Raising Strong Resilient Children


By: Stephanie Bureau, N.D. 

Congratulations! You’re having a new baby. What an awesome privilege!  Now, buckle up for the ride of a lifetime!  

Make no mistake – while raising children is without a doubt, one of the most beautiful and rewarding experiences in life, it also happens to be one of the most demanding, and at times confusing, frustrating, responsibilities any of us will ever have.  

My name is Stephanie Bureau – I am a naturopath and have been in practise since 2004. I also happen to be the proud mother of three thriving adolescents / young adults. Join me as I explore all of the essentials involved in raising healthy, happy, resilient children.     

Laying a Healthy Foundation  

Prenatal development and the early years of a child’s life are critically important to their overall health and wellbeing throughout life. In fact, research has confirmed that the early years of a child’s life are particularly important for brain development, especially for learning and memory, emotional regulation, and cognitive development in general.1 In fact, both positive and negative experiences shape a child’s development and can have lifelong consequences on a child’s brain. 23 

Nutrition, adequate sleep and regular activity are also part of the list of essentials for healthy, thriving children. That’s why it’s important to help your child learn what a healthy lifestyle looks like early on and to show them how to prioritize, in order to set the stage for healthy habits throughout their lives. 

Let’s look at the basics: 

Sleep 

Sleep is one of the primary activities of the brain during early development and plays an integral role in healthy cognitive and psychosocial development in early life.4 That’s why it’s imperative to help your child develop a healthy sleep pattern in early childhood, by establishing a regular bedtime routine, a sleep-conducive environment, and favorable sleep onset associations.5, 6 

Physical Activity  

Physical activity is also crucial to a child’s physical, mental and emotional development. Through play, children develop their fine motor skills and cognitive skills such as problem solving. Physical activity also strengthens their bodies and helps develop their verbal and social skills.7 Further, physical activity helps build a healthy bone mass and density, which reduces the risk of bone-related diseases later in life.8 Regular play time also has a positive impact on a child’s cardiovascular and mental health, as well as helps with weight management across the lifespan.    

Nutrition 

Last but certainly not least, good nutrition is the cornerstone of your child’s health. In fact, throughout childhood it’s especially important that children get the right amount of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients to ensure proper growth and development. Having a fussy eater can make this particularly challenging for parents. A child that refuses all but sugary foods, that won’t eat fruits and vegetables (so, not eating the rainbow), who is not consuming enough protein, and those with food sensitivities can all impact overall nutritional profile. 

Supplementation – the Missing Piece of the Puzzle 

While in a perfect world, our soil would be rich in nutrients and in turn, so would our food, the fact of the matter is that the nutritional content of food has steadily been decreasing for years. Add to this the fact that many of us are stretched very thin and living hectic, stressful lives, so have little time to prep fresh, homemade meals. Cue fast-food, pre-packaged foods and frozen dinners. Definitely not a recipe for healthy, thriving children – or adults for that matter (never underestimate the importance of setting a good example)! Supplementation can be extremely helpful and may even be necessary in certain instances, to ensure children meet their daily dietary requirements for certain key nutrients. 

Key Nutritional Supplements to Solidify your Child’s Healthy Foundation 

Multivitamin 

Unfortunately, many people today do not take the time to cook fresh meals, and processed foods and ‘fast food’ lack optimal nutrition, so it should come as no surprise that most children are not receiving all of the required nutrients from their diet. In fact, Health Canada tells us that girls 9-13 years-old currently have inadequate intakes of vitamin A, vitamin D, magnesium, zinc, phosphorus and calcium; while girls aged 14-18 years-old have inadequate intakes of vitamins A, D, B12, folate, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorus and calcium. Although boys seem to be faring better, they also do not meet the average requirements for vitamins A, D, calcium and magnesium.7 A multi-vitamin / mineral formula can thus serve as a solid insurance policy against nutrient deficiencies caused by poor dietary habits.8 

