HOw does adoption affect the child when supporting with supplements

How Does Adoption Affect the Child With Extra Nutrition

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This information is especially for adoptive parents but also for parents simply raising kid’s with trauma. I’m not sure if many international adoptions come without some form of nutritional deficiency. Our daughter came from an eastern European orphanage that was one of the better orphanages there. Still, I could touch my thumb and middle finger around her waist. It was that thin. I’ve been so happy to find help for our daughter’s nutritional deficiencies. How does adoption affect the child? You may have heard of many ways it affects them emotionally. It also causes physical stress. Put this trauma together with traumatic experiences in early life (before adoption), and you’ve potentially got a lot of nutritional imbalances to correct.

how does adoption affect the child while transitioning from an orphanage
Last Day at the Orphanage!

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This post doesn’t include every nutritional need but a few that we’ve had to address as well as some common deficiencies. Please know I do not give all these all the time. We have used many of these supplements but I’ll be the first to admit I’m not perfect at consistency. I also understand supplements can drain the bank! Focus on what is needed most.

Common Nutrition Needs Affected by Childhood Trauma

After we brought our adopted child home, it was apparent she had more than just emotional trauma. I could see how early traumatic experiences left her in need of so much nutrition. Having adoptive parents, unconditional love and good nutrition has given her a much better life but there was more to it. How does Adoption affect the child whose gone through trauma? Looking at her adoption journey with a holistic viewpoint has helped us see how her emotional trauma and nutritional imbalances connect.

First things first. Any kind of trauma is stress on the brain. We’ll talk about stress on the brain a little later. For now know there are some deficiencies that happen from stress: Magnesium, Zinc, Vitamin C and B are common ones. Keep these in mind no matter how your child went through adoption.

There’s a good chance you never got a clear picture of your child’s medical history. No matter what, traumatic experiences and the lack of a loving family in early childhood greatly affect child development and the brain. We know when the brain is under constant stress, it needs extra nutritional support. Supporting the nutrients used up by stress is a great start. Check with your doctor to see what might be the easiest way to do this. There are many forms of magnesium. We use epsom salt baths for the kids quite often. Not only does this encourage magnesium uptake but magnesium also helps detox the body as well.

How Adoptive Parents Find Nutritional Deficiency After Food Trauma

What might your adopted child be lacking? How does ddoption affect the child? How does trauma Affect the child? Post adoption research has given us a clear picture of what trauma can do to the brain: mental illness, emotional issues and slower child development. Still it doesn’t clearly present what’s happening to the body because of traumatic experiences.

Seeing a Practitioner for help Post Adoption

YOU are your child’s biggest advocate when tending to the needs of the adopted child! Here are things that should happen as soon as possible to set your adoptive family up for success.

  1. Find a Medical Practitioner. I was grateful to find a doctor who’d worked overseas and was familiar with food trauma issues. If you’re doctor is a bit familiar with adoptive issues both mental and physical, that’s another plus.
  2. Have blood work done. Even if you know the birth parent’s history, there may be unknown medical needs. This should be done or scheduled at your FIRST appointment. You may not be prepared to let your child be poked with a needle. Because of our own daughter’s trauma, we waited a little while to get much blood work done. That’s ok to wait. Try to do as little as you can to traumatize your child in the first days, while still working towards getting information. When we did the blood work a couple months after becoming adoptive parents, she felt much safer. It’s definitely a scary event either way, but feeling more secure with your adoptive parents is helpful.

Check out the Seattle Children’s Research Hospital’s Center for Adoption Medicine. I will share this again and again. There’s so much good information on this website. Look in their articles section or on their blog for a plethora of knowledge.

How does adoption affect the child when taking supplements? Child's hands hold vitamins.

How Does Adoption Affect the Child If You Support with Supplements?

Even before getting back blood work there are things you can do. These are the Supplements we started our adopted child on and why.

These are taken from the list at The Center for Adoption in Seattle. I highly recommend looking into their information whether you’re having eating issues or just have questions.

Probiotics for Post Adoption Brain Nourishment

It might seem that probiotics are all for the tummy. This isn’t true.

One of the first things I started our daughter on was probiotics. A lot of research has come out in recent years showing how our gut bacteria affects way more than what was originally thought. The vagus nerve that travels from the gut straight to the brain has answered some questions. Why is healthy gut bacteria is so important. UCSF shares in their article, Do Gut Bacteria Rule Our Minds? that “In mice, certain strains of bacteria increase anxious behavior. In humans, one clinical trial found that drinking a probiotic containing Lactobacillus casei improved mood in those who were feeling the lowest.”

In his book, Brain Maker, Dr. David Perlmutter, draws connection between the importance of the gut microbiome and a healthy brain. He uses study after study to show the need for a healthy and prolific gut environment.

Dr. Julian Davies, from the Seattle Children’s Research Hospital Center for Adoption recommends, “Since children from orphanages (where antibiotics are overused) are likely to have less-healthy “institutional strains” of these gut bacteria, it may be a reasonable thing to supplement for IA children.”

We’ve used several different brands of probiotics. Not all are created equal. Most recently we’ve been happy with the Nordic Naturals Gummy or Syntol Kids Powder Probiotics.

Fish Oil For Post Adoption Nourishment

A good fish oil supplement was also at the top of our list. In fact we brought this one all the way around the world to use when bringing our daughter out of the orphanage.

You may have heard about the rapid growth that happens in the brain during early childhood as baby’s and kids take in the attachment process to their parent. Adopted children may come with certain brain habits but learning to connect, be vulnerable, and attach causes so many new neurons to be formed. It’s good but a lot of work on the brain; especially if the brain has been depleted of the needed nutrients.

