Helping children enjoy overall health and well-being is more critical now than ever.
Although you may not focus much on children as patients or clients, their parents who are devoted to your practice likely slip in requests for advice about how to handle common issues with their children.
According to www.healthychildren.org, the top 10 most common childhood health issues (based on data from the American Academy of Pediatrics) are sore throat, ear pain, urinary tract infection, skin infection, bronchitis, bronchiolitis, pain, common cold, bacterial sinusitis and cough.
When it comes to colds, parents may be assuaged somewhat by knowing that “most children may have six to eight colds per year” simply due to their underdeveloped immune system, according to www.hopkinsmedicine.org.
Today’s moms are keenly focused on their children’s diet and even the home environment, choosing to use as many products that are “clean label” as possible. But still, typical temporary challenges may occur.
Meghan Holpuch, ND, of Sumovia Naturopathic Healthcare in Colorado, noted that, “Most parent concerns typically revolve around their child’s mental and physical development. It is important for parents, as well as their child’s provider, to continue to check in on any child’s physical, mental and emotional growth over the years to ensure they are growing and learning to their fullest potential. It is very important to catch any developmental delays early so a child gets the interventions needed and does not fall behind his/her peers.”
Many delays in development do tend to work themselves out: the silent child who suddenly speaks more than just a babbling word. There are myriad reasons why—and this is a medical discipline unto itself.
One factor that many children experience now are the effects of environmental xenoestrogens, which are known to influence endocrine function (they are often called endocrine disruptors which can have serious consequences, such as increasing risk of cancer development in adulthood).
If your parent clients are concerned about their children’s health and well-being, you can counsel them about the immediate environment. “Children are exposed to a growing number of stressors such as environmental toxins in drinking water, air pollution and food which is loaded with harmful preservatives and other additives in foods, antibiotics, steroids, hormones and pesticides,” said Katherine Cole, R&D manager, ChildLife Clinicals, California. “Chemicals in and around everyday products also have an unhealthy impact on children. Emotional stress from academic, social, and family demands also plays a role in children’s health.”
Currently, a clear and present challenge for our youth is “navigating the emotional and mental implications of the current pandemic for the whole family, which seems to be the largest challenge for most parents right now,” observed Dr. Holpuch. “Most parents in the United States have never seen an epidemic, much less a pandemic, as a child the way we are experiencing one right now.”
Good guidance and safe recommendations include a variety of supplements formulated just for children.
The microbiome is becoming more of a concern among parents, who are more frequently choosing to seek advice and recommendations from their natural practitioners. “Much evidence now supports a critical phase in a child’s development which includes the time the fetus is in the womb up until 2 or 3 years of age and has been termed ‘the first 1,000 days of life’. This crucial period appears to shape the child’s future health through appropriately developing the immune system, brain development and the growth of the gut microbiome,” stated Claire Barnes, technical advisor, ADM Protexin (Bio-Kult, U.K.).
She elaborated that in infants there are many factors that can impact the appropriate development of the gut microbiome including prenatal exposures, mode of delivery, feeding methods, gestational age, weaning, exposure to nature and animals, number of siblings and antibiotic use.
To help rationalize suggesting probiotics for infants and toddlers, Barnes noted that studies suggest that intestinal dysbiosis often precedes the development of allergies in older children. Furthermore, she expounded, “gut microbiota development during the first few years of life could have a significant impact on later-life conditions, such as obesity and metabolic dysfunction.”
She is quick to note that however, there seems to be some opportunity to improve the gut microbiome of infants to potentially help support their immune development and future health as they grow. Recent studies, she said, have suggested that probiotics could be protective against the progression of childhood conditions, including allergies, GI (gastrointestinal) infections, obesity and even upper respiratory infections.
“Bio-Kult Infantis was developed to help support the development of an appropriate gut microbiota in infants from birth and to help support digestive and immune function,” Barnes pointed out. “The probiotic formula contains seven strains including two of the most predominant species found in an infant’s gut (Bifidobacterium breve and Bifidobacterium infantis).”
A new probiotic product just for children is Innovia Nectar Kids Probiotic micro-shots (from California-based SOFAR Americas) featuring the LP-DG strain (Lacobacillus paracasei CNCM I-1572) plus vitamin D3 for healthy skeletal development and BV vitamins for healthy nerve and muscle development and function.
