Did you know, a recent study showed that children given vitamin D daily were less likely to catch the flu (influenza A)? And that children taking probiotics were half as likely to develop eczema (atopic dermatitis) than those who didn’t? How can parents empower their child to stay healthy into their adolescent years (and beyond!) and reduce the chances of their child turning to alcohol and drugs? Read on to find out how you can support your child’s health… naturally!
1. VITAMIN D: Researchers in Japan have found that besides getting the annual flu shot, vitamin D is also a potent flu-fighter. In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial comparing vitamin D3 supplements (1200 IU/day) with placebo in school-aged children, researchers found that the children receiving the sunshine vitamin had a 42% reduction in contracting influenza A compared to those not receiving it. The study also found that the group not getting the vitamin D had six times more asthma attacks.
Vitamin D plays a very important role in supporting the immune system. “Vitamin D helps your body produce a protein called cathelicidin that fights bacteria and viruses,” says Carlos Camargo, M.D., an associate professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Other studies show that people with adequate levels of vitamin D are less likely to get the flu, and when they do, they tend to recover faster compared to those who are deficient. In Dr. Yik‘s practice, she finds many adults and children in Hong Kong who are deficient in vitamin D. Before you start taking vitamin D supplements though, get your level checked so you can supplement at the correct dosage. Too much vitamin D puts you at a higher risk for kidney stones. Click here to read more on how to boost your immune system to prevent the flu.
2. PROBIOTICS: Probiotics are the friendly, healthy bacteria that reside in your gut. In a study published in The Lancet, infants whose family members had a history of eczema or allergies were either given probiotics prenatally (i.e. the mother took probiotics while she was pregnant) and until they were 6 months old, or they were given a placebo. It turns out that the children who took probiotics were half as likely to develop eczema than those who took the placebo.”Studies have shown that probiotics can be helpful with eczema flare-ups triggered by milk allergies,” adds Alan Greene, M.D., a clinical professor of pediatrics at the Stanford University School of Medicine.
Since up to 80% of our immune system lies in our gut, it makes sense to support immunity through the gut. Studies show that probiotic supplementation increases T-cell count, which makes you less vulnerable to infections. In a study involving 3- to 5-year-olds, daily probiotic supplementation for 6 months reduced fever, runny nose, cough and antibiotic prescription incidence, as well as the number of missed school days attributable to illness. Yogurt and kefir are popular foods that contain these gut-friendly bacteria, but to target specific health problems, you’ll most likely need to find probiotic supplements at higher doses since foods do not contain nearly enough probiotic CFUs to be considered therapeutic. Furthermore, different probiotic strains (types of bacteria) help to improve different conditions. Talk to your licensed naturopathic doctor to determine the appropriate probiotic supplement for your child’s individual needs.
3. NURTURING RELATIONSHIPS: As a parent, your capacity to love and nurture your child is an important variable in predicting positive developmental outcomes. Studies show that parents who are attentive, non-restrictive and warm foster intellectual development and positive social behaviours in their children.
In one study, warm feelings of closeness with parents are characteristic of adolescents who abstain from drugs. Researchers in that study found that fathers who developed and maintained warm relationships, compared with those that did not, experienced greater success in terms of preventing future drug involvement.
So, maintain a close and healthy connection with your child. Talk with and listen to your child everyday. Ask questions about their school day, what they did during recess/ outdoor play and ask about their peers. Be available for them and let them know you’re listening (i.e. drop the phones/ laptops and give them your undivided attention). Fathers (and mothers), get involved. Engage your child in activities that bring enjoyment. Affirm your child’s worth. Show respect, encourage often and set appropriate boundaries. Children who experience a nurturing home environment are more likely to develop into healthy, capable, fully functioning adults.
4. IRON: Iron deficiency is the most prevalent hematologic disorder in childhood- and it’s linked to lower school scores! One study found that iron-deficient school-aged children and adolescents (including those with iron deficiency without anemia) had lower standardized math scores compared with those without iron deficiency. Iron stores in the body are often depleted during a period of accelerated growth. Adolescent girls may be more susceptible to iron deficiency due to poor dietary intake and heavy menstrual blood loss. An iron deficiency is associated with the following symptoms:
- unexplained fatigue
- chronic headaches
- leg pains
- shortness of breath
- unexplained weakness
- ringing in your ears
To test for iron deficiency, get the ferritin test done (not the iron test). Ferritin is the major iron storage protein in the body. It is stored in the body’s cells until it’s time to make more red blood cells.
5. SLEEP: Children need adequate sleep to recharge and grow. When their bodies don’t get enough time to rest, they will be tired, cranky, irritated and finding it difficult to concentrate at school. A lack of sleep will also hinder the immune system from functioning optimally.
If you want to check your child’s nutrient status or find natural solutions to your child’s health issues, Dr. Yik can help. She is in charge of the “Boost Your Child’s Health” program at OT&P clinic and sees children in her practice on a regular basis. Her goal is to help each child achieve and maintain optimal health. Click here to read more about Dr. Yik and how she can help you and your child.