When your child is not getting enough nutrients

Children need proper nutrition and nourishment at an early age to lead healthy and disease-free life. Unfortunately, currently, many children consume food high in fat, especially saturated fats and sweetened beverages.

They do not eat enough fruits, or vegetables and consequently do not consume enough fiber. In addition, their calcium, vitamin D, and iron intake is also low. These poor eating habits often result in nutritional deficiency.

This simply means that the body lacks some essential micro and macro nutrients which are important to perform some essential bodily functions such as growth and body repair.

The inability to absorb these essential nutrients could lead to long-term health complications like skin disorders, digestion problems, cardiovascular diseases, obesity, and defective bone growth. It also impacts mental and cognitive growth.

In most cases, the nutritional deficiency starts in the mother’s womb. Lack of various nutrients in the mother such as folic acid, calcium, omega-3, vitamin D, and iodine could result in the newborn’s health problems hence the importance of prioritising maternal nutrition.

In toddlers, the most common causes of inadequate nutrition are poor food intake, unhealthy eating habits, frequent, or chronic illness and picky eating behaviour.

The common signs of nutritional deficiency include stunted growth, general weakness, trouble breathing, poor eating habits and lack of concentration. Sleepiness, unusual food cravings, dry skin, or hair and suffering from chronic infections could also be signs of poor nutrition.

The most common deficiencies are calcium, fiber, zinc, iron, magnesium, potassium, protein, and vitamins E, B12 and D.

Where in doubt, parents should consult nutritionists to ensure that their children are consuming nutrient-rich foods to bridge nutritional deficiencies. For children who have trouble getting the right nutrients through food alone, nutritional supplements can help.

Dr Migowa, consultant paediatric rheumatologist at Aga Khan University Hospital Nairobi

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