Many parents are entrusting natural practitioners with their children’s health; here are some products and approaches for practitioners to consider implementing in their practices.
One of the most crucial concerns for parents is keeping their children healthy. And many parents are turning toward the naturopathic and homeopathic industries for products. “Parents are in control of the whole family’s health, so it only makes sense that, according to Innova Market Insights, there [has been] a [compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of] 38 percent for global children supplements in the last five years (July 2017 to July 2022),” said Dr. Stacey Smith, marketing and communications manager, NORAM, Gnosis by Lesaffre (headquartered in Lille, France with a U.S. office in East Brunswick, NJ).
Indeed, according to the C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital at the University of Michigan Health in its National Poll on Children’s Health, “Most parents have given their child dietary supplements, including multivitamins (78 [percent]), omega-3 (22, [percent]) or specific vitamins (44 [percent]) or minerals (25 [percent]).” Dr. Smith added, “There is an increase in demand for children’s nutrient supplementation due to rising awareness about the importance of nutrition, childhood obesity and the desire of parents to ensure their child’s overall health and well-being.”
Trends and Consumer Demand
As a result of these statistics, certain trends have emerged. “There was an obvious trend to increase focus on immune health due to COVID-19,” explained Dr. Smith. “This heightened the entire nutrition supplement market to support their immune systems extending to the entire family.”
Brian Keenan, ND, LAc, education manager, Redmond, WA-based Ayush Herbs, concurred, adding that “Kids immune support supplements are understandably popular since children are more vulnerable to infections.”
Another trend that Dr. Keenan noticed was that of mental health awareness, which has also become a significant focus. “Mental health issues, such as anxiety and depression, have gained significant attention in recent years,” he noted. “The continued awareness of the role of social media and its role in the mental health of children appears to be a player, as well as overall extended screen time.” This increasing awareness, Dr. Keenan continued, “has prompted discussions about the role of nutrition in supporting children’s mental well-being. Consequently, there has been increased interest in children’s health supplements containing nutrients that may positively impact brain health and cognitive function.”
The pandemic also drew attention toward the importance of maintaining good nutrition and a healthy lifestyle. As a result, Dr. Smith added, “Innovation is driving diversification in products; for example, companies are introducing new formulations providing more nutrients in one product, so there are fewer pills to swallow and products to purchase. There are also evolving delivery methods due to ‘fussiness’ of consuming capsules and tablets, so gummies, chewables and powders with delightful flavors are becoming abundant.”
According to Danny Clark, ND, Beekeeper’s Naturals (Canada), “There is an increasing demand from parents for more natural products with fewer additives, colorings and flavorings. Parents are seeking cleaner medications for their kids to reduce the risk of side effects and long-term complications.”
There are several issues that affect children specifically, some of which are more common than others. Parents seek to not only address these health issues, but also to discover the causes behind them so they can be prevented.
Children’s Health Issues and Causes
According to Christophe Merville, D. Pharm, director of education and pharmacy development, Newtown Square, PA-based Boiron USA, “In the U.S., allergies, including hay fever and allergic reactions, are prevalent among school-age children. In fact, it’s estimated that nearly one in five kids has a seasonal allergy, [which] can cause symptoms like sneezing, itching, watery eyes and nasal congestion.” In addition, since children lack fully developed immune systems, they are more susceptible to viruses such as common colds, flu and other respiratory infections, “especially in settings like schools, daycares and playgroups where they are in close contact.”
Furthermore, according to Merville, “sleep disorders like night terrors and sleepwalking can be common during adolescence. These conditions can disrupt a child’s sleep patterns, causing disturbances and potentially impacting their overall well-being and daily functioning.” Other issues that can affect children include teething, which can cause discomfort in infants and toddlers, as well as digestive issues, which can be related to stress or new foods and cause gas, nausea or diarrhea, Merville added.
Daina Parent, ND, naturopathic liaison and Ken Misher, product marketing manager, Standard Process Inc. (Palmyra, WI), mentioned additional children’s health issues, including skin rashes, overweight/obesity and mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression. “There are many factors contributing to the poor health of our children. Minimal exercise/living a sedentary lifestyle, poor nutrition and dietary habits play a huge factor in children’s overall health,” said Dr. Parent and Misher. “Other factors that are causing less than optimal health in children in the U.S. include economic factors such as poverty, food deserts and/or food insecurity, and the lack of education/knowledge of what a ‘healthy’ diet may consist of.” They cited the National Institutes of Health (NIH), which found that “Nearly 40 [percent] of the energy consumed by 2- to 18-year-olds comes in the form of ‘empty calories.’”
