What vitamins and supplements should my kids be taking while they are away at college?
The answer to this question is going to depend somewhat on the individual. We have five children at our house, so I know that there is even high variability among children within families. We have two children in college. Our son lives in a dorm and eats cafeteria food. Frankly, his idea of an additional supplement is probably ordering extra pepperoni on his pizza. Our daughter who is exactly one year older, lives in an off campus apartment, buys her groceries from Whole Foods, and meticulously lines up her vitamins and supplements in a pill container that would be the envy of a geriatric nurse. Needless to say, it would not be reasonable to send these two kids off to school with the same vitamin and supplement plan.
I think that it is safe to say that most college students get too little sleep, have too much stress and get inadequate nutrition. As long as we are being brutally honest here, many of them also consume too much alcohol which taxes their livers.
Basics (in what I consider to be order of importance)
Foods and supplements that contain high quantities of beneficial or “good” bacteria that are normally found in the body are called probiotics. Friendly bacteria are essential for good digestion and for developing a strong immune system. If a college student is only going to take one supplement, this would be my pick. A healthy gut will be able to better digest and absorb food. Foods like yogurt contain probiotics, but in relatively small quantities compared to supplements. When choosing a probiotic, look for a blend that contains several different species of bacteria.
Top Pick: OrthoMolecular Ortho Biotic
Each capsule of this probiotic contains 20 billion units of 6 different species of “good” bacteria. As an added bonus, it doesn’t require refrigeration. Dosage: 1 capsule per day with or without food.
Even under the best circumstances, it can be difficult to eat a well rounded diet that is sufficient in key nutrients. In college, this is more the case than ever. A multi-vitamin can act as an insurance policy, to help cover the nutritional bases.
Top Pick: Vital Nutrients Minimal and Essential
Many of the good multi-vitamins have dosages of a half a dozen capsules per day. This one is convenient for young adults because it only requires a capsule or two. Dosage: 1-2 capsules per day with food.
3. Vitamin D
If your son or daughter is attending school in the rainbelt, this is especially important. Northwest residents are notoriously low in the “sunshine vitamin”, which the body produces naturally from sun exposure. Over 90% of our patients who do not take a vitamin D supplement are found deficient. Vitamin D plays a role in building bones, preventing cancer, maintaining heart health, fighting infection and elevating mood. Foods like cow’s milk are fortified with vitamin D, but only in small amounts. The U.S. RDA for vitamin D is 400 IU per day, but much higher doses may be necessary to maintain adequate levels, particularly during the winter months. I think it is wise to have your child’s vitamin D level checked with a simple blood test before heading off to college.
Top Pick: Integrated Therapeutics Chocolate Chewable 2000 IU tablet.
I like this because it is yummy chocolate. Need I say more?!? Recommended dosage should be based upon results of vitamin D blood test. Vitamin D should always be taken with food because it requires fat for absorption.
4. B Vitamins
B vitamins provide an important role in energy production and support healthy cognitive and nerve function. Additionally, they help with memory and emotional well-being. Students go through larger amounts of B vitamins during times of stress.
Top Pick: BioGenesis Methyl Protect
This liquid supplement comes in a pleasant tasting cherry flavor and contains therapeutic doses of B6, B12 and folate in a highly absorbable form.
Dosage: 1 dropperful per day held under the tongue for several minutes prior to swallowing.
5. Fish Oil
The typical Western diet is low in EPA and DHA, two important omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. Omega-3’s are found in oily fish like tuna, cod, mackerel and our local salmon. These oils play a key role in the function of the heart, brain, eyes, nervous system, kidneys and liver. For college students, I see this supplement being helpful for cognitive function. Additionally, many college students are not getting as much fish in their diet as they may have gotten at home.
Top Pick: Metagenics Enteric Coated Extra Strength EPA-DHA
Since this supplement is enteric coated, it is easy to swallow and it won’t leave a fishy taste in the mouth. Dosage: 1 capsule twice a day with or without food.
Calcium promotes bone health in young adults. Magnesium is used in hundreds of processes in the body and it critical for those functions that make energy. Magnesium is also important for maintaining bone density.
Top Pick: Thorne Cal-Mag Citrate (effervescent powder)
This powder reacts when it is mixed with water. It has high doses of calcium and magnesium and it also contains vitamin C and glycine. Dosage: 1 scoop mixed with a glass of water at bedtime. In addition to bone health, this supplement helps provide a relaxing sleep.
Other supplements that might be nice for your kids to take to school are immune support, nutrition bars and liver support. Please stop by our clinic dispensary and we can help you select the right supplements for your college student. As an added bonus, our supplement “top picks” are 20% off during the month of August.