Dr. Whitney Casares is a Portland-based pediatrician who has spent years studying how to keep kids healthy.
She gives her own kids four supplements every day.
She gives them vitamin D, fluoride, probiotics, and melatonin.
As a mom of two young kids herself, Casares also knows how hard parents work to keep their children healthy, and how difficult it can be to navigate children's health recommendations.
For example, a walk down the supplement aisle in the drugstore can quickly become overwhelming —it can be hard to know which supplements could help keep your kids healthy. So Insider asked Casares what supplements she gives to her own children.
For most children, especially if they are getting a balanced diet, "they actually don't need any supplements at all," Casares said. But sometimes there are specific instances in which a child might benefit from supplements.
Here are the four supplements Casares gives her own children.
In higher latitudes, like Portland, Oregon where Casares lives, it can be difficult for both children and adults to get enough sunlight to meet daily vitamin D needs.
"Sometimes we won't get more than 15 minutes of direct sunlight for eight months of the year," Casares said.
To make sure her kids get enough vitamin D — which is essential in supporting healthy bone development in children — she gives them a vitamin D supplement.
"In the summertime, if parents want to skip the vitamin D and just get their kids outside of the sunshine — amazing!" Casares said. "But a lot of times parents will just continue with the vitamin D because that just gives them the consistency over time."
Depending on where you live, your children might also benefit from fluoride, Casares said. Fluoride is essential for the development of healthy teeth, and while some cities add fluoride to drinking water, others don't.
"In the Portland metro area, we don't have any fluoride in our water," Casares said. "So I recommend that if parents don't live in areas that have fluoride added to their water, that they do give their children a fluoride supplement."
The dose of fluoride your child needs is dependent on their age, Casares said, so she recommends parents discuss the dose and frequency with their child's pediatrician.
Additionally, Casares said she recommends that children brush their teeth with a toothpaste supplemented with fluoride. "Just a grain of rice-size two times a day is amazing."
If you're not sure whether or not your area's water already contains fluoride, you can check most states using this map.
If her children are prescribed an antibiotic for a bacterial infection, Casares will give them probiotics to boost healthy gut bacteria.
"If a child or an adult of any age receives an antibiotic for something like pneumonia or an ear infection," Casares said, "I want to make sure that we are introducing healthy bacteria at the same time that that antibiotic is trying to get rid of the bacteria that's not healthy for our body."
She recommends giving children who are one year old or older a probiotic that contains 20 billion colony forming units for the duration of the antibiotic regimen, and for one week afterwards.
"That also goes for if a child has a gastrointestinal disease like a diarrheal disease or vomiting," Casares said.
For kids who are taking antibiotics, she recommends probiotics that contain the strain Lactobacillus.
Melatonin for children is controversial, Casares said, because "we don't have a ton of studies that show the long term effects of melatonin on the sleep architecture of kids or on brain development."
Additionally, there's some concern about melatonin in children because some researchers wonder if it could delay puberty, though more research is needed.
However, a specialist recommended melatonin for each of her children individually to help them sleep. Her eldest child has autism, and her youngest has obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD). Both of these conditions can make it difficult for children to fall asleep.
While both of Casares' children take melatonin, she definitely does not recommend it for all children.
"I would be very careful when it comes to melatonin," Casares said. "Go to your pediatrician to see if the benefits of using melatonin outweigh the risks."
That goes for all supplements, she said. While some supplements can be beneficial for children, Casares said it's important to speak with your child's pediatrician first.
And just because something is "all-natural," doesn't mean it's good for your child.
"I always remind myself that poison oak is also natural, poison ivy's natural, and I wouldn't want to rub that all over my skin," she said.
Read the original article on Insider