Dark Circles Under the Eyes - Vegan Nutrition with Dina Aronson, M.S. R.D.

Dina AronsonDina Aronson, MS, RD is a vegan dietitian whose specialties include chronic disease prevention, vegetarian/vegan nutrition, and lifestyle management. She is the founder and director of VeganRD.com, a nutrition consulting company. Active in many vegetarian nutrition organizations, Dina was the recipient of the American Dietetic Association's Recognized Young Dietitian of the Year Award in 2002.

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My children (ages 8, 6 & 4) have been vegan for 5 months. I think I have all the nutritional bases covered plus a vegan multivitamin every day, but my husband is concerned. My 2 oldest have developed dark circles around their eyes that don't seem to coincide with just fatigue, and my little one has developed minor cases of ezcema on her arms. I try to limit soy products to 2 servings a day at most, I switched to fortified rice milk, I give them 2 or 3 nutritional yeast dishes a week and I add ground flax or flaxseed oil to their fruit smoothies. Is there something I'm missing?

Dear Tracy,

My first recommendation is that you schedule an appointment with a registered dietitian who specializes in vegetarian nutrition (you can find one here. Make sure you choose "vegetarian nutrition" from the specialty dropdown). At your visit, the dietitian will take a detailed diet and medical history (weight changes, medications, activity level, family history, etc.) and compare their intakes to their needs, nutrient by nutrient. My second recommendation is that you take your children for a complete blood workup to rule out any nutrient deficiencies or other problems. My third recommendation is to take your children to a doctor for a physical examination.

Sometimes symptoms like these are indeed due to deficiencies in the diet, but other times the cause(s) may be not due to their diet at all. Since you only recently changed their diet, chances are that these symptoms are related to those changes. However, I would need more detailed information before I could determine what the problem(s) might be, and this is why I recommend a full consultation with a dietitian.

I strongly urge you to visit with medical and nutritional specialists as soon as possible so that the causes of these symptoms can be determined and addressed. Some nutrient deficiencies result in irreversible damage, so please do act as soon as possible.

Editor's Note: Dark circles under the eyes may also be "allergic shiners" indicating that the child is allergic to something in his diet. You may want to check with an allergist and have tests done, or try an elimination diet to see which food is causing the allergic reaction.