We all are aware of calcium and its importance in our body. The mineral calcium keeps our bones and teeth strong. Calcium is found abundantly in the body; almost ninety nine percent of calcium is stored in the skeletal system (bones), the rest of it is found in circulating blood, tissues and organs.
Calcium deficiency is most common problem faced by many children all over the world. Children need calcium for their growing bones. Calcium deficiency in children is caused either due to decreased intake of calcium or problems in its absorption from the intestine.
In some children, calcium deficiency is since birth due to low calcium level in their mother. Deficiency of calcium in children can lead to weak bones which may ultimately cause bony deformity such as rickets. Calcium deficiency in children can be corrected by oral supplementation of calcium.
What Causes Deficiency Of Calcium In Children?
- Inadequate consumption of calcium rich food is one of the reasons for calcium deficiency in children.
- Children born to mothers who have calcium and vitamin D deficiency.
- Bottle fed children are at risk of suffering from calcium deficiency. This is because calcium found in mother’s milk is well absorbed than bottle fed milk.
- Inadequate sunlight exposure is also one of the causes. Sunlight is rich source for vitamin D. adequate amount of vitamin D and phosphate helps to absorb calcium.
- Improper absorption of calcium from the intestine. It can be due to several factors such as chronic diarrhea, certain intestinal problems, liver diseases etc. Consuming cereals and other products which have high phytate compound can interfere in calcium absorption from the intestine.
- Another reason for calcium deficiency induced bone disease is total parenteral nutrition. A child, who is given intravenous nutrition for any reason, may suffer from calcium deficiency. However it can be corrected with addition of calcium.
Calcium Deficiency Symptoms In Children
The bones of children who have calcium deficiency are weak. Their teeth are brittle and yellowish. They are prone to carries. Most of the time there is associated vitamin D deficiency. Rickets is a bony disorder due to vitamin D and calcium deficiency.
During vitamin D deficiency, intestinal absorption of calcium and phosphate is reduced, giving rise to hypocalcaemia. Muscle weakness and in severe case tetany is common with calcium deficiency. Weight bearing produces bowing deformity of legs. Prominence of rib joints giving appearance of rosary beads.
There is increase frequency of fracture in children. Delayed dentition and defects in enamel are other findings of calcium deficiency. Sweating on the head even during cold, child feels always cold are other symptoms noted in calcium deficiency.
Treatment For Calcium Deficiency In Children
Calcium deficiency can be corrected in children in many ways. Supplementing with calcium compounds orally can replenish the needed calcium in the body. However, there are natural ways that can also increase the calcium level in growing children. This includes;
- Consume dairy products in daily diet. The child should regularly drink milk. Milk is a rich source of calcium.
- Green leafy vegetable such as spinach, celery, fenugreek are good source of calcium. Include them in the daily diet of your child.
- Finger millet or red millet is a rich source of calcium. Include foods prepared from millet in the child’s diet.
- Sesame seed is full of calcium. Eating them regularly helps the child to cope with calcium deficiency.
- Brewer’s yeast is another good source of calcium.
- Exposure to early morning sunlight for at least 30 minutes is essential. This helps to produce vitamin D which helps in synthesizing calcium.
- Include fruits in the diet. This is because Vitamin C present in fruits helps in deposition of calcium in the bones. Oranges, lemon and guava are some of the fruits that are rich in vitamin C.