Beginning of term can be a challenge for your children’s immune systems. Starting a new school or a new class can be stressful too. So what nutrients can you give them to get them fit for school – in body and mind?

Back to School Support for Children

It is easy to influence your child’s dietary habits when they are too young to argue about it or to take control themselves. You can puree the best organic vegetables for your baby and win battles with your toddler through hiding the good foods among the not so good. You can also control their consumption of high sugar and processed foods by simply making them unavailable. But as children get older and go to school, it can be challenging to get them to eat a healthy and varied diet. What can you do with a child who simply refuses to eat all the healthy food choices that you put in front of them? What do you do with a teenager who might well swap the healthy lunch you’ve made them for junk food when they get to school? For those times and those children who might be missing out on certain nutrients, there are thankfully lots of supplements available to help to rectify any nutritional shortfall. Of course, nothing replaces a balanced diet, but at least you can ensure that they don’t become deficient in any of the most important vitamins and minerals. There are also some supplements that may improve their concentration, improve their mood, and help to boost their fledgeling immune systems to ensure they don’t need to take too much time off with illness!

Multivitamin & Mineral Supplement

If your child is an erratic or fussy eater, one simple way to make sure that they are getting all that they need, is to buy them a multivitamin. Good quality children’s multivitamin and mineral supplements will normally contain a good top up of all the essential ingredients your child needs for growth, development and healthy immunity.

Viridian’s Viridikid Multivitamin formula is specifically formulated for the needs of children between the ages of 2-14 to support optimal growth and long-term health. It includes essential B-complex vitamins, plus vitamins C, D, E and K along with zinc, iron and other key minerals plus a natural beta carotene mix (which provides vitamin A). The nutrients are contained in easy-to-swallow ‘microcapsules’ that are far smaller than the average adult multivitamin capsule or tablet. They are also free from sugars, additives and preservatives. The little capsules can be swallowed whole, but for any child who refuses to swallow anything, they can be opened and the contents stirred into water, juice, yoghurt or smoothies. Formulated to be a complete multivitamin for growth, immunity and energy, Viridikid contains vitamin D, zinc and magnesium to support growing bones and strong teeth, along with copper, selenium and vitamin C to strengthen the immune system. Zinc, iodine and iron have been added to support cognitive development, whilst biotin, copper and magnesium provide energy support for growing bodies. The inclusion of beta carotene enables the body to produce vitamin A which is a particularly important vitamin for children’s vision, skin and immune health.

For younger children, another good option is Biocare Children’s Complete Multinutrient which is a comprehensive formula that is available in a great tasting banana flavour powder that can be mixed into cool drinks or sprinkled onto food. Naturally sweetened with xylitol, and free from artificial colours or flavours, it is suitable for children aged six months plus. If you think your children might prefer a chewable tablet, then Higher Nature Vital Vits For Kids contains 19 of the most important vitamins and minerals in chewable one-a-day tablets that are sweetened with fructose and the sweeteners sorbitol and stevia, and is suitable for children aged 3 and over.

It is important to get a balanced diet and good nutrition at any time of life, but especially during periods of growth, stress or change. During our teenage years, the demands for certain nutrients are relatively high, but this can be the time when it is hardest to convince your child to eat a good diet. Many teenagers consume too much sugar, and too much processed food or junk food, and it can be painfully hard as a parent to influence a teenager’s dietary habits! Of course, nothing replaces the benefits of a well-balanced diet, but your teenager may well benefit from a multivitamin supplement to make sure that don’t become deficient in any key nutrients. Our nutritional needs change as we age, and during the teenage years there are some distinct differences between those of a young man and a young woman. For this reason, Nature’s Plus Power Teen ‘For Him’ and ‘For Her’ are a good choice of vitamin formula for teenagers who don’t eat as well as they should.

