Growing pains

Not all growing pains are ‘idiopathic’ (without obvious cause).  Some growing pains can be traced directly to a lack of Magnesium, and if so, the problem is simple to fix. This article tells you how to do this…

If your child has regular nocturnal leg pains, no pain the next morning, and no redness, swelling or fever, you may have been given a diagnosis of ‘growing pains’.  Roughly 1 in 4 children between the ages of 3 and 12 have pains that fit this profile, and most importantly, don’t fit anything more serious.

You may have been advised to just wait it out, massage your child’s legs and give them painkillers when necessary.  We have another simple alternative that may save them unnecessary pain while averting a more serious problem later.


Magnesium is your first port of call

If your child’s aches usually happen after a more active day and/or seem like cramps, then chances are good that the underlying issue is that too little magnesium is available to the muscles.

Then, if someone in your family has or had restless legs syndrome (RLS) at any point, then this is another strong clue, since magnesium deficiency can masquerade as RLS. In fact, several recent studies show a strong link between growing pains and RLS, where around 60% of people with RLS had growing pains earlier in life (Ref 1).  RLS is also hereditary.


Why is magnesium a likely culprit?

Magnesium is vital for energy production in the muscles, and extra activity can easily burn up surplus levels.  Magnesium is one of the most common deficiencies in our society today, for a few reasons:

  • Modern farming methods don’t replenish soil minerals like Magnesium, only Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (N:P:K).
  • White Flour and the foods made with it are very prevalent and widely consumed in place of Magnesium-rich foods.  Since the Magnesium has been stripped out of white flour, this is a problem
  • The phosphates in fizzy drinks leach the minerals in your child’s body
  • Many people don’t eat the foods rich in Magnesium (nuts, whole grains, green leafy vegetables and legumes).
  • Any hidden food allergies or probiotic imbalances can result in intestinal inflammation that prevents the absorption of minerals and fat soluble micronutrients, and this is more widespread than you think.


Don’t forget Vitamin D

Magnesium works in conjunction with a few key nutrients, and one of these is Calcium.  If blood Calcium levels are low, then your blood Magnesium levels dip too, so it creates quite a knock-on effect. Now, while Calcium in itself may not be the issue (and often isn’t), when Vitamin D levels are low, Calcium absorption is affected too.

To back this up, a recent study showed that only 6 of 100 children with growing pains had healthy Vitamin D levels. (Ref 3)

Even in sunny South Africa, Vitamin D deficiency is a growing problem in children and adults.  Although it should be the easiest nutrient to get, since our skins make it when exposed to sunshine, sunscreen cuts this process short.  So, unless you avoid routine use of sunscreen and allow your child a good amount of unprotected exposure to the sun, you could unwittingly be cutting the best source of this vitamin off.


This study draws it all together

A 1944 study (yes, that long ago…) found that bone meal, combined with supplements for vitamins A and D completely relieved the symptoms of all 112 children in the study group who had been diagnosed with growing pains or who kicked and screamed at night (Ref 2).

While I certainly don’t recommend bone meal as a safe supplement today (it can be high in lead, antibiotics and hormones), it is high in exactly the sorts of minerals you would expect to find in bone: phosphorus, calcium, magnesium, and many trace minerals too.  Note too the addition of Vitamins A and D. Here’s the Healthy-kids approach to stopping your child’s growing pains:


Our growing pains nutritional game plan

  1. Use a good supplement

    Put your child on a high quality, well absorbed supplement to give you time to find the underlying problem.  If your child does have a magnesium deficiency, there may be many reasons for this, but it will take time, sometimes as much as 6 – 12 months to find and correct the problem.

  2. Make sure they get enough sun

    As per my earlier point on this – your child needs 15-30 minutes of sunshine on at least their face, neck and arms, 3 – 4 times a week to make enough Vitamin D.  There are a few factors that influence this (look out for our article on the same, coming soon), but the simplest approach you can take is to avoid using routine sunscreen on your child for daily school play times.  Keep the sunscreen for extended periods in hot sun, and protect your child’s ability to make Vitamin D!

  3. Fix any probiotic imbalance

    Has your child had antibiotics recently?  Give them a good probiotic supplement to correct the bacterial imbalance the antibiotics left behind.  By doing this you will improve the quality of their mineral and fat digestion.  See our recommendations at the bottom of the page.

  4. Deal with suspected hidden food allergies

    Have you ever had any reason to suspect that your child has a hidden food sensitivity?  If this is the case, the resulting inflammation it causes in the intestinal could significantly reduce absorption of minerals and fats. There are many tests available that will help you find which foods your child is sensitive to.  Then, even if you can’t completely eliminate this food, concentrate on gradually minimizing the amount your child consumes of it.

  5. Remove / minimize fizzy drinks

    Fizzy drinks of all descriptions will leach minerals (Calcium and Magnesium) from your child’s bones and soft tissues because they are slightly acidic and will cause an acidity crisis in the blood.  Calcium and Magnesium make the blood more alkaline, and so will be needed to correct this.  Save fizzy drinks for special occasions, and have your child drink mostly water, preferably filtered, and diluted fruit juice (1:3 dilution or more).

  6. Make sure their diet is healthy enough to support their growth and activity

    With so many negative influences on your child’s diet, it is an uphill battle to keep them eating the right food.  The amount of conflicting information out there can also make it confusing to know what is actually healthy.

    With such phenomenal growth and development, your child needs nutrient-rich food to keep them growing and developing optimally.  Healthy-kids uses scientific evidence and a basic understanding of human physiology to guide you on this – and its simpler than you think. See if your child’s diet compares with the Healthy-kids healthy diet profile.


Products we recommend

  • Calcium and Magnesium Supplements

    GNLD Calmag to ensure Calcium and Magnesium supplementation in a highly bio-available form. It must be supported by GNLD Vita Squares to ensure that your child has all the nutrients they need.

  • Probiotic Supplements

    GNLD Acidophilus Plus provides several strains of key probiotic bacteria and has a good reputation for doing the job.

  • Targeted Diet Change Program 

    Our Healthy-kids Healthy Diet 8 step Program gives you an easy-to-follow system to get going on making your child’s diet healthy – even if they are a picky eater.


Our references

  1. 1: Champion, Pathirana et al, Growing pains: twin family study evidence for genetic susceptibility and a genetic relationship with restless legs syndrome, Eur J Pain, 16(9): 1224-31, Oct 2012.
  2. 2: Martin EM. Report on the clinical use of bone meal. Can Med Assoc J 50:562, 1944.
  3. 3: Qamar, Akbani et al, Vitamin D levels in children with growing pains, J Coll Physicians Surg Pak, 21(5):284-7, May 2011.

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