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Larry Newman is the Chief Operating Officer, Technical and Regulatory Affairs of Kirkman Group, Inc. (Kirkman). Contact Kirkman at 1-800-245-8282; 6400 Rosewood St., Lake Oswego, OR.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Defining a Poor Nutritional Profile and Steps to Improve It

By Larry Newman

Basically a poor nutritional profiles is a series of nutritional deficiencies that may be present in an individual. It is very prevalent in sensitive individuals for numerous reasons. A balanced diet for these individuals is usually not the rule. First, special diets, such as gluten-free/casein-free (GF/CF) or the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD), may be in place that are not balanced nutritionally. Second, a person's tastes and attitudes can be such that their diet is very deficient in vitamins, minerals, or other nutritional necessities. Or a facet of biochemistry can be irregular, making the absorption of nutrients suboptimal.

Poor nutrition can often be recognized by:

  • vision issues 
  • unhealthy skin tone 
  • extreme tiredness or lack of energy 
  • lethargy 
  • behavioral issues 
  • failure to thrive 
  • frequent illness

Correcting a poor nutritional profile is crucial to good health in special needs individuals. For those on a casein- and dairy-free diet, calcium supplementation is essential to proper bone development and growth.  Furthermore, a comprehensive vitamin and mineral supplement is essential when the diet is unbalanced and deficient, which is often the case if all food groups including protein sources, fruits, vegetables, and carbohydrates are not consumed.  Cod liver oil and omega-3 fatty acid supplements can help support good vision and healthy skin.  Irregularities in biochemical pathways are often supported by B-6/ magnesium supplements, folic or folinic acid, or sulfation aids.

Certain nutrients are essential for proper support of the immune system.  Zinc, vitamin A, vitamin C, vitamin E, and selenium are examples of nutrients that improve immune response.  Suboptimal levels of these nutrients can sometimes lead to poor immune response.

A physician's evaluation, laboratory testing, and a thorough nutritional assessment by a certified pediatric dietitian will lead to a plan to improve a child's nutritional profile and the road to better health. These are important steps to determine an individual's true nutritional status. Eating habits, growth history, and medical history need to be taken into account when coming up with the perfect nutritional regimen for an individual.

Sometimes a poor nutritional profile can be due to enzyme insufficiency. If this is the case, even eating a well-balanced diet and taking supplements may not be the entire answer. Pancreatic digestive enzymes each do a specific job and digest a specific food group. Individuals deficient in lipase probably won't digest fats and oils properly and won't fully absorb oil-soluble nutrients like vitamins A, D or E. Those deficient in lactase won't digest lactose and may be lactose intolerant. Other people may have a shortage of starch-digesting enzymes or protein-digesting enzymes. When these situations are present, then supplementing with the proper digestive enzyme product may improve a poor nutritional profile.  When this is the case, usually digestive discomforts such as bloating or indigestion are apparent and help the parent or physician recognize the problem.