Iron supplements for kids
What are the symptoms of anemia in a child?
Before you start googling ‘iron supplements for kids’ it’s important to understand how iron deficiencies affect kids, what the signs are, and how to find the best iron supplement for your little one.
Iron deficiency doesn’t just affect adults, children too, can be iron deficient or anemic. Iron allows red blood cells to deliver oxygen to the body. Iron plays a key role in brain and muscle function.1
A lack of iron in your child’s blood can lead to iron-deficiency anemia, which is a common nutritional deficiency in children.1
Because Iron is key for muscle and brain development, an iron deficient child could have behavioural and/or learning difficulties and problems.1
What are the symptoms of anemia in a child? Here are the symptoms you should be watching out for 1
- tiredness and weakness
- pale skin, especially around the hands, nails, and eyelids
- rapid heartbeat or a heart murmur
- low appetite
- dizziness or feeling light-headed
- Inability to concentrate or focus
- Possible behaviour problems that can’t be explained or linked to anything else
If one or more of these problems are affecting your little one, the next step would be to see your doctor or pediatrician for a blood test. Specifically, ask a healthcare practitioner to test for ferritin and hemoglobin and have your practitioner evaluate the results. The only way to know for sure if your child has an iron deficiency or anemia is to have them do a blood test.
BEFORE introducing an iron supplement in your child’s daily routine:
- Get your child’s blood tested first
- Wait for a health care practitioner to confirm they are deficient and need to take an iron supplement
Iron deficiency in toddlers
Signs in a toddler that might signal an iron deficiency include:2
- Prematurity and low birth weight
- Exclusive breastfeeding beyond six months (not introducing solids)
- High intake of cow’s milk in young children less than two years of age
- Low or no meat intake
- Vegetarian and vegan eating
- Poor diet in the second year of life
- Possible gastrointestinal diseases
- Lead poisoning
Iron deficiency in babies or toddlers could be present due to the mother not having adequate iron stores either before pregnancy or during pregnancy.2 This occurrence can be explained by understanding how babies get their iron. Newborn babies get the iron they need from the womb, so, if there isn’t iron that the mom can give to their baby, the baby simply doesn’t get any iron or enough iron. 2
That’s why we recommend taking an organic, all food iron supplement before, during and after pregnancy.
Babies aged 6 months to 1 year might develop an iron deficiency as well. They may have received a small amount in the womb, but their stores might be running low at this point. So, many healthcare practitioners will recommend iron-fortified foods, however, most of these foods are heavily refined and contain iron in it’s synthetically isolated form, which is hard for anyone’s body to digest, let alone a developing baby with a brand new digestive system. One study even found that fortified supplements not only don’t work but also cause more harm than good.3 One example of this is skim milk that is fortified with vitamins A and D. The milk has been refined and processed to remove the fat, but vitamins A and D are fat-soluble vitamins. So if you eat them when they’ve been isolated from their original fat source, likely your body won’t know how to absorb them.4
So what should one do in the case of knowing that your child needs more iron, but not wanting to give them refined ‘junk’ foods that have been fortified? Opt for whole food options!
Iron deficiency and behaviour problems
Studies suggest that iron-deficient children can experience behaviour challenges that their non-deficient peers do not suffer from.5,6 One study found that junior high students with iron deficiency had significantly test scores than those students who had health stores of iron.7
Because your body needs iron stores to effectively deliver oxygen throughout the body, it’s not surprising that a deficiency in this important nutrient can cause many health and behavioural problems.
Oxygen is one of the key elements we need to survive. Without oxygen, we wouldn’t survive past 3 minutes. It’s one of our key MACRO MACRO nutrients: Water, Air/Oxygen and Food.
Diet for anemic children
Instead of using fortified foods to combat your child’s iron deficiency, consider whole food sources
of iron. Food for an anemic child can include tempeh, leafy greens, sprouted beans, nuts and seeds, as they are all rich sources of iron.8 These foods can be steamed and then blended if your child is not eating solid foods yet.
If your child is eating these foods and is still showing symptoms of anemia or iron deficiency, they might need more iron than what whole foods on their own can offer.
The only problem with beating an iron deficiency using whole foods alone is these whole foods have natural inhibitors called anti-nutrients that prevent vitamins and minerals from being accessed by animals or humans.9 Antinutrients are meant to protect these nutrients so the nut/seed can use them to grow into a plant.
So, your child might not be getting enough iron from food alone. This is when you should check for the symptoms above, and if they’re presenting any of them, the next step should be taking them to a health care practitioner for a blood test, specifically to test ferritin and hemoglobin.
