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As children head back to school for the fall, we talked with well-known natural health expert Tieraona Low Dog, MD, about the most important supplements for kids and teenagers. Low Dog is the author of several books, including Fortify Your Life and Healthy at Home.
Q: What are some of your favorite supplements for helping kids stay healthy?
TLD: Many kids benefit from a basic multivitamin during the school season. Look for one that contains 70–100 percent of the DV (daily value) for most vitamins and minerals, with a few exceptions. For teens, only menstruating girls should take a multi that includes iron, unless a health care professional tells you otherwise. Calcium takes up a lot of space in a “once daily” type of vitamin, so generally most will only provide 100–200 mg per day. That’s okay. You do want to make sure it has adequate amounts of the B-vitamins, zinc, and vitamin C. Speaking of vitamin C, keep some extra around the house in case someone comes down with the sniffles, as well as a bottle of elderberry syrup, which can help the body fight off respiratory infections. I always recommend probiotics too.
Vitamin D is important during winter. Studies show that vitamin D supplements can reduce the risk of upper respiratory infections, and it has also been shown to reduce hospitalizations and steroid use in children with asthma, which tends to also be worse during cold and flu season. I recommend 1,000 IU per day for children 6 and older.
Q: Is there a good remedy for improving focus and attention?
TLD: Well, the main prescription, if you will, is getting plenty of sleep, eating a breakfast with healthy protein and fats, and exercising regularly. A multivitamin is also important for ensuring kids are getting adequate B-vitamins, which are important for mood and focus. Bacopa (Bacopa monnieri) can be useful for aiding focus in children and teens. And lemon balm (Melissa officinalis) can be very helpful for children who have difficulty focusing.
Q: How about teenage health?
TLD: Teens need lots of rest, as they are growing rapidly. If your kids are staying up late working on the computer doing homework, make sure you install software that will block blue light, which is notorious for making it difficult to fall asleep. Keep plenty of healthy snacks around the house, and try “daily booster powders” that contain some protein, vitamins, and/or fruits and veggies.
Q: What if sleep is a problem?
TLD: Herbal teas can be helpful when given one hour before bed. I love Traditional Medicinals Nighty Night Tea. If your child takes medicine for ADHD, talk to your health care provider about using melatonin. A number of studies show that 2–3 mg of sustained-release melatonin can help counter sleep problems associated with psychostimulants.