Numerous changes happen during early childhood, and to support these changes, a balanced, nutritious diet is a must. Your child needs not only the right amounts of carbohydrates, proteins and fats, but also a variety of micronutrients - vitamins and minerals - that play a vital role in supporting your little one’s health.
One of the nutrients that kids need during childhood for their growing bones and teeth, is Calcium. Calcium is a mineral that helps keep bones and teeth strong, and also keeps the nervous system healthy, and allows muscles to function properly. The Calcium absorbed by the bones helps maintain bone density. Children between the age of 2-5 years need roughly between 500-1000 mg of Calcium on a daily basis.
An essential Vitamin in the absorption of Calcium is Vitamin D, which ensures that the Calcium in your diet is absorbed by the body. Vitamin D also plays a role in immunity, muscle strength and protection from seasonal cold and flu.
The deficiency of Vitamin D can lead to low absorption of Calcium, and can cause rickets in children, which is characterised by weak and deformed bones and teeth. An inadequate intake of Calcium and Vitamin D can also affect your child’s growth in terms of height, as the skeletal size is affected by the intake of these nutrients.
When To See A Doctor
Low vitamin D leads to low Calcium absorption, and when the deficiency of these nutrients is significant, your child may experience the following symptoms:
- Some children experience bone and muscle pain
- As Vitamin D lowers Calcium levels, muscle cramps may also happen
Consult a pediatrician if the pain and cramps are recurring.
You should also watch out for the following signs and symptoms in your child:
- Low Vitamin D and Calcium levels lead to softness of the bones, which when growing can bend, resulting in ‘bowlegs’ and ‘knock-knees.’
- In some cases, there may be delayed eruption of milk teeth
- In extreme cases, children may experience seizures due to low calcium absorption.
It is important to consult a general physician or pediatrician in these cases.
Ensuring enough of these nutrients in your child’s diet can help with bone growth, tooth development and maintaining bone and tooth strength. Include calcium-rich foods like milk and dairy products, spinach and leafy greens, beans or fortified juice to make sure that your child gets enough calcium. It is also essential to ensure a sufficient dosage of Vitamin D to improve the absorption of dietary calcium. Sunlight is a good source of Vitamin D, and spending anywhere between 5 to 15 minutes a day in the sunlight can make a considerable difference.
Usually, a balanced and varied diet should be helpful in ensuring that most nutritional requirements are met. Include a variety of whole grains, fruits and vegetables, eggs, fish, meat, and dairy products in your child’s diet. Children between 2-5 years of age can have up to 2 glasses of milk or other dairy products a day, but more than that can affect iron absorption, and hence should be avoided. Encourage outdoor play time as it helps make the best of the sunlight and its vitamin dosage.
Pay close attention to your child’s overall nutrition and eating habits during this stage as it can make a huge difference to their health. Having enough Vitamin D and Calcium in your diet can greatly reduce the risk of bone diseases like rickets in childhood and osteoporosis in adulthood.