Thierry has a lot of experience with children. Thierry manages the local Natural Childhood immunity group in Cambridge and is also involved with the UK-wide Arnica parents’ group. You will find some useful information on nutrition and childhood here.
General Nutritional & Health Advice for Children
When I first started a section about nutritional health for children on my website, it was only a paragraph long. After a short time, it started to lengthen, so much that it is now the framework of a book project.
So, now this page mainly covers the basics, every parent who wants to use natural approaches to childhood health, should understand. It also provides some tips on first-aid approaches and nutrition.
Ideally, you should in parallel bring your child to a natural therapist, such as myself on a regular basis, as well as building your own abilities to use natural therapies as first aid.
Create a good Foundation – What a healthy child needs
A healthy child should be able to have a healthy physical growth, a healthy emotional growth, a healthy sensorial growth and a healthy intellectual growth.
Every child has a unique genetic make-up, which represents how he or she came into life. It will predispose them to some specific disease, some specific food and some specific behaviour.
However, the nurturing make-up, made of the parents, the surrounding culture and the lifestyle will also add another imprint to the child, and the genetic make-up will most often adapt to this (as defined by epi-genetics).
If the environment and the diet of the child become more nourishing and promoting of positive experience, then it is often seen that little by little, the child’s natural inclination to disease or behavior can change. This is because of the adaptability of human beings: the right nurturing (or environment) is stronger than genes and can help us change than our natural tendencies.
Of course, the opposite is true, with the wrong diet and environment; you can also worsen or create a predisposition to disease or behaviors.
This is not the intent of this page to covers strategic and therapeutic approaches for this topic, as this can be covered by a whole book alone. I am more than aware how difficult the role of parenthood is nowadays, and often, I see parents with frustration, guilt or belief and this is impacting them a lot, and ultimately also their family and their children in general.
There is no such thing as an “ideal” parent. We all thrive for happiness, acceptance, safety, harmony and compassion, and most of us also need honesty, self-confidence and diligence. Creating an environment, which promote these good emotional behaviors will be extremely useful to your kids but also parents and everybody around.
The take-home message is that committing yourself to invest some money and time into a natural therapist who is very experienced with children will help you bring a good environment and a healthy growth in your child, and ultimately your family. In terms of health, we get more benefit from a one-to-one approach and a customized support than trying to grasp a “purely intellectual concept” from a book or video. This will be a great investment in your child, and often visits are only required every 3, 6 or 12 months.
The different stages of childhood
Another very important aspect of childhood is that a one-year old child is very different and has very different needs than a 5-year old or 14 year-old child, even if they are still children.
A human being needs an environment relevant to the requirements of their specific age, and this depends on their own developmental pace in terms of physical, emotional, sensorial and psychological growth.
It also depends on the surrounding’ culture and their family. These are actually again very important as they can limit or hasten the pace of the natural growth of a child, so understanding them and how they can affect can be of great help.
Here is a short description of stages of childhood
The first day, the first month, and the first 6 months:
The first day of every human being is likely to be the scariest and most emotional, before or with our last day of life. Imagine leaving the peace of your mother’s womb for a place where there is sudden noise, light, cod temperatures and air coming into your lungs for the first time.
Only a short time ago, a large proportion of humans would not reach their first anniversary, and we have to remember that in spite of our progress in hygiene, life is still very precarious and a young baby is very fragile. The instinct for survival is very raw and it is important that the child feel safe, loved, protected and supported.
Within a month, the child will start to know how to smile, and will also start to have more control of his senses, such as touching, seeing or listening (which are key to deal with survival issues).
In terms of nutrition, the breast-milk from a well-nourished mom is the best food, and except if this is too difficult for the mother, this should be the only source of food. If this is not possible, then relevant alternatives exist and can be best discussed on a case-by-case basis.
At this stage, like the slightly later stage, heat and warmth is important, especially at night, when most of the body growth will occur. So do remember to cover well your child, or use your own body warmth. My key advice is to have a 21C temperature in the room where the baby sleeps (minimum 19-20C if well covered, a hat and multi-layers), in addition to good clothing.
6 months to 24 months:
At the earlier part of this stage, the baby has more control on his or her senses, and also of the body, being able for example to keep the back straight. The child then develops further control over the body, starting to crawl and grab objects, and ultimately walking autonomously.
The psychological and emotional development is also very important then, with the start of speech abilities and also the development of key concepts such as a sense of self (“I”) and of the role of parents.
The growth spurts at this stage still requires a significant ratio of proteins in relationship to carbohydrates and fat, and the mother will soon not be able to bring enough proteins with her breast-milk. Weaning off mother’s milk and bringing additional sources of proteins is key at this stage. Again, it is best discussed on a case by case basis.
Good quality carbohydrates are also needed in very small quantities to nourish the good intestinal bacteria and bring energy.
At this stage, like the previous stage, heat and warmth is important, especially at night, when most of the body growth will occur. So do remember to cover well your child, or use your own body warmth. My key advice is to have a 21C temperature in the room where the baby sleeps, in addition to good clothing (minimum 19-20C if well covered, including a hat and multi-layers).
Between 2 and 5-6 year old:
Around 2 year old, the child has a strong sense of “self” and is also more rounded, and autonomous, with an ability to communicate and walk. This is often the first period when the need for individual freedom starts to conflict with the need for love and support.
Until 5-6 year old, interacting with children of similar age and with a more extended group of trusted adults can help the child expand the sensorial, psychological and emotional elements of his or her self.
