The law states that supplements are products taken by mouth that contain a dietary ingredient.
With 92% of the U.S. population deficient in at least one nutrient, supplementation may seem like the best solution.
However, considering the loose terminology defining what they are, is it okay to be giving your child a supplement and what should you look out for?
We’ve compacted the most common dietary deficiencies in this article to see whether supplements for kids is right for you.
Why Are Our Children Deficient in Nutrients?
Nutritional foods including fresh fruit, veggies, and meats are more expensive than their processed counterparts. The difference in cost and convenience is thought to cause this epidemic. This extra expense can’t be justified by many families across the U.S. who are on a low income.
Children that live off processed foods are highly likely to have a deficiency and parents, or guardians should consider a supplement.
Families that can afford nutritious food may still have a child with a deficiency, especially fussy eaters.
Further, any child with a food allergy or medical condition (especially digestive diseases) may require supplementation.
What Can We Do to Help?
The first answer is a well-balanced healthy diet full of fresh fruit, veggies, and lean protein. Children that have vegetarian or vegan diets will require supplementation to make up for the lack of animal products in their diets.
If a well-balanced diet is unsustainable due to financial, medical or dietary limitations, then your child may require supplementation.
There are also many other supplements for kids available on the market, see more here.
3 million Americans live with this disease which triggers an autoimmune response when gluten is consumed. The inflammation in the intestines doesn’t allow for anymore nutrient absorption and this is how a deficiency is started.
Symptoms include abdominal pain, nausea, anemia, tiredness, and weight loss.
Cutting gluten out of the diet allows for all other nutrients to be absorbed. Some supplements will contain gluten, and these will also have to be avoided.
If your child suffers from Celiac Disease, they should be able to absorb all required nutrients once the initial inflammation has settled. During this period, they may require supplementation.
Vegetarian or Vegan Diets
Vitamin B12 is found in animal products only and therefore lacking when following a plant-based diet. This is an important nutrient that helps make your DNA and red blood cells.
Symptoms can include tiredness, weakness, pale skin, vision loss, and mental problems.
Vitamin B12 is widely available in tablets, liquid and injection form. If your child has a digestive disease, they may require injections as they are unable to fully absorb vitamin B12 by regular oral intake and digestion.
97% of Americans are deficient in protein. Protein is made up of amino acids. These are the building blocks to all structures, tissues, and organs in your body. Protein is used in a child’s body to help them grow and develop muscles.
Protein is found in lean meats, fish, dairy and beans. A well-balanced diet will avoid this deficiency.
Symptoms of protein deficiency may include weak and underdeveloped muscles, poor injury recovery and weak immune system. It may also stunt your child’s growth and development.
Protein supplements are widely available in many forms including bars, powder, drinks, and high protein dairy products. You should look for whey protein supplements, which contain all essential amino acids.
Calcium and Vitamin D Deficiency
These 2 nutrients are paired together because they both need each other to perform their roles in the body. Vitamin D is needed for strong bones as it helps the body absorb and make use of dietary calcium.
Both nutrients are essential for strong bones.
Dairy products contain vitamin D and calcium together. Your skin makes vitamin D when exposed to sunlight. Calcium comes from your diet only.
If your child has a dairy or sun allergy or follows a vegan diet, then they could be lacking in both vitamin D and calcium.
Symptoms may include brittle bones or an ill-formed skeletal system.
A high-fiber diet can prevent high cholesterol and constipation. Ketogenic or low carb diets may result in a lack of fiber.
The first and most obvious symptom of a fiber deficiency is constipation. If your child regularly suffers from constipation, then it is probably time to increase their fiber intake. This can come from fibrous fruit and vegetables along with whole grains.
If your child is still not getting enough fiber then use a fiber supplement. These come in powder, tablets, and drinks.
Supplements for Kids: What Next?
There are many other nutrients that your child could be deficient in.
A daily multivitamin and mineral supplement that is designed for your child’s age will benefit their health, even if you think their diet is suitable. Always follow instructions on the packet and it is best to consult a medical professional beforehand.
A child with any health condition or taking any medication should always see their doctor before starting a supplement. Some supplements can interact with prescription medication.
Supplementation of specific nutrients is best left to the professionals. They can diagnose the exact problem and prescribe a course of treatment.
If you think your child is suffering from a nutrient deficiency, then consult a medical professional first.
If you have read this and think you’re deficient and may need a supplement, then check out our article on adult supplementation.