Nutrition is incredibly important during childhood. But unfortunately, it can be difficult for some parents to get children to eat a nutrient-dense diet consistently. There are, therefore, deficiencies in the diet. But there are children’s supplements that can help replace some of the missing things your baby needs.
Which children need supplementation?
According to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, infants and older children who eat well-balanced diets generally do not need vitamin and mineral supplements. However, children at risk of nutrient deficiencies may require supplementation. Below are some examples in which a dietary supplement may be needed.
Today, I want to talk about five of the best natural supplements for children that you can have at hand to boost your child’s diet if needed.
1. Vitamin D
Vitamin D deficiency is common in children, affecting up to 60 to 70% of those tested. It is especially common in the winter and spring months due to reduced exposure to sunlight. Typically, a severely low vitamin D level is associated with rickets, resulting in severe leg bowing. Low vitamin D levels may:
- increase the risk of bone pain (osteomalacia and growing pain)
- be associated with poor growth
- increase the risk of upper respiratory infections
Those with darker skin pigment are at higher risk of vitamin D deficiency, even when adequate time is spent in the sun. Melanin, the protein that results in pigmentation, acts as a “natural sunscreen” that blocks the ultraviolet light (UV-Light) required for the skin to make vitamin D.
Childhood obesity, which is becoming increasingly common, is also a risk factor for vitamin D deficiency. Breast milk is commonly considered an insufficient vitamin D. However, it is only because most breastfeeding mothers are also deficient. Most nursing moms need at least 6,000 IU per day to ensure that their milk is full of vitamin D. Pregnant women also often supplement 2,000-5,000 IU per day.
Many doctors recommend vitamin D supplementation in babies during the first year of life. The National Academies of Science, Engineering, and Medicine states that 600 IU (but not more than 1,000 IU) can be prescribed daily. They suggest that safe upper limits for children depend on age.
- Children from 1 to 3 years of age – 2,500 IU per day maximum
- And Children from 4 to 8 years of age – 3,500 IU per day maximum
- Whereas, Children 9 year and older – a maximum of 4,000 IU per day
The Endocrine Society suggests a higher dose limit for children, recommending an upper limit of 2,000 IU for infants up to 12 months. For those over 1 year of age, a daily dose of up to 4,000 IU is agreed.
Consult your doctor if you have any questions. Vitamin D is available in liquid drops, gummies formulations, and capsules.
2. Omega-3 Fatty Acids
Omega-3 fatty acids are an important supplement for young children’s growing brain. However, in many parts of the world, children do not eat the amount of food rich in essential fatty acids. This can lead to delayed growth, skin problems, and neurological problems.
Omega-3 fatty acids shall include:
- Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA, omega-3 fatty acid) can be found in flaxseed, walnuts, soybeans, chia seeds, and hemp seeds.
- Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA or icosapentaenoic acid) is commonly found in fish oil, krill oil, and eggs (if chickens are fed EPA).
- Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, omega-3 fatty acid) is a major component of the human brain, skin, and eyes.
Omega-3 Fatty Acids may have the following benefits:
• ADHD – A 2016 study showed that omega-3 fatty acids could help treat those with ADHD symptoms.
• Asthma – A 2016 study in Nutrition Research Reviews concluded that supplementation with omega-3 fish oil could benefit asthma sufferers.
Omega-3 fatty acids are available in liquid, chewable and gummy formulations.
Iron deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in children worldwide. It affects between 30 and 40 percent. Iron deficiency is rare in breastfed infants unless the mother also has an iron deficiency. Kids over 12 months of age who drink more than 24 ounces of cow’s milk every day are at greater iron deficiency risk. This occurs due to the milk’s potential to irritate the intestines, leading to chronic blood loss.
Iron deficiency symptoms include fatigue, pallor, craving ice, brittle nails, dizziness, and shortness of breath.
Food sources of iron include:
- Chicken and turkey
- Organ meat
- Beans, lentils, and soybeans
- Dark chocolate
- Spinach, kale, and other leafy green vegetables
- Pumpkin seeds
- Peanut butter
4. Vitamin C
According to the 2004 study, 14 percent of males and 10 percent of females were deficient in vitamin C. This includes children—6 percent of children aged 12 to 17 have low vitamin C levels in their blood. Bleeding gums, easy bruising, and slow-curing wounds, weakened bones are a severe consequence of this deficiency. This could have long-term consequences for children as they grow up. Luckily, vitamin C is available in many common foods that many children enjoy.
Fruit sources of vitamin C
- Acerola cherries
Vegetable sources of vitamin C
- Bell peppers
- Bok choy
- Brussel sprouts
If it is impossible to eat adequate vitamin C through a diet, then supplementation should be considered. Gummie formulations are very popular with children, and capsules and powder supplements are also available. Most children do not need more than 250 mg per day, although those over 12 may take 500 mg per day safely.
Iodine is important for the health of the thyroid and the proper development of the reproductive system and the brain. Worldwide, this is one of the most common deficiencies, mainly due to the low iodine content of soils in different world areas. A 2004 study from Turkey showed that 46% of school-aged children were deficient.
Food sources of iodine
If you are concerned that your child may not be getting enough iodine through food, a supplement may be considered. For most children, the amount of iodine in a multivitamin is sufficient unless your pediatrician recommends a higher dose.
The Bottom Line
Although most supplements are freely available over-the-counter at pharmacies, it is advisable to consult a pediatrician before starting a regimen of supplements for your child. Pediatricians can recommend the type of supplement and dose that will be most beneficial, discuss the dosage and rule out any possible allergy risks, depending on your child’s age and growth indicators.