Extreme sensitivity to smells may be caused by a zinc deficiency.I cursorily Googled child with a sensitive smell a while ago and did not come up with anything meaningful. Selena's sense of smell was highly sensitive. Almost all food smelled bad to her. Bananas were the worst. Every time Allie wanted to eat a banana she would freak out and run away (which of course Allie thought was hilarious and would proceed to chase her), but lots of other food caused problems as well. She would frequently eat a different dinner at a different table than us. Sometimes I would think she was overreacting and making it up, but she would smell stuff from another room, while not being able to see the food, that led me to believe she was not, so I tried to accommodate her. Sometimes I wondered if something was wrong with her, but doctor Google didn't come up with anything, and I had forgot to mention it at her last doctor appointment.
Then I happened to come across a book called What's Eating Your Child?: The Hidden Connection Between Food and Childhood Ailments recommended via a blog I read. (There is a new edition of the book coming out on April 23, 2013 renamed Cure Your Child With Food.) I had been looking for a book that might explain the prevalence of food intolerance's that seems to be going on. The title mentions picky eating as well, and I thought that might have some useful ideas, but honestly I didn't think it would say more than, "Make your child eat more variety." Boy was I wrong! This book goes into picky eating and identifies CAUSES for the picky eating. If you fix the cause then the pickiness is easier to abate.
She tells you to not skip ahead to the chapters relevant to your child, and I tried not to, but she kept referring to chapter seven and I couldn't help myself (though I did go back and read the book in it's entirety). Chapter seven is called "The Case of the Boy Who Wouldn't Grow" and is about ZINC DEFICIENCY.
The symptoms she notes are:
- Fifth percentile or lower for weight or height? Selena is currently in the third.
- Growth trend going down? For Selena she went from about 10th percentile to roughly 5th, gradually from age zero to two, so it wasn't a dramatic drop, but she was also born 3 weeks early and started off fairly short.
- Does your child rarely seem to be hungry? Selena is hungry often, but hardly eats much. A couple bites often fill her up.
- Is your child a picky eater? Yes!!
- Does your child complain frequently that foods smell or taste funny? Yes, yes, yes!!
- Does your underweight child get full after a few bites (not counting dessert)? How did you know?
- Has a bone-age test found that your small child's bone age is close to her chronological age? Have not had this test done.
At this point I felt like I was really onto something. Selena is very short (or little as she prefers to be called), and sometimes I worried about it, but at the same time I was always THE smallest kid compared to my peers, and Floyd was the same way. Someone has to be at the bottom of the charts, and I figured that me and my progeny were destined to be the ones (excepting Allie who is about 50th percentile for height.). Yet sometimes I would wonder if she was still even smaller than either my husband or I at that age.
The book mentions a solution you can take to test for zinc deficiency. Apparently there are solutions you can get that taste like water if you are deficient and taste awful if you are not. I was on vacation and couldn't order it, but I was pretty sure this is what was going on anyway, so I immediately went to the store and got a supplement. She recommends 20mg for younger children 30mg for older ones. (Note: The multi-vitamin I have tried giving her, but which she wouldn't eat because it smelled and tasted funny, only had 2mg). I could only find 15mg or 30mg so I went with 15mg. Unfortunately it came in a capsule and has to swallow it, but so far she's managed. *Update: Here is a 23mg chewable zinc lozenge that is similar to the one we use now.
I told Selena that the vitamin should help her sense of smell so that food wouldn't smell bad, and that she wouldn't have to run away from Allie's bananas. I also told her it would help her taste buds and make other food taste better. She was as excited as I was. In four days we started noticing a difference. Allie was eating a banana and Selena had preemptively plugged her nose. I asked her to unplug it and just see if the vitamin was working yet. She was so surprised, she couldn't smell the banana! A few seconds later she is asking if she could try eating the banana. I handed the rest of Allie's uneaten banana to her nonchalantly, internally my jaw hitting the floor, and she scarfs down the whole thing, AND asks for more! Amazing.
Since then life has been so much easier. When we go out, she doesn't refuse every available food item, which usually left us with nothing at least somewhat nutritious to feed her. We have seen the following positive changes:
- She now eats and requests meat. Before I could cajole her to eat a bit of chicken or a bite of homemade teriyaki beef maybe once every two months. Now she requests it. She chose to eat chicken strips over macaroni and cheese when were out for dinner! I jokingly asked her if we should have chicken or steak for dinner and she said, "Both, that would be so yummy." My eyes almost popped out of my head, and of course we did have both. When we were eating the chicken, she complained about it being messy. Normally this would have ended the meal right then. This time, however, I wiped off the messiness and she ate it.
- She now will eat the multi-vitamins I had tried giving her before and is also taking spoonfuls of fish oil mixed with smoothie. She says that it tastes bad, but she just grimaces and deals with it, instead of freaking out.
- I haven't heard one peep out of her about our food smelling bad. She can sit near us while we are eating something she doesn't like and it doesn't bother her.
- She doesn't seem to have as much of an issue with different foods touching each other.
- Usually if a food didn't look "perfect" she wouldn't eat it. Any variance in color, texture, or seasoning would cause her to refuse the meal. Now she will comment on it, perhaps out of habit, but she still eats it.
- I'm not positive, but it seems that her appetite is a bit larger and she is eating a bit more at each sitting. Hopefully this continues.
I honestly did not expect to see such a vast improvement so quickly. I love stories about how a change in diet can prove dramatic results, and this is an excellent example. (When I stopped eating cereal was another.) I am optimistic, and so is she, that she will continue to try and find new foods that she likes. It will be interesting to see if her growth accelerates and she climbs the percentiles as far as height.
I highly, highly recommend this book (I have not been sponsored in this recommendation in any way though the links are Amazon affiliate links and I will get a small portion of the sale). There is a wealth of information I have never heard of including how how to combat ear infections, ADHD, stomach aches, delays in speech, among other things. If your child is a picky eater, this book may help point to a cause of the picky eating, because she notes other causes besides zinc deficiency. I just wish she had an adult version of this book that had solutions to acne, headaches/migranes, etc.