Growth is a unique aspect in every child’s life. Where parents are always concerned about their child’s growth, it is important to note that there is not one but multiple factors that determine a child's growth. Every child grows normally under the influence of balanced nutrition, hormones, good physical activity and adequate sleep. Where proper nutrition, genes and the hormones have an important role to play in a child’s growth and overall development there is something more to it. With these three not being the only factors that can affect your child’s growth, it is important to understand that your child’s growth can also be impacted by some underlying diseases. As a child's growth is a mirror of it’s health, read along to know more about what role does nutrition, genes, hormones play in a child's overall development and some hidden diseases and health issues that might create a hindrance in it with Dr. Mudita Dhingra, Consultant Paediatric Endocrinology, Radhakrishna Hospital, Kurukshetra.
Role of nutrition
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There is no doubt that a child’s diet has to be nourishing and full of goodness. There should be adequate intake of nutrients and micronutrients such as complex carbohydrates, proteins, healthy fats, vitamins and minerals. These nutrients can be found in food items such as whole grains , vegetables, pulses and fruits are rich in complex carbs where food items like paneer, sprouts ,tofu, soya, eggs, chicken, fish, nuts and dairy products like milk and yoghurt are a source of healthy fats. It is important to feed all these food items to your children in order to keep them healthy and aid their overall growth and development.
As a lot of stress is given to providing a balanced diet to your child, it is important to understand what this term actually means. A balanced diet is when there is a right balance of nutrition in a child’s diet. Dr. Dhingra suggests that “On an average, the food plate of the child must have 50% of vegetables (salads and cooked non starchy veg), 25% of carbohydrate (Roti or Rice) , 25 % protein (Lean meat , pulses/legumes , egg , cottage cheese etc.) . The more colors, the better. So, as a parent – “count nutrition and not calories' ' and make sure that you do not shower your love to your child by buying packed food/sweetened beverages very often.”
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As the pandemic has had a great impact on people’s lifestyle, it has also pushed little children towards a sedentary lifestyle by keeping them indoors and away from physical activities. At this point it becomes even more important to feed your children with energy dense food which will strengthen their immunity and have a positive impact on their overall health..
Role of genes
We all can understand that tall parents/ grandparents tend to have taller children and similarly holds true for short parents as well. Where genetics have a crucial role in determining various features like the hair color, eye color, hair texture and facial features the same stands for height as well. If you have a short height and are worried about the height of your child then reaching out to a specialist is the best thing that you can do. A specialist can help you to figure out and to rule out any disease or deficiency which can impair or slow down growth
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Role of hormones
Just as nutrition and genes, hormones also play an important part in a child's growth. Growth hormone and thyroid hormone are the two major hormones which help in growth of the child. The deficiency of these hormones in a child can affect the speed at which your child must grow to reach optimum height as an adult. This speed of a child’s growth is often termed as the growth velocity. If these hormones are deficient in a child then he/she will fail to grow in some cases and in most of the children with this deficiency a slow growth is observed. Dr. Dhingra suggests that “Ideally, every school going child must grow at-least 5 cm every year. Moreover the sex hormones in an adolescent child fastens the growth during puberty before the bones are finally fused to reach final height.”
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It is important to understand that if a child’s growth and physical changes are not appropriate in the initial years of puberty that is the ages of 8 to13 in girls and 9 to 14 in boys then it can surely affect your child’s height. Dr Dhingra says that “If a girl has early breast development or periods , she might end up short for population and parents too. It is important to reach a Paediatric Endocrinologist for assessment and treatment of short height”
Health diseases that cause hindrance
Also Read: Nutritional Deficiencies in Children: Early Signs, Causes and Diseases That Kids Can Get
Where nutrition, genes and hormones all these three factors have a very important role to play in a child’s overall development. It is important for the parents to pay attention to some of the underlying health issues that can affect their child’s development. Any chronic disease which is not detected and treated at time will result in short stature. Dr. Dhingra explains that “, if someone has celiac disease (Gluten enteropathy), in which enzymes necessary for digestion of gluten (in wheat and its derivatives) are absent. These children need to stop gluten in their diet after confirmation of diagnosis. If gluten is continued, growth can be severely affected. Similarly, any untreated chronic disease can lead to short height.”
Any deficiency of protein, iron, severe calorie restriction, zinc deficiency can halt the growth.
How to know if your child is growing?
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One of the most common concerns that parents have regarding their child’s development in their growth years is how to know if their child is growing or not. As answer to this simple question Dr. Dhingra says that “one can opt for a growth chart that is easily available in the market in order to monitor the child’s growth” These growth charts are pretty similar to the vaccination cards that track down the vaccination of your child. It is important to keep a track of your child’s eight and weight in order to track his/her growth. One must make frequent visits to the Pediatric Endocrinologist to know about the growth of your child according to his/her genetic potential.
With input from Dr. Mudita Dhingra, Consultant Paediatric Endocrinology, Radhakrishna Hospital, Kurukshetra