Severely underweight individuals may have poor physical stamina and a weak immune system, leaving them open to infection. According to Robert E. Black of the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, "Underweight status ... and micronutrient deficiencies also cause decreases in immune and non-immune host defenses, and should be classified as underlying causes of death if followed by infectious diseases that are the terminal associated causes." People who are malnutrative underweight raise special concerns, as not only gross caloric intake may be inadequate, but also intake and absorption of other vital nutrients, especially essential amino acids and micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals. In women, being grossly underweight can result in amenorrhea (absence of menstruation) and possible complications during pregnancy. It can also cause anemia and hair loss. Underweight is an established risk factor for osteoporosis even for young people. This is a particular insidious consequence, because the affected persons do not notice the danger, they can feel fit and may be brilliant for example in endurance sports. After the occurrence of first spontaneous fractures the damage is often already irreversible." (Wikipedia)
Our readers offer information and opinions on Earth Clinic, not as a substitute for professional medical prevention, diagnosis, or treatment. Please consult with your physician, pharmacist, or health care provider before taking any home remedies or supplements or following any treatment suggested by anyone on this site. Only your health care provider, personal physician, or pharmacist can provide you with advice on what is safe and effective for your unique needs or diagnose your particular medical history.
11/02/2009: XH from JC, Ga, US: "Dear Ted, my son just turned 11 years old today but he has a bone age of 7 and body mass index of 12.5, about 1 percentile on the growth chart. The complete blood panel and comprehensive metabolic pannel all came back normal. He eats a balanced diet and is otherwise healthy and does well in school. But I am still extremely worried about his physical state. Should I? What can I do to help him? Thank you so much!"Replies
11/03/2009: Ted from Bangkok, Thailand replies: "Increasing an underweight child is rather straightforward. A vitamin B complex, in the form of B50 would increase his weight, until it's discontinued, once the weight is about to reach normal weight. The second thing to build muscle mass and bone issue is the vitamin D2 or D3, the dose that's required, based on my estimates are usually between 10,000 i.u. to 15,000 i.u. of vitamin D taken for only one to two months, and is taken only 5 days out of a week. Magnesium gluconate, magnesium citrate is taken at 250 mg a day for 5 days out of the week also for at least two months period. Muscle mass should noticeably increase within about a month, and the bone mass also. Most tests of metabolic doesn't measure growth it just measures your energy level, so I guess a proper measurement maybe vitamin D levels, growth hormone and bone mass density. A metabolic rate is more ideally suited with people with low energy levels, diabetes, obesity and hypothyroidism. Vitamin C maybe needed by the child so that the collagen supplements can formed, some dipotassium phoshpate 250 mg, taken for a week or two should help building of the bones, as this is converted into Calcium phosphate, which makes up roughly 70-80 of the bone structure. What holds together the bone structure is a collagen matrix, so it helps if daily amino acid supplements are taken, usually liquid form or softgel form. The remedy requires about 2 months, but a vitamin B complex may needed to be taken for only the first two weeks, and that's only 5 days out of a week. I am assuming of course that the child's iodine level are normal, but this is unrealistic, as roughly (can't be exact) 96% of the U.S. population has subclinical iodine level. Hence, 1 drop of lugols solution is taken only once a week, also for about two months period, and it's dissolved in a half glass of water."
11/03/2009: Jamie from Lake Worth, Fl replies: "XH, I had the same problem with a child. by the way, who is now a strapping 18 year old young man. I found daily multi vitamins really stimulated his appetite. Noticed a huge difference when he took them and when he didn't. Although you did indicate his diet was healthy, maybe eating more would help him to plump up some.
As we know some people just don't gain weight as easily as others. You did all the right things by consulting a doctor. I am thinking puberty may change all of that, but in the mean time try multi vitamins."
11/05/2009: XH from JC, Ga, US replies: "Thank you Ted for your full spectrum prescription. I just started to give my son the children's multivitamin. Should I subtract the dosage in that first before supplementing more B and D as you suggested?
Since he is eating a healthy diet in moderate amount, should I suspect or test him for any digestive system issues? I also recently started him on enzyme supplement. Are there tests to reveal any vitamin / mineral / amino acid deficiencies?
Jamie, it's really assuring to know your son has turned out strong and healthy. Because of my son's low bone age, I don't expect him to hit puberty in the near future, but I definitely look forward to it. Thank you so much for sharing your experience."