Dr. Clark added that “collectively, the immune system is impacted by lifestyle factors, diet, environmental factors and more. Children are exposed to many chemicals at home and elsewhere, overeat sugar and processed foods, and are spending less time outdoors,” all of which contribute to worse health and a weakened immune system.
“I was a picky eater when I was a child, and I would dare to say that is a phase many kids go through,” noted Dr. Smith. “This leads to potential nutrient gaps and nutritional supplementation may be necessary to ensure adequate vitamins and minerals to support overall health.” She continued, “Some kids are born with specific health conditions, whether their mother was deficient when she was pregnant, or they have malabsorption disorders, they may require additional nutrients for those special dietary needs.”
Dr. Smith also stated that most children’s health issues can be linked to nutrient deficiencies. “We’re inundated with the on-the-go lifestyle. We pride ourselves on being busy as if it is a badge to be worn proudly,” she explained. “With this lifestyle comes many consequences of eating processed fast food for convenience’s sake and depleting the nutrients we do provide to our bodies with overactivity and stress. This depletion and inability to ‘catch up’ our resources will leave us all feeling sluggish and susceptible to common colds. Some of the top health concerns that are affected are the immune system, proper bone development and cognitive health. Immune health is strongly supported by supplementing with vitamin D3, while bone health [can be] addressed with vitamin K2 … and cognition [can be] addressed with omega-3s.”
Dr. Keenan also mentioned allergies, asthma and respiratory concerns, as well as ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder) and attention issues, anxiety, depression and childhood obesity, which is on the rise. “These are, of course, multi-factorial,” he explained. “There is certainly a tie with screen time, social media and lack of exercise that seem to be driving a portion of the issues at hand that affect the mind and obesity.” The respiratory issues, on the other hand, are possibly due to environmental toxins and air pollution, both of which are becoming more and more common, he added. Luckily, there is a wide range of products available for practitioners to carry for their young patients in their practices.
Practitioner Products/Lifestyle Recommendations
Merville believes that homeopathic medicines are the safest options for practitioners to offer, as they are not known to cause drowsiness or hyperactivity, nor do they mask symptoms or interact with other medications. “Boiron homeopathic medicines are made from microdoses of plants, animals or minerals,” he said. “These ingredients work with the body to provide relief instead of just masking symptoms. The gentle action of these ingredients makes it perfect for children, as there is no danger of dependence. In addition, homeopathy offers practitioners an individualized treatment approach and can be useful for a wide range of childhood conditions.”
Boiron has a range of 11 products suitable for babies and children in sublingual pellets, tablets and liquid dose form, none of which require them to chew or swallow pills, according to Merville. “For allergy relief, there are AllergyCalm Kids Tablets and Pellets. These products relieve indoor and outdoor allergy symptoms without causing drowsiness in children ages 2 and up,” he explained.
“Parents of teething babies and toddlers will value our Camilia Liquid Doses, which feature chamomile and other plant-based active ingredients in a pre-measured dose of medicine. Made for ages 1 month and up, Camilia provides a convenient, hygienic solution that soothes teething pain and calms irritability,” said Merville.
Boiron also offers several products for cold symptoms relief, including ColdCalm Kids Pellets for ages 4 and older, and ColdCalm Baby and Kids Liquid Doses for ages 6 months and older. “There is also Chestal Kids Cold & Cough and Chestal Kids Honey in a traditional cough syrup form. These medicines provide multi-symptom cough and cold relief in a taste and form kids enjoy. Chestal Kids Cough & Mucus Pellets are available for on-the-go cough relief,” Merville explained.
