For healthy children, it’s most beneficial to get vitamins and nutrients by eating a nutritionally-balanced diet, rather than through vitamin pills and supplements. The exception would be kids who have health conditions that reduce their ability to absorb vitamins from their digestive tract. An example? Children with celiac disease may need a little extra help in the nutritional department – to help protect their bones.
What is celiac disease?
Celiac disease is a condition that affects up to one in 300 children – and is believed to be under-diagnosed in kids. A child with celiac disease is sensitive to gluten – a protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. When children with celiac disease eat food that contains gluten, it stimulates an immune response that can damage the intestines. Fortunately eating a gluten-free diet can eliminate the symptoms of celiac disease, which include abdominal bloating, diarrhea, delayed growth, irritability, and fatigue.
A child with celiac disease may have low bone density
According to a study conducted by Canadian researchers at the University of Alberta, teens and children with celiac disease are more likely to have low bone densities than normal kids – which could put them at risk for fractures and osteoporosis later in life. According to researchers, this lower bone density is likely due to poor absorption of fat-soluble vitamins D and K, which help to maintain bone health and prevent osteoporosis.
Because children with celiac don’t absorb fat-soluble vitamins well, researchers in this study recommend that children get more vitamin K and vitamin D through their diet to compensate for poor absorption. Vitamin K is found in highest amounts in green, leafy vegetables, Brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Bacteria in the intestines also make small quantities of vitamin K. Vitamin D is produced naturally when skin is exposed to sunlight. There are few good food sources of vitamin D, with the exception of vitamin D fortified milk and fatty-fish such as salmon.
To get more vitamin D, it’s important for a child with celiac to play outdoors, where they’re exposed to sunlight, so that vitamin D can be produced and absorbed. Some children with celiac disease, who aren’t able to get enough natural vitamin D, may need a vitamin D supplement. The best way to find out is to check their vitamin D level. Vitamin K supplements should only be used while a child is under the care of a doctor.
The bottom line
A child with celiac disease needs close nutritional monitoring to ensure that they get adequate quantities of bone preserving vitamins such as vitamins K and D. In some cases, they may need supplements. Talk to your child’s doctor about this.