When a study out this month showed that CAM use in kids may be more common than doctors realize, lots of mainstream publications, like Time, covered the news. Why aren’t pediatricians asking about the use of herbs and supplements? They should inquire when taking patient histories, because those remedies may interact with conventional medicines. Will this study change anything? I hope so, but I doubt it. Many more systemic changes have to take place before integrative medicine takes hold. There is more resistance to common sense incorporation of safe and effective natural remedies than you’d think. When I tried to write about the best supplements for kids last year, the editors of a mainstream publication found my well-researched tips too controversial to publish. Read them at your own risk!
5 Smart Supplements for Kids:
Probiotics Found in some yogurts and fermented foods as well as capsules, powders, and liquid form, various strains of these “good bacteria” are considered useful for several childhood ailments. With early treatment, probiotics can help shorten the duration of an episode of diarrhea. Regular use might reduce the frequency of colds and other upper respiratory infections. Studies show that the healthy bugs can help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea, too. So whenever the pediatrician writes a prescription for an antibiotic drug to treat another problem, ask about supplementing with probiotics to help minimize side effects.
Fish oil omega-3 fatty acids Nutrients in fish are known to benefit brain development, and some data suggest that the fatty acids may even help children with attention deficient hyperactive disorder, autism or dyslexia. However, there are no firm guidelines and research is ongoing. Aim for your child to eat an age-appropriate size serving (about the size of the child’s palm) of fish twice a week. Note the Environmental Protection Agency advises avoiding shark, swordfish, mackerel, and tilefish to limit mercury exposure, and opting for canned light tuna over white albacore. Despite the promising data, some small children just will not get on board with eating fresh, non-fried fish. If your school-aged child falls short, supplement with an EPA/DHA blend of high quality fish oil—about 1 gram per day. The Institute of Medicine (IOM) has set an acceptable range for total omega-3 fatty acid intake at 0.6-1.2 grams per day for ages 1 and up. However, IOM admits that the data are lacking in this area, and these may be conservative figures. Consult your child’s doctor.
Ginger Studies show that ginger is effective for nausea and vomiting. Drinking some cooled, freshly brewed organic tea is best for infants, while older children might prefer a cold, lightly sweetened tea. Although ginger is not as well studied for motion sickness, it is commonly used to help prevent car sickness, too.
Chamomile One of the oldest cures for colic, chamomile can soothe and relax children and adults alike. The safest way to administer chamomile to an infant is to make a tea from organic chamomile tea leaves, cool the brew, and then feed her one ounce by bottle. Older children can sip hot or cold tea, with a little sweetener added. Just remember: Do not add honey for children younger than 12 months.
Iron If your child is deficient in any one area, it’s probably iron. Routine supplementation starts at 4 months, but some of the mineral can be absorbed from fortified cereal or infant formula. Needs increase with age and vary by gender; compared with adolescent boys, girls need more and may be at risk for deficiency due to menstrual blood loss.