Back to school is just around the corner. Time to get ready for school, homework, extracurricular activities, sporting events, and the list goes on! Making sure your child is prepared for the school year nutritionally often gets forgotten, but it can make the most significant difference to how your child succeeds in the year to come.
Whether your child is a good or picky eater, three foundational supplements help support all of your growing child’s needs. Multivitamins, fish oil, and a probiotic. Now, you may be wondering, “Why would my child need all of these supplements? They eat well enough.” Are they eating garden-fresh fruits and veggies daily, not grocery store produce that travels the world losing nutrients before ending up in your home, but real fresh garden goods? Is your child eating wild fish once or twice a week to get their recommended omega-3 fats? Are they eating foods like sauerkraut, kefir or kombucha daily for a healthy gut? If you cannot check off one or more of these boxes for your child, it is time to consider supplements to help your child meet their nutritional needs.
Our food today contains far fewer nutrients than it had just over 50 years ago due to our modern farming practices and the travel time it takes for our food to go from farm to plate. A good quality multivitamin will help cover some of the vitamin and mineral gaps that your child may be missing in their food. Proper vitamin and mineral intake can make a difference in their nervous system development and function, strengthen their immune system and support their bone growth. Supplementing with extra vitamin C and D during the winter months will also help their bodies fight against colds and cases of the flu that forever lurk around areas where children are present. Many great tasting chewable, gummy, powder and liquid forms of multivitamins are available on the market that can make even the pickiest eater enjoy taking their vitamins! Read labels to watch out for added ingredients such as artificial colours and flavours.
Fish oils contain the essential fatty acid omega-3 in the forms known as Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). These forms of omega-3 fatty acids are rare in plant forms and are readily absorbed in animal forms. Omega-3 fatty acids are particularly essential for brain and nervous system development, especially the DHA fatty acid. At Oxford University, researchers studied the correlation between omega-3 fatty acids (EPA and DHA) in blood samples of children ages 7-9, and the child’s reading ability, memory and behaviour. The children with below average test results for reading and memory, and struggled with behavioural issues, had the lowest concentration of omega-3 fatty acids in their blood samples. The children with the highest test results on reading and memory, and also had the lowest behavioural issues, were the kids with above average omega-3 concentration in their blood samples. Omega-3 fatty acids play a significant role academically and socially during a child’s growth and developing years. To take a fish oil supplement these days does not taste as bad as one may think. There are many great tasting flavours available that can be consumed on their own or hidden in a fruit smoothie.
Probiotics are more than something one takes for better bowel regularity and indigestion. Beyond improving digestive health, probiotics and good bacteria in the gut help increase the absorption of nutrients, synthesize B vitamins and vitamin K, fight against harmful bacteria and pathogens, and help your body produce the happy hormone serotonin! Approximately 90% of serotonin is synthesized in the intestines which is why the gut is now called the second brain. The intestines are also part of the first line of defence for the immune system as healthy bacteria work to fight against harmful bacteria and viruses that enter the body. More healthy bacteria means there is less room for harmful bacteria to enter the body to grow and flourish. Chewable tablets are available for children to take their probiotic daily or powders can be used to mix the probiotics into juice, milk, smoothies, applesauce or yogurt for picky eaters, so they do not even know they are taking a supplement!
There are other supplements to consider depending on your child’s specific needs. When you have covered all the foundations and there still seems to be something off like nervousness and anxiety or your child is suffering from growing pains, there are other nutrients to consider. Magnesium is a mineral that is becoming more and more deficient in our soil, but it is essential for over 300 functions in the body. Some of magnesium’s roles include nervous system support and has been helpful in cases of anxiety. It also has natural muscle relaxing qualities and can be useful for sleep, especially in cases of growing pains which can often occur due to a lack of magnesium.
Nothing will replace a healthy, balanced diet, but to give your child a better, healthier school year, add these nutritional foundations to your child’s routine. You may notice differences in focus and attention or even better grades when these supplements are taken regularly. You may also have fewer colds and cases of the flu cycling through your home this year. Whatever your reason is to introduce these supplements to your child, they will become stronger to face the year ahead.