For nutritionist and mother of two Brittany Darling, the creation of her own children’s nutrient company i’m nutrients began at home. Her son had been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder and although she wasn’t looking for a cure for the autism, she wanted to relieve some of the symptoms that affected his quality of life such as sleeping, stomach pains and mild anxiety. Her paediatrician recommended her son take a variety of nutrients such as zinc and iron, yet as many of us know, these often come in tablets which are hard to swallow, liquid which children spit out, or gummies which are full of sugar...
Darling began experimenting with nutrient combinations by grinding up tablets and opening capsules and making them into homemade jelly so that her kids would actually eat them (yes, it’s possible – keep reading). At the time, she used a combination of both zinc, magnesium and B6. “We noticed a really calming effect and significantly more emotional regulation,” she recalls. “I couldn’t understand why someone hadn’t created a more targeted supplement for children, with proper dosages and in the most bioavailable forms of vitamin and minerals. And why couldn’t they taste great?!” It was after many conversations with other parents in the same boat that she decided to launch her company i’m nutrients.
Her first product is called calm mind (which feels rather appropriate for 2020) and contains nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, and B complex. “These are the nutrients that support neurotransmitter synthesis and support brain function,” she explains. Calm Mind also contains saffron. “Saffron seems to have a regulatory action, soothing the nerves and calming the mind. It relieves symptoms of unrest, mild anxiety, stress and irritability. Emotional wellbeing is one of the key aims of Calm Mind and that’s why it includes evidence-based doses of saffron,” she says.
Here, we talk to Darling about what vitamins and minerals our kids need right now and how these nutrients support your children’s emotional wellbeing, immune resistance and gut health.
We will also be doing an Instagram LIVE tomorrow at 8pm AEST. A must-watch chat for any parent wanting to cut through the noise and support their kids’ nutrition with confidence. We’ll be answering any questions you have, and Brittany will be sharing her own challenges and learnings from being a practising nutritionist and a mum.
Go to imnutrients.com
Take us back to 2017 when as a mum and nutritionist you were looking to find the perfect nutrient combinations for your children’s needs…
Pretty much since my son was born, we had been dealing with a multitude of hurdles. He had issues sleeping, stomach pains, digestive issues and has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Although we weren’t looking for a cure for the autism, we were keen to alleviate some of the symptoms that affected his quality of life. We were working with a paediatrician at the time and after doing some bloods, realised that my son was deficient in quite a few nutrients (even though we eat super well). I knew he had to take some supplements to meet his particular needs. Our paediatrician recommended high dosages of zinc, iron and magnesium. I found it really difficult giving him many of these supplements. They either came as tablets (made for adults) which he couldn’t swallow or were made for kids, but were fiddly powders or liquids, that alway tasted a little gross and the forms and dosages were never quite right. Giving him the supplements he needed was a constant and exhausting battle.
Talk us through the inspiration behind your first product for i'm nutrients, calm mind?
For a number of years, I was experimenting with nutrient combinations by grinding up tablets, opening capsules etc and making them into jelly (homemade of course!) so that my kids would eat them. At this time, I was using a combination of both zinc, magnesium and B6. We noticed a really calming effect and significantly more emotional regulation. This was working really well but IT WAS SO TIME-CONSUMING making the jelly! I couldn’t understand why someone hadn’t created a more targeted supplement for children, with proper dosages and in the most bioavailable forms of vitamin and minerals. And why couldn’t they taste great?! After many conversations with other parents in the same boat I thought, “sod it, I’ll have to make them myself!”
How have you formulated calm mind and why? For example, why have you included saffron?
calm mind was originally going to be a nutrition-only supplement containing zinc, magnesium, B complex, as these are the nutrients that support neurotransmitter synthesis and support brain function. However, diving further into research and reading hundreds of research papers, I stumbled across saffron.
Saffron is one of few herbal medicines actually studied in children and adolescents. It has an impeccable safety profile and has been used traditionally for thousands of years. And there is science behind it, with a good number of published peer-reviewed research and some currently being conducted. A Perth based researcher and clinical psychologist is leading the field here. He is getting great results with saffron for improving sleep, reducing anxiety and regulating mood. If you want to see his work Google ‘scholar saffron’ or ‘Dr Adrian Lopresti’, it’s all there for you to read!
Saffron seems to have a regulatory action, soothing the nerves and calming the mind. It relieves symptoms of unrest, mild anxiety, stress and irritability. Emotional wellbeing is one of the key aims of calm mind and that’s why it includes evidence-based doses of saffron.
Talk us through additives like sugars, artificial flavours and sweeteners and excipients that are in many vitamins? Are they really in kids’ vitamins?
I have major issues with many of the supplements targeted for children that are available. Most contain the cheapest forms of vitamins and minerals, meaning they are often not absorbed well. The dosages are also tiny because it’s cheaper to do so. My kids love the gummy vitamins, but they are essentially just lollies. Many say they are 99% sugar-free, but they contain artificial sweeteners instead.