For sleep issues, Boiron offers SleepCalm Kids Liquid Doses and Pellets to address occasional sleeplessness and restless sleep for ages 3 and up. “These are melatonin-free sleep aids formulated with plant-based and other pure active ingredients,” said Merville. The company also manufactures an extensive line of “blue tube” single medicines for both consumers and practitioners, “with several strains for pediatric conditions, including cradle cap, teething and growing pains,” said Merville. “From start to finish, every step of our manufacturing process undergoes rigorous control and testing in FDA (U.S. Food and Drug Administration)-inspected facilities, ensuring that we consistently provide the best quality possible.”
Dr. Parent and Misher explained that “First, diet and lifestyle continue to be the best way to approach and address the current health issues facing our children. Prevention is key, and ensuring children consume fresh fruit and vegetables and engage in regular exercise certainly provides the framework for optimizing the child’s immune system,” they said.
“Natural approaches to children’s health should always be used in combination with regular pediatric exams/regular doctor’s visits and under the supervision of a qualified physician,” noted Dr. Parent and Misher. “Supplying macronutrients, micronutrients, vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients should be considered first line therapy to addressing health issues. Common ailments may require additional support that can be considered through homeopathy, botanical medicine/herbal medicine, hydrotherapy (regular baths or using water in therapy), and manual techniques (chiropractic, gentle massage, lymph stimulation etc.).”
Standard Process offers one children’s health product called SP Children’s Immune, “a product specifically formulated for kids ages 4 and older,” the pair said. “This formulation delivers key nutrients for proper immune system functioning and development. SP Children’s Immune provides an excellent source of vitamin D, zinc and antioxidant vitamin C and draws its flavors from organic elderberry and organic strawberry.”
Furthermore, SP Children’s Immune “contains an ingredient, 2’-FL, which is a prebiotic that was first identified in human milk and on its own as a human milk oligosaccharide (HMO),” said Dr. Parent and Misher. “[It] is able to reach the lower GI (gastrointestinal) tract,1-6 where it is broken down to feed the growth of beneficial microbes.3-8*^ SP Children’s Immune also contains bovine colostrum and supports a normal healthy immune response* in the GI tract.”9 SP Children’s Immune is made from whole-food-based ingredients and is chewable.
All of Beekeeper’s Naturals’ products are “powered by propolis, free of artificial colors and preservatives and actually work,” said Dr. Clark. “Children love the taste, and parents love that they’re a safer option than conventional medicine that are typically full of unwanted additives. Propolis is great for immune support for all ages, and contains antioxidants like flavonoids and polyphenols, among 300-plus other beneficial compounds.”
The company created a collection exclusively for kids, which includes Propolis Throat Spray, Propolis Daytime Cough Syrup and Propolis Nighttime Cough Syrup. “Propolis is a safe and effective antimicrobial and can be particularly effective in soothing throats,” said Dr. Clark. “Buckwheat honey can also soothe your throat from a dry cough. Studies have shown it can be as effective as traditional over-the-counter remedies. Chamomile, which is found in sleep and cough remedies, supports the immune system and is calming, aiding in sleep in children struggling with illnesses. Elderberry can stimulate the immune system during times of need and is also a powerful antioxidant.”
The delivery method for Beekeeper’s Naturals’ products was chosen “to maintain as natural a form as possible and to ensure they taste good, encouraging children to take the products without the need for added sugar or flavorings. The products focus on addressing the root cause of illness, supporting the body in fighting off germs rather than suppressing symptoms.” The products are cleanly formulated and are third-party tested to ensure they’re free of heavy metals and pesticides, according to Dr. Clark.
Gnosis by Lesaffre, the Human Nutrition & Health care business unit of Lesaffre, harnesses “the power of microorganisms and biotransformation processes, such as fermentation, to create nutritional actives, probiotics and nutritional and functional yeasts that benefit human health and well-being,” according to Dr. Smith.
“A child’s body is going through a very dynamic period, requiring nutrients to support them. Three essential ingredients that are performing very well and are in high demand for children’s health products include vitamin K2 as MK-7, [which] promotes bone health by activating a crucial K-dependent protein already in the body: osteocalcin,” explained Dr. Smith. “Once activated, osteocalcin binds calcium to the bone mineral matrix, leading to stronger, denser bones. In fact, a 2014 clinical study of healthy children and adults showed that children had the highest levels of inactive osteocalcin—eight to 10 times higher than adults—reflecting low vitamin K status and therefore the greatest need for K2 supplementation.”10
The second ingredient, according to Dr. Smith, is vitamin D3, “which, in addition to its immune-supporting properties, promotes the production of bone-building osteocalcin and supports calcium absorption from the diet.” The third, omega-3s, promote learning and cognitive function, as well as vision health, Dr. Smith stated.
