Osteoporosis and bone fractures are two medical conditions that are not normally associated with childhood, but they do exist in some younger patients.
Although rare, there are instances with kids and teenagers are diagnosed with juvenile osteoporosis. Kids also usually fall and hit something more often than adults. Even if their bones are young and less prone to breaking, they could still get a fracture from a severe injury or trauma.
Protecting and Strengthening Your Child’s Bones
A little care goes a long way in ensuring your child’s bone health.
Here are a few things from health experts and nutrition advisors:
1. Give the right amount of calcium:
Calcium is a mineral crucial for healthy bone development. Giving kids the right amount of calcium each day will help increase their bone growth and strength.
As the child gets older, the recommended daily intake will increase. According to the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development, the required amount of calcium by age should be:
- 200 mg for babies below six months
- 260 mg for children between six months and one year
- 700 mg for kids aged one to three years old
- 1,000 mg for children between four and eight years old
- 1,100 mg for kids between nine and 18 years old
Include calcium-rich foods in their diet to be sure they get the right amount of calcium:
- Dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yoghurt
- Tinned sardines (with bones)
- Green leafy vegetables such as kale and collard greens
- Dried figs
- Nuts and seeds
To ensure proper absorption of calcium in the bones, they consume, spread the calcium-rich foods they will eat and drink throughout the day.
2. Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps the body absorb calcium by depositing this mineral and phosphate into the skeleton, so it is crucial at any age.
The most accessible source of vitamin D is sunlight. Encourage outdoor play and include vitamin D-rich foods in their daily diet.
3. Healthy protein
Protein also plays a crucial role in bone mass acquisition. During childhood, undernutrition, which includes inadequate caloric and protein intake, can impair and have negative effects on bone development.
Low protein intake, in particular, is harmful to bone health and growth hampering the production and action of the growth factor IGF-1, a hormone that enhances bone formation. Milk and other dairy foods consumed every day ensures the right amount of calcium and protein every day.
One glass of milk, for instance, contains eight to 10 grams of protein, a healthy amount for your child’s bones.
Some studies also suggest that protein from vegetable sources such as beans, peas, and legumes promote better bone health more than animal proteins which makes a great care for plenty of veggies in their everyday diet.
Since milk is one of the tried-and-tested sources of calcium, vitamin D, and protein, select a good-quality product. The product you choose should be one that will allow your child to get the right amount and types of important nutrients he needs for bone health and overall proper growth.
5. Only give doctor-approved calcium supplements
If you suspect that the child is not receiving the recommended amount of calcium and vitamin D every day because of a poor diet, ask their paediatrician for a supplement your little one can safely take. A good calcium supplement for children should contain 300 IU of vitamin D for every 200 mg of calcium. This will ensure that the calcium will be absorbed by and locked in your child’s bones.
6. Include more fruits and vegetables in your child’s daily diet
Like milk, green and yellow vegetables are rich in calcium and other nutrients that can increase bone mineralization. Bone mineralization is an important process that helps keep your child’s bone healthy and strong.
Fruits and veggies rich in vitamin C can also help strengthen your child’s bones further since this vitamin stimulates the production of bone-forming cells. Certain studies also suggest that the antioxidant effects of vitamin C can protect bone cells from damage.
Aside from kale and collard greens, some of the vegetables and fruits you should be giving your child for good bone health are:
- Sweet potatoes
7. Encourage activity
Regular physical activities will improve your child’s bone density or strength.
Make sure your child gets at least 60 minutes of exercise per day. Let him choose which sports or activities he wants to do.
Reduce screen time. Give him only an hour or two for watching TV and playing games on the computer or any handheld device. Make sure your child spends more time playing or doing other physical activities indoors or outdoors.
Playing with your child or letting them join you if you’re exercising at home will help them develop a healthy habit of being physically active.
Have them play or exercise outside early or late in the day without sunscreen for optimum Vitamin D. Make sure you don’t overexpose your child to sunlight though since it can cause skin damage and put him at risk for skin cancer.
8. Get your child to do more high-impact, bone-strengthening exercises
Encouraging children to perform high-impact exercises take their physical activities up a notch. These are exercises that help promote bone health and strength. Running, skipping, jumping jacks, and weightlifting are great examples of these kinds of activities.
Having your child run an obstacle course is an excellent way to get a high-impact workout coupled with fun. You can make an obstacle course on your lawn by using some items you already have at home. Put an old ladder or worn-out tires on the ground which your child can jump over. Set a bare area where he can run. Prepare an area suitable for a sack area as well.
Be creative in building your obstacle course. Don’t forget to make it fun and exciting, too.
9. Take a sport class
Some activities or sports will be more beneficial for your child if they take formal classes. Taekwondo, karate, tennis, basketball, and other sports are superb bone strengthening and weight-bearing exercises or activities.
Once your child regularly engages in his chosen sport, he will build and strengthen his bones and keep it that way.
Enrolling your child in a sport he likes or is interested in will help him develop the right skills. This will help him excel in his chosen sport. He’ll also get to meet more people, make new friends, and acquire other traits that will help mold his personality.
10. Pay attention to a healthy body weight
Different studies show that obesity can harm bone quality. The stress of excess weight on one’s body can also increase the risk of fractures. Help your child keep a healthy weight by providing age-appropriate meal and snack portions.
Don’t use food treats to reward your child for good behaviour. Replace the reward with a fun activity to get them outdoors and induce more activity in their day.