While most people think of underdeveloped countries when it comes to nutritional deficiencies in children, this is not always the case. Given that many children in American households may be well-nourished or even over-nourished in terms of caloric intake, it is important to remember that there is the possibility of being undernourished when it comes to vitamins and minerals (micronutrients). The health of the gut, the health of the soil we grow our foods in, how we pair our foods together—these all impact what children’s bodies are able to absorb from their foods.
Adequate nutrition is vital during early infancy and throughout the school-age and adolescent years. Even prior to conception, a mother’s nutritional status helps to form the basis of good health in her children. This continues during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and weaning. The basis for healthy growth and development is all on a continuum, with each stage requiring different nutritional needs. Parent’s often ask, “How do I know this is enough food or if my child is getting everything he or she needs?” Protein, vitamin D, B vitamins, zinc, and Omega’s—oh my! Where to begin?
Here are a few signs that may indicate a nutritional deficiency in your child.
- Fatigue and impaired cognition. Children with iron deficiency may present with fatigue and improper cognitive function, hair loss, brittle nails, or pallor to name a few. Hemoglobin, a protein necessary for carrying oxygen around the body, requires iron! Without enough iron, children’s muscles cannot use oxygen as well, they can develop anemia, leaving them worn out and unable to think clearly.
- Impaired growth and bone pain. Vitamin D deficiency can be present in otherwise healthy children and can contribute to impaired growth, bone pain, muscle cramping, osteomalacia (softening of the bones), and skeletal deformities when severe. Proper absorption of calcium for bone development requires adequate vitamin D, and adequate levels of vitamin D support healthy immune system function. If there is a history of inflammation or autoimmunity, it is even more important to have Vitamin D levels checked routinely.
- Poor appetite and increased infections. If your child is constantly fighting a cold or flu or, in general, has a poor appetite, this may indicate zinc deficiency. Slow growth, hair loss, and delayed wound healing can occur in more severe cases.
It is important to remember that while these signs may indicate a particular nutrient deficiency, there are other factors and possibilities that need to be considered under the care of your child’s healthcare provider. At CentreSpringMD, we are equipped to test your child’s levels of key nutrients, assess how their body is metabolizing nutrients, and whether their gut function is in a state of health which will allow them to digest and assimilate all of these key nutrients. Each child will vary in their needs based on family dietary preferences and age and stage of development, and we take an integrative approach to develop his or her treatment plan. A well-rounded and holistic context is all considered during our interviews with parents during pediatric visits. We want to ensure your child remains on a path toward wellness!