February 03, 2024

Delayed Growth in Children

Physical growth delay in children means that a child’s height and/or weight is lower than average children of similar age. The majority of children with growth delays will “catch up” with their peers over time. Growth delays may be completely normal and healthy due to individual differences such as genetics and ethnicity; however, there may be health factors that can be identifiable and treatable. Dr. Jennifer Yee explains:

Hormonal Issues

Medical Conditions such as growth hormone deficiency and hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland) can inhibit growth and cause other symptoms such as fatigue, lowered immunity, constipation, sleep disruptions and mood swings. They can be diagnosed through bloodwork ordered by a medical doctor or naturopathic doctor.

Dietary Factors

A well-balanced diet that provides an appropriate amount of calories, vitamins, protein, healthy fats and other important nutrients is essential for healthy growth. This can be challenging in children who are picky eaters who have a more limited list of foods they like or have an aversion to certain foods because of their texture, taste or smell. Food choices may also be more limited due to budget or a greater emphasis on convenience foods due to limited time to prepare meals. All of these factors can be taken into account when determining a plan of how diet and nutrition can be improved. By looking at a child’s typical diet, we can determine what nutrients may be lacking in the diet and work to improve them (e.g. changes in food choices or supplementation).

Poor Nutrient Absorption & Digestion

Sometimes a child may appear to have a healthy, well-rounded and nutritious diet but have challenges properly digesting, breaking down, extracting and absorbing nutrients from the foods they eat. Sometimes this can be indicated by other symptoms such as gassiness, bloating, stomach/intestinal cramps, constipation or diarrhea. Changeable factors such as low stomach acid levels, insufficient digestive enzyme secretion, inflammation in the intestinal system (food intolerance reactions, irritable bowel syndrome) or dysbiosis (imbalance in bacteria in the gut) can significantly affect digestion and the absorption of nutrients. These factors can be identified through testing such as assessing hydrochloric acid (stomach acid) levels, food sensitivity testing, and stool sample analysis, and treated naturopathically if indicated.

Although the majority of children with growth delay will catch up with their peers, sometimes there can be identifiable health issues and factors that can have an impact on growth and overall health. A naturopathic doctor can be a valuable resource to assess and support your child’s current and future growth and development.

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