Nature’s Plus Power Teen For Him is rich in zinc which is important for young men as it is critical to bone health, immunity and sperm production. The formula also contains amino acids and minerals crucial to muscle growth and endurance, which can help to support any intensive sporting activity as well as to support normal growth. It also includes the patented BlemiShield complex and probiotics to support a healthy complexion and protect inner ear, teeth and gums from infection. Power Teen For Her contains good levels of iron which is required as a young woman starts menstruation, and a unique feminine complex that includes cranberry, fenugreek and yam extracts to promote urinary tract health, breast health and healthy hormone balance. It also includes the patented BlemiShield complex and probiotics to support a healthy complexion. Both formulas are gluten free, and free from artificial additives. They are both in wild berry flavour chewable tablets, so are easy to take – giving you the best chance to win at least one argument with your teenager! Try to get them to chew 2 per day. If your choose to give your teenage children regular multivitamins (adult multivitamins are suitable for children aged 12 plus), just bear in mind that extra zinc for a boy and extra iron for a girl may be worth considering. If you are in doubt, you can always ask the advice of one of our nutritional advisors in store.

Essential Fatty Acids – Omega 3 and Omega 6

Essential Fatty Acids have many important roles in the body, and are especially important for brain growth and development, and also for normal cognitive function and concentration. The brain is the fattiest organ in your body and is 60% fat, 13% of which is made up of the Omega 3 fatty acids Eicosa Pentaenoic Acid (EPA) and Docosa Hexaenoic Acid (DHA). EPA in particular helps to maintain healthy cell signalling and cognitive function and it is also converted by the body into eicosanoids – substances which support cardiovascular health, inflammatory response and normal immune function.
For very young children taking a fish oil on the spoon can be the simplest way to ensure that they are getting enough important Omega 3 fats for optimum brain development. Thankfully, there are some on the market that are specifically designed for children, such as Biocare Children’s OmegaCare, which contains a pure fish oil concentrate with added sweet orange oil to hide the fishy taste and is completely free from artificial colours and flavours. For children old enough to swallow capsules Pharma Nord Biomega 3 Kids fish oil capsules are a good choice. They contain purified fish oil that is free from toxins and are available in fish gelatine capsules with a natural lemon flavour. If your child is vegetarian or vegan, there are several supplements on the market that contain EPA and DHA from algae (which is where the fish get these fats from!), such as Biocare Vegan Omega 3 capsules (which contain Algal oil in a vegetarian capsule).

Low levels of EPA have also been related to severity of depression (1, 2), so boosting your child’s intake during their teenage years may help to stave off teenage depression. In some scientific studies, supplementation with various amounts of fish oil was beneficial for the treatment of depression in both children and adults. The Omega 6 fat GLA is an integral part of cell membranes, helping to keep them permeable for optimum brain function, as well as being a precursor to favourable eicosanoids.

Igennus Vegepa capsules contain a patented blend of 70% ethyl-EPA concentrate from marine anchovy oil and GLA and triterpene antioxidants from organic virgin evening primrose oil. This unique formulation balances and maintains healthy omega-3 and omega-6 levels, providing cells with essential nutrients to support brain function, including attention and concentration and is especially suitable for children with developmental problems. Vegepa is a popular choice with practitioners for several specific conditions including ADHD, autism and depression. The anti-inflammatory nature of EPA also makes it extremely effective in helping to relieve inflammatory skin conditions such as eczema. Vegepa is supported by clinical trials, is available in easy to swallow capsules, and contains no artificial colours, flavours or preservatives. Teenagers should take the adult dose of 4-6 capsules per day.

Vitamin C

Most of us know that Vitamin C is important for immunity in adults and children alike. It’s also crucial for the absorption of iron, so it’s important that your children are getting enough. At the beginning of any new term there may be lots of colds and flu viruses about, so it is not a bad idea to give your kids a top up of this important nutrient when they first go back to school, especially if they are not great at eating vitamin C rich fruit. The start of a new school term can be especially stressful too – particularly if your child is starting a new school. Our demands for vitamin C are higher when we are stressed, so that’s another good reason to give them a bit of a vitamin C boost at this time.

