Rickets is on the rise again amongst children partly because of a change in the quality of our diet and mostly because of their aversion to sunlight.
What is rickets?
Rickets is a bone disease that affects infants and young children, where their bones fail to develop properly due to a lack of vitamin D. This can result in soft and weakened bones, fractures, bone and muscle pain, and bony deformities.
About 80 per cent of our vitamin D comes from exposure to the sun. A sensible balance of sun exposure and sun protection can protect your children against vitamin D deficiency, without putting them at risk of skin cancer.
The optimum time to get sun exposure for vitamin D3 production in Bahrain, during summer is from 9am until 10.30am and between 2pm and 3pm. During winter the best time to take your child out in the sun is from 10am until 2pm. Protect your child’s skin from the sun during peak UV times, with clothing, shade and sunscreen.
Children with naturally dark skin or scanty exposure to sunlight are among those most frequently affected. Having a mother with vitamin D deficiency also increases a child’s risk.
If you’re pregnant, or planning to become pregnant, it’s absolutely vital to make sure you are getting ample vitamin D. It is advisable to test your vitamin D level when expecting.
Busting a myth
Over-the-counter antacids contain calcium carbonate which neutralises the acid. Calcium carbonate can inflict havoc on both vitamin D levels and your bone density. If you are pregnant, it may brutally weaken the bones of your child.
While largely considered safe, calcium carbonate was actually the active ingredient given to rats during research studies from the ‘20s up to the ‘50s to yield rickets in the mice due to its phosphate-binding properties. Commercial calcium carbonate products are also contaminated with heavy metals, including lead and aluminum, both of which are recognised to cause rickets and bone disease.
Furthermore, the mainstream population are under the misguided belief that they must take calcium to prevent osteoporosis. Tragically, rather than preventing osteoporosis, the carbonate form of calcium actually decreases bone density. Normally, you might think of it as a source of calcium, which would decrease rickets, but your bones need more than calcium to remineralise.
It is essentially the calcium-phosphorus ratio in the diet that boosts mineralisation. It has been known since the ‘20s that if you have imbalances from the normal ratio, which is about 2:1 calcium to phosphorus, you don’t mineralise.
In other words, you can absorb the calcium, but it’s just not going into the bone. There’s not enough phosphorus to make the mineralised matrix to proceed to the mineralisation, which is deficient in rickets.
Signs and symptoms
Another imperative point is that acid reflux is a sign of vitamin D deficiency. Your upper digestive tract, from your pharynx to the lower third of your oesophagus, is skeletal muscle; vitamin D is important for muscle strength.
Medical literature reveals that heartburn, bloating, constipation and reflux symptoms are all quite common among those with vitamin D deficiency because of reduced oesophageal motility and sphincter dysfunction.
A 2006 study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition stated that palm olein found in the fat blend of infant formulas has unintentional physiological consequences. These include diminished intestinal absorption of fat, palmitic acid and calcium, lower bone mass, and osteopenia or diminished mineralisation.
Interestingly, research papers from the ‘20s implicate formula feeding as a risk factor in rickets.
The Chief Medical Officer has advised that all children from the age of six months to five years should take vitamin D supplements in order to prevent deficiency.