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Whole Child Health

Children's Health Children's Health

Innovation, information and integration for children’s health.

Whether the mom or dad of a new baby or seasoned pros of teenagers, parents have a lot of questions about the health of their children. “Is this normal?” and “At what age should my child do this?” are common questions floating around pediatricians’ offices.

Natural practitioners want to offer the best and most pertinent information they can to parents. They need to know the most important new studies, trends and health products available for babies, children, adolescents and teens. Being well informed and educated about the most pressing needs of children and young people is of utmost importance, as is relaying this information to busy parents or guardians.

So, what’s trending now in health products for children? What should every parent know about their child or teen now, especially considering COVID-19? Which delivery methods are most popular for children’s health supplements and what innovations and alternative treatments are most beneficial?

The Current Market for Children’s Health Products

According to a recent study by JAMA Pediatrics, there was a marked increase in children diagnosed with both anxiety and depression between 2016 and 2020. Decreased physical activity and decreases in the mental and emotional well-being of caregivers were also prevalent during this time. The trend worsened after the onset of the pandemic, the study stated, due to decreases in preventative medical care visits, increases in mental health needs—many of which went unmet—and the stress resulting in changed jobs of their caregivers.

“Sleep supplements, specifically melatonin supplements, grew by double-digits in the children’s sleep category over the past year,” said Project Manager Barbara Apps, Boiron USA, headquartered in Pennsylvania. “A recent New York Times survey found that among parents whose kids struggled with sleep, nearly half had given melatonin to their children under 18,” Apps said. “However, there has not been enough research to say definitively whether supplemental melatonin is safe for kids and adolescents.” Though it’s generally thought to be safe when used in short-term situations, like jet lag, Apps said it hasn’t been studied extensively in children of any age.

“Homeopathy is a largely untapped resource for sleep issues in children,” stated Apps. “Boiron offers SleepCalm Kids as a homeopathic option for occasional sleeplessness.” Formulated without melatonin, she stated that SleepCalm Kids can help to restore the body’s balance between nighttime and daytime states. “The plant-based and other pure active ingredients in SleepCalm Kids target a symptom associated with a different sleep disorder, so the formula works well for more than one kind of occasional sleeplessness,” Apps noted.

Kiera Smialek, ND, FABNP, the “Natural Kid Doc,” located in Arizona, stated that the pandemic has resulted in more obesity and mental health issues in children. “Rates of suicide among teens has increased since the pandemic,” said Dr. Smialek. In addition, younger children worry about getting sick if they play with other kids. And toddlers who are naturally curious and experience social, emotional and developmental growth at this time, have been negatively affected by the pandemic as well.

Additionally, Dr. Smialek noted, “Obesity has been a huge concern since the pandemic because children were at home living a very sedentary lifestyle, not always having access to the healthiest food options,” she said. “The CDC (centers for Disease Control and Prevention) reported that in children 2-19 years, the BMI (body mass index) during the pandemic nearly doubled, compared to pre-pandemic levels.”

Jonathan Group, RD, DC, of Global Healing located in Texas, concurred. “From a health standpoint, weight gain and lack of physical activity has led to a higher percentage of unfit children,” said Dr. Group. “A decrease in outdoor activity and a corresponding lack of sufficient sunlight has contributed to lowered immunity.”

What’s Trending in Children’s Health Products Now?

Dr. Group noted that trends are prevalent in the children’s health marketplace. He noted that sales of vitamin D3, vitamin C and zinc have increased significantly and to a lesser degree, elderberry products.

“The main trends I have noticed have been a slight ‘normalization’ of common complaints after years of lockdown,” said Brian Keenan, ND, Lac and education manager of Ayush Herbs in Washington. “During the past couple years, there’s been a huge demand for support with focus, with online learning being a huge pressure on children.” Likewise, Dr. Keenan noted that there continues to be a focus on anxiety and depression support for children of all ages. Both can manifest as difficulty in focusing, digestive troubles, a decrease in being communitive and a re-start of bedwetting, while previously there was no issue.

“Additionally, as technology continues to evolve, we are seeing a growing demand for traceability and for parents to really be able to check where their herbal products come from, meaning, from farm to store shelf,” said Dr. Keenan. “We are now able to provide that information, along with all quality testing much more than we ever were before, and it will likely become expected of companies to be able to provide this information without formal request.” He gave the example of a QR (quick response) code which can be checked in the store to learn more about a particular product.