07/03/2007: Sheryl : "Dear Ted, Thank you for being an active member on the earthclinic.com. So far I haven't seen any info about underweight kids. My son is 3 years old and he's been underweight since a year old..he has a low appetite and slow digestion. i can instantly tell that he has an upset stomach if he gets hiccups after eating some outside food...he rarely eats outside though... If catches common cold, he cannot get rid of it easily.I never give him antibiotics because at age 11 months, his body was resistant to most of antibiotics and had to hospitalized for diarrhea and vomiting.. He's irritable most times..and crying too..even when he's playing ....say legos and the tower of blocks collapses ...he gets very upset and starts kicking his legs and crying or yells you naughty boy... He eats most vegetables and fruits but in small quantities..i have tried homeopathy but the effect is only temporary..i have spent lots of money buying goji juice and glyconutrients..had to stop because i cannot afford it anymore.. need some economical solution .... i give him tulsi (holy basil) leaves intermittently....we are from India and beleive in holy basil.. He has no sickness and no allergies.. But I am sure he needs something for his appetite and irritable nature...he doesn't sleep much either.. Let me know if you have any more questions, to evaluate his condition. I am waiting to hear from you. Thank you"Replies
07/03/2007: Ted from Bangkok, Thailand replies: "Sheryl: This is a fairly common problem, and usually 1/2 a lime (approx 4 teaspoon of freshly squeezed lime) with 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda in 1/4 glass of water is taken twice a day, once in the morning and once before bedtime. A drinking water with 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt in 1 liter of water and a twice or three times a week vitamin B complex (its usually called B50, where most B's are B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, B8 are 50 mg, except for folic acid is 50 mcg and B12 50 mcg) should resolve the problems in a matter of 2-3 weeks. The issue whenever the body is in a mild state of acidosis, or autotoxication, the body rejects everything. Sodium ascorbate vitamin C is helpful if taken only 2-3 times a week. This also happens whenever vitamin B complex are lacking. Holy basil is fine, but some chinese parsley (taken only twice a week should remove the heavy metals, which in my experience is one of the cause of antibiotic resistant as well as the body lowered immune system. To increase some immune system, perhaps just once twice a month dose of zinc gluconate 25-50 mg should do it. Magnesium is fairly important as it is synergistic with both vitamin B complex, and aids the body in detoxification. The appetite is expected to increase on the second or third week if the remedy is taken. Glyconutrients are extremely expensive where a suitable replacement of kelp supplement will usually have most of glyconutrient without the expensive price."
[YEA] 07/14/2007: Sheryl replies: "Dear Ted, My son is doing well..i have started giving him lemon and baking soda regularly every night. I also give him Chinese parsely. I have been using it liberally in our food ...being Indians we love the flavor. However I didn't know its use. He also takes b50 complex twice a week. Just wanted to update you and say thanks for your remedies. I have spent hundreds of dollars in tonics and supplements without knowing the remedy is so simple."
08/13/2007: Jojo from Dagupan City, Philippines replies: "i would like to ask if the dose is the recommendation (for weight gain) is the same for a 1 yr 9 mos old toddler? Thanks so much!"
12/08/2010: Patricia from Montreal, Quebec replies: "Hi, I love earth clinic so much. I have a question relating to underweight kids. My daughter was very premature, 28 weeks, 500grams. She spent 3month in the NICU. She has hydrocephalus, no shunt, but has had MRIs to keep track of her condition. Other than that she has been very healthy, very happy, she is now 2 1/2 and talking tons, and is ahead of her age developmentally. She eats lots, is not picky, and does not have any known allergies. But she is sooo tiny, she is about 19 lbs at 2 1/2. I always say she just started small and she is staying small. But I am always looking for ways I can get some fat on her. Any advice would be really appreciated. I give her vit d, acidophulus, multi vit, and an immune combo vit everyday. Thank you so much everyone!"
12/08/2010: Anna from Pittsburgh, Pa replies: "I've heard that stinging nettle might help. Its especially good for children with poor appetite! Just buy it in tea form and give to your child once or twice a day. Make sure to speak to a doctor first in case it might counteract with medication. I hope this helps. Good luck!"
