Nutrition Series Part 6: Vitamin Supplementation
We all have experience taking vitamins, whether they were the crunchy, sweet, Flintstones variety, or if you were subjected to a horse pill with your orange juice every morning, we’ve been there! Recently there’s been a lot of kick back with using ‘one size fits all’ multivitamins. Several studies revealed there’s far less of the nutrient in the pill than was reported on the container.
Everyone also says if you eat a well rounded diet, you’ll get all the micronutrients and vitamins you need and therefore have no need to take a pill. Now this is true, but honestly, are you eating a daily variety of papayas, gooseberries, zucchini, onions, parsnips, and so on? Or are you like me, and tend to stick to your favorites day in, day out?
Now think about the special needs kiddo who is likely already on a limited diet. Do you really think they’re getting all the nutrients they need from their potato chip and french fry diet? Of course not! You’d be fooling yourself to think otherwise.
We’ve already established that 4 A kids (autism, ADHD, allergies, asthma) have decreased immune function, decreased gut health, and usually some type of chronic bodily reaction to their environment. Specific vitamin supplements can act as medicine and activate the healing process for these kids. Their bodies are often so deficient in necessary areas, that a daily small dose, will never catch them up.
Megadose vitamins came into play in the 1960’s with B6, which was used to treat patients with psychological issues. It remains one of the top forms of megavitamin therapy today because such an improvement was noticed in those partaking! Improved behavior, decreased aggression, fewer tantrums, increased speech abilities, and improved social skills, to name a few, were observed.
These doses were certainly higher than the minimum daily requirement. To get 50 mg of B6, you’d have to eat 20 lbs of liver! (Sounds like something you would attempt at a BBQ restaurant to win a t-shirt.)
Before beginning any megadose or supplementation therapy, it’s imperative to have appropriate lab testing to determine what deficiencies your child has. This should be closely monitored by your dietician and your pediatrician. Don’t just go giving your child a bunch of pills because *I* said so. (Really… don’t). Each child will have unique blood results and they will steer your supplementation therapy. Also, it’s been discovered that many children who are on supplementation therapy are receiving too much of one and not enough of another. Let someone else determine these levels.
Another aspect to look at when considering high dose supplementation therapy is what are the goals? You may decide to start working with vitamins known to decrease poor behavior, or ones to improve cognition, or maybe the ones that make a change to gut health.
You’ll also have to be on the lookout for how your child reacts to the supplements. Introduce no more than 1 at a time. Megadoses can cause negative reactions in some kids, largely diarrhea, but just like with the food, don’t try too many new things at once!
There are lists and pages and websites, a dozen times over, dedicated to which supplements are the best. But of course, there’s no way to say ‘ALL ADHD KIDS NEED THIS’. Every body is unique. The following are a few of my favorites and are vitamins parents voted as having the most positive outcomes.
Melatonin is a natural sleep aid and is actually something we produce in our bodies. Taking a supplement of melatonin can be the kick your brain needs to actually quiet down and fall asleep. Since many of these children struggle with appropriate circadian rhythms (sleep cycles), parents often report massive improvements once they begin giving their children melatonin. In fact, 61% of parents reported that symptoms improved in their child.
Vitamin C is used to boost the immune system and improve gut health. It’s also known to help increase dopamine, an often unbalanced neurotransmitter (brain chemical) in those with ADHD and autism. Improved dopamine can help with mood and behavior. 41% of parents report symptoms improved once they introduced high levels of vitamin C to their child.
Zinc is great. It aids cognitive function, can assist with digestion and will actually improve appetite and interest in a wider range of foods. 85% of people with autism have low zinc. Explains the moodiness, the brain fog, the poor problem solving and even constipation! Improved symptoms were reported in 45% of children!
A few others that pop up frequently when researching asthma, allergies, ADHD, and autism supplementation are:
This goes back to the limited diet issue. How do you get these children to increase their levels? These kids are also not likely to swallow a pill or try a weird looking green smoothie concoction. Thankfully, many vitamins can now be found in a gummy type form or in a powder capsule. You can open the capsule over a preferred food and stir it in, with the child (hopefully) none the wiser.