What are the best vitamins & supplements for children? Do kids even need vitamins?
As a Registered Nurse in the Emergency Department, I’ve found that parents are frequently quick to accept pharmaceutical medications for their children. However, when I take a medical history for the patient, it’s rare that children are on any type of vitamin. Additionally, in my 10 years of experience in the healthcare field, I have only met a few children on a probiotic. Why is this? Are supplements needed and, if so, what are the best vitamins and supplements for children?
There is a lack of education combined with a generalized skepticism about vitamins. This mistrust of supplements is not unwarranted, given that 98% of vitamins and supplements in the U.S. are made with synthetic ingredients. (1) Furthermore, according to Dr. Natasha Campbell, many supplements have a very low absorption rate (some <9%).(2) And what’s even worse is the hydrogenated oil (labeled as magnesium stearate, stearic acid, and calcium stearate) in the gummy vitamins for children appears to be mostly rancid cottonseed oil accompanied by a high pesticide residue.(3)
Due to soil depletion and the declining nutrient density of foods, we choose to give our children specific vitamins to help support their bodies and build their immune systems. I find that between doing our best to follow this guide on 20 Ways to Keep Your Kids Healthy this Winter and using a few high-quality supplements, we have been able to avoid serious illness. The kids still get colds (which is actually good for building their immune system and detoxification) a few times each year but the symptoms are mild compared to their peers.
The 7 Best Vitamins & Supplements For Children
Having the right balance of enough good bacteria in the gut is vital for many bodily functions, including immunity, metabolism, the gut-brain axis (science thinks of the gut as our second brain), avoiding eczema and other autoimmune diseases, maintenance of a healthy weight, and more. (4)
“A good probiotic on average increases absorption rate of nutrients from foods by 50% or more. On top of that probiotic bacteria are supposed to be the main source of vitamins B, K, biotin and many other substances within the body.” (5)
Kids over the age of two are considered to have the same strains of bacteria as adults. Before the age of two, it is important to choose a probiotic that is appropriate for infants.
For our kids under the age of two, we rotate between Bio-Kult Infantis, ProThera Klair Ther-Biotic Infant Formula, & Life Start Infant Bifidum. It is important to note that the gastrointestinal tract of kids under the age of two is not fully mature at birth and cannot metabolize the D(-) isomer of lactic acid produced by many lactobacilli. Ther-Biotic from Klair Labs is specifically formulated to have predominantly L(+)-lactic acid that can be safely metabolized by infants (I recommend getting this particular one through a qualified health professional. Do not buy it online.)
I find it is easiest to give babies their probiotic mixed with 1-2 milliliters of breast milk using a medicine dropper or bottle to facilitate intake. For older children, a probiotic is easily given with a spoonful of applesauce or a small amount of diluted organic juice.
Last, don’t forget that probiotics are not a replacement for fermented foods or simply letting your kids get dirty. In our house, we have fermented pickles, sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and either milk kefir or kefir soda on hand. We aim to have the kids eat 1-3 teaspoons of a fermented food with each meal. Encourage your kids to play in the dirt and take them into the wilderness to help diversify and build their gut microbiome.
If you are interested in learning more about gut health, check out Gut & Psychology Syndrome.
I am a big proponent of kids receiving vitamin D from sunlight outdoors. There is nothing healthier than little kids running around barefoot in the summertime! However, we live in an area that is quite cloudy for 6+ months of the year. As a result, we do supplement when necessary with these Vitamin D3 drops.
Although supplementing Vitamin D intake in children is becoming more common in medical practice, it remains controversial. Each year we check vitamin D levels in our kids to make sure they remain in an optimal range.
It is also crucial when taking oral Vitamin D that there is enough Vitamin K2 in the diet.(6) Food sources highest in Vitamin K2 include grass-fed animal products (eggs, meat, dairy), goose liver pate, certain cheese such as Brie and Gouda, natty, and some fermented vegetables.(7)
Cod Liver Oil
It might surprise you to learn that Vitamin A does not come from orange vegetables such as carrots. Carrots have beta carotene in them which is a carotenoid. In many situations (e.g. children under the age of 2) it cannot be converted into Vitamin A in the body. In contrast, animal sources of Vitamin A contain retinoids (also called retinol) which are easily absorbed. (8)
Although cod liver oil is one of the most difficult supplements to get children to take, it ranks highest as a readily absorbable form of Vitamin A. For over one-hundred-years, its been known that (non-synthetic) Vitamin A aids in building a healthy immune system.
