My daughter has always been a very energetic and enthusiastic child but recently, my husband and I noticed that her motivation and liveliness seemed to be gradually diminishing.
It got to the point that sending her to school became a struggle every morning. Her performance, focus, appetite and strength all seemed to be ebbing. She began to complain about leg cramps and feeling tired and simply didn’t want to do the things which she used to LOVE doing! She would demand to sleep all the time…and would even fall asleep while playing or watching TV!
With younger children it’s often difficult to tell when they are making excuses and when there is actually something serious underlying their unending bahaanas. I’ll be honest, initially I thought it was just a phase but when this behaviour persisted, dark circles started appearing around her eyes and her skin began to get pale, both my husband and I got worried and decided to visit her paediatrician.
We took her to the paediatrician and gave her a thorough account of what had been happening over the last few months. It didn’t take her long to conclude that my daughter was running low on Vitamin D and Iron. To make sure, she asked us to get her blood work done and prescribed Iron and Vitamin D supplements which she advised us to start right away.
We got her tested and sure enough, she was running quite low on Iron and Vitamin D. Her lab reports showed her Iron to be 14 (the desired level is 50-170 ug/dl in a female child) and Vitamin D to be 16.1 (> 30 is considered sufficiency). We visited her doctor with the test results and she suggested Vitamin D shots for my daughter. I was obviously distraught as a mother and felt like I had been neglecting my daughter but the doctor was kind enough to assure me that such deficiencies are very common in Pakistan, especially in school-going children and that my daughter would recover if the supplements were administered regularly.
I suppose she could tell how I was feeling because she went on to say that something like this does not make me a bad mother because such deficiencies can even be hereditary and sometimes the food and milk labels are misleading and don’t provide the required nutritional benefits to children.
Along with the prescribed supplements, she also explained how I can help her body overcome this deficiency all by itself by making some dietary changes. For Vitamin D deficiency she explained that an average body requires 600 IU of Vitamin D daily (for ages 1 to 70 years) and the body should have sufficient exposure to the sun in the morning and during sunset for it to absorb the vitamin from the sun’s rays. She also suggested including fatty fish like tuna, mackerel, and salmon; foods fortified with Vitamin D like some dairy products, orange juice, soy milk and cereals; cheese; egg yolks and liver to her diet.
As for the Iron deficiency she asked me to make her consume more of liver, meat, fish and tofu; beetroots and carrots; iron-fortified cereals, bread, milk and eggs; pulses and beans; nuts and seeds; dried fruits such as dried apricots, prunes and raisins; whole grains such as brown rice; soybean flour and dark-green leafy vegetables like spinach, kale leaves, broccoli and so forth.
So now we try to include these items in her meals daily and give her the supplements regularly. Her colour and energy are gradually returning to normal and I am just grateful that we caught it in time. It’s true that our food (raw and packaged) is just not sufficiently nutritious to keep deficiencies at bay and with increasing academic and extracurricular pressures, children get drained of much-needed vitamins and minerals. As a parent all we can do is keep an eye on them and visit the doctor for regular check-ups to prevent things going from bad to worse.
So, keep an eye on your children, do your research and try to make organic and whole foods a part of your family’s daily diet as much as possible!