In terms of nutrition, most children have now moved away from breast-milk and rely on food similar to adults. Portions can be very significant compared to the size of the body. I have even seen children of this age eat more quantity than their frugal parents.
If there is no health issue, then there is usually no need to worry. The huge sizes can be explained by the significant physical growth and also the huge need of energy as heat loss and physical activities are huge for such small bodies.
The nutrition should be more relaxed. It can start to resemble a healthy adult diet based on vegetables, good quality proteins, and some carbohydrates. Three to 5 meals a day are OK.
A lot of chronic health issues and also emotional behaviour at this stage can be explained by digestive parasites or digestive pathogens, so stool tests or other medical tests can help define specific diets for recurrent situations.
In terms of heat, the child’s body size allows heat retention, so the child can now control his or her inner heat more easily. However, at night or during nap time, it is still advisable to have a good temperature in the room, 21C being my recommendation (minimum 19-20C, multi-layer clothing may not be necessary anymore).
Until teenage hood (between 7 and 10-14 year old):
At this stage, the child should have developed a deeper sense of autonomy with the parents, who are still the central figures in his or her life. Some specific activities and likes/dislikes are now clear, a variety of experience and social interactions are still welcome.
For the diet, it is more or less the same concept: the child would still rely for adults to prepare food but will have stronger habits and likes/dislikes. Keeping a healthy base for the diet and bringing as much variety is also important and welcome for the health of the child.
At this age, higher proportions of vegetables and proteins are less necessary, but still desirable. Volumes are also very variable.
Teenage hood and Young adulthood:
The hormonal and body changes mark the arrival of a teenager, and it is very significant. Body consciousness and new quests for boundaries and responsibilities can appear challenging to both parents and child.
In order times, teenagers from wealthy families would be given a mentor or enter in apprenticeship as a way to assist this quest for more autonomy. Nowadays, this function can be shared by other adults, such as teachers or adults leading the teenager through arts, sports or social activities.
I have not met many people who have told me that they particularly enjoyed that time in their life, and this is often due to the unrealistic expectations, our society and the media put on teenagers.
One-to-one consultations can be a bit more difficult at this age. However, if there is trust, results are often dramatic.
In terms of diet, however, the rules are simpler. The body proportions and body processes are now close to what to expect with an adult, and it is possible to give more individualised nutritional plans for example. Bar any complex conditions such as acne, difficult menstrual periods or chronic conditions, the diet can also be more relaxed in terms of proportion of carbohydrates and regularity of food.
A good base is however still welcome and required, even if the teenager may have their mind of their own and may need to learn the impact of “bad food” through experience.
Nutrition – the basis for a “sound base”
After laying the specifics of childhood, we can discuss nutrition in more details. We will keep it simple and specific to the different ages of childhood. And first, let us fix the 3 classes of macro-nutrients: proteins, fat and carbohydrates. These are found in solid food and are required in bigger quantities than other nutrients:
– Proteins are composed of 25 amino-acids, and 8-9 of them cannot be made by the human body. Proteins are solely used to build and repair body tissues. For these reasons, they are key for a child, as the child needs a very high proportion and variety of amino acids to sustain healthy growth. The smaller the child, the greater the need in proteins in relations to his or her size. The best protein for an infant is human breast milk, and in terms of quality and quantity, eggs, dairy products, red meat, poultry and fish are very good thereafter. Proteins from the vegetable world (pulses, lentils, rice, quinoa, wheat…) are also good in quality but may be short in terms of quantity. However, some children with immature digestive system may not be able to digest some of these proteins. For help, or specific suggestions, please contact me.
– Fat is also used to build body tissue, and it is also an extremely good source of energy. If there is no health issue, it is easily absorbed and does not create too many toxins.
– Carbohydrates is solely used for energy. It is the quick-firing energy very easily absorbed by the body but creating in comparison to fat, a lot of toxins within the body and a short-term metabolic shock. They are better absorbed in the morning when the child’s body may need to produce more heat.
– Vitamins and minerals are also important but they are required in much smaller quantities. A healthy diet with plenty of vegetables and a reasonable amount of fruit will actually cover the child’s needs (as well as the adults). I recommend for children lightly-cooked roots or dark-leaf vegetables as they carry more nutrients than salads or raw vegetables They are also less likely to carry pathogens. Seasonal food should also be preferred for the same reasons.
– The occasional treats like cakes or fatty food should ideally be only introduced after 5 or 6 year old, when the child enter a more social age. They should be kept for special occasions and in moderate quantities ideally.
– Two other key nutrients are water and oxygen. The child should be allowed to learn to breathe optimally through good quality physical activities and also periods of relaxation. Daily water intake should be up to 4 cups for 3-year olds and then 5 cups for 8-year olds.
If there is no chronic health issue, I only recommend supplements during growth spurts, or during vulnerable moments, such as the start of school or the first time being away from parents.
When I work with parents in terms of diet, I much prefer to ask them to fill a detailed food diary, which can then be discussed in more details and in light to the child’s unique needs.
Are you prepared when your child is sick?
This is the nature of children and all human beings to get sick sometimes. For infants especially, the immune system requires often several acute episodes so that it can adjust and become more mature. This means that a baby or young child may have under-active or over-active immune responses until this function becomes more autonomous.
Thierry Clerc, MARH, Rhom, MSc
Registered Health Practitioner, Cambridge (UK)
Clinical Homeopath, Bioresonance Therapist, Nutritionist