For better or for worse, I’ve always turned down the Vitamin D drops that docs say infants should take from birth to six months.
I might be completely wrong and haven’t done research on it for quite a number of years – which is not a good practice, given how quickly things can change! – but I try to take lots of cod liver oil when I’m breastfeeding infants and call it good.
Honestly, part of the “decision” is pure laziness, because I truly can’t imagine adding drops that are going to be difficult to get baby to swallow and which stain clothing into our over-packed daily routine.
So vitamins and infants and I have a tedious relationship to say the least.
Do infants need more than just breastmilk? Do toddlers need more than their often picky palates grant them?
It’s very possible.
With our nation’s denatured, dying soil, the distance our food travels and the time it might sit in our refrigerators, we may not be getting the nutrients that used to be available to those who ate good, wholesome foods. And if that’s true, that humans, in general, could benefit from a little supplementation, then the question to ask is:
What’s the best vitamin or probiotic supplement for infants and toddlers?
If you’re picturing Fred Flintstone’s chewable vitamins from your childhood (or at least my childhood), you might be a little off the real food path.
Fred’s a little out of his time in our modern age, and his vitamins are too.
For starters, we’ve learned so much about Vitamin D in recent years, its importance, how it’s acquired, and that it’s a hormone, not even a vitamin.
This post is sponsored by WellFuture.
Well Future, Not Prehistoric Past
I actually wrote the beginning of this post before Gabe’s 2-month checkup and finished it afterward, and ironically, shortly after we came home from that check-up we got some Vitamin D drops for him.
They do not have extra ingredients, and especially don’t have artificial colors or sweetener of any kind, and I’ve figured out how to get one drop a day into him without too much problem. (Plus since it’s a hormone, you can “store it up” and take two drops if you miss a day. Glad I learned that lesson too.)
Our new family doctor, who is naturally minded (hooray!), strongly recommended them, and since my bloodwork was perfect but for low Vitamin D levels, it was pretty clear that what I’m doing isn’t working.
There will always be elements of health and our complex bodies that we do not yet understand, but using the information we have available, it’s up to us parents to make the best decisions we can for our kiddos.
How can we know vitamins or supplements we take (or especially give our kids) are actually doing good things and not the opposite? And we don’t want an expensive placebo either.
About WellBelly Probiotics
Since I’ve had WellBelly probiotics in our house, I’ve genuinely recommended it already to two people: a reader whose infant had an intense round of antibiotics and a friend in real life whose 5-year-old tried the green powder that the probiotic fairy shared with him (story in this post). The green powder in applesauce became such a power struggle in the mornings that it just wasn’t worth the potential benefit anymore, even though for a while the “super hero green” applesauce trick worked nicely.
WellBelly is not only specifically formulated for infants and children but is also an unassuming white powder. The scoop serving size completely disappears into applesauce or yogurt. I tested it on my kids by not telling them it was in there, and no one was any the wiser. Believe me, they’re quick to tell me when something is fishy! I dish a little more about that in this very important post on your microbiome and how it affects your health.
Q&A with WellFuture
A reader and I had some good discussion when I mentioned Well Future products. She had some specific concerns, and I sent those along with other reader queries and my own curiosities:
- Are there synthetic vitamins and minerals in Vaccishield? How bio-available are they? Why not more whole foods? The reader sent this link for some tip-of-the-iceberg foundation info and this for more.
- Why isn’t there any magnesium included when so many Americans are deficient in it? This from another reader who rather rudely queried: “
Do you realize that many (if not all) are born magnesium deficient? Do you realize that magnesium is essential to over 300 processes in the body? Do you realize that taking hormone D3 (yes its a hormone) will wipe out magnesium in the body making it impossible for the immune system to function properly?
- Strains of probiotics in WellBelly: “It seems that WellFuture does not have the particular strain of probiotic that is thought to be the most important which is Lactobacillus acidophilus DDS-1 (studies show that it colonizes well in the human gut).” (source)
- Testing – Do you have any independent tests of the products’ efficacy? (my question)
- Refrigeration – “The other thing to be wary of are brands that need to be refrigerated (as do WellFuture’s). This means they have not been stabilized, are extremely fragile and will be deteriorating over time.” Now I’ve (Katie) always told people the opposite, to be wary of any probiotic in particular that doesn’t need to be refrigerated because then it’s likely not “live” because live cultures should die off at room temp. Can’t wait to learn more on this one!