12/09/2010: Merryanne from Orange City, Florida, Usa replies: "If it was my child I would be sure she gets at least one tablespoon of virgin coconut oil mixed in her food each and every day, (not at the night meal, it gives too much energy), a pro-biotic to help restore digestion, and if she likes to drink milk, I would try to get raw goat milk, it digest much better than cow milk, , , and get her off all unfermented soy, read all labels of all food processed, soy products will block absorption of a lot of the vitamins and minerals. I hope this helps, Merryanne in Central FL"
12/09/2010: Mmsg from Somewhere, Europe replies: "My baby was also premature and was underweight for years, and then she just grew! Into a lovely young lady of average height! I never sweated about it and hope you won't."
12/09/2010: Brooke from Montgomery, Tx, Usa replies: "Since your child is only 3, if you have ANY questions about this, then ask your Dr.!! Get some bottles of Fletcher's Castoria, it is a mild laxative for children. Give it to him in a scant half teaspoon starting at 7am every thirty minutes until bedtime. That will get his stomach juices working properly. I use this on my children often, and they like the flavor - it tastes like Root Beer. I buy it in bulk also!! Then put flannel packs on his abdomen with an equal mixture of camphor oil, turpentine oil, and mutton suet. Melt the mutton first and then add the other two to it. Put a hot water bottle on top of that and leave it there for 30 minutes to 1 hour. Do that for 3 days straight. After this, get him on Castor oil packs, they are great for all ailments of the body. There is some information on EC about that and how to do it.
In his diet use those things that are easily assimilated. Instead of using cows' milk use dried milk. Give him more of the juices from the food for a while, it will be more easily digested in his body. Also I would start giving him Lime water and cinnamon water, not together but lime one day the next day cinnamon water, for 15 days do this. This will settle the stomach and hopefully cause his gastric flow to become more normal. I would keep him away from all nuts and nut oils, this might be why when he eats outside the home his stomach becomes upset.
My child had an allergy to peanuts and when we went to a restaurant I needed to ask them if they cook with peanut oil. Almonds MIGHT be OK - they have so many great vitamins in them. If you can get American saffron, which is the saffron that is not expensive, then take a tea cup with boiling water and add a pinch of the yellow saffron to that, let it steep and then strain it. Yellow saffron tea is very good for the digestion! Also some light massaging of his spine and his abdomen would be good, with olive oil. Olive oil is a food for the body. I use a steam shower and while my pores are open, I massage olive oil into my skin, that may help your son also. Good luck and I hope this helps you."
09/17/2011: Preeti from Coppell, Tx Usa replies: "Hi, my baby is now 13 months. She is underweight (17 Lb) I have tried so many things for improving her weight, almost everything, but doesn't work out. I am very much concerned about her weight, please help me out and suggest to me something that my baby can eat more and more and become pumpkin. Most of the time I cry because she is very beautiful but very skinny and tiny. Please help me I am still crying."
09/19/2011: Ari from Atlanta, Ga. replies: "Hi Preeti! Your baby may do well on Goat Milk! It does not have the problems that Cow milk may have for many people. It is very nutritious and should help your baby soon! It is said to be most similar to Human Breastmilk. It may come fresh at a supermarket or healthfood store in a can or powder to mix with water. Taste better than cow's milk too! Blessings to you!"
09/20/2011: Yoyo from Earth replies: "Hi Preeti, Is there anything you are worried about aside from physical appearance? Is your child often sick? Are there behaviour problems? Is she in pain? Problems in her development?
Otherwise I wouldn't worry too much. I was a skinny kid myself until I got to my thirties. As a kid I lost count of how many diets and "treatments" I went on trying to gain weight. Some worked, all failed in the long run. It took decades for me to accept that my metabolism was a bit stronger than most people and this is just who I am. I finally got rid of all hang-ups and learned to love myself for who I am and not what other people think "healthy" should be.
Just thought I would say it, be careful. You might, with the best of all intentions, unknowingly plant some self-hatred seeds in your child while she is perfectly healthy and unique. However you should definitely seek advice if you suspect malnutrition, development problems, etc."
09/20/2011: Jen from Bozeman, Mt, Us replies: "Hi Preeti, I just wanted to give you my story to comfort you a little. I have 5 children. All were born big and healthy at 8 lbs 6 oz and up. They all were very tiny toddlers. My 4 girls were about 18 to 19 lbs at 3 yrs old. My son is only 4 now but he is also very small. Not even on the charts that the doctors use at this time. I tried not to worry because you can cause them to have eating disorders if you make food their adversery instead of letting them choose to eat when they want. I made sure to give them plenty of food that they might eat, available for each meal. They all had very different appetites. Two eat really well and alot and 3 are a little pickier yet they all were about the same size at each stage.
