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5 Signs Your Child is Micronutrient Deficient (And How to Fix It)

5 Signs Your Child is Micronutrient Deficient (And How to Fix It)

igns Your Child is Micronutrient Deficient

Micronutrients are essential to the human body, especially at a young age: “Micronutrients are essential to the production of enzymes, hormones, proteins, and other products created by your body,” explains Dr. Edward Group DC, NP, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM.

While micronutrients are only needed in trace amounts, Group continues, “Micronutrients are incredibly important for health and wellness. Mineral deficiencies can have lasting, detrimental health consequences in children and adults of all ages.”

Poor nutrition and lack of proper nutrition has put an estimated 31 percent of the U.S. population—both children and adults—at risk for micronutrient deficiency, according to Nutrients Journal. What’s worse, 66 to 84 percent of most children’s entire caloric intake is obtained through processed foods high in sodium, cholesterol and sugar, based on another study from the same journal.

So how can you determine if your own children are not receiving enough micronutrients? Here’s what to look for. If you notice your child experiencing any of these symptoms of micronutrient deficiency, be sure to speak with their pediatrician first and foremost. From there, you can determine the best plan of action for your child’s specific needs.

Susceptibility to Frequent Illness

There are several micronutrients that boost immunity, including as magnesium, zinc, and vitamins E, C and B6, suggests Harvard Health. If your child has recurrent symptoms of coughing, sneezing, inflammation, achiness, fever, sore throat and congestion, or generally a weakened ability to fight illness, they may be experiencing a deficiency.

This correlation between strong immunity and micronutrient intake is called “phenotypic flexibility.” This describes how people adapt to changes in the environment to maintain their physical health, according to the Genes & Nutrition Journal. Because micronutrients help the immune system ward off causes of disease and enhance well-being, the body’s ability to do these important tasks is diminished without them.

Foods that can introduce more of these nutrients include:

  • Citrus fruits (vitamin C)
  • Shellfish (zinc)
  • Peanut butter (magnesium)
  • Almonds or sunflower seeds (vitamin E)
  • Chicken (vitamin B6)

Unusual Decrease in Energy Level

Children are energetic and active by nature, which is why behaviors of fatigue are often a sign of calcium, iron, or vitamin A, B and C deficiency, according to a study in Nutrients Journal. When these micronutrients are lacking, both physical and mental sluggishness can result. The same study found that children, between the ages of 2 and 18, are more energized when they consume green vegetables and full-fat dairy, both of which contain the micronutrients required to combat fatigue.

Study authors explain, “The intake of green vegetables appeared to have the strongest impact on fatigue, especially cognitive fatigue. This could be because vitamins A and C in green vegetables improve the absorption of other minerals such as zinc, magnesium and iron.”

Foods that can introduce more of these nutrients include:

  • Whole milk and dairy (calcium)
  • Broccoli (vitamin A and C)
  • Chicken or salmon (vitamin B)
  • Dark chocolate (iron)

Milk, in particular, is an important energy source in child development, containing calcium, vitamin A and vitamin D all in one drink. Unfortunately, most alternative milks fall short in their nutritional profile, lacking most of the micronutrients your child needs, including calcium and vitamin B. If your child doesn’t like milk, other sources of calcium include:

  • Cheese and other dairy products
  • Green leafy vegetables
  • Nuts
  • Foods made with fortified flour
  • More: Does Milk Really Help My Child Grow?

More: Does Milk Really Help My Child Grow?

Chronic Dry Skin and Acne Flares

While having issues with complexion is a normal symptom of hormone changes during puberty, irregular breakouts in young children, before the onset of adolescence, could be a symptom of malnutrition. Deficiency in vitamins A, C and D, copper, zinc or omega-3 fatty acids can present as either dryness and flakiness or acne and excess oil, according to the Biomolecules & Therapeutics Journal.

This happens during micronutrient deficiency because the skin doesn’t receive antioxidants needed to block germs, dirt, bacteria, chemicals and UV radiation from entering the pores. When this layer of defense is lowered, both the appearance and function of the skin will be compromised as a result. In extreme cases of deficiency, more chronic skin disorders like psoriasis, dermatitis and ulcerations can also emerge.

Foods that can introduce more of these nutrients include:

  • Sweet potatoes (vitamin A and C)
  • Eggs (vitamin D)
  • Avocados (omega-3)
  • Cashews (copper)
  • Sesame seeds (zinc)

Sudden Changes in Mood

If you observe unexplained or uncharacteristic mood swings in your children, a deficiency in magnesium, or vitamins B, D and E could be having an impact on their mental health. These micronutrients promote cognitive function and stabilize mood.

Two of the most common psychological indicators of a malnourished child are anxiety and depression, according to a 2018 study. While other factors such as environment, genetics and life experience can contribute to this, inadequate nutrition can worsen the issues, suggests the same study. When the brain does not absorb the nutrients required to balance its chemical receptors, this disturbance in the natural chemistry might lead to depression.

Foods that can introduce more of these nutrients include:

  • Lean meats and shellfish (vitamin B)
  • Mushrooms (vitamin D)
  • Papaya (vitamin E)
  • Black beans (magnesium)

Is Your Child Micronutrient Deficient?

These symptoms associated with micronutrient deficiency are important signs to look for, but you should always speak with your doctor or pediatrician before making any assumptions. If you notice any of them, you may need introduce more nutritious foods into your child’s everyday diet. Check with a medical professional to get suggestions specific to your child and then take the best next steps for your growing kid.