“MenaQ7, the only clinically validated K2 as MK-7, has been used in child-specific studies demonstrating its safety and effectively led to more active osteocalcin, leading to stronger, denser bones.11 It has also been shown to work synergistically with vitamin D312 and omega-3, respectively.”13,14 Dr. Smith pointed to several studies focused on the benefits of vitamin K2 as MK-7 in children. The results of a 2009 study showed that healthy aged 6-10 years who took 45 mcg of K2 (as MenaQ7) a day resulted in a more active osteocalcin, leading to stronger, denser bones.11 Furthermore, the results of 2012 study showed that “Children and adults over 40 expressed the most significant K deficiency and had the strongest response to K2 supplementation (45 mcg for children; 90 mcg for adults), both as MenaQ7.”10
“Further,” explained Dr. Smith, “vitamin K2 as MK-7 works synergistically with other important nutrients parents are already seeking for their children, including vitamin D3 (as already discussed) and omega-3 essential fatty acids. This combination of nutrients supports the development of young bodies—while omega-3s support learning, cognitive function and vision health, vitamin K2 is needed to support optimal bone development in children. MenaQ7 is the only vitamin K2 as MK-7 whose effects are studied in healthy child populations, showing measurable benefit for improved bone health with only 45 mcg of vitamin K2 a day.”
Dr. Smith also pointed to a literature review published in early 2023 in the journal Children.15 “The paper documents vitamin K2’s role in various physiological processes, its safe history of use and that children express the greatest need for K2 supplementation,” she explained. “The paper, ‘The Impact of Vitamin K2 (Menaquinones) in Children’s Health and Disease: A Review of the Literature,’ presents a thoughtful organization of data highlighting the difference between vitamins K1 and K2, as well as K2 as menaquinone-4 (MK-4) and as MK-7; factors contributing to the prevalence of K deficiency; and how child populations can benefit from correcting this deficiency, according to Dr. Katarzyna Maresz, president of the International Science and Health Foundation, and co-author of the paper.” Dr. Smith noted, “These studies were all supported by NattoPharma by supplying the MenaQ7 K2 ingredient used in the studies. They occurred prior to the company being acquired by Gnosis by Lesaffre, but still stand as clear validation of our K2.”
MenaQ7, according to Dr. Smith, is produced to meet “the most stringent quality assurance measures, including non-GMO (genetically modified organism), halal and kosher. Our material is not manufactured with any raw material or processing aids of animal origin, making it suitable for vegans and vegetarians. [The ingredient] is delivered in forms that are suitable for a whole range of finished product applications like soft gels, liquids, gummies and so on. For that purpose, our portfolio comes in quality oils and powders free from any allergens, sugar or gluten. The multi-step patented purification processes successfully deliver MK-7 with a minute level of MK-6, a marker of natural fermentation. Most importantly, it is all-trans MK-7, meaning it is the bioactive form of the K2 molecule as it occurs in nature and is naturally recognized (and utilized) by the body.”
Dr. Keenan noted several lifestyle approaches that can be implemented to help ensure children’s health. “The diet is the simplest approach that will yield the most long-lasting impacts for children,” he said. “For instance, children with healthier diets of whole foods are more likely to continue to select these foods throughout adulthood. This bolsters health at all levels, decreases the risk of type 2 diabetes and helps the cardiovascular system, to name a few.”
He continued, “The second most important approach is healthy amounts of exercise. Like with fruits and vegetables, children who exercise and play regularly are more likely to have exercise be a long-term habit for them. This helps not only their physical body stay healthy, but also their mental health as well.” The third, explained Dr. Keenan, is getting sufficient sleep. “The lasting impacts of good sleep cannot be understated for their long-term benefits to all aspects of health. From mental health to immune function, which plays a role in allergies and asthma, sleep is essential.” Lastly, “Access to mental health support and tools for stress management. Teaching children healthy coping mechanisms for stress, such as deep breathing exercises, mindfulness and engaging in calm activities can help them manage stress and anxiety,” said Dr. Keenan.
