately for some parents, it can be difficult to get kids to eat a nutrient dense diet on a consistent basis, therefore, deficiencies in the diet occur. Although I can’t stress enough how important prioritizing your child’s diet is, if there are times where nutrients are lacking for whatever reason, then thankfully there are supplements for children that can help replace some of the missing things your child needs to grow up healthy and strong.
Today I want to talk about 5 of the best natural supplements for children that you can have on hand to boost your child’s diet if needed. Let me warn you… this is a LONG post… longer than normal if that’s saying anything. LOL!
5 Best Natural Supplements For Children
If you’ve been reading Growing Up Herbal for a while now, it’s no big secret that using supplements with my kids isn’t my favorite thing. I would rather put my energy, effort, and money into improving my child’s diet over giving them tons of daily supplements. However, I do realize that this idealistic approach isn’t always realistic. It’s unfortunate that our diets can’t always meet all of our needs, especially for growing children, therefore deficiencies are likely to occur. This means that supplements for our children may be necessary from time to time.
1. Cod Liver Oil
Cod liver oil has been around a while, but it seems that it’s recently making a comeback with the real food, natural mama group.
When I had my first baby, I was all about making his diet as nutritionally dense as possible. As soon as he could take it, I started giving him cod liver oil to boost his consumption of omega 3 fatty acids. Since he was small, he wasn’t eating foods yet that contained omega oils such as fish and nuts. I was giving him an egg yolk every day which helped with brain development, but I wanted to supplement with the cod liver oil because I knew that the added omega oils were great for additional brain development in young children. Did it work? I think so. He has been my earliest and most advanced child by far when it came to his learning, speaking, and memory abilities.
What kind of cod liver oil did I give him? I started out with this brand, then switched to this one. I’ve also heard great things about this raw cod liver oil and this krill oil for kids. Each of these are great in their own way. They will each fit different needs and different budgets, and they can all be used during different times in your child’s life.
For example, I give my children the Garden of Life Cod Liver Oil as needed during the warmer months, but during the winter when they’re not outside as often in the sun getting enough vitamin D or when they’re sick, I use it along with a vitamin d3 and vitamin k2 supplement (more on that below).
My second must-have supplement is probiotics. Probiotics do so much for our bodies. In fact, we probably don’t even know how necessary and beneficial they really are… but we have an idea. Thankfully, we can get probiotics in our diets via cultured and fermented foods, but those are two things that are lacking in a lot of diets these days. Even in those that do include these things in their diets, it’s questionable as to what amount is enough to keep our guts healthy with these foods alone. This is where supplementing with probiotics comes into play.
Probiotics help keep our guts balanced with beneficial organisms. This promotes good health as the healthy gut flora help to keep harmful organisms at bay, assist in digesting foods appropriately, break down toxins correctly, aid in manufacturing vitamins B and K2 for us, and aid us in mineral and nutrient absorption. Like I said, there’s probably more they do for us as we’ve probably only scraped the surface of learning about good gut health and the benefits it brings to our bodies.
So why are probiotics needed so much with children? Well, you’ve heard the saying, “all disease begins in the gut,” right? Healthy gut flora has been shown to have a positive impact on the immune system from before baby is born until well after he comes into this world. (Source) We know that the immune system is vital to having healthy, thriving children, therefore consuming probiotics is not something to ignore. Plus, considering the things our kids are being exposed to these days (like the overuse of antibiotics), their guts can use all the help they can get!
When choosing a probiotic for children, there’s debate over whether the best probiotics are from soil-based organisms (strains of beneficial bacteria found in the soil along with our foods – don’t take up residence in the gut) or from traditional lacto-based probiotics (strains of probiotics in cultured and fermented foods – take up residence in the gut). I’m not going to go into the difference in these much, but here’s a great article by Katie from Kitchen Stewardship on this issue if you want to look into this more. She shares a ton of her research on this topic. It’s a long post, but well worth the read in my opinion. I’ve looked around quite a bit about this topic myself and it seems that SBOs are better for children while lacto-based probiotics are better for adults. This seems to be because children have less damage to their guts than adults do and they can handle the SBO probiotics better than some adults that already have gut issues.
