Every parent dreams of giving their child a happy and healthy life. That is why they take pains to ensure that their child is getting the right kind of nutrition and diet. Because nutritional deficiencies in children can play havoc with their health. Providing a completely balanced diet to your child, however, might not be possible at all times. But then, how will you know if your child is deficient in some nutrient? For this, you’ll need to look for specific signs and symptoms that let you know if your child is deficient in that particular nutrient or vitamin. Only then will you be able to supplement your child’s deficiency appropriately. Here are a few signs of nutritional deficiencies that you can look out for:
1. Craving For Non-Nutritive Substances
Does your child like to feed on chalk or mud? Is he/she often craving to chew on the pencil lead? Craving for stuff that is non-nutritive is a sign of iron deficiency. If your child is showing these signs, increase iron-rich food in your child’s diet. For babies, feed foods that are fortified with iron such as baby cereals and pureed meats and beans. For older children, red meat, fish, chicken, green leafy vegetables, and beans are a good source of iron (1).
Children, especially toddlers, are a bundle of energy and are hyperactive most of the time, in an adorable manner though. But, at times, their hyperactivity might seem unusual and can drive you over the edge too. In a small study, it was found that children who suffered from ADHD showed significant improvement when micronutrients were introduced into their diet to improve their gut bacteria (2). This shows that an unhealthy gut can contribute to your child’s unusual hyperactive bouts. Introduce foods that contain natural probiotics like yogurt. You can also check with your doctor and introduce pediatric probiotic supplements.
3. Development Delays
Research suggests that children who have vitamin B12 deficiency early in life suffer from certain developmental delays. These small children with low levels of vitamin B12 face difficulties in problem-solving cognitive tests, in recognizing letter, and interpreting feelings. To overcome this deficiency, feed your child chicken, fish, organ meats, dairy, and eggs. Since there is no plant source of B12, you can check with the doctor and give supplements of this vitamin to your child (3).
4. Over-Crowded Teeth
Some studies suggest that poor health and nutrition can lead to overcrowding of the teeth. The study researched the causes of overcrowded teeth and found that the lack of energy-protein resulted in impaired growth and development of a person’s facial bones. This probably resulted in smaller jaws and gums that could not support all the teeth. Thus, resulting in over-crowded teeth (4). The root of this problem is thought to be the consumption of processed foods, especially during pregnancy. Therefore, avoid processed foods and feed natural foods to your child.
5. Dental Caries
Parents often tell their children not to eat too many sweets, especially at night to avoid tooth decay (dental caries). However, what parents don’t know is dental caries are as much a result of what you ‘don’t’ eat than what you do. Research has shown that vitamin D deficiency in children often results in dental caries (5). The best source of vitamin D is natural sunlight. Vitamin D also helps in the absorption of calcium in the intestine (6). And, we all know how important calcium is for healthy bones and teeth, don’t we? Help your child get enough exposure to sunlight to make up for vitamin D deficiency. You can also add health drinks that are fortified with vitamin D into your child’s glass of milk daily. But, sun exposure is still the best.
There are other common signs of nutritional deficiency like fatigue, frequent illnesses, dry skin and hair, etc. At times, obesity is also linked to a deficiency in essential nutrients and vitamins like those mentioned above. Therefore, it is imperative that you keep yourself aware of these signs of nutritional deficiency to help your child. You can also check with your doctor and address these deficiencies with appropriate supplements if natural sources are unavailable.