Vicky Mak, technical writer at ChildLife Essentials, a manufacturer of natural supplements in California, stated that the trends she’s noticed are around immune support and supplements without artificial ingredients. Considering that COVID-19 persists, and restrictions have been lifted in most areas, immune support reigns supreme, Mak said, as a popular segment in the children’s health market now. “Parents are searching for effective solutions to help boost their children’s own developing immune system, which can be vulnerable to environmental stressors brought on by the pandemic.”

Well-known immune-boosting vitamins and minerals, Mak explained, such as vitamin C, zinc and elderberry continue to be popular among consumers, due to growing clinical research. “In addition, there’s been consistent demand among parents for dietary supplements that are devoid of artificial colors and flavors, hold third-party certifications for strict quality control—e.g., non-GMO (genetically modified organism) Project Verified, NSF Certified Gluten Free, etc.—and are formulated with high-quality ingredients that are clean and naturally-sourced,” explained Mak. “These demands have set extremely clear standards for nutraceutical companies to meet and provided a deep understanding of what consumers want in products geared towards benefitting their children’s developing immune system.”

Dr. Smialek stated an interesting trend she’s noticed recently is that more parents are open to and curious about holistic practices to strengthen children’s health. Due to this interest, she explained, “…health care providers are having to familiarize themselves with other options than the typical conventional model. We still have a long way to go, but more and more health care providers are open to the idea that there really isn’t a one size fits all health care model.”

What Should Parents Know About Infant and School-aged Children’s Health?

Building up a natural “arsenal” to support children is a proactive step that any parent can take. Just like having a first-aid kit on hand is smart, it’s also wise to have a support kit for children’s emotional wellbeing. “Parents should know that how their children respond to stimuli is unique to them,” said Dr. Keenan. They will begin to show you who they really are during the school-age years, he noted. “This doesn’t mean they won’t change again; however, this is the age to watch your child and see where their physical and mental strengths and weaknesses lie, so you can have things on hand to support them. For instance, for the child that responds to stress with a tummy ache, have some ginger or fennel tea available. For the child that withdraws, perhaps a passionflower glycerite might be useful. For the overactive child who can’t sit still or pay attention: ashwagandha is your friend.”

Babies require a simpler system of support, said Dr. Keenan. “Keep doing the best you can and know that this is enough. With babies, it can be so easy to fall into ‘what should I do’ when all you need to do is love them, feed them and keep them safe.”

Good sleep is important for everyone, but especially for kids who need solid sleep to thrive. Those getting the proper amount of sleep are better able to pay attention and learn in school, said Christophe R. Merville, D Pharm, director of education and pharmacy development at Boiron USA. Developing healthy sleep habits include things like putting screens away two hours before bed, creating a bedtime routine around the same time each night, and keeping the lines of communication open so that your child can freely express their worries or concerns, said Merville.

He stated that if lifestyle changes don’t help a child get better sleep, homeopathic medicines offer a safer, non-habit-forming option than melatonin when used as directed. “Boiron’s SleepCalm Kids is made from highly diluted natural ingredients used to treat occasional sleeplessness or restless sleep with intermittent awakenings, nightmares or night terrors. This melatonin-free sleep aid is designed to help children ages three and older get a good night’s sleep,” explained Merville.

What Should Parents Know About Adolescent and Teen Health?

Adolescence and the teen years are a series of valleys and mountains—both emotionally and physically. Intense, energy-demanding pubertal growth spurts and major changes in hormones are at play, Mak noted. Because of this, “Teens need to consume greater amounts of nutrients to sustain normal growth, especially if they are physically active and participate in games and sports.” This can be an uphill battle for parents, however, as teens are also most susceptible to making poor eating choices at this time. On top of the pressure of peers, many teens are surrounded by negative body messages online. Dieting and eating disorders can result from this constant focus on looks, Mak noted. “Parents should encourage their teens to consume enough nutrients from their diets and practice healthy eating in order for them to reach optimal growth and development,” she said.

Another issue to be on the lookout for is food intolerances and sensitivities which are especially prominent during the time of adolescence, said Dr. Keenan. And while it’s important that parents don’t demonize food, it’s a great time to teach middle schoolers how to listen to their bodies. “… we want to empower teens that if they eat something, and their breakouts, digestive comfort or skin get particularly bad, that this is empowering information to make choices. Teens are supposed to push boundaries and desire control, and by helping them learn about foods, they gain control over an aspect of their health,” he added. Anxiety too, is at an all-time high at this age, he noted, due to comparisons, competitiveness and external messages from social media. “Herbs like ashwagandha, lemon balm, saffron and bacopa can be extremely safe and extremely useful for assisting staying focused, balanced and at peace,” noted Dr. Keenan. “While no herb is the solution to adolescence, it can support comfort.”