Noting Parental Concerns
Again, barring the need to recommend a specialist of any sort, when you and your practice are requested to recommend supplements and other lifestyle adjustments for children, there are quite a few natural products you can feel good about suggesting. The formulators are always encouraged by research to create safe and effective supplement solutions.
Support and nourishment of the gut microbiome, as mentioned, is more frequently mentioned by parents, but there are other concerns that have led to development of products for your nod of approval.
“Parents do their best to ensure their children get all the vitamins and minerals they need from the foods they eat, but many issues can make this a challenge to achieve,” observed Laurel Sterling, RDN, national educator for Illinois-based Carlson Labs. For example, children are notorious for being picky eaters, and often parents today are challenged to provide nutritious wholesome meals for children because of necessary two-income busy schedules that call upon picking up fast-food and convenience food choices, having children use school vending machines, and much more. “Proper nutrition for children is especially important for ensuring normal growth, immune support and optimal health, but as we can see, this may be difficult to accomplish on a day-to-day basis,” she commented.
More Millennial moms and dads are much more aware of botanical support for their children than older generation mothers and are likely opening up discussions with you about use of herbs for their youngsters. Other new parents who may not have had experience in this area but are new and willing to try will have obvious questions. Herbalist David Winston, RH(AHG), founder and president, Herbalist & Alchemist, based in New Jersey, emphasized that compliance is critical when using herbs with children, therefore, it makes sense to recommend preparations that are gentle, safe and of course, tasty.
One of the benefits of using glycerin extracts (glycerites) for children is that they taste sweet but do not increase blood sugar levels. Herbalist & Alchemist’s children’s line of botanical products are mostly glycerites, and the company also provides a number of single herb glycerites.
“Alcohol is used in tinctures because it is highly effective for extracting many active constituents and it also increases absorption of the herbs,” Winston explained. He prefers using these tinctures in children over the age of four or five as they are more effective and the doses needed are quite small, making them easy to “hide” in juice or flavored milk. The amount of alcohol found in the average dose of a tincture for a child is miniscule, he said, “so I feel quite comfortable giving my grandchildren tinctures when needed. For parents who are uncomfortable with this, a glycerite or tea can be used. Another option is solid extracts, which are a paste-like consistency, but are less common.”
Similarly, said Cole, parents want to see more natural ingredients in the products they buy, and more than ever will reject supplements containing artificial colors and flavors. At the same time, they want products that are appealing, easy to administer and taste great so kids will take them.
Quality is more than a word to today’s parents, and certifications lend credence to the term. For example, said Sterling, “to ensure we are providing children with the highest quality vitamins, minerals and fish oils, Carlson has obtained Friend of the Sea certifications, IFOS (a third-party testing for fish oils), and IGEN (a non-GMO [genetically modified organism] certified third-party testing) which parents love to see on products for their children.”
Another measure of quality, she pointed out, is what is not used in products—all of Carlson’s children’s supplements are free of gluten, wheat, artificial dyes, artificial sweeteners, preservatives, MSG, milk, casein and yeast. “These are important items to list as many parents look for these on supplement labels for purposes of allergies or sensitivities,” she said.
Barnes agreed, emphasizing, “In terms of excipients used in supplements, less is most definitely more. Parents are increasingly becoming aware of additional hidden nasties in supplements that may help increase the shelf-life, texture, color or flavor, but at what detriment to human health?”
She also pointed to ease of use, which enhances compliance and makes family life a bit easier. “Family life is already busy enough, without the added fuss of getting children to take supplements on top of encouraging them to eat healthy foods. Often, parents find it more convenient to add supplements to food and drinks without the little ones even knowing,” she said. “Many parents find powder sachets with little to no taste work well added to children’s favorite yogurt or juice, and also reduces the likelihood of wastage.”
The ChildLife Clinicals line launched with 12 products targeting specific organ systems, according to Cole. The purpose of this line is to provide practitioners with supplements they can offer their pediatric patients, and the products focus on supporting bone health and the skeletal system; brain, eye and cognitive health; digestive health; renal system health, and lung health. “Our most popular product, Liquid Iron, provides 20 milligrams of iron chelate in 1 teaspoon. For most of our products, we also offer single-serve samples.”
