Why Your Child Keeps Getting Sick: The Hidden Vitamin D Deficiency

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Are your children frequently sick? You’re not alone. Many parents in South Africa face the same problem, and the culprit might be something as simple as a vitamin D deficiency.

What is Vitamin D?

The research by Taylor (2019) says that:

• Vitamin D is a vital nutrient that helps our bodies absorb calcium, keeping our bones strong.

• It supports the immune system, brain, and nervous system.

• Our bodies produce it when our skin is exposed to sunlight, but it can also be found in certain foods and supplements.

Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency

According to Liu et al. (2023) the symptoms are:

• Frequent illnesses or infections

• Fatigue and tiredness

• Bone and back pain

• Depression

• Impaired wound healing

Why Low Vitamin D Can Make Your Child Sick

Vitamin D plays a vital role in supporting the immune system. It enhances the pathogen-fighting effects of monocytes and macrophages — white blood cells that are crucial for protecting the body against infections.

A deficiency in vitamin D can weaken these immune responses, making children more susceptible to illnesses and infections. This can lead to frequent colds, flu, and other respiratory issues.

My Vitamin D Deficiency

As a 23-year-old woman, I used to fall sick every flu season. I’d rely on antibiotics, which destroyed my gut health and led to digestive issues.

This year, I started taking vitamin D supplements, and I haven’t been sick once! This simple change made a massive difference in my health.

Why South African Children are at Risk

Lips et al. (2021) suggests that a number of factors place children at risk for this deficiency:

• Limited Sun Exposure: With many schools having indoor classrooms and children spending more time on screens, they are getting less sunlight.

Diet: Traditional South African diets can exclude foods rich in vitamin D.

Skin Pigmentation: Darker skin produces less vitamin D when exposed to sunlight compared to lighter skin.

Daily Vitamin D Requirements

The recommended daily intake of Vitamin D varies by age group. For babies aged 0 to 12 months, it is essential they receive 400 IU of Vitamin D each day to support healthy bone development and overall growth. As children grow older, their needs increase.

Children aged 1 to 13 years old should receive 600 IU daily to maintain strong bones and a healthy immune system.

Teenagers, from 14 to 18 years old, also require 600 IU of Vitamin D each day to support their rapid growth and help prevent bone-related issues as they mature into adulthood. Ensuring adequate Vitamin D intake at these stages is crucial for long-term health and development.

How to Address Vitamin D Deficiency

1. Get Tested: The first step is knowing if your child has a deficiency. Book a vitamin D test at Epicentre Walk-In Lab for a quick and simple way to check if your child is one of the 7.2% of children with severe Vitamin D deficiency or among the 38.9% with moderate deficiency in South Africa (Ncayiyana et al., 2021).

2. Increase Sun Exposure: Encourage outdoor play for at least 15 minutes a day.

3. Dietary Changes: Foods that provide the highest amounts of vitamin D, like fatty fish (trout, salmon, tuna, sardines) and mushrooms, however, aren’t typically on a kid’s menu.

4. Supplements: Often, diet and sunlight aren’t enough. Consult with a healthcare provider about vitamin D supplements.

Remember, vitamin D is best absorbed with fat, so ensure to take it with a meal that contains healthy fats like avocados, nuts, seeds, olive oil, or fatty fish.

Benefits of Vitamin D

1. Improves Mood and Sleep: Vitamin D boosts serotonin production, helping regulate mood and enhance sleep patterns. Children with adequate vitamin D levels are less likely to experience mood swings and depression.

2. Supports Healthy Weight: Adequate vitamin D levels are associated with a healthy weight. Studies have shown that children with sufficient vitamin D levels are less likely to be overweight.

3. Enhances Brain Development: Vitamin D is crucial for brain development. It supports cognitive function and can help with focus and concentration in school.

4. Reduces Allergy Risk: Some studies suggest that vitamin D can reduce the risk of allergies and asthma in children, making them breathe easier and stay more active.

5. Strengthens Teeth: Vitamin D helps in the absorption of calcium and phosphate, which are essential for healthy teeth and gums.

Learn More About Our Walk-In Lab

Epicentre has an extensive walk-in testing centre for both rapid and lab tests. Learn more here.

Written By Juliette Zuccarini

A Genetic honours science graduate from Stellenbosch University. Working with Epicentre Walk-In Lab.

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