There seems to be a ton of advice for mom and dad about the best way to raise healthy kids, all while seeming to ignore that our kids have (sometimes stubborn) minds of their own, and one-size-fits-all advice doesn’t cut it in most households.
So what’s the best way to take care of children’s wellness, all while providing quality nutrition, and natural support for their growing brains?
Holistic medicine offers the easiest ways to keep your kids healthy, happy, and fit, while supporting mom’s ability to raise them with the guidance they need, but the independence they crave.
Holistic Medicine for Children
Holistic or integrative medicine is surprisingly still considered ‘fringe’ in many medical communities, despite a substantial amount of research backing it’s effectiveness and life-saving applications.
Integrative medicine when applied to children’s wellness, simply means that a practitioner will use all modalities available to address and treat the root cause of symptoms, not merely the symptom itself.
This paradigm acknowledges the impact diet, lifestyle, and environment can have upon your child’s gut health, nervous system, and immune health.
Integrative modalities include:
- Acupuncture (many practitioners use laser therapy if your child has a fear of needles)
- Food sensitivity testing
- Nutrient deficiency testing
- Cognitive evaluation
- Compassionate patient care
So what do holistic doctors recommend to keep your kids healthy?
Robust Microbiome Health–it starts now!
Our microbiome begins diversifying and flourishing from the moment we’re born.
Our intestinal microbiome is made up of a collection of friendly bacteria that perform essential functions within our body in exchange for hitching a ride around in our gut. You might wrinkle your nose at this thought, but they help us fight off pathogens, viruses, and even synthesize neurotransmitters our brain relies on to send signals.
A diverse and healthy microbiome plays a role in many common conditions in children, such as asthma and food sensitivities. Gut bacteria also support healthy immune function and learning, memory, and mood.
Everyone’s gut flora are as unique to them as a fingerprint. They’re based on the foods you eat, the environment you grow up in, and the kinds of illnesses you’re exposed to as a child.
So it’s never too early to focus on building robust gut bacteria with children. But what’s the best way to do this?
Building your child’s microbiome
- LOTS of fruits and veggies.
- Playing outside.
- Gardening – helping to pick weeds or planting simple seeds.
- Fermented foods such as yogurt, or kefir (or vegetables for the adventurous eater).
- Prioritize organic produce when available.
- Limit the use of antibiotics (except when necessary) and other OTC meds that can disrupt the microbiome.
- Diverse food choices.
Functional Nutrition for Power Kids
Many coaches, nutrition gurus, and ‘experts’ mean well when they propose their version of the perfect diet for kids, but this leaves many mom’s feeling anxious and left out when their children just will NOT eat what you want them to.
You’re here to feed the child in front of you, not the one written about in the toddler or teen nutrition book. In fact, your unique connection with your children is deeply sacred when it comes to your health. You can learn more in The Mom/Child Connection Guide.
There are some basics to follow, but adapting guidelines to suit your life is something moms do best.
1.Prioritize the right kind of healthy fats.
Leave out inflammatory industrialized seed oils (corn, canola, safflower, vegetable), and go for natural sources like olive, avocado, coconut, grass-fed dairy, or butter.
Omega-3 fats from salmon, sardines, mackerel, and oysters are great, or a high-quality omega-3 supplement can be a good option as well.
2.Get enough protein.
Most kids in the U.S. don’t struggle with protein, but this macronutrient will help their brains and muscles grow–so it’s an important thing to include at meals and snacks. A child’s protein needs are generally about the size of their palm at each meal.
Naturally-raised animal products are good options, along with eggs, nuts and nut butters, seeds, lentils, quinoa, and beans.
Hummus with sliced veggies and crackers is a super easy, protein-dense and kid friendly snack!
Carbohydrate options are many, and we’re inundated with tasty, fast, and calorie-dense carbs from the moment we wake up in the morning when our kids are targeted with ads for sugary breakfast cereal.
When it comes to nutrition, focus on getting your kids carbs from vegetables and minimally processed grains like quinoa, rice, organic oats, and pasta and breads made from whole grains or wheat.
Don’t put pressure on yourself to feed your kids the perfect diet 100% of the time. Eat mostly simple, whole foods, and allow for food choices that fit your lifestyle and budget. Have a goal of cooking at home, and setting an example of food as nourishment for the body and soul.
If you’re struggling with a picky eater, know that most kids have to have 30 exposures to a new food before they’ll be comfortable with it. So keep your cool, be persistent, and trust that you’re not starving your child if he or she chooses not to eat at the moment.
Holistic Immune Health for Kids
About 70% of your child’s immune system lives in their gut, which isn’t surprising considering all the food your digestive system sees in a day!
Intestinal flora play a significant role in children’s immune health as well, helping to differentiate between friend and foe when their gut encounters other microorganisms.
We’re born with what’s called ‘innate immunity’ which is the collection of cells and mechanisms our body uses to fight off pathogens. As we grow, your child’s ‘acquired immunity’ encounters different pathogens, viruses, and bacteria and the overall immune system becomes more robust (1).
Learn more about holistic and integrative immune health solutions here.
Protecting your child’s immune health isn’t all that different from protecting your own, but as their acquired immunity is still building, it’s important we support holistic immune function as best we can.
Natural support for children’s immune function requires:
- Getting adequate and consistent sleep (kids need 9 hours per night, often more)
- Eating colorful, nutrient-dense veggies
- Physical activity and playing outside
- Healthy gut function
Do supplements support kids’ health?
We should always aim to get nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from food, but vitamin supplementation becomes a necessity when we’re addressing nutrient deficiencies, dealing with any condition that causes malabsorption, or have a very picky eater.
Vitamins and minerals kids need for optimal wellness:
Magnesium – soils are deficient in this macro-mineral, reducing availability for an important nutrient responsible for relaxation, and the production of the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin.
Vitamin D – optimal levels are difficult to reach, even in the best diets, and this hormone-like vitamin is crucial for whole-body health.
Probiotic – keeps intestinal bacteria healthy and flourishing if diet is less than optimal
B complex – important for energy, neurodevelopment, and so much more.
Omega-3 fats – many kids don’t find food sources very palatable (fish, flax, etc.), so supplementing with the brain-nourishing fatty acid is often a wise addition.
When supplementing, it’s important to source supplements from reputable retailers and brands. You can find these, and many more clean, trusted supplements in the CentreSpringMD shop.
Growing Healthy Brains Naturally
One in six children has a neuro-developmental disorder such as attention deficit disorder, or other learning or cognitive complications. Could this be a problem integrative medicine can solve? There’s promising evidence it’s possible.
Studies show that food additives contribute to attention deficit disorder affecting about 1 in 10 kids (2). Researchers also found that removing food sensitivities could reverse attention deficient in about 75 percent of cases (3).
You can find several more integrative strategies for managing ADD and ADHD in this article.
Research supports physical activity, healthy cognitive stimulation (like learning and reading), and the right nutrients as the best way to promote healthy neurodevelopment (4).
Many of the nutrients required for healthy brain function are easily found in foods, with some of the key elements being B12, choline, DHA, zinc, and iron.
Raising Natural Kids
Raising kids in a holistic way begins at home, and there’s a lot still left to do if we want to raise a smarter, happier, and fitter generation of children.
Our current model of constant overstimulation from heavy electronic use, and less time spent outside, coupled with poor nutrition creates a difficult environment with which parents must contend.
But change is possible. By prioritizing real food, plenty of activity, and time spent away from the overstimulation of electronics, we can help our children reach their potential in health, and in the rest of their lives.
Your child’s health and happiness is worth advocating for.