My oldest is 15 and she is now a very tall (5' 9") teenager who is at a perfect weight. She is very healthy in her food choices. My next daughter is 14 and is also very tall and healthy weight (she was one of the picky ones) she has chosen to be a vegetarian and still maintains great health with supplements and vitamins. My third is still small. She is only 10 but she has had digestive problems since she was a baby. We now give her enzymes and she is doing very well. My two little ones are still very small. My 6 year old is a huge eater. Sometimes she will eat like a teenage boy and she is still tiny. I think that it has alot to do with DNA and metabolism. Don't worry though. Children only need 1/4 of a peanut butter sandwich per day (Concerning calories) in order to survive. They can be given supplements and vitamins to help with nutrients if need be but they will grow at their own pace no matter what."
09/21/2011: Oscar from Syracuse, New York, Usa replies: "Dear Jen, There is a product named: Ensure whic is made to be an easily digested source of essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals, and healthy type calories. That is what this product is designed for. Many doctors prescibe ensure for people with digestive problems. You can buy ensure at most drugstores, many supermarkets and all Walmart stores so it is not hard to obtain. You buy it in 6 packs for about 7 or 8 dollars. It is about as safe as it gets as a product. No presciption is required to buy it. A dear friend of mine recover from a state in wich she had great difficlty digesting just about everything else. She is fine now thanks to this stuff....Oscar"
09/21/2011: Ari from Atlanta, Ga replies: "Hi Preeti: I personally would not give ensure to anyone much-less a Baby! Here is a partial list of what is in it from livestrong.com
The original Ensure supplement drink contains water, sugar, corn syrup, corn maltdextrin, milk protein concentrate, soy oil, soy protein concentrate, short-chain fructooligosaccarides, cocoa powder, canola oil and less than 0. 5 percent of corn oil"
09/21/2011: Debbie from Melbourne, Australia replies: "I agree with Ari, Ensure should not be taken. All that soy product in it is enough to send me running.
You are better off having her drink green smoothies (including wheatgrass) as they contain all the vitamins and minerals. Stay away from processed foods as they are dead calories with no nutritional benefit. I would also give her a digestive enzyme and probiotics to ensure food is being properly digested not just "passing through".
Do you have access to raw milk products, or raw goats milk? They would also help her."
10/13/2011: Obeybunny from Santa Ana, California, USA replies: "Avocados and Ensure Drink (also called Pediasure Drink)
Try feeding your child Avocados and a chocolate flavored vitamin-protein drink called Ensure- there's one that is designed for maintaining weight. When my mom (who is now in her 60's) was an infant, she was what the doctors at that time called a "failure to thrive baby. " No matter what her parents fed her (home made baby formula, liver, peas, exc. ) she would not gain weight or get taller until her parents started feeding her Avocados mixed with mayonnaise. After that, she started to grow. Her cheeks regained color.
I had a similar problem to your 3 year old when I was a kid- I never ate much food. In fact, I think I could comfortably go 2 days without eating. My mom started making me drink Ensure every day which I could tolerate drinking because it never made me feel sickeningly full the way that more than one third of a cup of food did.
Oh, and one last thing. If your son catches a cold that doesn't go away within a month, get him checked out for hyperthyroidism (especially if his thyroid is as large as an adult mans') and iron deficiency. Other symptoms may be that his hair easily pulls out or that he chronically has hard stools."
10/13/2011: Debbie from Melbourne, Australia replies: "Obeybunny from memory Ensure has many terrible ingredients in it that I would not have anyone take. It has canola oil, soy, MSG and corn oil.... All terrible unhealthy things to take.
You are better off making green smoothies yourself... Lots of green vegetables, add carrots, maybe some apple or lemon juice to sweeten it a bit. Much more healthy and no additives that will damage your health.
I am very cautious of any processed "health" food .. most have additives you would not want in your body."
11/20/2011: Tanja from Toronto, Ontario Canada replies: "My question is if I could use Ted's remedies for underweight children (baking soda and lime B50 complex) for a 16 month old child. He eats very small amounts, I still breastfeed him, his iron is pretty low( 18). I've started giving him iron supplement and probiotics. Thank you."
