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Healthy Kids are Happy Kids

Posted on 19 October 2012

As the kids go back to school after the holidays are you making sure they start the term fit and healthy? 

It’s that time of year again.  The nights are coming in earlier and there is less time to run around outside, but more than ever children’s health is in the spotlight.  With an increase in illnesses and obesity many parents are looking for natural solutions, food and supplements to help their children. Children and babies have high nutritional needs yet appetites can be variable.  This is a crucial time for assuring that the nutrient density of children’s foods is high and dietary supplements are provided where indicated.  The primary school age is also a difficult transitional time for many parents because their child is becoming progressively more influenced by the world around them, especially by the food likes and dislikes of their peer group and mass advertising, and less so by their parent’s influence. Yet, knowing that the food choices that their children make can influence their development during these crucial years, as well as their future health risks and food habits, parents must do their best to provide for their child’s nutritional needs in a way that will be accepted by their child. This is not an easy task, as any parent knows.

Healthy Mind
Learning difficulties such as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), autism and dyslexia are on the increase.  UK figures for autism reveal between three to ten times more cases in the last decade.  But many other children suffer from poor concentration, mood swings, reading and writing difficulties.  Good nutrition is vital for a healthy brain so your first step should be to ditch

the sugary, processed foods and replace with wholegrains, fruit, vegetables and high quality proteins.  This will supply essential nutrients particularly B vitamins, magnesium, antioxidants and zinc -important for healthy brain function.  You may also wish to supplement with a children’s multi-vitamin and mineral formula.  Recent research has found taking essential fats omega 3 and omega 6 and their active components (EPA, DHA and gamma linolenic acid, GLA) can promote mental health, boost IQ and treat specific behavioural and learning disorders.  

Trials by Durham County Council and Oxford University showed fish oil supplements (a source of omega 3) significantly improved children’s learning and behaviour and helped conditions such as ADHD.  As these essential fats cannot be made by the body they must be obtained from the diet.  Oily fish (e.g. salmon, mackerel, sardines, herrings etc) are one of the best sources and flaxseed is a good vegetarian source.  Also try to ensure they eat plenty of nuts and seeds to supply omega 6 fats or use seed oils such as hemp and flax in dressings and smoothies.

Childhood obesity has increased dramatically over recent years mainly due to poor diets and a more sedentary lifestyle.  There are 60% more obese children in England than there were in 1989. This equates to 1 in 5 boys and 1 in 4 girls being either overweight or obese.  Overweight children are more likely to be overweight as adults which can contribute to disorders such as type 2 diabetes, high cholesterol, high blood pressure and insulin resistance.

While growing children have high energy needs and will gain body weight as they mature, they need to be careful that they don’t consume too many calories that can lead to inappropriate weight gain and obesity.  Dietary changes aimed at reducing the amount of sugar, salt and saturated fats in the diet will help.  Don’t put children on restrictive diets without professional advice as their bodies are still growing and developing.  

As a healthy alternative to sugar try xylitol or agave nectar.  Both are completely natural, contain less calories than sugar and have a low glycemic index so do not cause unstable blood sugar levels.  Don’t overlook the importance of lifestyle changes. The Health Education Authority recommends at least an hour of moderate activity per day for children. It will also boost confidence and self esteem.

Nutritional deficiencies?
According to latest research the B vitamins, magnesium and zinc, as well as antioxidants A, C and E are commonly found to be deficient in children.  The B vitamins help convert food into energy and magnesium is a calming mineral, which helps children to focus, sleep and maintain a balanced mood.  Zinc is essential for growth, the immune system as well as brain function, particularly learning and memory.  The latest study on women’s and girls’ health revealed many things for 11- 18 year olds including 50% are short of magnesium (stored in our muscles and needed for energy production, muscle function, bone formation, creation of new cells, activation of B vitamins, relaxation of muscles, and it also assists in the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, adrenals, brain and nervous system).  It also found that 50% lack iron and that's an awful lot of girls who may be anaemic.

Skin problems and conditions such eczema, psoriasis and asthma can often be triggered by allergies.  So identifying the cause is essential for long term treatment.  Supplementing with fish oils can be beneficial and children with eczema often show improvement with a supplement of evening primrose oil or starflower oil (rich sources of GLA).  This can be taken internally and rubbed onto the affected area.  Zinc found in nuts and seeds are also a good skin healer.  There are now a wide range of skincare products for children often enriched with GLA, MSM and Aloe Vera for their healing properties. 

With all the pressures on children these days to succeed and perform it’s easy for them to feel stressed and overwhelmed at times.  Give them time to relax and play.  Children who are overweight can also suffer from low self esteem and in some cases depression.  Make use of herbs to help them unwind and get sufficient sleep as well as support adrenal health when they are facing exams and other stresses.  Again check with a nutritionist to make sure you get the right formulas for your child.

Magnesium is an excellent relaxant and calming mineral, available in powder form for children.  Using Epsom Salts in the bath is a common method used by nutritionist to help children absorb more magnesium. The sulphur is also important to help detoxification pathways encouraging the body to clear itself of toxins.

Christine Bailey - Employees Matter