Children are often picky eaters. It makes parents wonder if their child is getting all the nutrients they require for proper growth and development. The most common nutritional deficiencies among children are calcium, vitamin E, magnesium, fiber, iron, and a few other nutrients. While most of these deficiencies can be detected through blood tests, magnesium deficiency can be especially difficult to detect as it is present mainly in the cells and the bone. Just about 1% of the total magnesium in the body is present in the blood, but this 1% is extremely important as it takes part in several bodily reactions.
Parents must pay extra attention to the magnesium levels in their children because studies show that magnesium plays a vital role in development of muscles, brain, and bones. If your child suffers from ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), you must pay extra attention to your child’s magnesium intake as research shows that magnesium heavily influences their behavior and performance.
Why Is Magnesium Important for Children?
Magnesium plays an important role in more than 300 biochemical reactions within the body. It includes – the ability to utilize other nutrients, vital muscle functions, DNA synthesis, and energy production. It is even involved in producing mood-regulating hormones like serotonin.
In children, magnesium helps in the development of strong bones and teeth. It helps in developing a healthy nervous system and strong muscles. It also helps in the absorption of other nutrients and helps children sleep better.
In children suffering from anxiety, depression, moodiness, irritability, inability to focus, impulsivity, hyperactivity, and other similar behavioral patterns, studies have shown that magnesium therapies can help reduce them to a great extent.
Studies have also shown that the most common factor in children diagnosed with ADHD is magnesium deficiency along with other nutritional deficiencies. When such children are given magnesium supplements with their daily medication, the improvement shown has been significant compared to children who have been treated only with medicines.
Magnesium also affects the brain’s plasticity, i.e., the ability of the brain to form new connection pathways between neurons, especially in children. In children having magnesium deficiency, learning becomes slow and it becomes increasingly difficult for them to memorize anything. When you notice these two symptoms in your child, it might be a clear indication that you need to check their magnesium levels.
Why Do Children Suffer from Magnesium Deficiencies?
The primary reason that children and young adults suffer from magnesium deficiencies is their food habits. Magnesium is found in most leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts, beans, and legumes which children are not very likely to be fond of. Even if they consume some amount of these foods, the nutritional content of these foods is not as high as they used to be due to poor farming practices and the low nutrient content of the soil.
Children are also likely to consume large amounts of sugar through chocolates, snacks, beverages, and others which depletes the magnesium levels in the body.
How Can You Detect Magnesium Deficiencies in Children?
The following symptoms will help you determine if your child has a magnesium deficiency.
- Inability to Concentrate: Studies have shown that children with attention deficit disorders when given magnesium supplements have been able to concentrate better.
- Hyperactivity: The more active your child is, the more magnesium the body uses up. If your child finds it difficult to sit in one place and is always active, you might want to increase their magnesium consumption as it is also responsible for the body’s energy levels.
- Lack of Quality Sleep: Children with magnesium deficiencies find it difficult to fall asleep or sleep through the night. So if your child is not a sound sleeper, you might want to supplement their diet with small doses of magnesium and gradually increase it as they grow.
- Anxiety: If your child is mostly anxious and worries about things like their school project, homework, or even about their friends, it could be a clear indication that they lack magnesium. Magnesium is linked directly to anxiety in children as well as adults.
- Cramps: When children complain of muscle cramps or growing pains, it could be due to low magnesium levels. If your child tells you that their muscles are twitching, it could also be another indication of low magnesium levels.
- Moodiness: Children displaying irritability, bad behavior, throwing tantrums, and other unruly behavior may not necessarily be a sign that they are disobeying you, but instead, their low magnesium levels are causing them to act out.
If you notice these symptoms in your child, you could consult your doctor to determine the dose of magnesium you must give them. There is no standard dose that applies to every child as their deficiency levels may be different, and other factors like age, weight, height, level of activity, and others must also be considered. Regular daily Magnesium supplements in correct dosages can be beneficial to the child.
Sources of Magnesium
There are different sources through which you can ensure your child gets some of their magnesium intakes, and the rest can be given to them through supplements.
Some of these foods are green leafy vegetables like spinach, seeds like pumpkin seeds, nuts like almonds, cashews, and peanuts, whole grains, legumes, etc. Foods that have fiber, generally have magnesium too. You can also look for fortified cereals and many other types of fortified foods. Keep the intake of refined flour, cereals, and other refined food to a bare minimum as most of the nutritional qualities of the food get destroyed as you process them.
As we mentioned earlier, the amount of magnesium that your child needs might be very different from other children. However, there are some common types of magnesium supplements that are available. Out of them, magnesium oxide is the least desirable as it can be too harsh on the body, not be absorbed well across the intestinal lining and also can cause bowel upset. Magnesium bisglycinate, on the other hand, is the most desirable variant as it can be absorbed by the body and does not have any side effects as long as it is given in moderation.
For many parents, this article might help them with answers to many questions that they might have been looking for a long time, like the unexplained anger in their child. Now that you have a hint of what could be wrong, you must take prompt action by talking to your doctor and providing your kids with the required supplements.