Vitamin D 

Vitamin D is another essential nutrient required for the optimal growth and development of children. Unfortunately, Statistics Canada tells us that many Canadians across age groups are not receiving the RDA of Vitamin D.9 In fact, according to the Canadian Journal of Public Health “many children do not meet the estimated average requirements (EAR) for vitamin D from dietary sources and milk consumption… Given trends towards a more sedentary lifestyle and limited sun exposure, we recommend prioritizing public health efforts to support dietary vitamin D intake…”10 Just as worrying, while breast milk is the best source of nutrients for a baby’s healthy development, it often contains only small amounts of Vitamin D. 11 

As such, a daily Vitamin D supplement would go a long way to supporting your child’s optimal growth and development, bone health and immune function. 

Vitamin C  

A potent antioxidant, Vitamin C is another nutrient that is essential for a child’s immune health because it supports various functions of both the innate (the immunity you’re born with) and adaptive immune system (immunity learned through exposure to an invader).12 Unfortunately, low levels of Vitamin C are common across age groups. The reasons for this are varied and include a low intake couple with limited body stores. Adding to the problem is the fact that the body’s needs increase due to pollution, fighting infections, and diseases with oxidative and inflammatory components.13 Unfortunately, it’s hard to tell if your child may be deficient in Vitamin C as the early signs are unremarkable (fatigue, malaise, depression) and may simply manifest as a reduced desire to be physically active.14 Therefore, supplementing daily with a quality Vitamin C will help ensure your child’s optimal immune function. 

Probiotics 

Probiotics are good bacteria that live in our digestive tract. Children receive an important quantity of these beneficial bacteria during vaginal childbirth and through breastmilk15 

Research into probiotics has shown that depending on the strain, these good bacteria can offer a variety of benefits to health such as helping to support the immune system, fighting off bad bacteria and viruses, supporting healthy behaviour and cognition, providing B vitamins, and helping the body digest carbohydrates.16171819   

Children and adults alike should be taking a quality probiotic supplement because studies have shown that “the quantities of probiotic contained in most foods are currently too low to provide the benefits shown in clinical trials… (people would need to eat up to) twenty-five servings of these products each day” to reap health benefits.20 

Omegas  

Essential Fatty Acids (EFAs) are a type of fat required by the body to establish and maintain overall well-being. They are called ‘essential’ because the human body is unable to synthesize them – they need to be acquired daily through diet. Omega-3s have been shown to help support cognitive health, brain function, cardiovascular health, healthy mood balance and the healthy development of brain, eyes and nerves in children up to 12 years of age.21 As the typical adult Canadian diet is often deficient in Omega-3 rich foods, it’s estimated that 97% of the population should be taking supplemental omega-3.22 Fortunately, Omegas are today available in a variety of fun formats with kid-friendly tastes (chewables, gummies & yummy liquid flavours!) 

As we can see, there are a variety of factors involved in raising strong, healthy, resilient children. Laying a solid foundation with good nutrition that supplies ample quantities of all of the essential nutrients, regular physical activity and a healthy sleep pattern are all essential for a child to thrive. Completing an overall healthy lifestyle hygiene with key nutritional supplements that support a child’s optimal growth and development will help parents ensure their babies grow up happy, healthy, resilient and strong!  

