As a parent I know there is so much conflicting health-related advice for kids, which it can make it really confusing to know what to do when they face a health issue. The fortunate thing is that children respond well to really simple changes.
In terms of supporting optimal health for children, there are some really simple and straightforward preventative strategies to do all we can to keep them in good health.
Ensure regular, daily, outdoor adventure, play time. The amount of regular outdoor play that children are exposed to is declining. We rely on exercise to release toxins and support circulatory health, and children also need this to support good health.
Vitamin D status depends on the production of vitamin D3 in the skin under the influence of ultraviolet radiation from sun. Children should get 15-20 minutes in the sun (preferably outside peak hours of 11am-4pm) in order to get adequate levels of vitamin D. It is ideal that their skin is exposed during this time (at sensible times of the year). Low vitamin D has been linked to a host of chronic diseases, and insufficiency affects almost 50% of the population worldwide (Nair 2012).
Vitamin D is shown to play a role in controlling the immune system, increasing neuromuscular function and protecting the brain. Research indicates vitamin D deficiency plays a role in cancer, heart disease, stroke, autoimmune diseases, birth defects, and peridontal disease (Naeem 2010).
Vitamin D can also be found in egg yolk, fatty fish, fortified dairy products and beef liver.
Check for nutritional deficiencies
Work with your practitioner to check for nutritional deficiencies. Nutritional deficiencies can have a huge impact on the development of your child, and have been linked to many childhood conditions such as ADHD, tics, OCD, dyslexia, and delayed speech. It’s important to treat nutritional deficiencies through diet (and supplementation if required).
Small amounts of lots of different types of healthy food choices is better than large amounts of the same things. Children are drawing different nutrients from different coloured fruits and vegetables, so ensure variety in their diet.
Smoothies are a great way to hide vegetables for children who may not want to consume them, and try to include as many vegetables inside your child’s favourite meals…for example load spaghetti bolognese or lasagne with vegetables too.
The brain undergoes vital neuroregeneration and detoxification overnight, when it swells and the glymphatic system flushes the brain of toxic molecules (NIH 2013). The Sleep Health Foundation recommends the following
|14 to 17 hours|
|12 to 15 hours|
|11 to 14 hours|
|10 to 13 hours|
|9 to 11 hours|
|8 to 10 hours|
Eliminate artificial additions to food
Minimise artificial colours, additives, dyes, which have been linked to health conditions such as ADHD. The Food Standards Agency in the UK funded research into possible links between food colours and hyperactivity in children. It found that consuming certain artificial food colours could cause increased hyperactivity in some children in the following colours: sunset yellow FCF (E110), quinoline yellow (E104), carmoisine (E122), allura red (E129), tartrazine (E102), ponceau 4R (E124).
Minimise processed foods
Minimise the intake of processed foods, sugars, and refined foods as much as possible, and instead encourage a diet rich in whole foods (food which have not been processed). When children consume a diet heavy in processed foods such as breads, chips, biscuits, muesli bars, and other white coloured starches, they are not receiving the nutrients, antioxidants, and phytochemicals they need.
Track bowel movements
The bowel can show us a lot about our health. Ensure your children are having regular daily bowel movements, and if they are not, then schedule a time with your practitioner to find out why.
Many children I see in clinic are dehydrated. Adequate hydration is key to good health, and is needed to maintain the function of every cell and system in the body. If you are thirsty, then you are already dehydrated. Often young children won’t realise they’re thirsty, and will need prompting from an adult to ensure they remain hydrated. Even mild dehydration will lead to headaches, constipation, and fatigue.
Encourage a happy, low-stress family environment. Stress is a major contributor to poor health in children and adults, and it negatively affects our immune response. Consider mindful eating, fun play, yoga, quiet-time child meditation apps, family and friends, nature-time, meaningful discussions, and laughter.
Yvette is a qualified Melbourne-based Naturopath and Nutritionist, MINDD Practitioner, member of the Naturopaths and Herbalists Association of Australia, and Complementary Medicine Association. Yvette specialises in the treatment of conditions commonly affecting women and children, with a key interest in children’s digestive and neurological conditions, as well as women’s hormonal concerns, digestive issues, fatigue, anxiety, and skin concerns. Yvette consults in Camberwell and South Yarra, Melbourne, as well as Australia-wide via skype/zoom/phone. Book here.