“…children from malnourished pregnancies, who weren’t breastfed, who were raised on diets poor in healthy omega-fatty-acids, and who are having rapid brain growth may benefit from supplementation in this area.”

Dr. Julian Davies, MD, Center for Adoption, Seattle
How does adoption affect the child with the support of omegas?

As I was saying, we brought fish oil supplements to our daughter the day she got out of the orphanage. You know what? She didn’t like them! We’ve finally settled on Barlean’s liquid Supplement for kids. Nordic Naturals also makes great fish oil supplements. These are both at the top of my list.

How does adoption affect the child when taking A Multivitamin

How does adoption affect the child whose been under nourished? You can that it takes away their body’s ability to handle stress itself. We began to give our adopted daughter a good quality multivitamin first thing after coming home. There are many nutrients that may not be addressed in orphanage meals so this was a no brainer. What if you’re adopting domestically? There’s a good chance your adopted child still wasn’t given adequate nutrition. Even if they did have a somewhat healthy diet, a multivitamin can still be a good idea due to stress and the fact that our SAD diet in the western world can leave kids depleted of nutrients too.

A young girl holds two vitamins and smiles at the camera.

There are many quality brands out there for multivitamins. I especially trust Garden of Life Multivitamins for Children and Nordic Natural’s has also proven to be a brand that strives to keep out harmful ingredients. Let’s be honest though. I have four kids and budgeting for several vitamins is tough, especially after international adoption. Because of this I used a lot of budget friendly Smarty Pants Organics multivitamins from Costco! This was before we got the blood test results back.

This leads me to iron…

Will Iron Help Anemia

Over a year after adopting, we received the final report for our daughter’s first blood work. More blood tests were done and the findings were anemia. This resulted from poor diet in the orphanage. then quick growth and weight gain once home. When she came home to healthier eating, her body couldn’t keep up with the iron production.

The hematologist immediately put our daughter on a multivitamin with iron. Let me tell you, finding one of these that’s good quality is hard. The Flinstones vitamins are often the go to for kid’s vitamins with iron. I was a little more comfortable with the Rainbow Light Nutri Stars as it didn’t contain things like artificial dyes and sorbitol. Since then I’ve found that trace minerals also produces a multi-vitamin for kids with iron.

I must admit, though I tried, we weren’t always consistent with the vitamins. Even so, our adopted child continued to build up iron.

The biggest source of iron my not have been from a bottle. Nor do I give all credit to sweet potatoes, spinach or cooking in an iron pan (though we do all those).

How Does Adoption Affect the Child with Nature’s Multi-Vitamin

When our doctor saw the second set of blood work done, (iron had gone up) she was impressed. I’d been giving this to our daughter. Upon hearing about our diet, this doctor gave me freedom to drop the multivitamin. This food could give her the nutrition she lacked. It was it’s own multi-vitamin! We’re talking iron, vitamin A, vitamin B6 and b12, riboflavin, folate, zinc, choline, copper, selenium (shall I go on?) and more! What food am I talking about?

Beef Liver.

Are you still with me? I know it’s a scary word.

You can see some of the nutrition and benefits of beef liver HERE. This Superfood contains so many B vitamins that you may even notice your pee turning yellow after eating it! The more I learned about it, the more I knew we should be eating this powerhouse of nutrition. But how?

You’re probably thinking I’m crazy, a miracle worker to get my child to eat that, or I’m just brave. Here’s how I do it:

  • I trim the edges and cut it into about two inch squares. Then I pop those suckers in the blender with a bit of water for moisture. When they’ve been ground as much as possible, I store them in an airtight container until I’m making meatballs.
  • Maybe it’s sausage meatballs or teriyaki style. No matter the flavor, I can use about an eighth of the meat as beef liver without anyone noticing. This is a great way to sneak it in for us adults too! I’ve also done this in burgers. Note that I only recommend using grass fed beef liver.

Support the Brain After Trauma

The fact is that adoption will always result in trauma to the brain. In our daughter’s instance, life in an orphanage came with it’s own unique set of childhood experiences. Much of her early childhood was trauma. Being taken from the orphanage was traumatic as well. Her brain didn’t get a chance to calm down until an adoptive family brought her to a home that was predictable. Her brain is still learning to adapt because it never learned to trust and be at rest as a baby.

How Does Adoption Affect the Child when Adoptive Parents Encourage Healing

So how does adoption impact the child? It influences how their brain works. All trauma can result in the brain actually changing it’s form. Yes, I’m talking physically!

While waiting for our adoption, the most helpful information came from going to a conference based on Karyn Pyrvis and Dr. David Cross’ Trust Based Relational Intervention. While their scientific based findings were helpful for parenting and reframing the brain, it’s didn’t so much address harmful or helpful nutrients fed to the brain each day.

As a parent we have the ability to impact brain health both emotionally AND physically.

pinterest pin for affects of nutritional deficiency on adoption

Parenting well can include giving attention to nutrients that will help your child’s brain do well. Adoption is hard. It’s even harder when a child doesn’t have the right nutrients to fuel their brain’s healing. Seek out the best foods for building up mental health. Avoid sugar as much as possible. Drops in blood sugar due to sugary foods only encourage attention problems, emotional outbursts, anxiety and fatigue.

Supporting Nutritional Deficiency after adoption is hard. Raising a child with trauma is very hard. Give yourself some grace. Take a deep breath. It’s not so much about perfection but about committing to consistency. I’m not always the best at this but I hope you can see the benefits this brings to families.

From the Hilltop,


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  1. Thank you for sharing your amazing adoption story. The nutrition component was very informative. Thank you so much.

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