References 

  1. Gilmore JH, Knickmeyer RC, Gao W. Imaging structural and functional brain development in early childhood. Nat Rev Neurosci. 2018 Feb;19(3):123–37. 
  1. Shonkoff JP, Garner AS, Siegel BS, et al.; Committee on Psychosocial Aspects of Child and Family Health; Committee on Early Childhood, Adoption, and Dependent Care; Section on Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. The lifelong effects of early childhood adversity and toxic stress. Pediatrics 2012;129: e232–46.  
  1. Black MM, Walker SP, Fernald LCH, et al.; Lancet Early Childhood Development Series Steering Committee. Early childhood development coming of age: science through the life course. Lancet 2017; 389:77–90. 
  1. Chaput JP, Gray CE, Poitras VJ, Carson V, Gruber R, Birken CS, et al. Systematic review of the relationships between sleep duration and health indicators in the early years (0-4 years). BMC Public Health. 2017 Nov;17(S5 Suppl 5):855. 
  1. Bathory E, Tomopoulos S. Sleep regulation, physiology and development, sleep duration and patterns, and sleep hygiene in infants, toddlers, and preschool-age children. Curr Probl Pediatr Adolesc Health Care. 2017 Feb;47(2):29–42. 
  1. Angela D. Staples, John E. Bates, and Isaac T. Petersen. Chapter IX. Bedtime Routines in Toddlerhood: Prevalence, Consistency, and Associations with Nighttime Sleep. Monogr Soc Res Child Dev. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2016 Apr 25. Published in final edited form as: Monogr Soc Res Child Dev. 2015 Mar; 80(1): 141–159. doi: 10.1111/mono.12149 
  1. https://www.canada.ca/en/health-canada/services/food-nutrition/healthy-eating/dietary-reference-intakes/tables.html 
  1. Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Nutrition Insurance Policy: A Daily Multivitamin. The Nutrition Source. Accessed Jan 23, 2018 at: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/nutritionsource/multivitamin/ 
  1. Janz T Pearson C Vitamin D blood levels of Canadians. Statistics Canada Catalogue no. 82624-x. Accessed Jan 22nd, 2019 at: https://www150.statcan.gc.ca/n1/pub/82-624-x/2013001/article/11727-eng.htm 
  1. Colapinto CK, et al. Obesity, lifestyle and socio-economic determinants of vitamin D intake: A population-based study of Canadian children. Can J Public Health. (2014).105(6):e418-24. 
  1. The Canadian Paediatric Society. Vitamin D supplementation: Recommendations for Canadian mothers and infants. Accessed Aug 19, 2019 at: https://www.cps.ca/en/documents/position/vitamin-d 
  1. Carr AC, Maggin S. (2017). Vitamin C and Immune Function. Nutrients. Nov 3;9(11). Pii:E12 
  1. Johnston CS, Barkyoumb GM, Schumacher SS. (2014). Vitamin C supplementation slightly improves physical activity levels and reduces cold incidence in men with marginal vitamin C status: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. Jul 9;6(7):2572-83. 
  1. Johnston CS, Barkyoumb GM, Schumacher SS. (2014). Vitamin C supplementation slightly improves physical activity levels and reduces cold incidence in men with marginal vitamin C status: a randomized controlled trial. Nutrients. Jul 9;6(7):2572-83. 
  1. Liu Y et al. (2018). Probiotics in Autoimmune and Inflammatory Disorders. Nutrients.  Oct;10(10):1537. 
  1. Ren DY et al. (2013). Lactobacilli Reduce Chemokine IL-8 Production in Response to TNF-α and Salmonella Challenge of Caco-2 Cells Biomed Res Int. : 925219. 
  1. The Use of Probiotic Therapy to Modulate the Gut Microbiota and Dendritic Cell Responses in Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Med Sci (Basel). Feb 22;7(2). Pii:E33 
  1. Stilling RM Dinan TG Cryan JF (2014). Microbial genes, brain & behaviour – epigenetic regulation of the gut-brain axis. Genes, Brains and Behav. Jan;13(1):69-86.  
  1. Arreola SL et al. (2014). Two β-Galactosidases from the Human Isolate Bifidobacterium breve DSM 20213: Molecular Cloning and Expression, Biochemical Characterization and Synthesis of Galacto-Oligosaccharides. PLoS. 9(8): e104056. 
  1. Scourboutakos MJ et al. (2017). Mismatch between Probiotic Benefits in Trials versus Food Products. Nutrients. 9(4), 400. 
  1. Health Canada. (2018). Fish Oil Monograph. Accessed Jan 24, 2019 at: http://webprod.hcsc.gc.ca/nhpidbdipsn/atReq.do?atid=fish.oil.huile.poisson&lang=eng
  1. Langlois K Ratnayake WMN. (2015). Omega-3 Index of Canadian adults. Statistics Canada Health Reports.: 82-003-x Vol. 26 No.11 p3-11. 

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