Cour irritable bowel syndrome caused me to be shorter?

Last updated on September 26, 2020



I have a question related to nutrition and height growth. I am a 20-year-old male, and according to the calculator I have been in stage 5 for about three years. My mom is 5’3, my dad is 6’2, and I am 5’8. Using the KGH method for height (using both age and Tanner scale), up until the age of 14 it looked like I was on track to be between 5’9-5’11. From 14-15 onward the estimation dropped to 5’8-5’10 and continued dropping from there. While I was still growing, I knew people who thought I would reach 6’0.

My diet was always very high in whole grains, moderate in dairy, fruits, and low to moderate in vegetables (except for potatoes) and meat. It is my understanding that protein and especially zinc are key nutrients involved in height growth. My concern is that my diet did not have enough quality protein and zinc, due to the amount of gluten and phytic acid in my diet and not a large amount of animal protein or vegetables to counteract that.

When I was 14, I developed white spots and lines on my fingernails, which I have read could be due to zinc deficiency. I don’t think it was an injury because when my growth spurt ended they were not as prevalent. For about 10 years I have had bouts of irritable bowel syndrome. From my understanding, it is inconclusive as to whether or not that may have impacted nutrient absorption in my body.

I think it is also worth noting that both my parents are ectomorphs, and I am one too. The vast majority of ectomorph males I know are all at or above average in height, and most males I know in general are closer to their father’s height than 6 inches. While it does seem as though I inherited my height from my mom, I am wondering if you think it’s possible that the unbalanced nature of my diet may have kept me from reaching my genetically determined height.


Let’s start with your height. Boys typically grow from their parents’ average height less 2 inches up to 8 inches above. Your parents’ average height is 5’8.5″ so males in your family would typically fall in the range of 5’6.5″ to 6’4.5″; you clearly fall into this range.

The height estimators tend to be further off when you are younger and closer as you get older. Thus, when you put in the numbers it was overly optimistic before what would be the typical growth spurt time at age 13 and then became more conservative after it figured the growth spurt was passed (either by rough guessing with the age or by the Tanner stage).

Though you and your parents are ectomorphs (naturally slim people — low body fat and low muscle mass), it isn’t true that all male ectomorphs are tall. I have a good friend how is an ectomorph and he is only 5’2″.

The real question, though, is whether a dietary deficiency may have kept you from gaining your full genetic height potential. While such can be the case, it would be hard to measure because we are not able to read a person’s DNA and determine how tall they should get.

Zinc deficiency will reduce a person’s growth in extreme deficiency. What mild deficiency will do hasn’t been studied. Irritable bowel syndrome means you would have more than the usual amounts of diarrhea which can lower the number of nutrients you are absorbing, so it can be more than just zinc that could be an issue. (As an aside, have you ever been checked for Crohn’s disease?) By the way, white spots on the nails are not always indications of zinc deficiency; they can also be caused by the nail being banged against something.


Thanks for the response.

I haven’t been checked for any disorders or diseases. I actually did not get diarrhea very frequently, but for years I was constipated at times. Considering that I’ve had other digestive issues after eating some foods (such as large amounts of milk at a time), I don’t think the possibility can be ruled out that I may not have absorbed as much nutrients as I should have. My guess is this wouldn’t have made more than a couple inch difference in my height, but like you said there’s really no way of knowing.

The way I’m trying to see it, if I was really supposed to be even an inch taller (although it’s hard for me not to believe so), God would have made it that way. So, as Paul stated in Philippians, I’m trying to be content.


An excellent attitude!