Rickets is a disease that directly affects the bones. This disease is caused due to a dietary deficiency of one of three essential nutrients – vitamin D, phosphorus or calcium. Therefore an ideal diet for rickets is one which meets the body’s nutritional requirements of these three nutrients. Here are some of the simple dietary guidelines for the treatment of rickets:
Commercially available fortified milk contains all three of vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus. Therefore, for treating or preventing rickets, it is best to make milk a dietary staple. For children who have lactose intolerance, parents may have to look for other foods rich in calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D for the prevention of rickets. Vegetarian diet also often lacks in these essential nutrients and it may become essential to look for fortified foods or consume supplements for meeting the nutritional needs.
- Vitamin D rich foods: Vitamin D is the only vitamin that can be synthesized in the human body in the presence of sunlight. The best foods to eat for rickets include tuna, yogurt, salmon, mackerel, cod liver oil and eggs.
Since vegetarians have very few alternatives for vitamin D rich foods, fortification of fruit juices and breakfast cereals with vitamin D becomes essential.
- Calcium rich foods: Apart from vitamin D, calcium is also important for treatment and prevention of rickets. Some of the foods to eat include dairy based products like milk, cheese and yogurt. In addition to these, you may also include green leafy vegetables such as spinach, radish greens, lettuce and kale.
- Phosphorus rich foods: The body requires phosphorus in very small quantities. Foods that are rich in calcium are usually rich in phosphorus as well. Some of these include eggs, milk, cheese, yogurt, whole wheat cereals, salmon, halibut, turkey, chicken and beef.
Rickets and Food Deficiency
Rickets is a disease of the bones in which children develop soft and brittle bones. This is largely a disease that affects children with nutritional deficiencies. Therefore, parents need to take special care of their children’s diet. Breast milk is low in vitamin D and infants, who are only breastfed in the first year of their life, may be more susceptible to developing food deficiencies leading to rickets.
While a vegetarian diet is healthy, it may not always contain all the important nutrients required for healthy growth. Dieticians recommend including a lot of variety when it comes to a vegetarian diet. This is done to include as many vitamins and minerals in the diet as possible.
Symptoms, Causes, Treatment For Rickets
Since rickets chiefly affects the bones, the symptoms of this condition usually include tenderness and pain in the bones. The child may not be able to develop normally and the bones of the legs are often bow shaped. In addition, the child may experience other symptoms such as:
- Tenderness in the spine, pelvis and both limbs.
- Stunted growth such as shortness in height.
- Recurring and severe muscle cramps.
- Abnormal teeth that may often bleed.
- Decreased muscle growth and muscle wasting.
- Cavities in teeth.
- Oddities in the shape of the skull.
- Progressive weakness and dullness.
- Other skeletal deformities such as those in the breastbone, pelvis and spine
The main cause of rickets is the nutritional deficiency of vitamin D, phosphorus and calcium. The blood levels of these minerals may often become low due to dietary deficiencies and to compensate for these deficiencies, the body utilizes calcium and phosphorus from the bones. This causes the bones to become brittle, weak and soft. People may not get enough vitamin D if they:
- Are vegetarian and have a very restricted diet.
- Are lactose intolerant and cannot consume dairy products.
- Live in a climate where there is very little exposure to sunlight.
- Are dark skinned.
- Stay indoors and go out very occasionally.
Some of the other causes of rickets include:
- Kidney disorders that prevent kidneys from holding the mineral phosphate
- Renal tubular acidosis
- Digestive disorders that interfere in the absorption and digestion of vitamin D and fats
- Liver disorders, which prevent the body from converting vitamin D to its absorbable form
The treatment of rickets is aimed at relieving the symptoms of this condition and correcting the dietary deficiencies. A healthy diet with foods that contain vitamin D, phosphorus and calcium can be used to correct the cause of rickets. If diet alone cannot help replace the dietary deficiencies, supplements may be recommended to meet these needs. Reconstructive surgery may be required in case the disease causes severe skeletal deformities.