Similar to younger children, adolescents and teens bodies are undergoing a large number of changes, said Kate Quackenbush, marketing director at Gnosis by Lesaffre, located in Pennsylvania. “Vitamin K2 plays important roles in the health of children, including support for coagulation and bone mineralization,” stated Quackenbush. “Unfortunately, research shows that there is a high prevalence of vitamin K deficiency among children, a group in need of this essential vitamin to aid in their development. Correcting this deficiency can have a dramatic impact on children’s health,” Quakenbush stated, referring to two studies: one1 published in 2009 in the British Journal of Nutrition and another2 published in 2014 in the journal Food & Function.

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Are There New Delivery Methods, Ingredients, or Other New Innovations in Children’s Health Products?

Like children themselves, the natural health product marketplace is always moving, changing and growing. When asked which new delivery methods, ingredients, or other new innovations in this submarket are most exciting, experts shared the following:

Dr. Keenan of Ayush Herbs: “Glycerites will always be exciting to me because they are alcohol free, liquid extracts, that taste great, and kids love. They can go to school, or to sports with ease and, depending on the product, older children can have something ready to use when they need it.” Dr. Keenan recommends Ashwagandha Drops which work very well for focus, attention and decreasing tension in addition to balancing moods. “The drops work well since you can better control the amount you use,” said Dr. Keenan. This allows a child to have a more tailored support option, he noted.

Barbara Apps of Boiron USA: “Available in pre-measured liquid doses, SleepCalm Kids by Boiron comes with easy-to-use vials that can be squeezed into a child’s mouth. There are no chalky tablets to chew, no pills to swallow and no sugar, artificial flavorings or other unhealthy ingredients so often found in sleep gummies, which are currently the best-selling supplement form. SleepCalm Kids has no flavor so even children who typically reject medicines should take it without complaint.”

Dr. Group of Group Global Healing: “Our customer feedback over the past 12 months has revealed that parents like liquid delivery products where servings sizes can be easily modified based on age or need. We have also seen a trend toward even more clean label, organic, and non-GMO choices,” Dr. Group noted. “Compliance is higher with these delivery methods and serving sizes can easily be adjusted according to age or clinical need,” Dr. Group said. “Gummies are always popular, however, our belief is that they introduce too much sugar and can lead kids to only ingest highly flavored and sweetened products.”

Kate Quakenbush, of Gnosis by Lesaffre: “… MenaQ7 line of ingredients has been shaped by technological advances, making MenaQ7 a fit for other kid-friendly applications, such as gummies and liquids. There are a few excellent child-specific products on the market that have provided MenaQ7 K2 as MK-7 via liquid delivery, such as Beginner’s DHA from Wiley’s Finest Fish Oil and Carlson Laboratories’ Kids Super Daily D3 + K2.”

Now, more than ever, is a great time to focus on boosting children’s health—from an improved mental state to a more active, healthier lifestyle. Parents and health practitioners have a great opportunity to focus on preventing future issues through a myriad of healthy options.

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1 van Summeren MJ, Braam LA, Lilien MR, Schurgers LJ, Kuis W, Vermeer C. The effect of menaquinone-7 (vitamin K2) supplementation on osteocalcin carboxylation in healthy prepubertal children. Br J Nutr. 2009 Oct;102(8):1171-8. doi: 10.1017/S0007114509382100. Epub 2009 May 19. PMID: 19450370.

2 Theuwissen E, Magdeleyns EJ, Braam LA, Teunissen KJ, Knapen MH, Binnekamp IA, van Summeren MJ, Vermeer C. Vitamin K status in healthy volunteers. Food Funct. 2014 Feb;5(2):229-34. doi: 10.1039/c3fo60464k. PMID: 24296867.

Healthy Take Aways

• In a JAMA Pediatrics study published online in 2022, found there were “significant increases” in children diagnosed with anxiety and depression during the pandemic.
• There has been an increase in sales of vitamin D3, vitamin C and zinc for children.
• Healthy food choices and moving their bodies are important cornerstones of good health for children, adolescents and teens. Socialization is also key to healthy kids, especially during the developmental years.

For More Information:

Ayush Herbs, www.ayushherbs.com
Boiron USA,https://www.boironusa.com/ www.boironusa.com
ChildLife Essentials, http://childlifenutrition.com
Global Healing, www.globalhealing.com
Gnosis by Lesaffre, www.gnosisbylesaffre.com