- Why vaccinate at all? It’s the question that must be asked, from readers who wouldn’t dream of it. But others are asking, “How could anyone not vaccinate?” and/or “Why do we need anything at all to prepare for a vaccine shot?”
The Naturopath Answers
I’m always impressed with the thoroughness with which Catherine, the creator of Vaccishield and WellBelly, answers my questions. Here are her quoted responses…
1. On Synthetic vs. Food-based vitamins and minerals
I really took my time finding the best forms of vitamins and minerals for our products.
I want to be clear that I think whole foods are the best source of nutrition, hands down. I’m a whole food advocate as the owner of a supplement company, as a naturopath and as a person.
I have three heads of cauliflower fermenting in the cupboard and my 13-month old’s fifth word was pickle because she loves our lacto-fermented pickles!
Interestingly enough, the whole food advocate the Weston A. Price Foundation recently endorsed VacciShield by sharing a post by Kelly the Kitchen Kop who was a guest contributor to the Healthy Home Economist piece about vaccination.
While advocating for whole food I recognize the need to supplement the diet for a variety of reasons. As far as vitamin/mineral supplements go, VacciShield is a high-quality supplement with only the most bio-available forms vitamins and minerals derived from quality, non-GMO food sources whenever possible.
The questions really are whole foods vs nutritional supplements and bio-available vitamins/minerals (the body recognizes, absorbs and utilizes this form) vs non-bioavailable vitamins/minerals, usually derived from industrial inorganic waste/by-products in forms that the body does not recognize, absorb or utilize.
The vitamin E in VacciShield is a mixed tocopherol blend containing alpha, beta, delta and gamma, sourced from non-GMO soy. All of the tocopherols are in their natural form that the body recognizes and uses- the D form. So for example, the alpha tocopherols are in the form of D-alpha tocopherols. There is 70-80% D-alpha tocopherols in the blend and the remaining 20-30% is a mix of the other three with forms. The 20-30% contains more D-gamma, then D-beta and the least amount of D-delta tocopherols. For the record, the reader wasn’t happy with these ratios, but I really don’t know enough about how much alpha vs. gamma we should have to even begin to comment.
Our vitamin D3 is sourced from lanolin. (the most bioavailable form)
80% of our vitamin C is sourced from non-GMO corn. The remaining 20% comes in the form of whole acerola fruit powder… It sounds like ascorbic acid, made from the corn, is not really Vitamin C and is synthetic when it comes down to it. A number of other sources confirmed this, but none were academic or peer-reviewed…more research needed!
Catherine responded to this concern – I love that she is staying involved with the post, and as you’ll see, her research depth goes much further and better than my limited knowledge. Here is her response:
I have read the two links and wanted to share my thoughts with you. First let’s look at the HHE’s article where she lists three research studies as reasons ascorbic acid is dangerous. The first study she references is about how vitamin C causes genotoxins that can cause cancer. The study was done in vitro (outside of the human body in a test tube) without any further studies to backup the in vitro claim. This article does a good job explaining why you can’t say vitamin C causes cancer. The researchers who did the study also warned that the take away is not that vitamin C causes cancer.
Her second link was to a study about antioxidants and heart health. This is one of Paul Offit’s favorite studies to refer to. It is a flawed study at best. It was done with vitamin C, plus beta carotene and the harmful form of vitamin E and in conjunction with cardiac meds that weren’t accounted for. This article does a great job explaining why someone on statins will have problems with vitamin E given the demand for COq10 that statins create.
Katie’s note: Interesting that HHE’s article does not link to the references at all so it’s harder for people to follow up on them…great that Catherine tracked down some of them for us!