Ayush Herbs currently offers several practitioner products for children, according to Dr. Keenan. First, the company’s Bacopa Plus Kids Drops “features the herb bacopa, which is known to support cognitive function, attention and creativity. It is combined with other well-known herbs to help with studying, like gingko and gotu kola,” he explained. Another product is Tulsi Drops, which contain the herb tulsi, “which is known to support healthy immune function as well as promote a sense of calm.” Ayush Herbs’ Trifal Drops for Kids “contain triphala, a classic three-herb combination that promotes bowel regularity and healthy digestive function,” said Dr. Keenan. “KuffSoothe combines ayurvedic herbs with honey and licorice for an immune supportive, throat coating, delicious supplement,” and Children’s Ashwagandha Drops can promote “healthy cognitive function as well as energy, stamina and better sleep,” Dr. Keenan stated.
“We take quality control very seriously at Ayush Herbs. We grow our herbs on organic farms and test the raw materials and the finished product multiple times for contaminants, heavy metals and pesticides. On our new labels, you can even scan a QR (quick response) code and see the testing that’s been done on your specific product,” Dr. Keenan concluded.
Advice for Practitioners
“Practitioners can optimize their comprehensive and holistic approach to care by incorporating homeopathy into their practices,” said Merville. “Homeopathy emphasizes individualized treatment based on each child’s unique symptoms and characteristics. Practitioners can tailor their treatment plans by considering the child’s specific symptoms, medical history and other factors. In many cases, when homeopathic medicines are used as a first line of treatment, there is no need to use other medications that would affect vigilance or cause side effects.” He noted that homeopathic medicines can be especially useful for colds, flu, allergies and stress-related conditions or sleep disorders.
“Naturopathic doctors, with their holistic primary care education, are likely to use these products first, if indicated, before resorting to medication,” added Dr. Clark. “Since children sometimes respond unfavorably to medication, natural supplements can provide a safer treatment option. Overall, practitioners should aim to treat the child as a whole person, supporting their immune system to help heal itself and addressing the root causes of illness.” Furthermore, he suggested, “Practitioners can better serve child patients by meeting the child where they’re at, understanding what they’re willing to take or not take, and helping that from a lifestyle perspective (i.e., ensuring children have enough playtime). Building a relationship with the parent is also crucial, as they’re the ones making the treatment decisions for the child,” Merville concluded.
Dr. Smith advised practitioners to educate “through your website, blogs, local webinars or in-person events, [which] can all be helpful to teach parents when and how to provide their children with the appropriate nutrient support. Schools are a great place to initiate the conversation as a guest speaker, and I found many sports coaches were happy to have an educational session for their athletic teams,” she explained. “Anyone who is educated in nutritional supplementation can and should responsibly provide education and advice to their patients.” Furthermore, Dr. Smith suggested talking to patients and finding out what makes them “tick.” “It’s no different than finding out what drives the aging adult to seek better health,” she explained. “Reasons could be to be faster on the track, have better reflexes on the basketball court, or even think quicker and clearer while taking an exam. Ask them what they are motivated by, and you’ll get some interesting responses and have many enjoyable conversations for years with your young patients; you’re building trust and being a mentor.”
According to Dr. Keenan, “Children’s supplements should only be recommended by people who understand them and their utility in supporting children’s health. A naturopathic doctor, herbalist and chiropractor all will need to research any product before recommending it. In the case of a licensed naturopathic doctor, they often have taken specific pediatrics classes where herbs and supplements were discussed … All practitioners should feel comfortable knowing where to look for more information if needed.”
^To date, shown in multiple animal studies, infants, and one adult human study.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.
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Healthy Take Aways:
• According to Innova Market Insights, there has been a [compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of] 38 percent for global children supplements in the last five years (July 2017 to July 2022).
• Most parents have given their child dietary supplements, including multivitamins (78 percent), omega-3 (22 percent) or specific vitamins (44 percent) or minerals (25 percent).
• There is an increase in demand for children’s nutrient supplementation due to rising awareness about the importance of nutrition, childhood obesity and the desire of parents to ensure their child’s overall health and well-being.
• There has been increased interest in children’s health supplements containing nutrients that may positively impact brain health and cognitive function.