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The ADC's of Children's Supplements

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Parents have always worried about providing their children with the right nutritional care. Now that so many supplements and food choices are available, there may be added questions about which choices are the best choices.

Parents have always worried about providing their children with the right nutritional care. Now that so many supplements and food choices are available, there may be added questions about which choices are the best choices.

For children of all ages, food should be the main focus for nutritional care, not supplements. Before giving supplements, I always recommend a well-rounded diet that is low in sugar and processed fats and high in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, essential fatty acids and good quality proteins. Minerals and vitamins can by added to this diet when needed by children who have specific health problems. If a child is nursing, I make changes in the mother's diet in order to treat the child.

In essence, foods should provide the "maintenance dose" level of vitamins, and supplements should provide a short-term therapeutic dose. A basic chewable multivitamin is a good choice starting at around age four or five, but this shouldn't be confused with giving children essential nutrients especially since many children's vitamins don't contain high enough levels of vitamins A and D and calcium for growing needs.

After years of treating children with nutritional medicine, I have found the recommendations for optimal nutrition originally pointed out by Weston Price almost 75 years ago to be very accurate. Weston Price was a Cleveland dentist, also known as the "Charles Darwin of nutrition," who travelled around the world investigating cultures whose primitive diets provided at least four times the water-soluble vitamins, calcium and other minerals, and at least 10 times the fat-soluble vitamins of the standard American diet.

A diet containing adequate amounts of vitamins A and D, as well as key macro and trace minerals, is particularly essential for kids. It is amazing to me how many children have immune problems, such as frequent colds, and are not getting enough of these nutrients.

Before giving supplements, I always recommend a well-rounded diet that is low in sugar and processed fats and high in whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, essential fatty acids and good quality proteins.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A (retinol) is not the same as beta-carotene, which is the vegetable or pro-vitamin form of vitamin A. Retinol is the natural form and is usually associated with proper vision. It is essential for protecting the body against infections by strengthening mucous membranes in the throat, lungs and digestive tract. It's also important for cancer prevention, bone and teeth development, immunity, growth, normal reproduction and lactation. Food sources of vitamin A include egg yolk, whole milk, whole milk cheese and butter.

Supplement dosage:
4 to 6 years old: 2,500 IU
7 to 10 years old: 3,500 IU
11 years to adult:
males 5,000 IU; females: 4,000 IU

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is very important for growth and proper immune function. Modern research is still uncovering many hidden benefits of vitamin D3. Cholecalciferol is a prohormone that helps the body absorb calcium and phosphorus. Vitamin D3 is also a developmental hormone that appears to be necessary for female reproduction and skin growth. Sources of vitamin D3 include sunshine, halibut and cod liver oil, sardines and mushrooms. In Canada, with lower sunlight, extra vitamin D in supplement form is very helpful for proper growth and health.

Supplement dosage:
6 months to 10 years: 400 IU daily
10 years old to adult: 1,000 IU daily

Calcium

The most abundant mineral in the body, calcium is necessary for strong bones and teeth, normal nerve conduction, muscle contraction and blood clotting. Sometimes people have difficulty absorbing calcium, which is dependent on vitamin D, phosphorus and vitamins A and C for ideal absorption. Food sources of calcium include broccoli, kale and collard greens, salmon, figs and oranges.

Supplement dosage
6 months to 1 year: 600 mg daily
1 to 10 years: 800 mg
11 years to adult: 1,000mg

If you are unsure about adequate nutrition, keep a diet diary for your child for at least three days, then have a trained professional examine it. It's also important to remember that not all children can absorb what they eat if they are suffering from chronic intestinal irritation, food allergies or food intolerances, in which case it's essential to address these health issues. For a referral to a naturopath in your area, call the Canadian Naturopathic Association at 1-877-628-7284. In BC, call the BC Naturopathic Association at 604-736-6646. In Ontario, call the Ontario Naturopathic Association at 416-233-2001.

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