Her last link was referring to a study about vitamin C and endurance performance in athletes. This study found that vitamin C antioxidant actions prevent the reactive oxygen species from signalling the mitochondria to adapt and have better endurance performance. This study does not show a danger of vitamin C. It shows how it is an effective antioxidant and those training in endurance sports should think twice before supplementing with vitamin C because it’s antioxidant properties block the ROS’s signals to the cells’ mitochondria to adapt to greater endurance.
So we have a study performed in vitro or a test tube that the researchers warned against concluding that vitamin C causes cancer and it hasn’t been reproduced in humans or at least nothing has been published about it being reproduced in humans. Then we have a study done with the harmful form vitamin E as well as vitamin C and beta carotene that showed adverse outcomes but there are many other studies that counter this flawed study’s results (they are referenced in articles above). We have another study that concludes that because vitamin C is such an effective antioxidant, endurance athletes should avoid it while their body require the oxidization needed for sustained endurance. None of these studies show that vitamin C is dangerous.
I’ll address the notion that ascorbic acid isn’t vitamin C next. Vitamin C was discovered in 1934 by Albert Szentgyorgi who later won the Nobel Prize for his discoveries. He first found vitamin C in adrenal cortices and then later in paprika. He named the vitamin ascorbic acid which means, “no scurvy.” Here’s an article about him and his work.
Vitamin C or ascorbic acid is a molecule, a certain configuration of atoms. There is no doubt in my mind that getting our vitamins from food is the best choice, but the vitamin C in food is ascorbic acid. When people say that ascorbic acid is synthesized from paprika it means that it underwent an extraction process to pull the ascorbic acid out. It does not mean that a scientist is melding chemicals to create a synthetic vitamin C. Here’s a position paper with over 30 references from the vitamin C council that does a great job explaining the ascorbic acid isn’t vitamin C issue.
Now the second link from Natural News. “Ascorbic acid was therefore invented as a synthetic replacement of the natural form of vitamin C which is destroyed by heat. Unfortunately, ascorbic acid simply cannot replace the real, natural vitamin complex. Add to that the bacteria-neutralizing behavior of ascorbic acid which destroys health-critical beneficial microbes, and you have a substance which we’d all be better off to avoid as health-minded individuals.”
Ascorbic acid was not invented, it was discovered in natural substances- animal tissue, paprika and fruit. The claim that ascorbic acid kills the beneficial flora in our gut is just not true. He seems to be basing that opinion on an anecdote about a man being unable to ferment apple juice containing ascorbic acid. While you can alter the pH in juice with enough acid to hinder bacterial growth, this in no way leads to a conclusion that ascorbic acid kills our gut flora.
Thank you, Catherine! I’ve learned now that just because a reference is an academic journal doesn’t mean that’s the be-all, end-all of research. Every question has something we need to look up, usually two or three layers deep. Phew! I’m tired just thinking about it.
Our inositol is also sourced from non-GMO corn.
Our selenium is the most bio-available form which the body recognizes and utilizes, L-selenomethionine. There has been concern over supplementing with selenium selenite as it is a non bio-available form, quite toxic and interferes with other vitamin/mineral absorption but VacciShield does NOT contain this form of selenium. (Here is a study about organic vs. inorganic selenium.)
Our choline is also the most bio-available form. I choose zinc gluconate because of its high bio-availability as well as its ease on the stomach because I am a HUGE advocate of gut health.
The second article from Organic Consumer by Ron Schmid did a good job explaining vitamin/mineral supplements.
The food vitamin category he describes refers to vitamin/mineral supplements that take the cheaper, non bio-available USP form of the vitamin/mineral and put it with bits of food, and call it food based. Or they feed these non bio-available USP forms of vits/minerals to yeast and crush the yeast into tablet forms and call it food based.
The only truly food based supplements are dried/powdered foods which naturally contain nutrients. To make VacciShield a truly food based supplement, it would be unrealistic for children and infants and honestly most adults to consume it due to the sheer volume of dried food powder you would have to take.
Note from Katie: It’s possible to consume dried food powder but you do have to be able to get a teaspoon or two into the body rather than the tiny, tiny scoop of disappearing white powder that is a dose of Vaccishield or WellBelly. It’s the difference between sneaking it into applesauce or a bottle unknown to the child and fighting over adding “the green powder” to their food…trust me.
