Happy winter school holidays to all the kids in Victoria. Our kids are literally growing before our very eyes, and as we all know growing bones need calcium to stay strong and last a lifetime. Calcium need is particularly increased during growth spurts, teething, bone and muscle injury. I have a wonderful recipe for increasing calcium below but lets have a closer look at calcium first.
Childhood and adolescence is the greatest period of bone deposition (growth and development), with girls reaching peak bone mass by around 18 and boys at about 20. The recommended daily intake (RDI) for children aged 1- 8 is 1g per day and for 9-20 year olds is 1.3g.
Unfortunately low calcium levels do not become apparent until it is too late - that is, in later life when bone density has already declined and the ability to absorb calcium is reduced. Weight bearing exercise can hep to strengthen bones, however optimising calcium intake during childhood and adolescence is most likely to reduce the risk of osteoporosis and fractures in later life.
Dairy is often touted (by the dairy and allied grain industries) as the best source of calcium, because lactose increases calcium absorption, however this is mostly limited to infants. Dairy IS a rich source of calcium, although for many people it can be difficult to digest, contribute to mucous formation and exacerbate systemic inflammation.
Dark green leafy vegetables such as bok choy, collard greens, chard and amaranth greens are also rich in calcium but must be eaten with something acidic such as lemon juice, apple cider vinegar, tomatoes etc in order to neutralise oxalic acid, which inhibits calcium absorption. Members of the cabbage family (broccoli, brussel sprouts, kale etc) are also excellent sources, as is organic black strap molasses, almonds, sesame seeds and fortified organic tofu. Omnivores may also choose sardines, oysters and tuna to increase their calcium levels.
Vitamin D also plays an integral role in optimising calcium status by increasing uptake in the gut and reducing excretion via the kidneys. Melbournians tend to have notoriously low vitamin D levels in winter due to our low latitude and reduced exposure to the sun. Vichealth did a study in Melbourne last year that found, even when people followed sun exposure guidelines in winter, most were unable to maintain adequate vitamin D levels. In Australia, Vitamin D synthesis via the skin must be carefully balanced with skin cancer risk prevention. Supplementation in this case is sometimes warranted.
Of course it is not always necessary to purchase premade supplements. I'm currently loving Rosemary Gladstar's book 'Herbal Remedies for Children's Health'. She gives a wonderful herbal tea recipe to supplement a natural diet rich in calcium.
1 part dried nettles (Urtica dioica)
2 parts oat straw (Avena sativa)
1 part raspberry leaves (Rubus ideus)
2 parts lemon balm (Melissa officinalis)
3 parts rosehips (Rosa canina)
1/2 part cinnamon (Broken quills)
A pinch of stevia to sweeten (optional).
Combine herbs and store in an airtight container.
Herbs can be sourced from backyards and most health food shops. I highly recommend Southern Light Herbs for medicinal grade herbs. They are a Victorian family business that grow wonderful certified organic herbs and they are lovely people too.
To make the tea infusion:
Place 1 cup of dried herbs or 3 cups of fresh herbs into a glass or ceramic teapot/container with a tight fitting lid. Pour 1 cup of boiling water over the herbs and steep with a lid for 30 to 45 minutes. Longer steeping times result in a stronger infusion but can make the tea taste bitter. Mix with apple juice if a sweeter taste is desired.
2 years - 4 years: 2 tsp 1-3 x day
4 years -7 years: 1 tbs 1-3 x day
8 years - 11 years: 2 tbs 1-3 x day
12 years+: 1 cup 1-3 x day
Medicinal teas are most effective when taken in small amounts several times throughout the day.
This tea can be a beneficial remedy for teething at all ages. It is most effective when taken several weeks - months before teething commences and throughout the teething period.
If you would like further advice on optimising your calcium intake, please do not hesitate to contact me for a consultation.