A. Vogel Nature-C For Kids contains naturally occurring vitamin C from acerola cherry and five other real fruits – making the vitamin C very readily absorbed. It’s available in one-a-day fruity flavoured chewable tablets that provide 100mg of vitamin C per tablet, and are suitable for children aged 4 and up. If you think it might be easier to give your children a powder – Nature’s Aid Mini Drops Sprinkles Vitamin C Powder is suitable for infants and children aged 3 months plus. This flavourless powder can be easily added to food or drink such as milk, cereal, yoghurt or fruit. The daily dose of one teaspoon provides 100mg of vitamin C.

Vitamin D

The National Institute for Health Care Excellence (NICE) reported back in 2014 that as many as one in six children in the UK may be deficient in Vitamin D. Vitamin D is very important for the normal functioning of the immune system, and studies have shown it can help to improve resistance to colds and flu. Significantly, supplementing with vitamin D has been shown in many clinical studies to reduce the risk of respiratory tract infections, and to lessen their severity and duration (3).

Vitamin D is also especially important for children because in the body Vitamin D has a significant role in the absorption and metabolism of calcium and phosphorous. It maintains and regulates blood levels of calcium by increasing its absorption from food and reducing its loss through urination. This helps to keep calcium in the body and stops it from being robbed from your bones, and this is especially important during childhood when the bones are growing. Vitamin D deficiency in children can cause Rickets, resulting in bone growth deformities.

Many children’s multivitamins contain vitamin D, but it can be a good idea to give your child a top up, particularly in the autumn and winter months when your body doesn’t make it from sunlight, and especially if your child doesn’t get a great deal of sun. Viridian Virdikid Vitamin D Drops can be taken directly on the spoon or added to food and drink, as can Biocare Baby & Children’s Vitamin D3. Both are free from artificial colours or flavours. An alternative way to take vitamin D is in oral sprays that are simply sprayed directly into the mouth. BetterYou D400 Junior Vitamin D Daily Oral Spray has a natural peppermint flavour. It’s suitable for children aged 3 years plus and is quick and easy to take.

Probiotics

The ‘good’ bacteria that live in your gut are a crucial part of your immune system, and there is mounting evidence to suggest that probiotic supplements can significantly boost immune function in both children and adults. In one six-month study, children who received probiotics had a significantly lower incidence of cold symptoms compared with children who received a placebo (4). In another trial, children taking a probiotic preparation for just 3 months during the winter had a decreased incidence of common infectious diseases (5). Probiotic supplements may also reduce the incidence of asthma, eczema and allergies.

There are many good children’s probiotics supplements on the market, available in a variety of chewable tablets or powders for those who are not able to swallow capsules. Proven Fit For School contains acidophilus and bifidus probiotic strains plus added vitamin C for immunity, and is available in one-a-day strawberry flavoured chewable tablets. It is suitable for children aged 4-16 years. Garden of Life Microbiome Formula Organic Kids + contains 14 strains of probiotic bacteria alongside immune boosting vitamins C & D, in organic berry cherry flavour chewable tablets. Biocare Children’s Strawberry BioAcidophilus is available in a great tasting strawberry flavoured powder that can be added to cold food or drinks. It’s dairy free and free from any artificial colours, preservatives and flavours.

 

REFERENCES
1. Osher Y, Belmaker RH. Omega-3 fatty acids in depression: a review of three studies. CNS Neurosci Ther. 2009 Summer;15(2):128-33.
2. Sinclair AJ, Begg D, Mathai M, et al. Omega 3 fatty acids and the brain: review of studies in depression. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr. 2007;16 Suppl 1:391-7.
3. Charan J, Goyal JP, Saxena D, et al. Vitamin D for prevention of respiratory tract infections: A systematic review and meta-analysis. J Pharmacol Pharmacother. 2012 Oct;3(4):300-3.
4. Leyer GJ, Li S, Mubasher ME, et al. Probiotic effects on cold and influenza-like symptom incidence and duration in children. Pediatrics 2009;124:e172-9.
5. Cazzola M, Pham-Thi N, Kerihuel JC, et al. Efficacy of a synbiotic supplementation in the prevention of common winter diseases in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled pilot study. Ther Adv Respir Dis 2010;4:271-8.