70% of the ingredients in VacciShield are sourced from non-GMO food sources. The other three ingredients – selenium, choline and zinc – are synthetic due to the availability of sourcing, but they are all in the preferred form that is most bioavailable and utilized by the body.
The probiotics are in their own category. They are cultured on hypo-allergenic yeast so as to avoid dairy and gluten allergens.
2. On Magnesium and Vitamin D
First of all, it is true that magnesium is a cofactor of vitamin D3 metabolism, as are zinc, boron and vitamin K2.
It is true that magnesium supports 300 bodily processes but this can be said for a myriad of different nutrients. For example, Vitamin C supports virtually all the bodily processes.
Let’s look at the research so we can get to the bottom of this- In 1974 there were two cases of rickets in children, one two years old and the other five years old. They were treated with high dose injections totaling 6 million IUs of dihydrotachysterol, a synthetic vitamin D that does not require renal hydrolation like vitamin D2 or D3, and they did not respond to treatment (remineralization of the bones) until magnesium was added.
In 1976 there were four cases of severe magnesium deficiency caused by GI disease and chronic alcoholism whose calcium levels would not increase until magnesium was given, raising the possibility of vitamin D resistance being caused by severe magnesium deficiency.
Lastly, in 2013 the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey found that magnesium intake alone or in its interaction with vitamin D3 may contribute to vitamin D status and the associations between vitamin D3 and mortality may be modified by the intake of magnesium. Sources: 1, 2, 3
There are some problems with using these studies as reason not to use VacciShield.
First of all, VacciShield is a short term supplement intended for use surrounding vaccinations, not a daily supplement. Secondly, in the first two case studies we are looking at a different form of vitamin D being given in very high doses in the face of severe magnesium deficiency. There is no research that indicates or supports the hypothesis that vitamin D3 wipes out magnesium and will suppress the immune system.
As far as autoimmunity goes, (the rude reader attacked saying that the product would cause autoimmune diseases…I didn’t quote that part) let me share with you why I created VacciShield.
I was diagnosed with an autoimmune disease in school and it is an ever present concern in preventative medicine/diet for my children.
When researching vaccination I pinpointed theories about how vaccines might be contributing to certain conditions- autism, autoimmunity, allergies- and sought nutritional support for these concerns specifically during vaccinations.
I chose to not include magnesium due to its irritating effect on the GI tract. I think this is very important given what we know about the importance of GI integrity and health on the immune and neurological development and health, especially surrounding vaccinations.
I chose each ingredient for its ability to address the concerns raised by the aforementioned theories of vaccine injuries but I was also very careful not to include ingredients that would raise inflammation like magnesium’s effect on the digestive tract or like vitamin A’s hyper induction of the immune system.
Both of the nutrients are very important to health but not ideal in a short term supplement surrounding vaccinations. Increasing inflammation surrounding vaccinations is exactly what you do not want as inflammation is the enemy in all of these conditions.
Increasing the immune system usually takes place by up regulation of inflammatory cytokines or chemical messengers that in turn up regulate different immune cells. I was very careful to include nutrients in VacciShield that would support the immune system without increasing systemic inflammation. Peer-reviewed research is my standard.
3. Strains of probiotics in WellBelly
I specifically and intentionally left out lactobaccilus acidophilus.
There is a ton of great research about L. acidopholus and its benefits. That said, the lactobacillus strain of probiotics produces either an L form of lactic acid, a D form of lactic acid or a combination of the two.
L. acidophilus produces the D form of lactic acid that is hard to digest for infants and kids and those with impaired digestion. It has led to the hospitalization of several infants and adults with short bowel syndrome. The medical term is called D-lactic acidosis.
So I thought anything that can irritate the GI lining has no place in VacciShield or WellBelly. Our probiotics are cultured on a hypoallergenic yeast and they all produce the L form of lactic acid (the easy to digest, non-irritating form) and not the hard to digest, irritating D form of lactic acid.
