Today’s world is tougher than ever to raise kids; modern lifestyles have caused emergence of conditions that lower a child’s quality of life—here’s how to help them achieve higher states of wellness.
You may have parents or grandparents who had to take cod liver oil as their daily supplement. Yes, it tastes as gross as it sounds. And boy, have we indeed come a long way since then. But one thing remains the same—parents want to give their kids everything in their power to achieve outstanding health and remain healthy throughout their lives.
Nutritional therapist Hannah Braye, who also serves as technical advisor to Protexin, Inc., Florida, cited a 2012 study wherein researchers conducted a survey of 1,119 parents who were asked to rate perceived health problems for children in their communities and to name concerns for their own children. The children’s health problems they perceived were as follows: allergies (69 percent), lack of exercise (68 percent), asthma (65 percent), attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD, 65 percent), internet safety (63 percent), obesity (59 percent), smoking (58 percent) and bullying (57 percent). The concerns they listed for their own children included healthy diets/nutrition, obesity, lack of exercise, healthy growth and development, safety and injury prevention, and mental health issues, notably as children got older.
“Parents are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of nutrition and lifestyle factors to combat health issues associated with our modern lifestyles, which tend to be high in processed junk foods, sugary drinks, lengthy computer use and stress and low in consumption of fruits and vegetables and outdoor physical activity,” Braye commented. “In particular, digestive health and the microbiome’s ability to influence both physical and mental health in children is a quickly expanding area of interest. There is also increasing concern by parents to ensure that their children are receiving adequate amounts of certain key nutrients, such as vitamin D and omega-3, the importance of which have been identified for healthy development in childhood.”
However, there are some experts who see kids being active through extra-curricular sports, and such things as dance classes and martial arts programs. “Over the past two decades, the number of hours children are playing sports has increased tremendously,” underscored Mark Rieger, MD, FAAOS, founding partner and senior physician at Advocare The Orthopedic Center in New Jersey.
In agreement is Ken Muller, founder, Phenom Nutrition, Florida, who developed sports nutrition supplements expressly for child and teen athletes. He observed that children today play more sports than ever before, as recent studies show more than 45 million kids participate in organized sports. Parents always want to know what is healthy for their children to drink or eat right after a ballgame or tough practice.
“Children’s bodies go through the same metabolic reactions as adults,” he explained, advising that a balanced, easily digestible protein/carb meal or drink should be consumed one to two hours prior to the event (practice or game). During the event, water with some electrolytes is best. Right after an event, he recommended children consume a two-to-one protein-to-carb ratio.
“The muscles are primed to absorb the main building blocks (protein, water, etc.) to build healthy muscle and speed recovery,” he added. “Find a protein shake that is developed age-appropriate for kids. With kids’ sports being so competitive, parents are looking for every advantage to help their children excel. The days of cupcakes, juice boxes and salty snacks after practice are being replaced by real nutrition, based upon sports science.”
There is a caution with active kids, though. According to Dr. Rieger, sports-related injuries abound among children, and these activities add to the already high nutritional demands that children require for routine growth. “The consequences of this increased activity combined with inadequate nutrition is causing an endemic of sports-related injuries,” he said.
When sports-related injuries are minor, parents often turn to OTC (over-the-counter) remedies in their local pharmacies. But many are now questioning the safety of typical OTC drugs. Christophe Merville, DPharm., director of education and pharmacy development for Pennsylvania-based Boiron USA, pointed to safety as a premiere concern parents have, notably for self-medicating (OTC) conditions (colds, mild allergies, pain). “The main criteria I foresee for the parent is finding something that is not harmful.”
Modern children are facing different impacts to their well-being than kids did only a few decades ago.
Significant changes in our diet and lifestyle have occurred over the last 70 years following the end of the World War II, all of which are likely to affect the balance of children’s gut microbiomes, said Braye. “Emerging research indicates that the health and diversity of the gut microbiome is linked to a number of modern day health conditions,” she noted.
For example, she said, childhood obesity is now a major public health crisis as overweight and obesity in childhood is known to have a significant impact on children’s physical and psychological health. Further, overweight and obese children are likely to stay obese into adulthood and more likely to develop conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases at a younger age. This is largely due to an increase in calorie consumption with a correlated decrease in nutrients, and as studies show, cause many overweight children to exhibit concomitant vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
Merville sees a rise in more allergies, chemical sensitivities and digestive problems, caused by an increase in chemical substances that are in plastics, in carpets, etc. that have significantly increased in recent years. “The younger generation is much more exposed to chemical substances unbeknownst to them,” he commented. “Not only are they exposed—we have no idea of their long-term effects.”
Braye agreed, noting that an increase in allergies and food intolerances are seen in today’s children versus a generation ago. One study showed that more than one-third of parents reported adverse food reactions in their young children. As an example, she offered, the incidence of atopic dermatitis has increased by two- to threefold in industrialized countries during the past three decades. The exact causes remain obscure, but there are contributing factors that have been posited, she explained, such as “the increase in caesarean birth, bottle feeding, antibiotic use, processed foods in the diet and reduced exposure to a diverse range of micro-organisms from outdoor activities are all likely to have an impact on the child’s microbiome and corresponding immune system development.”
Processed foods, said Muller, have increased in number and are relatively inexpensive, but they tend to lack nutritional value and many are still made with GMOs (genetically modified organisms). “Along with the increased use of GMOs is the increase in certain types of food allergies,” he compared, adding that there is a growing movement back to clean natural non-GMO ingredients.