Carlson’s Chewable Vitamin C is sweetened with fruit-derived fructose, according to Sterling. Carlson Kid’s and Baby’s Super Daily D3 drops are convenient in a flavor-free drop, which makes it easier for parents to give to their babies and toddlers and older children. Teen’s Max Catch Minis are easy-to-swallow mini soft gels which kids prefer over the larger soft gels.
“We offer other easy-to-chew tasty gummy options like vitamin D3, calcium & D3, and lutein. We recently introduced a natural cherry flavored melt-in-your-mouth Probiotic Stix for digestive health, immune support, and overall wellness. Children can simply pour on their tongue and enjoy, or parents can stir it into a favorite yogurt or smoothie. Also, we have strawberry chewable iron in a superior absorptive form for children that need extra support,” she said.
Bio-Kult Infantis has been specifically developed for infants and young children and can be taken from birth, according to Barnes. Each sachet contains seven strains of probiotics (with an emphasis on species most predominant in the infant gut) and also includes omega-3, vitamin D3 to contribute to the normal function of the immune system and Preplex prebiotics (FOS + gum acacia) to selectively stimulate the growth of beneficial microorganisms. The seven strains within Bio-Kult Infantis, she noted, have been found to be of benefit in a range of childhood conditions, such as atopic eczema, acute gastroenteritis, colic and constipation.
“Supporting the development of an appropriate gut microbiome in infants before the age of three could potentially have long-lasting effects on the future health of the child,” she explained. Evidence also suggests that continuing to support a child’s gut microbiome may have a preventive effect on respiratory tract infections (RTIs). For example, one systematic review of 23 trials including 6,269 children aged newborn to 18 years showed that probiotic consumption significantly decreased the number of children having at least 1 RTI episode and fewer numbers of days absent from day care or school.
Herbalist & Alchemist provides an abundance of child-friendly botanical preparations and singular herbs. The Healthy Kid’s Support Kit with alcohol-free products include: Healthy Kid’s Compound to support healthy immune function; Kid’s Calmpound to balance healthy nervous system function; Kid’s Tummy Relief to promote healthy digestion; and Astragalus Glycerite, which also supports healthy immune function.
David Winston’s Focus Formula contains tinctures of Hawthorn fruit & flower (Crataegus monogyna), lemon balm flowering tops (Melissa officinalis), oat milky seed (Avena sativa), bacopa herb (Bacopa monnieri), ginkgo leaf (Ginkgo biloba) and skullcap flowering tops (Scutellaria lateriflora). “Hawthorn is used for what is known in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) as disturbed shen (irritability, anxiety, agitation), while nervines such as milky oat, skullcap and lemon balm help restore the emotional foundation. Bacopa and ginkgo are nootropics which enhance cerebral circulation, up-regulate dopaminergic neurons, promote cognitive function and relieve anxiety,” he explained.
Herbalist & Alchemist also provides single herb glycerites that are particularly appropriate for children who are nervous and exhibit frenetic energy, such as skullcap, oat, chamomile, lemon balm and astragalus, an adaptogen that also supports healthy immune function.
SpectrumNeeds from NeuroNeeds (Connecticut), is a distinctive blend of 33 active ingredients that provide a “wide basis of metabolism for individuals, including those with neurodevelopmental disorders, according to the company’s website. Research has shown that the ingredients and the doses they are provided in help promote mitochondrial energy metabolism, generates essential co-factors (e.g., coenzyme A), enhances methylation needs, facilitates selected neurotransmission including GABA receptors and improves micro-circulation in the brain.
Although the world is different for children today—kids are blessedly still kids—with the same health and well-being needs to grow. And working with today’s knowledgeable parents is more than ever, a fulfilling long-term partnership.
Healthy Take Aways:
• Most children may have six to eight colds per year.
• One factor that many children experience now are the effects of environmental xenoestrogens.
• Emotional stress from academic, social and family demands also plays a role in children’s health.
• Gut microbiota development during the first few years of life could have a significant impact on later-life conditions.
For More Information:
ADM Protexin/Bio-Kult, www.bio-kult.com
Carlson Labs, www.carlsonlabs.com
ChildLife Essentials, www.childlife.net
Herbalist & Alchemist, www.herbalist-alchemist.com
SOFAR Americas, www.innoviaprobiotics.com