Catherine also thought about prebiotics, which are basically “food” for the good bacteria:
“With my second child I really wanted GI support on board from the start. I wanted a blended probiotic that did not contain prebiotics that can cause gas.
I also did not want any allergens or probiotics grown on allergens. Lastly, I wanted absolutely no strains of probiotics that produce D lactic acid that irritate and can potentially damage an immature or sensitive digestive tract. So WellBelly is just that, a blend of 8 strains of probiotics without the hard to digest lactic acid, allergens and prebiotics.”
4. On testing
Our manufacturer is top notch. They are GMP certified, a Natural Products Association member, NSF certified and are inspected and approved by Australia’s Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA). Each batch of VacciShield and WellBelly is tested and accompanied by a certificate of analysis (exactly as recommended in the second link from the Organic Consumer).
There are no studies on VacciShield and its effectiveness.
It is exactly like Dr Sears’ delayed/alternative vax schedule, a common sense idea that giving less shots in one visit, or in our case nutritionally boosting health during vaccinations, would be a good thing.
Now the reason we have not done any studies is plain and simple–cost. So if one of your readers would like to fund a study I’m all game 🙂
With what started out as a good theoretical idea, I have been thrilled at the responses from people/doctors.
I have seen comments that our testimonials are over the top but I think when a parent has a vax reaction, even if its small, and they try VacciShield and don’t have that reaction again they write in and praise us through the roof.
The research came in when I was deciding what to put in VacciShield. I needed all the nutrients to help support key areas of health but I also had to make sure they were not increasing inflammation.
For example, vitamin A is often recommended to help boost health during shots but several studies in conjunction with Vitamin A supplementation and vaccination through WHO sites have led to an increase in mortality in young girls.
Although Vitamin A is a powerful immune stimulator, in this case it probably incites too much of an immune boost which increases inflammation and side effects.
5. On Refrigeration
There are only three types of probiotics- live, dead or freeze dried.
Live probiotics come in food or drink (as you know) like kombucha, yogurt or kimchee.
All supplemental probiotics are freeze dried. That’s right, all of them.
Whether they say to refrigerate, come in the refrigerated aisle or on the shelf, all probiotic supplements that aren’t already in a food or drink form are freeze dried. These freeze dried probiotics are stable at room temperatures (it actually takes extremely hot temperatures over 105/110 degrees F to degrade the probiotics in any significant number) and become active in heat and moisture. (Here’s one source about that.)
Our probiotics, just like any and all probiotic supplements because they are all freeze dried, must be refrigerated when opened because they have been exposed to the heat but more importantly moisture in the air. The refrigerated vs non refrigerated probiotic debate is blown way out of proportion.
6. Why vaccinate at all?
It seems there are a handful of options when it comes to vaccines:
- Do what your doctor says. Get all your shots, on time, multiple vaccines at once, and more added to the list every few years, it seems.
- Push back, hard. Do research, avoid all vaccines, sign waivers, deal with angry pediatricians.
- Take a decision-making approach one shot at a time. Choose some vaccines and not others.
- Go slower. Get all your shots but space them out over a longer period of time or avoid multiple vaccines in one day, or just delay starting vaccinations until a child is one or two years old.
Vaccishield offers one more option for vaccination time:
Build your child’s immune system and give them defenses particularly designed to fight the potential side effects of vaccines.
For plenty of parents in category number one, vaccines are a non-issue. They go to their well-child checkups, make sure their child gets hugs and kisses and a band-aid, and they neither know nor worry about whether the vaccine might hurt their child. (top photo source)
For many of the KS readers, however, I’m guessing there’s some concern in the groups of parents who choose vaccines for their children. They’ve done their research, learned about the potential real and mythical side effects of vaccinations, and they’ve decided that the benefits of the shots outweigh the risks…but they’ve read about the risks. Of course they want to do whatever they can to mitigate them.
Some will choose to space out vaccines, to leave a few off the list, to delay starting them. There’s some peace of mind there, and I’m pleased to share another version of vaccine peace of mind in today’s giveaway.
