What to spend your money on when supplementing with kids.
We finished a lecture on Nutitrion and I headed up to talk to our teacher- “this sounds all very lovely but what, exactly, do I do with my kids that won’t eat any of the things we just talked about? What about supplementing?” She laughed, assuring me that they probably do eat some of those things.
I stopped her mid-reassuring and quickly told her the truth. My kids have sensory problems and a history of trauma surrounding food. Meaning we have a very solid rotation of five things that they will eat. Honey Nut Cheerios, salami, chicken, clif kid z bars (chocolate chip flavor) and on a good night- rice- of the white variety. No they won’t do smoothies. Yes, we eat together regularly. We watch gluten and food dyes and added sugar. No, we don’t get fast food very often and when we do it’s lettuce wraps all around even if it’s a nice hot side of fries. Yes, we are working on making sure they have the right resources. “Oh,” she said, “in that case…”
“Do I need to Supplement?”
“In that case,” I asked, ” my actual question is… do I need to supplement?” I knew the answer intuitively but, well, when it comes to dropping money on pills, I need to know that it’s legit. I’d rather give a nice tea or round out our nutrition more in the long run. I’d rather not justify the expense of expensive urine. “Yes. You do.” She said. “Find a good one, don’t worry about the sugar in the gummies, and get them started. Work on the other stuff later.”
I went online the next morning searching for brands and realized- holy crap, there are a lot of kinds. For every bottle it seemed, there was a strongly worded review. You could spend a few dollars or a couple dozen. With four kids and an average dosing of around four per day, it looked like we were going to need some bulk containers and a second mortgage.
This is the point of my online searching where I usually end up not buying whatever it is and just crossing my fingers for good luck. But I knew, after that pivotal conversation that this really did matter, that maybe some of the behavioral problems we were having could be helped with this small change. I kept going and sorted through the ingredients on the bottles. Surprised by what I found. You guys want to know something? The more expensive bottles aren’t always better- it just takes some tricks to spot the differences.
“Learning Fun Facts about Supplements”
That class that I mentioned earlier that sparked my question? We spent a good chunk of time talking about vitamins and minerals. Absorption rates and forms. What is absorbed well and what isn’t. What is hype and what are we legitimately missing? We talked about soil absorption in modern farming and gene anomalies in certain people that affect what they can use. I learned fun facts like, you can’t absorb more than 250 mg of Vitamin C at a time (so bite a corner off your tablet next time) and how to test if you don’t have enough zinc (take some in liquid form and see if it tastes like anything).
Armed with the right knowledge I found a brand I was happy with and a bottle big enough yet priced well enough that we could afford it and we got ourselves started. Things aren’t magically fixed but we are rounding out ourselves and environment out little bits at a time- including adding in some gummy super hero powers.
I won’t (and can’t) tell you whether you need to supplement for your kids. Before taking anything, please check with your provider, it’s generally a good idea because it does matter and some stuff can do harm (looking at you, Iron). I also won’t tell you to just take a certain kind of supplement. For one, this isn’t a sponsored ad in any way and secondly, there are a lot of good ones! What I can do is start you off with some super basic knowledge on what to look for and what to avoid and hopefully, armed with as much information as possible, you can find the right fit for your family. Intrigued? Awesome.
The Nitty Gritty
Calcium: Best absorbed as Calcium Citrate. Higher stomach acid will result in a higher digestion rate of Calcium. This also means that if you are taking something to minimize stomach acid (tums) calcium absorption will be poor.
Phosphorous: Very important for cellular energy (anyone remember the Kreb’s cycle?) and easy to get with a diet high in whole foods. Check that one off your list.
Magnesium: Look for Citrate, Malate, Taurate forms. Magnesium Oxide is hard to absorb. It can be found in nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Calcium, Vitamin D, Magnesium all work together but can also deplete each other if out of balance. Have kids that drink a lot of milk? Adding Magnesium may help balance out some of the extra minerals. Magnesium has been showing up in aiding in sleep, reducing anxiety, sore muscles, and restlessness. You’ll see it around a lot, just double check the kind first!
Trace Minerals: Sodium, Potassium, Chloride, Sulfur, Zinc, Copper, Selenium, Chromium, Iodine are all found in whole foods but they also make a trace mineral liquid that is easy to add to water if you are concerned. Think the equivalent of drinking mineral water.
B12- Cobalamin: Can be stored in the body for 3ish years or so (super cool) but there aren’t any non animal food sources. Deficiency can be a big deal. When looking for a supplement: cyanobalamin has very poor absorption. Look for hydroxocobalamin and methylcobalamin.
Pyridoxine (B6): This is one of the B vitamins that aren’t included in enriched foods. So, not in your cheerios. They are in lots of vegetable, fish and turkey. P-5-P is the active form.
Folate: This one is a big deal- partly because of the risk of spina bifida in women of childbearing years but also because a lot of people have trouble methylating correctly which means that folic acid doesn’t get converted. Folate is what you should be looking for- not folic acid.
Iron: Needs will be very different depending on whether you are a male, female, child or adult. We get Heme Iron from animal sources and non heme iron we get from our plant foods. When we combine both sources we seem to absorb the most of both (super cool). When supplementing, always talk to a physician and/or get a blood panel.
Fish Oil: This is one you can’t scrimp on, lower prices will mean lower quality. Choose liquid if you are looking to supplement if possible. Small fish are also preferable since they don’t accumulate a lot of the toxins that larger fish do.
Do you have a favorite go to supplement? Anything surprising on that list? There are lots more we didn’t cover- hence the crash course- but I hope that it will get you started on what to look for, what to avoid, and maybe even give you that push to give them a try- I certainly needed one!
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