Posts Tagged ‘supplements’

Is baby getting enough vitamin D? Are you?

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

We have long said, and still do, that breastmilk is best for infants. It is full of important minerals and nutrients to help your little one grow. Unfortunately, however, it doesn’t contain enough vitamin D to meet the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines.

Vitamin D is needed to absorb calcium and phosphorus. Breastfed babies need an additional 400 IU of vitamin D each day until they’re weaned to fortified formula and can drink at least one liter (about 4 ¼ cups) every day. Starting at age 1, babies drinking plenty of milk fortified with vitamin D may no longer need a vitamin D supplement.

As your children grow and start eating solids, include foods that are rich in vitamin D, like fatty fish, eggs, and milk. But be aware that older children and even adults have a hard time getting the recommended levels of the vitamin through food alone.  Check with your child’s doc to see if she should take a supplement with 400 IU to 600 IU. That amount is often included in chewable multivitamins which most kids like taking. Children with some chronic diseases such as cystic fibrosis may be at increased risk for vitamin D deficiency and may need an even higher dose in a supplement.

You may have heard that the body makes its own vitamin D when exposed to ultraviolet B (UBV) rays from the sun. While true, sun exposure can be hazardous to baby’s skin and the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that children under the age of 6 months avoid sun exposure. All other children and adults need to slather on the sunscreen throughout the day which can block the production of vitamin D. Pregnant women have particularly sensitive skin and should pay attention to sunscreen.

Important note: Be sure not to give too much vitamin D to babies. More of a good thing often is not good. High doses can cause a host of symptoms including nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, excessive thirst, muscle aches, or more serious symptoms. Some researchers are beginning to suggest that adults should take far more vitamin D than the 600 IU daily guideline. But too much may be dangerous. Very high doses of vitamin D can raise your blood calcium level, causing damage to blood vessels, heart, and kidneys. The Institute of Medicine sets the upper tolerable limit at 4,000 IU of vitamin D per day. Check with your health care provider for the right amount for you.

And what about additional vitamin D from the sun? Fortunately, you can’t get too much vitamin D from the sun because your body simply stops making more. But don’t forget that sun exposure without plenty of sunscreen can raise your risk of skin cancer. So, apply the sunscreen and take whatever supplement your provider recommends.

Vitamins – good or bad?

Friday, October 14th, 2011

pillsYou may have read or heard on the news lately that a couple of recent studies are showing concerns about the health benefits of taking vitamins and supplements. While some vitamins may be questionable, folic acid is very important for all women of childbearing age. It helps to protect developing babies from certain birth defects. So keep taking it.

According to a couple of these new studies, vitamins may not be as beneficial as previously thought. The research suggests that in some instances some vitamins may be harmful as we get older. One study of older women suggests that taking vitamin supplements, including folic acid, may slightly increase a woman’s risk of death after the age of 62. Another study of men states that taking vitamin E supplements may significantly increase the risk of prostate cancer.    HOWEVER, these are single studies and much more research needs to be done before we know how accurate these results may be.

Here is what we do know now. Research has repeatedly demonstrated that all women of childbearing age should take 400 micrograms of folic acid before getting pregnant to help prevent neural tube defects (serious birth defects of the brain and spine). This is especially important since about half of all pregnancies are unplanned. During pregnancy, women should get at least 600 micrograms of folic acid.

If you have any questions about taking vitamins, talk with your health care provider.

Vitamin A – How much should I take?

Tuesday, December 8th, 2009

vitamins-26377178_thm1We talk about the importance of taking folic acid before and during pregnancy, but there are other vitamins to consider, too. Some are good, some in high doses aren’t so great during pregnancy.  While vitamin A is needed for normal fetal growth and development, taking too much vitamin A during pregnancy can cause birth defects. Start keeping an eye on your vitamin A consumption before pregnancy. Watch what you eat as well as the vitamins you take.

The body is able to make its own vitamin A, when needed, from substances such as beta carotene, which is found in yellow and green vegetables. This raw material for the vitamin is considered completely safe and healthy during pregnancy. However, much of the vitamin A we consume is the preformed vitamin (retinol) which, in excessive amounts, may cause birth defects. Preformed vitamin A is found in many vitamin supplements and some foods, including meats, eggs, dairy products and fortified breakfast cereals.

Liver is the only food that provides very high amounts of vitamin A. The amount of vitamin A found in liver varies. For example, a 3-ounce serving of beef liver may contain 27,000 IU and chicken liver, 12,000 IU. A pregnant woman who eats liver regularly may consume enough vitamin A to pose a risk to her baby.  Though it is not proven that eating liver causes birth defects, the safest approach is for pregnant women to minimize their consumption of liver.

A pregnant woman also should be sure that her multivitamin or prenatal supplement contains no more than 5,000 IU (international units) of preformed vitamin A (some prenatal vitamins contain no preformed vitamin A, substituting beta-carotene or omitting vitamin A entirely), and she should not take any vitamin A supplements beyond that amount.

Before taking any supplement, talk with your health care provider about whether you personally need it and, if so, how much you should take.  And when it comes to vitamin A, be sure to discuss your diet, too.

Alternative medicine and children

Monday, December 1st, 2008

Acupuncture, herbal supplements, massage, yoga, hypnosis and more . . . The list of alternative therapies is long! Which ones are OK for children? The American Academy of Pediatrics just issued a new report on this topic.

This is a complicated area. Some alternative treatments can help. Example: Studies have found that acupuncture may help relieve certain kinds of headaches. But other types of alternative medicine can be harmful. Example: The weight loss drug fen-phen has been linked to serious heart problems.

But for many alternative therapies (if not most), we simply don’t know whether they hurt, help or do nothing. Research has been very limited. And many of these treatments can be costly.

If you’re using or thinking about using an alternative treatment for your child, check with a doctor or nurse first. If you’re pregnant, do the same (see Drugs, Herbs & Dietary Supplements for more info). Together, you can talk about the pro’s and con’s of alternative medicine and decide what’s best.

A word of caution about herbal supplements: Again, we don’t have a lot of research about many of them. The March of Dimes does not support the use of herbal or dietary supplements by women who can become pregnant, by pregnant women, or by children, without approval by a health care provider. While some supplements and herbal ingredients have been tested extensively, many have not been shown to be safe or effective.

For more on this topic, check out the Web site of the National Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine. And what do you think about alternative medicine?