Do kids need to take vitamins and mineral supplements or any other regular supplement? 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 have 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 shortcuts 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. 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 science 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 the deficiency. Excess amounts of supplemental iron are 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 from 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 labneh are wonderful ways to maintain your child’s important gut flora too. I have written on the importance of digestion and ways to support it here.
My take home message – diet first, sensible supplementation (preferably under the guidance of a well-qualified practitioner), address the underlying cause and always making sure that the gut is able to absorb and assimilate.
Disclaimer – Please always seek the advice of your health care professional before supplementing. Please consider, whilst I would love to help each and every one of you, I am not able to offer individual health or medical advice.