To Supplement or not to supplement, what is the answer?

To Supplement or not to supplement, what is the answer?

I take a women’s multi-vitamin when I remember, 1,000 to 2,000 IU of vitamin D every day and 1,000 IU of vitamin C every few days. Some times I take nothing. Other times, I take all of it. Scarlett, on the other hand, always gets her vitamins. I give her a kids multi, vitamin D, DHA and, in the winter months, vitamin C. I may even throw her some of those organic wholefood ones that deliver the antioxidants found in green vegetables. Sound a bit much? I wasn’t sure and a poll of my fellow parents revealed that most weren’t sure either. I found some offered multi-vitamins while others had an entire arsenal of supplements they offer their children.  Even the good Dr. Sears (I love that man!) said the best sources of vitamins are from food. But he has a line of supplements. So we decided to speak with a well-respected Pediatrician as well as two naturopathic doctors to get their opinion. Take a look and make up your own mind…

Dr. Paul Munk, Toronto Pediatrician

For vitamin and mineral supplements, the ony recommendations today are Vitamin D 400 IU per day especially between Nov. and April in Canada. With respect to minerals, we have a more significant problem with overeating salt especially in all of our processed foods. There is no good, convincing evidence that any vitamin, Echinacea, and even Zinc can protect us from the frequent winter viruses that keep company with us ever winter. However, good hand washing has been shown to be effective from the time of Semmerling ( a few centuries ago). The “chill out” approach is probably the best for people trying to be perfect parents.

Erin Riseing, naturopathic doctor. Learn more about Erin’s work at Cantadora Naturopathic Healthcare Centre (

What kinds of supplements do you recommend your patients give their children?

I use an individual approach based on an assessment of the child’s dietary intake, lifestyle factors, and health history to determine which supplements might be necessary.  In general supplementation will depend on your child’s diet and any signs or symptoms they might be exhibiting.  Some kids gravitate towards all-things-carbohydrate (including my own), and so you may want to incorporate a protein-rich smoothie (with yogurt, protein powder or nut/seed butter) in their daily routine.  I think almost all children should take vitamin D3 (400IU-800IU), especially in the winter months, and with limited outdoor activity and sun exposure.  Consider getting the child’s vitamin D level checked before supplementation as vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin that gets stored in the body if in excess, and therefore has the potential to become toxic (although it is rare in this hemisphere).  Probiotics are important for maintaining a healthy digestive tract, and should be considered if your child has ever been on antibiotics.   Essential fatty acids (flax oil or wild fish oil) is another supplement I commonly recommend for children, important for brain function and therefore language and learning skills.

Do you suggest a basic, multi vitamin approach or do you prescribe certain supplements for specific issues?

I suggest a whole foods diet approach, rich in dark, leafy greens, healthy fats, protein and whole grains.  I’m not a fan of multi vitamins because the manufacturers are cramming too many things into each capsule, with each being far from any optimal or therapeutic doses.  Instead I would recommend a “greens” product, which are rich in vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants.  They are great for kids because they are available in powdered forms and are usually flavoured which you can put into juice or a smoothie.  That is routine maintenance.  If the child is exhibiting signs or symptoms of illness (eczema, asthma, allergies, hyperactivity, ear infections) then I would prescribe specific supplements therapeutically.  An individual approach works best for diet and supplementation.

What do you give your daughter?

Bijou gets a vitamin D drop in her sippy cup with juice in the morning with breakfast, and enjoys an almond milk “baba” in the evening before bed – I add some soy protein and a dash of powdered probiotic.  I often drizzle raw olive oil or a bit of flax oil on her food.  I’m experimenting with hiding vegetables in her carbohydrates, but she’s on to me and usually picks them out.

Kirsten Smith,naturopathic doctor. Learn more about Kirsten’s work at

What are the benefits of supplements for kids?

For general health maintenance and prevention, certain basics can be extremely important because many children are picky eaters and in fact, are not getting the full spectrum of nutrients they require for optimal health and normal growth and development. In addition, the nutritional quality of our food has decreased with current agricultural practices, due to the extent of the use of GMOs, pesticides, herbicides, hormones and antibiotics. There is a lot of long-standing evidence showing that optimal nutrition is crucial for immune system development, and sometimes it’s hard to get what’s necessary into a kid (that’s why this blog is fantastic!).

What kinds of supplements do you recommend for the average kid?

Multivitamin, dha, vitamin d? Any or all? Others? Why? For children without any conditions over the age of 3, I recommend a high quality children’s multivitamin, a DHA dominant fish oil (only until age 5), and a probiotic that is age-specific (check on the bottle). For pediatrics patients less than 3 years of age I may recommend a liquid multivitamin, fish oil, but this is situation specific. I always prescribe specific probiotics at different ages because of the important role they play in digestion and immune function. For specific information about any of these supplements and how they may be appropriate for your child, I recommend you see your naturopathic doctor.

What about during flu season to boost the immune system?

From fall to spring I recommend vitamin D as this plays a large role in the immune systems, as does an age-appropriate probiotic as previously mentioned. In clinical practice, NDs also use botanical medicine which powerfully stimulates or modulates the immune system.

What kinds of conditions are supplements helpful towards?

Any condition may be treated with vitamins, minerals or herbs, the key is seeing someone who has appropriate medical training. Naturopathic doctors are the only primary care providers who have expertise in reactions between drugs, vitamins and minerals, and herbs. There are also many scenarios where taking things out (ie. foods) is actually more important than adding things in (ie. supplments or medicines of any kind). Usually a physical exam, a thorough medical history, family medical history and possibly some lab work (if indicated) gives me the information I need to know how to move forward.

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