Kitchen Stewardship® always has been based on a mission of baby steps, bringing real food and natural living to a practical level, accepting whatever phase of the journey people are in and offering grace. I feel like Vaccishield, which is a white powder given to the child for about two weeks surrounding a vaccination, is the perfect product to help parents who choose vaccines find the balance.
As I chatted about the product on Facebook, there were many positive reactions and some controversy, as it seems there always is when it comes to vaccines.
This conversation is a huge one and just this week people had plenty of ways to disagree with my even mentioning Vaccishield – but I still think it’s a great fit for the mission of KS and allows me to empathize with all sides, not to judge, to meet every reader where they are, and to present all the sides of every story since I truly believe in offering ideas, research, and products for parents who take any route. One reader also reminded the community that some parents – like those who take in foster children – have no choice but to vaccinate fully and on schedule, and for them, Vaccishield is a nice opportunity.
Here’s a little about how the product works from the company:
I founded WellFuture in 2010 as my son turned six months old. As an expectant mother I became concerned about vaccinating my son and wanted another option to support him during vaccinations. I looked to the research to see if there was something I could do nutritionally to support health during this vulnerable time.
So we created VacciShield to fill a gap that we saw in the vaccination process. VacciShield is designed for infants and kids to help support healthy brain, immune, gastrointestinal and detoxification function during vaccination. It is a blend of non-dairy infant-friendly probiotics, vitamins, minerals and an amino acid and it’s designed to use daily in the two weeks surrounding immunizations to boost health.
Well Future also helps low socio-economic kids and expectant mothers around the world obtain better nutrition through their charity project, which you can read more about HERE.
I know that Vaccishield isn’t a product that all KS readers will need, but if you have kids at the right age and you’ve chosen to vaccinate, then perhaps it catches your eye. (It costs about 50 cents a day, FYI.) I’m happy to share it with you if it’s a good fit, and if it’s not, the parent company, WellFuture, has one more product for infants and children.
I think…for most people–for myself and I’m assuming for some KS readers as well– we vaccinate because we have educated ourselves and have decided that it best for our families.
Vaccines in some form have been around since ancient Egypt but today’s version is quite different.
That is definitely not to say that those who do not vaccinate are ill-informed or uneducated. I guess the best way to say it is at WellFuture we really do encourage all parents to do their own research, find what fits best for them and their families and we respect ALL vaccination choices.
Our page often gets bombed by pro or anti vax people and as long as they play nice I keep all their comments up. It is such a hard one because the powers that be (FDA) have not done the research that would put our vaccine worries to rest so right now it is an individual family decision. Did you read about the changes for families who choose to not completely vaccinate in Michigan?
How WellFuture Got Started
Here’s why I’ve made the products I made:
“In my second year of naturopathic medical school, I was diagnosed with an autoimmune condition of the gastrointestinal tract and this led me to take a particular interest in gut health. The more I studied the importance of gut health, the more fascinating I found it and it eventually became the focus of my studies.
I continued this focus into my practice and published papers on the importance of breast milk in the developing infant and the effects of plant tannins on gut health (that one will automatically download).
Fast forward to my first pregnancy and my interests naturally shifted toward children’s health issues.
I became concerned about side effects from vaccinations, so as a naturopath I did what I do for my family and patients any time we have foreknowledge of a potential risk environment- flu season, airline travel, stress, etc. I research how best to prepare for these events and look for nutrients that will support the systems in the body that I’m concerned about.
During vaccination I’m looking at the gastrointestinal, immune, neurological and detoxification systems. Much like delayed vaccination schedules or rescheduling shots when a child is ill, I developed VacciShield as an option to support children’s health during their shots.”
Katie here… My thinking cap definitely got a workout today! Bottom line?
If you are a vaccinating family and want something to boost immunity and possibly lower the risk of vaccine injury, Vaccishield is really the only product available. If you’re okay with some synthetic minerals and vitamins, your choice is clear.
Thank you much to Dr. Catherine Clinton of WellFuture for taking all this time to explain her ingredients to us! If you have any questions for her or responses to this issue, please speak up in the comments and watch for an answer.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links from which I will earn a commission. See my full disclosure statement here.