Test for Food Allergies
[YEA] 10/15/2009: Lisa from Coto De Caza, Ca: "natural cures for underweight children
Some children have a hard time eating if food upsets their stomach. Sometimes this is due to delayed food allergies. There is an expensive blood test for this, but it is not 100% accurate, but can be a good starting point. Food elimination diets can detect them, but don't use the ones that are too restrictive. Most popular food problems: gluten (wheat), milk, eggs or egg whites, corn, soy, nuts. Lots of books on this.
Celiac disease= no gluten. If your child is really underweight or short for their age, try the celiac disease blood test. The test is not 100% accurate as there are sometimes false negatives if the disease is in the early stage. Other symptoms of celiacs: stomach upsets, IBS, tooth enamel problems, skin problems.... Google for more info and symptoms. Celiac disease destroys the villi in your intestine and food/vitamins are not absorbed. Ergo, if your child is not absorbing their food, they don't grow. Once your child is off gluten, the intestines heal and food is absorbed.... weight is gained."Replies
01/16/2011: Stitly from Mel, Australia replies: "I love this earth clinic and really admire ted he seems like to know what he is talking about my question is when I finis giving b 50 twice a week for two weeks and lime and baking soda for two weeks to my four yrs old son. He goes back were we started. He seems to eat better with b 50 and lime water. The problem with my son is if it goes in his tummy ( I make him eat) it seems to be absorbed ok he puts on weight a little but if I am busy or tired or think let him eat whatever he wants to eat HE EATS LIKE BIRD Or MOUSE. And loses weight really fast. I don't want give him high dose of b vit for long time. Any advice from experts or ted is really appreciated. He is otherwise normal his eldest sister was thriving baby and still is."
01/16/2011: Brooke from Montgomery, Tx, Usa replies: "Have you tested him for worms? Worms can make the appetite really go crazy! One day eating everything in sight and then wanting nothing for a week or two and then wanting everything again and so on and so on. I would get him checked for worms and if that is the case, then have him eat green lettuce and green cabbage - more of the cabbage for approx 3-4 days as this kills worms. If you don't want to go to the Dr then just have him eat that.
My child had them when he was little and I gave him this in different ways - I would juice them sometimes - grate them sometimes - just to make it a little easier for him to eat. Also I would put him on Fletcher's Castoria - it is a natural senna based laxative that will help to remove everything in his colon. Use your own judgment on the dose - I take it from a bottle a day sipping 1/4 tsp every 30 minutes and sometimes just one Tbls a day. It will not hurt him, so use your own judgment on this."
01/17/2011: Deb from Melbourne, Australia replies: "Stitly, maybe your son's lack of appetite has something to do with digestion. Digestive enzymes and probiotics may help him. I don't know if your son has elimination problems but my son did and the probiotics helped. If it were worms I think the appetite would increase.
Also as my sister said to me yesterday you need to make food for children more palatable as they go through a stage of being picky eaters. Make food arranged with smily faces, homemade healthy pizzas (anything to get them to eat). My son (3 1/2) when he won't eat I play a game with him so we say cheers and clink our food together and eat at the same time. He laughs and thinks its terribly funny but eats his veggies at the same time."
01/17/2011: Stitly from Mel, Australia replies: "Thank you for taking intrest in my post I have tried swedish bitters and probiotcs but not together I gave him break from all the supplements over the holidays. everybody is saying what happened to him he was already skinny. I use to give him swedish bitters patavite incremin which is a iron supplement and some days half of b50 and calcium and magnesium supplement called cp mp and liquid vit d. better start again. My husband was joking yesterday he is the only kid who doesn't like chips in the world. Only thing makes noticeable change is b50 and lime water but when I stop he goes back. I am looking cure. How do I test for worms? I will try fletchers castoria and probiotcs when I go to the shops next. I started him on b50 and lime water yesterday. today I will give him bitters and incremin and lime water see how I go."
07/29/2011: Sushma Sharma from Bhopal, M.p., India replies: "My son is 10 years complete, he is very thin in apperance right from his birth, his present weight is 21 kgs, also he got tired very easily althogh doctors adviced not to worry he is quite active he is picky eater, only like patties, cream roll & plain chapati without dals or vegetables."