So which probiotics are good choices for children? Well, if you’re looking for a soil based probiotic, I recommend PrescriptAssist as it’s powdered and the capsules can be opened and giving to children as well as Garden of Life’s Primal Defense for Kids which comes in powdered form too. When it comes to lacto-based probiotics, my vote goes to Bulk Herb Store’s Happy Gut, Dr. Mercola’s Complete Probiotics, and Garden of Life’s Raw Probiotics for Kids. All these contain the Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1 that is so beneficial for the gut.
Note: The vitamin K2 produced by healthy gut bacteria is now thought to not be an absorbable source of vitamin K2. Although it’s produced by gut flora, it’s not a usable source of this vitamin for our bodies. (Source)
Like I said at the beginning of this post… I’m not big into using supplements with my kids, and I don’t use them all the time. I really only use them here and there when I think we need them. This is especially true when it comes to daily multi-vitamins. I definitely prefer for my kids to get the majority of their nutrients in what they eat. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible… for us or for a lot of other families.
Now I’m not going to go into details about why I think a lot of daily multi-vitamins are a complete waste of money. I’ll be talking about that later in the series. What I am going to talk about is what to look for in a good quality multi-vitamin and which ones I think are best for kids.
First off, I’d always recommend going with a liquid vitamin over a chewable or pill/capsule type vitamin. Why? Because liquid is more absorbable, and your child will get more out of it. Sure chewable vitamins are the next best option, but I feel that so much of the pill/capsule type vitamin benefits are wasted in the digestive process.
Next, I’d always look for a whole food vitamin that is processed using low temperatures over a synthetic vitamin any day. Why? Because the vitamins in whole food vitamins are from concentrated food and herbal sources which is something our bodies were actually designed to absorb. Synthetic, lab-produced vitamins are cheaper and more readily available, but they aren’t as easily recognized or broken down by the body, therefore they can cause damage to the body.
So which children’s multi-vitamins make the cut? This Garden of Life Raw Liquid Vitamin is my number one choice. The only problem is that it’s for children 6 and older because it contains iron and iron can be fatal if overdosed on. It tastes good and it mixes well with cod liver oil which can be challenging to get kids to take. My next vote is for this Garden of Life Children’s Chewable Vitamin as it doesn’t contain iron and can be used on children 4 and up. Lastly, if you are busy or need to cut supplement costs a bit, Nature’s Plus has a great multivitamin that has vitamins and minerals, probiotics, and vitamin K2 and D3 all into one chewable! Don’t forget… I’ll be going into more detail about multi-vitamins in another post, so we’ll look into this subject a bit more later.
UPDATE: Garden of Life now has a new daily multi-vitamin called KIND Organics that looks great! It’s made from real, whole foods, it’s organic, and it’s non-GMO certified.
4. Trace Minerals
Trace minerals is something that’s on the newer side for me as far as supplements go. I always knew that trace minerals were those minerals that we needed in really small amounts for our health, but I honestly thought that we got enough of them from our foods so I never worried about it. Unfortunately, thanks to the depletion of our soils and the processing of our water, the trace mineral content of commercial foods and municipal water is diminishing. The majority of diets are lacking in these important elements and mineral deficiencies are on the rise.
Where are our minerals going? It’s thought that the soil’s minerals are being washed away into the oceans because it’s there that these trace minerals are found in sufficient amounts that our bodies need.
Why are trace minerals necessary? Trace minerals play an important role in our health and the health of our children. We were formed from the dust of the ground and these trace minerals are part of what makes up the dirt we came from therefore our bodies need them. Our bodies also function thanks to chemical and electrical processes, and these trace minerals play a vital role in making sure that all of that works correctly. We lose minerals all throughout the day from various activities so it’s important that these minerals are replaced.
How can we make up for the loss of these minerals in our diets? Many trace minerals can be replaced if your child is taking a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement, but again, there are problems with these being natural vs. synthetic sources and whether or not the body is actually absorbing what’s in the vitamin or not. Although a lot of our soils are depleted these days, there are things we can do to make sure we get these minerals in our diets so that our kids aren’t deficient in them. I’ll be talking about this in a later post.
