For an entire generation of kids born with the knowledge of the internet and mobile phones, getting them to play outdoors is a mammoth task. You must have, at least once, tried introducing them to your childhood games as a parent, right? After all, only screen time and no sun time can adversely affect your child’s physical, mental and emotional well-being.
While kids’ days already entailed a lack of sun exposure, playtime and poor diet, COVID-19 further worsened parents’ woes, as the young ones were nestled in their homes for two years. Sample this: pre-pandemic, 151.9 million children in India were reported to suffer from Vitamin D deficiency. And as of now, Vitamin D deficiency is prevalent in 17 to 90% of people of all ages across India.
Why Vitamin D deficiency is concerning:
Here’s why the trend is concerning – Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, assists the body in absorbing Calcium from the food we eat, and together, the two help maintain and strengthen bones. Moreover, Vitamin D has a more significant role in your kid’s overall good health, as it helps prevent infection and heart diseases. Lack of it exposes one to hordes of diseases, some of them even long-term.
The majority of Vitamin D-deficient people are asymptomatic. So, there are chances Vitamin D diseases may go undiagnosed and untreated until they get severe. It would, therefore, help to keep an eye out for these signs in your child:
- Muscle discomfort or weakness and bone pain, frequently in the legs. Substantial deficiencies in children usually cause these.
- Slow or restricted growth. Usually, height has a greater impact than weight. Children that are affected could be reluctant to begin walking.
- Delayed tooth emergence. Due to delays in the development of the milk teeth, children with Vitamin D deficiency may experience delayed tooth emergence as well.
- Kids, especially those older than five years, with Vitamin D deficiency show signs of irritability.
- More susceptible to illnesses. In severe situations, breathing difficulties may appear.
Who’s at risk of Vitamin D deficiency?
Exposure to the Sun is crucial to load up Vitamin D in the body. Thus, your child will be at a greater risk of contracting one of the Vitamin D deficiency diseases, especially if they:
- Keep their entire body covered.
- Spend most of their time indoors and receive little or no sunlight.
- Have another condition that affects how the body regulates Vitamin D levels — liver or kidney diseases or ailments that make it difficult to absorb food (like coeliac disease or cystic fibrosis)
- Take medication that may impact their level of Vitamin D
- Consume less amount of Calcium and good dietary fats
Even though children across different geographical regions have been found to suffer from Vitamin D deficiency, those living in cities are likely to have it since pollution hampers its absorption from the Sun. Those es may face the same issue due to the lack
of sunlight and being covered under layers of clothes, preventing Vitamin D absorption.
Diseases caused by Vitamin D deficiency:
Do note these are not the only health issues. There are many problems, including neurological diseases, and some are so severe that you must not ignore them at any cost. If you want to know the diseases caused by Vitamin D deficiency, check these out.
A name that perhaps tops the list of diseases caused by Vitamin D deficiency. This condition is characterised by softening and thinning of a kid’s bones. It is a juvenile illness resulting in soft, fragile bones prone to fractures and abnormalities.
2. Premature Osteoporosis
Maintaining skeletal health is one of Vitamin D’s primary functions; insufficient levels of the Vitamin can cause low Calcium levels in the bones, which raises the risk of fractures. The deficiency may increase the chance of developing osteoporosis, a condition when the production of new bone does not keep up with the loss of old bone. Moreover, low Vitamin D levels impair Calcium absorption, which is crucial for strong bones.
Studies suggest that children with inadequate amounts of Vitamin D are more prone to developing asthma than those with enough levels, as it decreases lung function. Vitamin D insufficiency is associated with worse asthma management, especially in children, and reduced lung functioning. Moreover, Vitamin D may inhibit proteins that cause inflammation and increase the production of a protein with anti-inflammatory properties, thus helping a child manage asthma better. In other words, the anti-inflammatory effects of Vitamin D can aid in easing the intensity of asthma symptoms.
4. Type 2 Diabetes
High blood sugar levels result from type 2 diabetes, a condition in which the body grows resistant to insulin. According to recent research, Vitamin D insufficiency may contribute to the emergence of type 2 diabetes. Insulin sensitivity and insulin secretion are known to be improved by Vitamin D, which highlights the direct correlation between the two.
5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome
You may blame irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) on unhealthy eating habits and inadequate physical activity. It may also not be a top Vitamin D deficiency disease name, but believe it or not, it is one of them. If your child lacks the nutrient, they may suffer from discomforting IBS symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea, cramps, and bloating. IBS may not be as drastic as other gastrointestinal disorders, but you cannot ignore it because it often accompanies anxiety, depression and migraine headaches.
6. Childhood Arthritis
Since Vitamin D is highly essential to bone health and to manage the body’s immune and anti-inflammatory functions, childhood arthritis or juvenile arthritis is another disease caused by deficiency of Vitamin D. If your kid complains of joint aches for more than six consecutive weeks, you must look into it because it can cause permanent damage to the joints and make even the simplest daily tasks painful.
7. Low Vitamin D and Anaemia
Several past studies have shown that low Vitamin D status is linked with anaemia risk in children. According to a paper titled, Vitamin D and Anemia: Insights into an Emerging Association, published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), “maintenance of sufficient Vitamin D status may be important in preventing anaemia, particularly in diseases characterized by inflammation.” Studies have also shown that low Vitamin D levels may affect your body’s ability to make new red blood cells, which, in turn, leads to anaemia.
While you all may want to know the diseases caused by Vitamin D deficiency, you must also encourage them to be out in the Sun between 11 am to 3 pm for 30 minutes daily as often as possible. Yoghurt, cheese, tofu, and fortified foods such as cereals, juices and margarine are excellent sources of Vitamin D. If your child is deficient, the doctor may also prescribe Vitamin D supplements.
Even if some of the diseases are acute and curable, no parent would want their child to go through the pain and discomfort of ailments. You must ensure these are prevented at all costs since many conditions will likely become chronic. So, be vigilant of symptoms, keep your kid’s diet healthy and send them out to play for a disease-free childhood.
The views expressed are that of the expert alone.
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