Gummies are not only full of sugar, sweeteners and artificial flavours, but the gelatine is usually sourced from pork of questionable quality. Lots of additives go into making gummies. We originally looked at making a gummy, but we would have had to sacrifice on purity, which I was not willing to do.
The supplements still had to taste good though right?! They won’t work if kids won’t take them! We use monk fruit to sweeten and natural strawberry and vanilla to flavour. And of course, we only use the best quality “active” forms of vitamins. It’s something I’m 100% confident in giving my own children daily, and they are fussy about these things.
Can you explain what Activated Vitamins are?
Activated Vitamins are vitamins in their most active form, meaning that they are more bioavailable for immediate absorption into the bloodstream and tissues. When vitamins are taken in their inactive form, they have to be activated by the liver and/or kidneys before the body can absorb and utilize them. Consuming the active form essentially skips this step, particularly important for anyone who has issues absorbing vitamins and minerals, and there are lots of reasons why this may be the case.
It’s pretty common to use active forms of vitamins in supplements for adults, but for some reason, most children’s supplements contain the cheapest and nastiest forms of vitamins and minerals. Many of these “cheaper” forms have side effects like constipation or diarrhoea and are very poorly absorbed, meaning they virtually do nothing.
What are the benefits of calm mind?
calm mind was specifically formulated for children, with 1 tablet for children 2-8 years, 2 tablets daily for 9-12 years and 3 tablets daily for 13+ years. I wanted to make it easy to incorporate into the daily routine without adding extra stress.
calm mind has been formulated with targeted vitamins and mineral to provide the nutrient precursors to support the formation of neurotransmitters and brain health. Saffron, a traditional herbal medicine has been added to the formulation, to help to calm the mind, ease mild anxiety, unrest and irritability.
Can you talk through the benefits of magnesium and how it can influence behaviour in children?
Magnesium is essential for sufficient brain energy, plays an important role in central nervous system cellular communication, and is crucial for serotonin (happy neurotransmitter) production. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include reduced cognitive ability, reduced attention span, increased aggression, fatigue, irritability, nervousness, mood swings, and a lack of concentration. Numerous studies have shown that magnesium deficiency is common in children with hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattention, or diagnosed ADHD.
Although magnesium can be found in certain foods, I often come across signs of magnesium deficiency in both my clients, my children, and myself! The more active and ‘busy’ lifestyle you lead, the more magnesium you need.
calm mind contains 70mg of Magnesium Citrate, which is close to the entire recommended daily intake for children and can really help to support magnesium sufficiency and alleviate symptoms associated with deficiency.
What is folinic acid and why is it important?
Many people think this is a typo on the calm mind bottle! It isn’t! Folinic acid is vitamin B9, same as folic acid. Folinic acid however is a more natural form which the body finds easier to assimilate. Folic acid is added to our processed breads and cereals to avoid deficiency on a population level. However, many parents don’t feed their kids supermarket breads or fruit loops anymore! This can put the child at risk of folate deficiency, but of course eating less processed foods has its benefits as well. Hence why I have added Folinic acid to the formulation.
Vitamin B9 is essential for growth in childhood and folate deficiency can cause a number of unwanted conditions which may have consequences for growth, as well as cognition, according to the World Health Organisation.
On the I’m nutrients blog, you write about how to improve attention, focus, and memory in children – what are the most effective ways to do this?
Our children’s diets have a huge impact on their cognitive development, concentration levels, mood, and energy levels. In the same way that additives can adversely affect your child, the correct nutrients can do the opposite and support their cognitive and emotional wellbeing.
Nutrients like zinc, iron, B12 and magnesium are required for energy but also support cognitive processes including attention, focus and memory. These are the nutrients I commonly find children aren’t getting enough of. Picky eating, poor digestion and the increased demands during periods of growth can mean your child may need a little boost through supplementation.
What can we look forward to in terms of new supplements from i'm nutrients in the future?
We have had incredible feedback on calm mind from integrative doctors, other nutritionists, naturopaths and of course parents. I think this is something the children’s health space desperately needs. I think the message is getting out there and we are already getting ready to run a second batch, as the first one is almost all sold out. I think there are a lot of parents out there who, just like me, want to support their kids but struggle to find the right supplements or are overwhelmed by choice and marketing.
The next thing I’m working on is a ‘fussy eater’ blend will be coming soon. It will provide many of the nutrients a well-balanced diet should but for kids who are challenging eaters, with a special focus on gut health.
My aim is to only create formulations that focus on children’s key needs. We will never make multivitamins. Being a practising nutritionist, I understand the amount of noise and confusion that can surround health, in particular children’s health. I find if you can support children’s emotional wellbeing, gut health and immune resilience, then you’ve got most bases covered.
And finally, we will never compromise on purity. After all these are the supplements my own children take!