The new school year is always equally exciting and nerve wracking with the prospect of new beginnings. Many parents are worried about the long autumn term ahead and are keen to keep their children’s immune systems and mental health strong and robust. Whether your little one is starting at nursery or school or is simply starting the new school year nutrition can play a huge role to prevent them getting overtired, stressed or run down.
Here are the top twenty burning questions that parents have asked me recently on my Instagram and NatureDoc.Shop Support, which I hope will help you to make some positive steps to help prime your kids’ immunity and brain cells for the long term ahead.
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- How do you know if you’re giving too many vitamins? Is that possible? For example, a multivitamin plus an immune support that have some crossover.
Most multinutrients are formulated to be taken every day to supplement an all-round varied diet and to reach the recommended daily amount (RDA) of nutrients. During times of illness and when recuperating most people can take more of these nutrients than the RDA. This is usually only for a few days but might be for a few weeks.
The Upper Tolerable Levels (UTL) of these nutrients are usually many times that of the RDA and are only meant for short term use. In most cases the nutrients in a multinutrient plus an additional immune support normally lie somewhere in between the RDA and the UTL and can be taken together until the person is feeling better.
- Do you recommend elderberry every day or just when they are showing early signs of possible illness?
Elderberry seems to be most useful if taken at first sign of a viral infection. However, some parents do give it daily for several weeks or months in a row if they feel their child is run down or “catching everything going”.
- Is it Ok to give the same probiotic or do I need to change it up?
As a general rule of thumb our gut microbiomes thrive on diversity, and this is why it is important to eat a varied diet. Equally with probiotics it is good to change around the strains every few months. Occasionally people do benefit from taking the same probiotic daily for longer, but generally it is good to change things round.
- We all have covid – what can I do right now to help us all? And what should be doing once it’s passed? We are 2 adults, a 14-month old, 6-year old and a 8-year old…it’s grim!
Eat a nourishing diet with a huge variety of fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and pulses. Ensure you are all taking age-appropriate levels of vitamin D, Vitamin C, zinc and quercetin until you are all feeling better and strong again.
Babies, Toddlers & Nursery
- Any advice for building immunity for breastfed 5/6 month old babies? Siblings will be going back to school and bringing back all kinds of bugs and I want to make sure she is protected.
Babies under 6 months can take Vitamin D and a probiotic. Elderberry can also be given from 3 months at first sign of a viral infection. From 6 months you can swap the Vitamin D for a multivitamin which also contains vitamin A and C as well as other key vitamins for immunity. Here are my top Baba Hub suggestions.
- My 2 year child is going to nursery for the first time and having not had the usual exposure to germs and bugs, due to lockdown, what can I give him to make sure he is as robust as possible?
Ensure each meal is colourful with lots of brightly coloured fruits and veggies. I’d give an all-round toddler multivitamin and mineral with a probiotic as well as an extra vitamin D. And then also have elderberry syrup to hand to give at first sign of a sniffle.
- What probiotic would you recommend for a 3 year old just getting over norovirus?
If the stool is still loose then I recommend giving ½-1 capsule of Saccharomyces Boulardii twice a day for at least 6 weeks. Otherwise give a general probiotic supplement if the bowel has normalised.
- Which zinc supplements would you recommend for a 19-month old? Should it be mixed with other vitamins or is it best on its own?
The rule of thumb is that a child needs approximately 1-2mg zinc per day year of life, so a nearly two year old would need around 2mg per day which is usually the amount in a good multinutrient.
School Age Kids
- I’ve read a lot about the benefits of vitamin D in helping stay healthy through this pandemic. What levels are suitable for a toddler and a 6-year old? And should I be taking it too?!
The RDA (ie. minimum) for Vitamin D for young children is 400iu (10ug) per day. However, when you are unwell or you know through a blood test they a person deficient a toddler can take up to 1,500iu (37.5ug) per day and a six year old can take up to 2,500iu (62.5ug) per day for short periods of time. Adults can take up to 4,000iu (100ug).
- My 5-year old is allergic to fish, is there an omega supplement he can take that is vegetarian?
I haven’t found a good children’s vegan/fish-free omega 3 fish oil for this age group, so you have two options. You can either give him the Nordic Naturals Vegetarian DHA and give him the dose appropriate to his weight. Or you can cut open a Cytoplan Vegan DHA adult caplet and mix the contents into some yoghurt or fruit puree or smoothie.
- My daughter is a fussy eater and can be funny about texture, I’m worried that when she starts school she’ll be even more fussy! Is there anything we can give her to support her and any healthy but tasty snack ideas for her school bag?
Focus in on giving her a supercharged nutritious breakfast and substantial after-school snack just in case she does not eat the school lunch. Pop a homemade muffin or flapjack in her school bag or stock up on Doves Farm Oat Bars or Nairns Snackers. Give her a good all-round multivitamin with probiotic if you feel she needs a boost.
- What is the best multivitamin on the market that I can give my son who is 7 and prone to the sniffles?
Our most popular is the Animal Parade Chewable Multi’s which are tasty and use biodynamically farmed fruit and vegetables as well as probiotic strains in their formulations.
- Is there a multivitamin that has enough vitamin D in it so that I don’t have to give it separately? If not what vitamin D supplement is best for school kids?
Most multivitamins contain the minimum RDA of Vitamin D and when kids are run down, or they have not been exposed to enough sun it is good to give them a top up and that’s why they are separate.
- I keep reading about gut health and how important it is for keeping the immune system healthy. Is it a good idea to give probiotics to my daughter before she goes back to school? And how long should we give it to her? She is 8 and generally pretty healthy.
If you feel she is a bit rundown, taken antibiotics or has a slightly out of sync gut then it is a good idea to give probiotics for 6 weeks. Only give in the longer term if your instinct is that she needs it. I’d try Proven Fit for School.
- What are the best shop-bought snacks to put in a lunchbox? I’m conscious of not buying anything too ultra-processed but don’t have time to always make things…also schools are nut free which makes it hard!
See our range at NatureDoc.Shop where I have hand picked my favourite nut free snacks suitable for lunch boxes.
- Are there any other zinc rich foods other than nuts and seeds that I can give my 4.5 year old son? He isn’t allergic to nuts, just doesn’t like them!
Zinc is in meat, liver, dairy, pulses and wholegrains. Use the nuts and seeds in your baking as they usually don’t spot them that way!
- I’m looking for a general immune support for school-aged children, is there anything you’d recommend?
I would give a good all-round multivitamin and mineral with probiotic such as Proven.
- My 4 year old really struggles with constipation and I’m worried that he’ll get upset about going to the loo at nursery in September. I there anything we can give him to help make ‘going’ easier?
Prunes, kiwi fruit and falx seeds are my go-to aid for a sluggish bowel so give these regularly. The probiotic strains in Optibac Kids Gummies were used in a study with kids with constipation type IBS and improvements were found in 8 weeks.
- My 11 year old daughter is becoming quite hormonal! What can we do to help balance her hormones and mood?!
My first port of call would be a good quality fish oil and then add flax seeds and cruciferous veggies (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, rocket and Brussel sprouts) to her diet.
- My teenage son has long covid and although it’s not as bad as I know it could be, I really want to get his energy levels up in time for school. What can I give him to help with energy levels, mental focus and general wellbeing?
I would start off with a good quality adult vitamin B complex plus a magnesium supplement which may well perk him up a little.