It’s nearly that time of year again—when kids head back to the classroom. How can you ensure that children get a smart start? Here are experts’ top supplement picks to boost brain power, improve immunity and soothe stress.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). The brain’s nerve-cell membranes are made of fat. Ingesting a healthy fat—DHA—can help make these membranes lithe and limber enough to successfully fire off neurotransmitters and keep kids’ wits about them. “Attention, focus, processing efficiency, memory—all those are dependent on cells working effectively, and DHA will help,” says Randall Neustaedter, a doctor of Oriental medicine and author of The Holistic Baby Guide (New Harbinger, 2010).
In addition to brain-boosting DHA, the EPA in fish and other oils also offers a health bonus. Anti-inflammatory EPA can help allergies and inflammation from colds and other viral things kids get.
Phosphatydilserine. PS is a fat that facilitates communication among brain cells. “It’s a natural substance your brain makes,” says Neustaedter. Although PS has many years of research supporting its ability to enhance memory in older adults, preliminary evidence shows the fat may also improve attention, concentration, learning, behavior and school performance in children.
Vitamin D. A top immune-supplement choice for most every child is vitamin D. Vitamin D is crucial for triggering the immune system to react and fight off infections.
In a perfect world, children would produce adequate amounts of vitamin D when they expose their skin to the sun. But most kids live far from the equator and use sunscreen, so they have fewer opportunities to catch rays. Neustaedter recommends school-aged children supplement with 2,000 IU of vitamin D3 a day. Unlike D2, D3 is natural and nontoxic, Neustaedter says.
Probiotics. These “friendly” bacteria help reestablish beneficial intestinal flora, which not only help digestion but boost immunity. “Eighty percent of the immune system is produced in the small intestine,” says Neustaedter. “Having a healthy small intestine will lead to a healthy immune system. Probiotics will go a long way to doing that.” Recent studies show that probiotic supplements may reduce the incidence of fevers, coughs, runny noses and other infections in young children.
Elderberry. “If kids get colds frequently, taking elderberry can be helpful,” says Neustaedter. “It’s a good antiviral and immune-system stimulant.” Elderberry’s high antioxidant activity may be responsible for its immune-boosting potential. A few small studies have shown that black elderberry extract may shorten the duration of flu.
Magnesium. If kids have a hard time turning their minds off and going to sleep, calcium and magnesium will help. As a calming mineral, magnesium trumps calcium, but kids tend to need more calcium for their bones, so the two nutrients are usually given together.
Lemon balm (Melissa officinalis). To soothe anxiety, try lemon balm, which is very safe and gentle but effective. Researchers have found that lemon balm, in combination with other herbs—for example, valerian—may ease restlessness, anxiety and sleep disorders. Kids can drink 1 to 2 cups of freshly brewed tea daily. Or a tastier and more convenient option: glycerites, which are tinctures that use glycerin to extract the constituents from an herb rather than alcohol.
Back to School!
1 teaspoon Ground Turmeric Root
2 3/4 cups water, divided
4 tablespoons honey, divided
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 cup hulled, sliced strawberries
For the tumeric lemonade
In a small pot, combine 2 cups water and 2 tablespoons honey. Bring to a boil, stirring to dissolve honey. Pour mixture into a heatproof jar, add lemon juice and turmeric and stir to combine. Refrigerate until cooled.
For the strawberries
In a small sauce pot over medium-low heat, combine strawberries, 2 tablespoons honey and 1/4 cup water. Bring to a low simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, breaking up strawberries with a wooden spoon. In a food processor, add strawberry mixture and puree until smooth. Place strawberry mixture in the refrigerator until cooled.
Fill two glasses with ice. Add remaining 1/2 cup water to strawberry mixture and stir to combine. Pour strawberry puree into bottom of each glass. Pour turmeric lemonade gently on top and do not stir, so the two colors stay somewhat unmixed. Garnish with fresh strawberry slices, mint and/or basil leaves.