There is some controversy whether cod liver oil should be fermented (such as recommended by Weston A. Price) or left unfermented. Here are some brand recommendations:
- Green Pastures Fermented Cod Liver/High Vitamin Butter Oil (chocolate or cinnamon tingle flavor)
- Nordic Naturals, Arctic Cod Liver Oil (orange or lemon flavor)
I literally give my kids their lemon cod liver oil in a syringe by tell them, “this is lemon fish medicine.” They drink it right down without a problem; I have water ready for them to chase it with (but they rarely do this) and sometimes I give them a very small piece of dark chocolate afterwards. Other ideas to get the kids to take their cod liver oil is in a spoonful of lemon pudding, in a small amount of honey (if the child is over 1 year of age), or by spreading the chocolate-flavored cod liver oil on a graham cracker.
Not ready to use cod liver oil but still want more Vitamin A? Try liver (any kind), pastured egg yolks, or butter and cream from grass-fed cows (preferably raw and unpasteurized).
- Cod liver oil is high in vitamin D, so make sure you are not supplementing with both cod liver oil and vitamin D drops!
- It is not recommended to eat a low-fat diet while consuming Vitamin A.
Gelatin & Collagen
At this time, there isn’t a single protein powder that I would give to my kids but we do give them either gelatin and/or collagen every day. Even though we try to consume homemade bone broth regularly, I still make little gelatin gummies and add collagen to their smoothies.
We prefer the Vital Protein brand, but Great Lakes is still from grass-fed cows and is less expensive:
It is estimated that as much as 80% of the population is deficient in magnesium; yet this mineral plays an important role in our strengthening our bones, teething, better sleep, skin problems, blood pressure control, blood sugar control, pre-menstrual symptoms, and much more. (9) If you are interested, you can check out these studies on magnesium deficiency in children.
One quick note about magnesium: if you get your blood levels checked, be sure to talk with your doctor about obtaining an intracellular magnesium level since this is the only test which will provide an accurate result.
Several years ago we watched a Lecture on Vitamin C by Dr. Suzanne Humphries that was incredibly eye-opening. At 1hr and 28 minutes into the lecture, she talks about her specific recommendations and dosing instructions; however, I would recommend watching her talk in its entirety. It addresses many questions about how much vitamin C to give, what types of situations will increase bodily stress and how to prepare for them, what formulations of vitamin C are safe, etc.
First of all, we give the kids foods that are high in vitamin C, including mango, kiwi, & bell peppers. When needed, we supplement by alternating Nutribiotic Sodium Ascorbate Powder (recommended by Dr. Humphries) & Pure Radiance C for our kids. We also have a stash of Lypo-Spheric Vitamin C on hand for acute illnesses.
Because we supplement with vitamin D when it is cloudy, we also give the kids a multivitamin (contains Vitamin K2) three times per week in the winter. I love the Seeking Health Chewable Multivitamin because it is made with methyl-folate and absorbable forms of B-vitamins in addition to having Vitamin K2.
Please consult a qualified health care professional before giving your children any of The 7 Best Vitamins and Supplements for Children. Also, be sure to get guidance on weight-based dosing. I have found it easiest when inquiring about vitamins for children to consult with pediatric chiropractors, functional medicine pediatricians, and naturopaths.
We insist on feeding our kids a nutrient-dense diet that is rich in healthy fats to facilitate proper absorption of these vitamins and supplements.
And so there you have it …. a quick article that turned into a huge piece of information. I hope you found The 7 Best Vitamins & Supplements for Children helpful. I’d like to hear your comments. What vitamins do you give your kids?
Cheers to the health of your family!! -Rashele Birmingham RN, BSN, CEN
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