Zinc Deficiency and Low Growth Hormone

For children who have low growth hormone, it’s a good idea to check zinc levels to see if nutrient absorption is a factor. 

Just because you are gluten free doesn’t mean you are absorbing nutrients. Many doctors miss this part of the equation. 
“Just go gluten free” is the prescription for celiac disease and gluten intolerance–often without much assessment of absorption of nutrients and gut function.

 A child with celiac or gluten intolerance who is not a great eater might easily be deficient in nutrients important for growth. My kids were both low in growth hormone and had growth issues, until we discovered that they were both low in zinc and we began supplementation which resulted in increased growth rates (and increased appetite–as low zinc can also contribute to picky eating.) 

In my experience, mainstream doctors and even our  endocrinologist, who I think is amazing, never checked zinc levels until I requested them to check the levels. According to an article in The Journal of Pediatrics “Mild to moderate zinc deficiency in short children” reports that “zinc supplementation is effective for inducing growth in short children with zinc deficiency.” (1) Because low zinc levels can contribute to low growth rates,  checking the zinc level should be done as a first priority whenever growth in a child is a concern.

Checking nutrient levels is also beneficial because other systems like the reproductive system can also be affected by low nutrient absorption. If zinc deficiency or nutrient absorption is an issue, a  good nutritionist or alternative doctor can help put growth on the right track.

After zinc levels have been assessed, then supplementation might be necessary to improve zinc levels and see if growth picks up. My son takes this  Kirkman zinc product that is hypoallergenic and contains 15 mg zinc. This Klaire Labs multimineral product which contains 20 mg. of zinc was recommended for my daughter by our nutritionist.
I always recommend finding a good nutritionist/alternative doctor who will recommend and interpret blood work and oversee supplementation when necessary.  An alternative doctor or good nutritionist is usually trained to look at and assess nutrient absorption and recommend dietary intervention and supplements –but parents can also inform themselves and ask for basic nutrient testing from mainstream doctors  if they don’t have access to an alternative doctor. Then, depending on results, they can decide whether nutrient absorption is a factor and find a nutritionist to help after testing has been done.


I asked Geri Brewster, a registered dietician and experienced nutritionist, about the relationship between zinc, nutrient deficiencies and growth and she added…
“Celiac and gluten sensitivity can lead to malabsorption of a number of nutrients but minerals, which tend to compete for absorption, are particularly vulnerable. While correcting for celiac or gluten sensitivity by eliminating gluten, that alone does not correct for nutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies as gut healing is a slow process and in a growing child demand for nutrients remains great. Thus, zinc deficiency can occur and it is associated with short stature, among other negative effects.”
“However, a growth hormone deficiency can still be occurring as a second issue and may need to be replaced. When growth hormone replacement is called for, then the building blocks for growth need to be present. Those include enough protein, fats and adequate nutrient dense carbohydrates as well as vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Dietary sources of zinc include meats and shellfish as well as beans, nuts and seeds. When absorption is an issue, supplementation may be necessary while also measuring blood levels. If zinc deficiency or insufficiency is found it is probable that other nutrients may be low as well and working toward dietary and supplemental support to optimize growth is essential, even in the presence of growth hormone therapy.”
Geri Brewster has an office in Mount Kisco and is also in NYC weekly or she can work by phone with clients to help parents figure out if nutrition is a factor in low growth hormone.

Geri Brewster, RD MPH CDN
491 Lexington Ave, Mt Kisco, NY 10549
(914) 864-1976


These are the blood tests that our alternative doctor has done with my kids to check absorption levels. By checking these basic levels before going gluten free and yearly (or when blood work is being done), you can get an indication of whether nutrient absoption is an issue.

1) B12 panel
2) vitamin D
3) vitamin A
4) zinc
5) copper

Zinc is Important for Growth

(1) http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0022347605815380

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