When it comes to a trace mineral supplement, ConcenTrace Trace Mineral Drops are on the top of my list. It’s from pure sea water that has had most of it’s sodium removed (since we aren’t typically deficient in sodium) and is highly ionic which means it will help with the bodies electrical systems. It can be added to purified drinking water in small amounts to ensure that we replace those minerals that we lose on a daily basis as well as used in remineralizing toothpastes and homemade electrolyte drinks.
5. Vitamin K2
What the heck is vitamin K2? I know, I know… I was with you once. This is not your regular vitamin K that’s found in dark leafy green vegetables and helps with blood clotting. That’s vitamin K1.
“Vitamin K2′s role in the body extends far beyond blood clotting to include protecting us from heart disease, ensuring healthy skin, forming strong bones, promoting brain function, supporting growth and development and helping to prevent cancer – to name a few. In fact, vitamin K2 has so many functions not associated with vitamin K1 that many researchers insist that K1 and K2 are best seen as two different vitamins entirely.” – Chris Kresser (Source) To learn more about vitamin K2 and how it works in the body, this Dr. Mercola article does an excellent job at explaining it as does the Chris Kresser one above.
As you can see, this is a much-needed vitamin, especially for children. It’s most commonly found in traditional foods such as grass-fed animal sources (MK-4) and fermented foods (MK-7)… two things modern diets don’t get much of. Vitamin K2 is also produced from healthy gut flora (MKs 6-8 and MKs 10-13) in the GI tract, but like I said earlier, it’s not thought to be an absorbable form of vitamin K2.
So how do you get enough vitamin K2? You can obtain some of it from the food sources recommended above, but it’s thought that even with foods, you can’t possibly consume enough to get adequate levels of this vitamin. (Source) You can, however, take a supplement of course. Currently, there are two forms of vitamin K2 supplements on the market. MK-4 supplements, which are often synthetic so those are a bit “NO” and MK-7 supplements which are the better choice.
Raise Them Well’s Vitamin D3/K2 Drops is the brand I recommend for children (see my notes on vitamin D below), and Garden of Life’s Raw K-Complex is the brand I recommend for adults (the MK-4 portion of this is not synthetic).
The recommended dose for adults is not known for sure, but Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue, a naturopathic doctor and author of the book – Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox: How a Little-Known Vitamin Could Save Your Life (paperback/kindle), suggests that around 180 to 200 micrograms a day has been show to be enough for adults. Of course, for children, it would be 1/3 to 1/2 that amount. Thankfully, vitamin K2 has no known toxic levels so you don’t have to fret about giving your child too much. Whew!
So that’s it! My top 5 best natural supplements for children.
What About Vitamin D Supplements For Children
I get asked this question A LOT. Many mamas are told by their child’s doctor that children are deficient in vitamin D these days and need to be taking a supplement. This is true… to an extent. Many kids are deficient in vitamin D, but there are a few things you can do to remedy that situation in a natural way.
First, you can get your kid outside more often and skip the sunscreen as much as possible. Next, you can feed them more vitamin D containing foods. Lastly, you can supplement with cod liver oil or a good quality vitamin D3 supplement.
It’s also important for me to note here that if you do end up supplementing with vitamin D, that you also give your child a vitamin K2 supplement to prevent vitamin D toxicity. This article from Dr. Mercola goes into more detail about why vitamin K2 is needed with supplemented vitamin D and how this helps prevent vitamin D toxicity in children. Remember, vitamin D, vitamin K2, and calcium all work together in the body. Again, I recommend this brand as it’s already combined with vitamin K2 and is easy to administer to kids.
Growing Up Herbal’s Top 5 Supplements For Children
- Cod Liver Oil
- Trace Minerals
- Vitamin K2
To conclude this super-long, jam-packed post, let me just say that these are suggestions only and that every child will vary based on their own individual nutritional needs. Again, diet should come first and supplements second, and it’s always a good idea to work with a natural-minded doctor or nutritionist if need be.
Also, if you feel a little overwhelmed by all these supplements or wanna be a real foods purist, then be sure to come back Friday to learn how I recommend replacing many of these supplements with foods. Again, it’s idealistic, but the more we can work towards that ideal lifestyle, the more it becomes our reality!