Another modern-era affliction among children are rapidly growing cases of autism and ADHD. Jacob Teitelbaum, MD, author and natural health expert believes that food allergies, which typically increase with gut dysfunction, are playing a major role in autism development; but restricting the diet, he stated, is often not feasible for families, and also may not be that healthy for many children. He recommended the NAET (Nambudripad’s Allergy Elimination Technique). Dr. Teitelbaum’s foundation funded an autism and food allergy study on which he was senior author (2011, Integrative Medicine—A Clinician’s Journal). According to Dr. Teitelbaum, the results showed that after one year of NAET, 23 of 30 children were back in regular school as opposed to 0 of 30 in the untreated control group. Additionally, the NAET group had: a mean 68.4 percent decrease in the total Autism Research Institute Autism Treatment Evaluation Checklist (ARI-ATEC) Score; 64 to 82 percent mean decreases on the four ARI-ATEC subtests; 47.4 percent average increase in the Childhood Autism Rating Scale (CARS) and 85 percent decrease in the total Allergy Symptom Rating Scale (ASRS Score).
“New research evidences how the balance of our gut flora can have an effect over our brain health, and studies have shown improvements to gut flora composition by giving probiotics to children with autistic symptoms, with an associated significant improvement to behavior and wellbeing,” said Braye. “However,” she added, “this is still a relatively new area of research and more studies are needed to identify and understand the mechanisms behind such positive results.”
Dr. Rieger said he likes to recommend Previnex’s Super Vites children’s chewable multi for those under 12, and for teens, Previnex’s adult multis, probiotic and omega supplements.
“It’s almost impossible to get all the nutrition children need from diet alone,” he stated. “These supplements provide the nutrition needed to help restore damaged tissue. Proper nutrition enables the body to maintain excellent musculoskeletal health and gives parents comfort that they can let their children enjoy their sports and minimize the risk from injury.”
Florida-based Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems offers several multivitamins for children, according to Marci Clow, MS, RDN, educator. All our children’s vitamins are made with natural, purity tested ingredients and no artificial preservatives, colors, flavors or sweeteners. They contain no eggs, fish, gluten, milk/dairy, peanuts, shellfish, soy, tree nuts or wheat,” she said.
Rainbow Light’s children’s multi line includes: Bear Essentials Multivitamin & Mineral, a gummy in single-serve packets; Power Sours Multivitamin & Mineral for immune support with vitamins C, A, E, D and zinc; Kids One Multivitamin chewable combining optimal amounts of vitamins A, C, D3, folic acid, plus a B complex and a food-based complex of kale, spinach, dandelion greens, beets and spirulina; NutriStart Multivitamin Powder for kids aged six months to four years, containing two probiotic strains shown to be important in babies and toddlers; Active Health Teen Multivitamin; and a probiotic gummy, Probiolicious shelf-stable Bacillus coagulans plus prebiotic support that nurtures probiotic growth, Clow described.
Bio-Kult Infantis (from Protexin) is a scientifically developed, advanced formula for babies, toddlers and young children. Each sachet contains seven strains of live bacteria plus DHA and EPA. Bio-Kult Infantis also includes Preplex prebiotics (FOS + gum acacia) formulated, said Bray, to selectively stimulate the growth of microorganisms. Vitamin D3 is also in the formula to contribute to immune health, as well as regulating a healthy inflammatory response.
“Over 70 percent of immune cells are located within the gut and their development in infants is profoundly influenced by the gut flora,” Braye explained. Protexin’s Bio-Kult Infantis seven-strain formula includes two of the most predominant infant-specific species Bifidobacterium breve and Bifidobacterium infantis. Protexin conducted several clinical trials of these seven strains in children of all ages from birth; study conclusions, she noted, found benefits in a range of conditions from atopic dermatitis, acute gastroenteritis, colic, constipation and more.
For general aches, pains and other typical annoyances, Boiron has two categories of homeopathic medicines, according to Merville. “We have our branded medicines that are combinations of medicines that cover the largest and most appropriate set of symptoms, like colds, allergies, colic and teething pain. They are designed to be no-brainers as far as dosage, when to start, when to stop, warnings, and so on.”
Boiron also has a number of other medications that are not specifically designed for children but can be used for ages two or three and above; for example, its calendula products that can be used for irritated skin, chafed skin, diaper rash, bug bites, etc.
Kids who participate in sports may gain nutritional and recovery value from Phenom Young Athlete protein shakes, which Muller said can be consumed right after practices or games, and can also be used as a meal replacement smoothie or prior to bedtime to promote healthy weight and muscle growth. A single scoop mixed with a favorite beverage provides 27 macronutrients (18 protein and 9 carbs). The protein is sourced from grass-fed cattle, carbs are from non-GMO sweet potatoes and whole grain brown rice, and the product is sweetened with stevia leaf and monk fruit.
Along with all this, of course, is the gentle but firm counseling of proper diet and lifestyle habits. Kids who are not athletic still obviously need regular exercise. They need some unplugged time to do and learn things that do not require a screen. And of course, they need lots of love—which doesn’t need a prescription, and is perhaps the most nourishing element on the planet.
Healthy Take Aways:
• Digestive health and the microbiome’s ability to influence both physical and mental health in children is a quickly expanding area of interest.
• Childhood obesity is now a major public health crisis as overweight and obesity in childhood is known to have a significant impact on children’s physical and psychological health.
• Over the past two decades, the number of hours children are playing sports has increased tremendously.
• Along with the increased use of GMOs (genetically modified organisms) is the increase in certain types of food allergies.
For More Information:
Boiron USA, www.boironusa.com
Phenom Nutrition, www.phenomnutrition.com
Protexin, www.protexin.com, www.bio-kult.com
Rainbow Light Nutritional Systems, www.rainbowlight.com