A healthy combination of diet, lifestyle and supplements can help young patients adapt to an entirely new world.
There is no doubt that the field of children’s health is a constantly evolving one, especially with the variety of health innovations that continue to be developed daily.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, 85.3 percent of children ages 5-11 are in “excellent or very good health.” Further, 3.5 percent of children within that age range missed 11 or days of school within the past year due to illness or injury. It is worth noting that these numbers were taken from a National Health Interview Survey from 2017.
Interestingly enough, when Natural Practitioner reported on this a year ago using 2016 survey numbers, that number has since increased by 1.3 percent, while the latter decreased by 0.2 percent.
Noting these numbers, as children develop into adulthood, there are countless tools available to help keep this positive momentum rolling, including products and lifestyle changes that practitioners can consider pitching to their patients.
Of course, one must consider all factors, but perhaps the upper respiratory system could be a start. “Eighty percent of the visits to primary care providers deal with upper respiratory issues,” mentioned Nathan Jones, founder and CEO, Xlear, Inc. (Utah), who offers a xylitol and saline nasal spray. “Sinus infections, allergies, asthma, ear infections, colds, flu, etc.—all of these are things that affect our children. If we can do small things to keep their airway[s] healthy, it will pay big dividends. That is the science and the thought behind using a xylitol nasal spray—I have been sick once in 22 years, I have children that have never been sick a day in their life. ‘Combatting’ illness just tells you that you need to pay more attention to prevention and hygiene.”
Concerns with children’s immune system has also been a top concern, being that they are not fully developed. “Immune system issues are always prevalent in children, partly because their immune systems have not had challenges to improve resistance, and because they have high levels of exposure to other children,” said Cheryl Myers, chief of scientific affairs and education at Wisconsin-based EuroMedica. “To build a strong immune system, quality raw materials are needed that may not be supplied by the diet. Aside from that, mental health, cognitive and bone strength really should be addressed proactively during childhood. That’s why I recommend strong multivitamin and mineral supplementation, omega-3s, and, of course, vitamin D3 as we provide in Bio Active Essentials, EurOmega-3 and Chewable Vitamin D3.”
And many of these immune cells are concentrated in the stomach, a sign that this could be a focal point.
“Childhood is a time for growth and development, laying down the foundations for later life. This includes the development of a healthy immune system which will support them throughout life with up to 70 percent of immune cells located within the gut,”1 pointed out Natalie Lamb, technical advisor for ADM Protexin (Florida). “They say we are born with the basic structures and tissues in place, but that it is the gut flora that activates the immune system and educates it to produce antibodies to fight any bugs around us. Evidence suggests omega-3 fatty acids play an important role in early brain development and cognitive function and appear to have anti-inflammatory effects on the immature and developing fetal immune system.”
For one, vitamin D can serve multiple purposes. It also happens to be in high demand among children and adults alike. “Vitamin D is a supplement that can be important to children’s health because, like adults, many children are deficient in it,” explained Nicole Avena, PhD, assistant professor of neuroscience, Mount Sinai School of Medicine (New York), visiting professor of health psychology, Princeton University (New Jersey) and author of What to Feed Your Baby & Toddler: A Month-by-Month Guide to Support Your Child’s Health and Development. “This is largely because the sun is a primary source, and we tend to have children avoid the sun. Vitamin D is important for bone health and for utilization of calcium.
“Another natural remedy that can be beneficial for children is honey,” she added. “Locally source[d] honey can help to combat seasonal allergies. Also, honey-based cough syrups can help to reduce coughing and to soothe the throat. These supplements can be used in combination with other medical-based treatments. In the case of honey, it can help to speed up the time to recovery.”
