In the UAE, a study conducted by the Dubai Health Authority in 2017, found that more than 90 per cent of the population, including children, had a vitamin D deficiency. The other findings were that 68 per cent of children had a magnesium deficiency, 80 per cent were not getting enough folate, over 80 per cent not getting enough omega 3; they were not meeting the recommended dietary intake (RDI).
It’s doubly alarming when one realises that the RDI set is not about building immunity, it is just about preventing deficiencies that can lead to chronic diseases. But does this mean we need to start introducing supplements and pills to our children’s meals? Not necessarily.
I have been practising as a specialist in homeopathy and functional medicine for more than 18 years now, working at rebuilding and healing the immune system, so that the body can heal better, and I strongly believe that food is medicine.
There are three ways through which our body talks to the world:
- Nervous system,
- Gut microbiome and the other microbiome sitting in the mucosal surfaces of the lungs, and
- The immune system, which is constantly interacting with the internal and external world and being assaulted by inflammatory foods along with other environmental toxins, stress, lack of sleep, exercise and poor socialisation.
Fortunately, the one that can most rapidly change and reconstruct itself is the immune system – and nutrition plays a vital role in this.
This is where food – and gut healing comes in. Your child’s gut microbiome levels determine what’s going on with their nutritional levels. They may not be producing vitamin K and biotin in the gut because they have a bad gut.
When I was in medical school, I had learnt that vitamin C prevents scurvy and vitamin D prevents rickets while vitamin A prevents blindness. I really never understood why they were important other than to prevent deficiency diseases. Then I began to understand that what these vitamins and minerals actually do in the body. There are 37 billion chemical reactions that happen in the body every second, and every single one of those chemical reactions requires helpers i.e. vitamins and minerals.
One-third of our DNA, our entire genetic material, is made of codes for enzymes; enzymes are catalysts that convert one molecule to another. All the chemical reactions need catalysts/enzymes. The genetic variations in how they work make one person require more or less of a nutrient.
Another thing that I learnt is that one-third of our DNA, our entire genetic material, is made of codes for enzymes; enzymes are catalysts that convert one molecule to another. All the chemical reactions need catalysts/enzymes. The genetic variations in how they work make one person require more or less of a nutrient.
While I was also trained to focus on food first and not to resort to supplements, I find that a simple multivitamin can make a huge difference – as long as the prescription is individualised. Do not, for instance, start giving your child a vitamin C supplement before ensuring that they really need it. This ‘need’ is determined by genetic makeup and everything else that is going on in the body such as digestion and absorption rates.
Diagnostic functional testing alongside genetic tests such as the Cyrex Arrays, and Urine Metabolomix testing can give a complete comprehensive understanding of the genetic variations and the different metabolites that are excreted in the urine, informing us of the exact deficiency a child has. Then they can be treated in a natural holistic manner.
Is your child anxious or suffering from headaches? They may just be suffering from a lack of magnesium. Magnesium is an amazing mineral, and it is so good in so many ways, it affects 300 different enzymes. And when there is a deficiency we see all sorts of issues such as:
- Muscle cramps,
- Restless leg syndrome,
- Insulin resistance,
- High blood pressure,
- Mood swings, and
- Twitchy eyes and muscles.
Wondering where to find magnesium?
It’s present in so many of our foods such as nuts and seeds, beans, legumes, vegetables, greens, whole grains like quinoa and buckwheat.
It is refined or processed food that might be magnesium deficient.
While science and technology has proved beneficial in farming methods – it has also (sometimes) had a negative impact on the microbiome of the soil, resulting in a product that is not as nutrient dense. We have seen 50 per cent reduction in nutrient levels like magnesium and other minerals in our vegetables over the last 50 years. Did you know? Even freezing and transporting things has a nutritional toll.
The number of kids on the autism spectrum has increased dramatically, from incidences of 1 in 5000 kids in the 1970s to 1 in 54 kids now; they are genetically susceptible – and where genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger.
In summary, food supply and consumption, followed by exposure to environmental toxins have a major role to play and can have a direct impact on inflammation. Fortunately, food can also be the balm that heals.
-Dr Devinder Kapoor is a Specialist in Homeopathy and Functional Medicine at The Chiron Clinic – Dubai