Dear Caring Parent,

My Mom was ahead of her time when she had us taking supplements since, well, since I can remember.  As I’ve moved through the years, I’ve learned more and more about these little buggers called vitamins. And minerals. As a health care professional and a Mom, I began to respect them.  By now I am just in awe about how our body’s intricate needs are matched with plants, nuts, and animals out there that can meet those needs. Food!

Food has many layers of importance; social, physical, political, economic, emotional.  Isn’t it glorious!  Right now I am focused on what teens and toddlers need; the busy vitamin Bs.  There are eight of these.  And the nine essential amino acids. Because both of these are amazing in how they provide things to support a toddler and teens’ mental, physical, and emotional well being!

These busy eight Bs are nourishing processes on a cellular level that affect muscle development, memory and attention abilities, sleep, mood and stress regulation, nervous system development, and hormones. You see, almost everything that is ragingly developing in toddlers and teens!

And the nine essential amino acids are these little itty bitty, powerful molecules that work deep in our system. They make up 75% of dry body weight, according to Dr. Gersten. They are called the building blocks of life; they make all neurotransmitters (greatly effecting whether things move smoothly or not as impulses hop from one nerve to another) and all hormones.  What are teens, in particular, made of but nerves and hormones!

Of the twenty amino acids that we humans use, nine are called essential (some say ten during childhood because growth needs are so great that our bodies don’t generate enough arginine without additional outside sources). Essential means we can only get them from foods, our body just doesn’t make them.  And the health of these building blocks within us is related to the busy B vitamins and how they help metabolize everything foody, including the absorption of amino acids.

So when we put the need for the busy Bs and essential nine together with the mood regulation challenges/learning of toddlers and teens, their massive brain and hormone development, and their picky picky food habits…how do you know your child is getting enough of these eight busy Bs and essential twelve?

Here is a little about the foods to just keep rotating through, followed by some of the things that can affect your child’s absorption even with the right foods going in.

I like to keep things simple, so thankfully many of the same foods support the supply of all the Busy Bs. Many veggies and fruits have a mixture of the   B vitamins in them.  It’s just overall healthy eating in the end- fruits, veggies of all colors, protein, and whole grains.

And some of these foods give us the essential amino acids; meat, poultry, eggs, fish, and milk. These completely provide for our amino acid needs  (you will find them being called complete proteins in this context), as well as some of the B vitamins.

Yes, I like this – keeps the grocery list simple.

Ah but, then there is the picky eater, the food allergic or sensitive child, the vegetarian and vegan, and the child with absorption issues (celiac, lactose intolerance, irritable bowel, and leaky gut).  What to do?

So the busy Bs are about well-rounded eating.  The essential amino is about protein. The Center for Disease Control puts out this handy chart on how much protein is needed each day, hence how are getting those amino acids to support your child’s physical needs, which in the end affect all the other things about their lives.

Recommended Dietary Allowance for Protein
Grams of protein
needed each day
Children ages 1 – 313
Children ages 4 – 819
Children ages 9 – 1334
Girls ages 14 – 1846
Boys ages 14 – 1852
Women ages 19 – 70+46
Men ages 19 – 70+56

Food labels will tell you how many ounces of the food = how many grams of protein.

If you have picky eaters, vegans or vegetarians, I recommend supplementation during toddler and teen years, because the needs are so enormous. Or click here for a great site that lists the 14 foods for protein needs of vegans and vegetarians – at Health.com.

If you suspect food allergies or sensitivties, get tested!  The allergist obviously will deal with food allergy testing. Food sensitivities, however, are a wildly debated subject in terms of diagnosis and treatment. Since I’ve had personal experience with this as a Mom, I lean on the side that food sensitivities are very real. An allergist told me that if one eats enough of something you are sensitive to, it starts to act like an allergy.  No fun.  It’s a whole separate article but I don’t want to leave you hanging, so if you aren’t finding food allergies or any of the other mal-absorption diagnoses, look for food sensitivities, says this Mom who has been up and down the channels of medicine with this issue.  For a good introductory article click here.

Food allergies and sensitivities can leave our toddlers and teens depleted in this most important support requirement for those years; the busy Bs and essential aminos. So supplementation will no doubt be needed. Your health practitioner will guide you with that.

I don’t want you to lose, in all the information, the main point here; our toddlers and teens have very specific, amped up needs that are met through food. Just plain old good food. Once that food moves through the gazillion processes going on during digestion, if all is going well, mood and stress regulation, hormonal balance, memory, ability to pay attention, and general energy are positively affected. When they aren’t getting enough, or there is a digestive problem, these things are negatively affected.

Eat well. Digest well. Or supplement.

Take care now, Natasha

p.s. – So do you get off on the interconnection of our needs and the plants and animals out there that meet these needs?  I’m feeling, on a whole new level, how grateful I am to these growing and living things that supply me with what my microscopic needs are!! We DO need to honor them. Yes?