Probiotics have continued to gain momentum over the years, due to their multi-faceted benefits towards both digestive and immune health. “Probiotics are live microorganisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host,”2 illustrated Lamb. “Probiotics have been shown in studies to positively influence the infant’s gut flora balance, digestive function and developing immune system,3 and have shown promising results in the prevention and treatment of infectious diarrhea4 and allergy in particular in infants.5 Probiotics appear to be more effective at preventing allergic conditions such as eczema than treating them.6 A study by Leyer et al in 20097 showed a multi-strain probiotic to reduce the incidence of fever in children by 72 percent and coughs by 62 percent. Research suggests that a probiotic given directly to an infant is more likely to become part of its resident gut flora opposed to that given to the mother and delivered via the breast milk.8 Probiotics have been shown safe to take from infancy.4
“During antibiotic therapy,” Lamb added, “extra protection could be provided by consuming a probiotic supplement at the same time as antibiotic therapy, although at least two hours apart and continued for at least two to four weeks after completion of the antibiotic course at a dose of ≥5 billion CFUs/day.”4
Omega-3 fatty acids also ought to be involved for its mental and physical benefits, including for cognition.
“Because of our standard American diet and poor nutrient quality, children should start with an omega-3 fatty acid supplement and a daily multivitamin that provides bioactive nutrients in readily utilized forms and at levels that physiologically meaningful,” Myers advised. “Omega-3 intake is one of the most critical aspects of a child’s mental and physical health, so an important recommendation is our EurOmega-3 product. Beyond omega-3s, it is a source of phospholipids and peptides not found in any fish oil. This supplement can make the difference for a child’s emotional well-being, social adjustment and academic achievement. I encourage women to use prenatally and while breastfeeding, and when children are weaned and eating a diverse diet, it can be added in crushed form to applesauce or nut butter for easier administration for children’s use.
“DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) and phospholipids make up a great deal of our brain. The brain itself is about 60 percent fat, and about 15 to 20 percent of that is DHA. The brain needs phospholipids and DHA to develop properly. In fact, an Australian review found that DHA improves the blood flow in the brain when during the performance of cognitive tasks (studying and test-taking come to mind), regulates the way that blood sugars are used in the brain, and reduces inflammation and oxidative stress.”
On the other hand, there are those that believe that instead of initially providing them with supplements, parents should consider starting out by providing their little ones with a healthier diet and go from there.
“I don’t think that children should be getting into the habit of eating ‘supplements,’” Jones said. “I think that those financial resources should be put to use just getting them fresher, healthier and better food. When it comes to remedies and medicines for children, I think that pediatricians need to learn a lot more about xylitol, probiotics, diet, and the importance of oral care in children and they need to reinforce these ideas with every single visit. If children can grow up healthy, it really does set the stage for a healthy life.”
Further, Jones is interested in “keeping sugars away from children, not no sugar [at all], but keeping it to a much smaller amount than the 75 pounds that each American is currently eating a year. I also believe that hygiene is as important as nutrition. Keep the body clean, keep the microbiome healthy and you will grow up healthy.”
Solely by walking the floor at one of the industry’s trade shows, one may notice that the market for children’s health appears to be on the up and up. “The market for natural remedies for children’s health is growing, and I suspect it will continue to grow in the near future,” Dr. Avena predicted. “More research studies suggest that natural products can have medicinal features that can be beneficial to treating, and preventing, a host of conditions and illnesses that can impact children.”
Research plays a role in how the market will continue to shape up however, especially studies concerning the use of traditional medication.
“I think that the state of the market is ok—I think that the shift to more natural products for children started a few years back,” Jones said. “I think it still needs to shift a lot, and as more and more research is coming out about how harmful using antibiotics and drugs is on children, that shift will quicken.”
And as Myers described, this opens up the door for natural practitioners to provide patients with alternative options. “Parents are eager to find more holistic solutions to their children’s health concerns than prescriptions or over-the-counter drugs,” she noted. “The pharmaceutical culture that has evolved in mainstream health care has been quite problematic, from fostering antibiotic resistance to pathologizing certain natural conditions of childhood. This leaves many opportunities for knowledgeable integrative practitioners to provide safer and more effective solutions.”
For ADM Protexin, the specific symbiotic blend of seven strains of live bacteria and prebiotic in its Bio-Kult Infantis product has showed results in various clinical trials, including:
• Reduced diarrhea in gastroenteritis9
• Improved constipation10
• Improved symptoms of eczema11
• Improved symptoms of colic12
Nutrition continues to remain a focus, as there is a correlation between sugar consumption and ultimately, metabolic syndrome.