If your child is, in fact, iron deficient or anemic, consider a safe, organic, 100% all food iron supplement. Not to be confused with a synthetically isolated supplement.
Iron supplements for kids
Finding an iron supplement for kids can be tricky. There aren’t a lot of regulations in the health and wellness industry, including regulations around supplements, vitamins and minerals.10,11
The fact is, most supplements for kids and adults contain man-made, synthetically isolated nutrients that are hard for our bodies to digest and absorb. To make matters worse, these ‘natural’ vitamins and supplements are made using harmful chemicals and oftentimes contain ‘natural’ flavours and sweeteners which are just more chemicals.12,13 Then, they add in some cheap binders and fillers and slap an ‘all natural’ label on the bottle and sell it to you and your family.
Many of these ‘nutritional’ supplements are made by the very same pharmaceutical and nutraceutical companies that make medications and other pharmaceutical products.14,15 So, they’re not really focused on preventative health, as that won’t make them money in the long run!
Knowing this, you’ll want to follow our checklist for how you can find the safest and most effective supplements for your child and your family:
– Find a supplement that is processed without the use of any chemicals. You will likely have to contact the company directly and ask them to confirm all of the compounds that are used in the production of their supplements, including tablets or capsules. If they give you the names of any chemicals or anything that sounds like it might not be natural, this is not a good sign.
– Ask them if the nutrients are extracted from whole foods, or if they are in their whole food states. This is an important one! Many companies will say that they’re ‘plant-based’ or ‘whole food derived’. Because these phrases are not regulated by any governing body in Canada, anyone can basically make this claim. If the company says ‘We get our iron from leafy greens’ that’s not good enough. They have to be able to say ‘the only ingredients we use are whole foods, in their original state, we do not derive nutrients synthetically from food’. While they might sound similar, the first phrase is saying ‘we give your body the whole food in its original whole food state’ while the second statement is saying ‘we synthetically extract one single nutrient from a whole food and boost up the levels so we can put it into a pill, powder or tablet’.
Look very carefully at the ingredients. If you see chemical names like ferrous gluconate or something called S. cerevisiae this likely means the supplement contains synthetically isolated ingredients and does not actually contain organic, whole foods.16
Ferrous gluconate is a black dye used to colour olives. It contains 11% elemental iron which means it’s absorption ability is roughly 11%.17 When ingested is has the potential for the following side effects: nausea, epigastric pain, vomiting, constipation, diarrhea, black stools, loss of appetite.17,18,19,20
S. cerevisiae is the Latin name for a strain of yeast that is often boosted with synthetically isolated nutrients in very high amounts. The yeast itself does not contain rich amounts of any nutrient, so if you see ‘S. cerevisiae’ or ‘yeast’ on the nutrition facts table or supplement fact tables, it’s not a true whole food supplement. Companies simply ‘feed’ the synthetic vitamins to the yeast as it grows. So the nutrients are still synthetically isolated.21
Pediatric anemia guidelines
It’s always important to consult with a health care practitioner before introducing any new supplements or even solid foods to your child’s diet. There are specific guidelines that pediatric doctors and other practitioners will follow, however, make sure to ask them about an all food supplementation option to address your child’s iron deficiency.
Pro tip: Printing out the nutrition facts table of our PureFood Iron and showing to your practitioner is a great way to get approval from a pro, before giving it to your child. We would recommend doing this or bring it up on your phone to show them.
Want to learn more about iron-rich foods? Read our article The power of plant-based iron.
Think that you might have an iron deficiency? Read our article Why am I tired all the time? Iron deficiency could be the culprit.
1 – https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/ida.html
2 – https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ConditionsAndTreatments/iron-deficiency-children
3 – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0735109718345601
4 – https://nutritiouslife.com/eat-empowered/fortified-foods-actually-healthy/
5 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3311027/
7 – https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/002246697400800205?journalCode=seda
6 – https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022347676802508
8 – https://pubs.acs.org/doi/abs/10.1021/jf960391u
9 – http://passel.unl.edu/pages/informationmodule.php?idinformationmodule=1011018530&topicorder=11&maxto=12
12- Thiel R. The Truth About Vitamins In Supplements ANMA Monitor, 2003; 6(2)
14 – https://www.organicconsumers.org/news/vitamin-poisoning-are-we-destroying-our-health-hi-potency-synthetic-vitamins
15 – https://bigthink.com/21st-century-spirituality/24-billion-later-vitamins-and-supplements-appear-to-have-no-value
16 – https://northcoast.organic/beware-ascorbic-acid-synthetic-vitamin-c/
17 – https://www.glowm.com/resources/glowm/cd/pages/drugs/f010.html