by Aarti Kapur Singh
Eight signs of nutritional deficiencies in children that must not be ignored
Wellness coach and nutritionist, Avni Kaul, from NutriActivania says, “Many of the signs of nutritional deficiencies in children are labelled as ‘genetic’ or pre-determined. But I believe that although we are born with certain tendencies, our nutrition throughout our lives can determine whether they will manifest themselves or not.”
Surprisingly, even normal looking kids may have nutritional deficiencies. It is not easy to know unless you are aware of the signs and symptoms. Here are 8 signs of nutritional deficiencies in children that must not be ignored:
Depression and anxiety all starts in the brain, and can be brought on by nutritional deficiencies. “Protein deficiency is a major reason for anxiety, depression and mood swings in children,” says pediatrician Dr. Vinod Sharma, adding, “the brain uses amino acids to create neurotransmitters. A proper balance of these neurotransmitters helps to keep us feeling happy and calm instead of depressed and anxious. And proteins are the only source of these amino acids.” A diet with a good amount of complete protein is the answer to correcting this nutritional imbalance. Whole meat with cuts that include fat and make broth out of the bones to give ourselves a good dose of gelatine (another good source of protein), fish and eggs are good sources of proteins. For severe cases, you may need to supplement directly with specific amino acids to help support the body.
Hyperactivity is related to the brains ability to process information and remain calm at the same time. “Children with hyperactivity tend to have poor bacterial flora and digestion. This can make it hard for the body to absorb many different nutrients,” says Avni Kaul, adding, “Some doctors will recommend removing processed food along with food dyes to help combat hyperactivity. These recommendations are a good start, hyperactivity is often a problem with digestion. I would recommend that adding some good digestive natural treatments will help. Homemade probiotics, such as curd, lassi etc are definitely recommended.”
3. Delayed speech:
Delayed speech can be related to a deficiency in B12.“Children shouldn’t be supplemented with B12 unless first tested for a deficiency, but an increase of natural foods of B12 is a good alternative to supplementation,” says Dr Sheetal Chopra, a US-based paediatric nutritionist. Foods high in B12 are organ meats, beef, chicken, fish, shellfish, pork, dairy, and eggs. There are no plant/grain sources of B12.
4. Dry skin/hair:
Dry skin and hair can be related to a deficiency in fat soluble vitamins such as Vitamin A, D, E, and K2. My own son suffered from this as well. His hair was dry and coarse no matter what we did. When I finally added some high quality fat-soluble vitamins to his diet, his hair became shiny. I also supplemented this with cod liver oil.
5. Dental problems – crowded teeth/cavities:
Dr. Weston A. Price visited traditional cultures untouched by modern foods, discovering the link between good dental spacing and good nutrition. He found that even twins who ate different foods developed different dental spacing depending on the foods they ate. Those who ate modern, processed foods or whose mothers ate poorly during pregnancy, had children who developed poor dental structure and spacing. Those who ate a traditional diet full of rich fats, complete animal proteins, and properly prepared carbs across the board developed even spacing of teeth and even had enough room for wisdom teeth.
Cavities are often thought to be from a result of too much sugar or candy in the diet. While this certainly doesn’t help, it’s not so much about the sugar the person is eating and more about what the person is NOT eating. Those with cavities are deficient in proper minerals, and also deficient in fat soluble vitamins needed to absorb and assimilate the minerals. “Foods with good amount of minerals, especially phosphorus, like nuts, fish, cheese and other dairy products, apart from loads of fruits help in fighting cavities, apart from, of course, proper dental hygiene,” advises pediatric dentist Dr. Amit Khosla.
6. Low immunity – frequent fever and colds:
If your kids are getting sick frequently, re-look what you are putting on his plate.A good diet is always going to be the best prevention for sickness. “A proper diet with balanced nutrition will help build a child’s immunity and a lack of it will lower the immunity and make him susceptible to catching diseases like cold frequently,” says Dr Sheetal Chopra. Personally, I would also encourage you to move away from the germ-a-phobia lifestyle and embrace dirt a bit – let them play in the rain and the mud!
7. Frequent pain in the legs:
A deficiency in calcium is often apparent during bed time. This is because at this time your child’s body slows down. The child get anxious, finds hard to sleep and experiences growing pain in legs. Give your child calcium rich food in different forms.
You wouldn’t think that obesity is related to malnutrition but it is exactly why they person is obese. “When we eat foods that aren’t nutrient dense, our bodies are hungry.They become starved for good nutrition and that’s why you won’t feel satisfied when eating highly processed foods and/or foods devoid of nutrients,” reveals Avni Kaul. Our bodies were meant to feel satisfied with a balance of all foods. When we sway from this diet and start to eat more processed food, or restrict any macro-nutrient like fat, carbohydrates, or protein, that is where we start to become malnourished.
As a conclusive remark, Avni Kaul says, “Parents should not blame themselves or feel guilty. Just try to learn and do better. Keep an open mind and try to change some things in the diet to help your kids perform at their best.“
According to Avni Kaul, “You can definitely improve your child’s health by keeping away processed food and offering real and traditional foods so that your child feels satisfied also. Try to prepare food at home and make it nutrient-rich and delicious. A healthy diet is the best way to receive nutrition for your child. Just keep in mind that supplements are mere back-ups and there is no substitute to real whole food diet.”
Dr Vinod Sharma says, “Along with paying attention to good and healthy food, you should also make sure that your kids have plenty of daily outdoor activities. This will also help them sleep better and have a good lifestyle as well.”
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