“We are interested in nutrition and how it can promote health and protect against diseases,” Dr. Avena explained. “My lab has been studying how sugar and processed foods can negatively impact the brain reward systems, which can lead to overeating, obesity, and in some cases metabolic syndrome.”
So how in fact has the field been evolving exactly? Parents are on a quest for natural alternatives versus over-the-counter drugs, which is easier said than done.
“I think that parents are looking for natural solutions,” mentioned Jones, “and there is a lot of hype out there about natural products that make a lot of claims, but they don’t have any serious science, logic or common-sense idea as to how those products work. Physicians are caught in the crossfire, as they want things that have science and can be explained as to why and how they work. I think it is detrimental to the natural products industry to not be cautious as to the products we put on our shelves and the info we tell our customers. If there is something out there that a customer pays $20 for and it doesn’t work, then they are going to not come back the next time.”
Issues that society is experiencing now were non-existent in previous years, which poses the task of having to tackle what appears to be unchartered territory.
“Children today have a unique set of problems that is quite different from previous generations,” Myers concluded. “They are exposed to toxins that have never before existed. Both they and their parents have been raised eating foods with artificial ingredients, genetically modified (GMO), and with high levels of pesticides not used 40 or 50 years ago. The most egregious exposure is to glyphosate (one brand name is RoundUp). This creates unique health challenges that mainstream medicine is not prepared to address. Integrative practitioners are in a perfect position to help these children overcome these challenges, and natural medicines and dietary supplements can be extremely useful in achieving these health goals.”
1. Vighi G, Marcucci F, Sensi L, Di Cara G, Frati F. Allergy and the gastrointestinal system. Clin Exp Immunol 2008; 153 Suppl 1:3-6.
2. FAO/WHO Expert Consultation. Guidelines for the Evaluation of Probiotics.
3. Schultz M, Göttl C, Young RJ, Iwen P, Vanderhoof JA. Administration of oral probiotic bacteria to pregnant women causes temporary infantile colonization. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2004; 38(3):293-7.
4. Johnston BC, Goldenberg JZ, Vandvik PO, Sun X, Guyatt GH. Probiotics for the prevention of pediatric antibiotic-associated diarrhea. Cochrane Database Syst Rev 2011; (11):CD004827
5. Edwards CA, Parrett AM. Intestinal flora during the first months of life: new perspectives. Br J Nutr 2002; 88 Suppl 1:S11-8.
6. Lee J, Seto D, Bielory L. Meta-analysis of clinical trials of probiotics forprevention and treatment of pediatric atopic dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2008; 121(1):116-121.e11.
7. Leyer GJ, Li S, Mubasher ME, Reifer C, Ouwehand AC. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children. Pediatrics 2009; 124(2):e172-9.
8. Abrahamsson TR, Sinkiewicz G, Jakobsson T, Fredrikson M, Björkstén B. Probiotic lactobacilli in breast milk and infant stool in relation to oral intake during the first year of life. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr 2009; 49(3):349-54.
9. Yala ET. The clinical efficacy of multi-strain probiotics (Protexin) in the management of acute gastroenteritis in children two months to two years old. PIDSP Journal 2010; 11(2):86-91.
10. Khodadad A, Sabbaghian M. Role of synbiotics in the treatment of childhood constipation: a double-blind randomized placebo controlled trial. Iran J Pediatr 2010; 20(4):387-92.
11. Farid R, Jabbari F, Ahanchian H, Moghiman T. Clinical and immunogical Effect of Probiotic In childhood Atopic Dermatitis. J Allergy Clin Immunol 2010; 125(2).
12. Kianifar H, Ahanchian H, Grover Z, et al. Synbiotic in the management of infantile colic: a randomised controlled trial. J Paediatr Child Health 2014; 50(10):801-5.
Healthy Take Aways
• According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s National Center for Health Statistics, 85.3 percent of children ages 5-11 are considered to be in “excellent or very good health,” via a 2017 survey.
• Up to 70 percent of immune cells are located within the gut.
• The brain itself is about 60 percent fat, and about 15 to 20 percent of that is DHA.
Free More Information:
ADM Protexin, www.bio-kult.com
Nicole Avena, PhD, www.drnicoleavena.com
Xlear, Inc., www.xlear.com