Eating a limited diet, too little food, or unhealthy foods raises a condition of stopping the body from getting enough nutrients required for performing daily activities in a proper way. This condition leads to weakness in the body of an individual and if not treated at the proper time, it becomes more severe and affects all body functions. The condition of suffering under a lack of nutrients is termed as Malnutrition. Today’s article describes Malnutrition, its causes, symptoms, and diseases associated with it.
Malnutrition can be defined as a stage in which prolonged deficiency of nutrients develops various body disorders or we can say that malnutrition is an impairment of health due to lack or excess intake of nutrients. Both under and over nutrition comes under malnutrition and gives rise to various health disorders. A person’s underlying deficiency of nutrients may be low in vitamins, minerals, and other essential components required by our body to stay healthy.
Malnutrition can give rise to
- Acute and chronic health problems
- Decrease the speed of recovery from illness and wounds
- Increase the risk of infection
- Difficulty in concentration
Mostly malnutrition occurs in children and tends to begin body disorders in them.
There are numerous causes of malnutrition happening in a variety of people. One can get diseased with malnutrition by any of the following factors:
1. Low Food Intake
Many people develop malnutrition due to shortage of food or if they are not much capable of eating or absorbing nutrients. This may happen due to some conditions like liver dysfunctioning, cancer, or conditions leading to nausea or raising difficulty in eating or swallowing food.
2. Social and Mobility Problems
Social and mobility problems can also cause malnutrition. Take a look in some factors that involve in effecting an individual’s eating habits are
- Failure to reach a store to buy food by leaving the house
- Facing difficulty in preparing meals physically
- If someone is living alone, this decreases his motivation to cook food
- Lesser skills to cook food
- Lack of money to spend on food
- All these factors lead to malnutrition in an individual.
3. Mental Health Conditions
People suffering from mental conditions such as depression, anorexia nervosa, schizophrenia, and dementia are at increased risk of underlying undernutrition or malnutrition.
4. Digestive Disorders
There is no benefit of eating a healthy diet if your body is not sufficient in absorbing nutrients. Some disorders of the digestive system decrease or block the efficiency of the body to absorb the nutrients from the food which are
- Crohn’s disease
- Ulcerative colitis
- Celiac disease
- Persistent diarrhea
- Intermittent vomiting
5. Excess Consumption of Alcohol
Excess consumption of alcohol can give damage the pancreas and lead to gastritis. These conditions slow down the process of food digestion and absorption of nutrients and production of hormones which are responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. Alcohol is high in calories so one can feel a filled tummy after drinking alcohol which decreases the intake of healthy food into the body.
Some common signs and symptoms of malnutrition include
- Lack of appetite
- Decreased ability to concentrate
- Feeling of cold always
- Intermittent illness and taken more time to heal
- Loss of muscle mass, fat and body tissue
- Increased risk of complications after a surgery
- Increased healing time
In some cases, people also feel difficulty in breathing and heart failure.
Major symptoms of malnutrition in children are
- Lack of energy and tired
- Lack of growth and decreased body weight
- Slow intellectual and behavioral development
- Anxiety and irritability
Diseases of Malnutrition
Malnutrition further develops some diseases which are
Kwashiorkor is a disease of protein deficiency, developed due to lesser consumption of protein or quality protein for a long duration of time. Kwashiorkor may cause swelling in the body parts mainly in the face, feet and the hands. The hairs may become of light color or turn into reddish yellow color and begin to fall off from their roots in the shape of patches whereas the skin begins to show symptoms of patches and becomes flaky and peel off.
Lack of calories and proteins in diet may result in marasmus disease. The children suffering from the marasmus are at very high risk of being prone to kwashiorkor disease. Most observed signs and symptoms of marasmus include decrease in body weight and failure to increase weight, depletion of body fats and loss muscle weight. Child suffering from marasmus has a lean, thin, skinny appearance of body while in kwashiorkor; the child becomes flabby with swelling or edema in the body.
The proper diet of marasmus and kwashiorkor should be high in proteins and calories such as eggs, dal, rice, guava, soybeans, khichri, sattu, mixed flour biscuit, carrot, sabudana kheer and sprouted green dal.
Anemia caused due to deficiency of iron in the diet is a serious health problem and more common in girls and women due to menstrual bleeding and high need of nutrients during pregnancy. Consuming a diet which is rich in iron, protein, Vitamin B and Vitamin C is essential for preventing anemia. You can get these nutrients from watermelons, gingelly seeds, rice bran, soybeans, green leafy vegetables, prunes, figs, dates, currants, and dry fruits. Eggs are also very rich in iron and protein but can be consumed by those who can buy them.
Goiter is a condition in which swelling in the neck causes enlargement of thyroid gland which is the result of deficiency of iodine in daily diet. Symptoms include swelling and cough or sometimes trouble in breathing.
Risk Factors of Malnutrition
In most areas of the world, malnutrition may be the result of the lack of food intake. But in rich countries, the people who are at increased risk of malnutrition are:
- Socially isolated people
- Older adults
- People with weak financial conditions
- People suffering from chronic diseases
- People having difficulty in absorbing nutrients
- People with binge eating disorder such as anorexia nervosa
Diagnosis of Malnutrition
There are several tests performed for the detection of malnutrition
- Blood tests for
- Test for detecting the amount of iron and vitamins
- Albumin test
- Prealbumin tests
These all tests are performed by the doctor in a laboratory to check whether you are infected with malnutrition or not.
Treatment of malnutrition mainly includes
- Change in diet which includes consumption of foods rich in nutrients and energy
- Taking treatment which fulfils the nutritional deficiency
- Consume supplements of vitamins and minerals
- Consume supplements of high energy and proteins
Healthy foods provide you good health while unhealthy foods degrade your health conditions. Make sure to feed your body with healthy foods which are high in nutrients so that you can prevent yourself from malnutrition disease.
Dr. Vikram Chauhan (MD-Ayurvedic Medicine) is an Expert Ayurveda Consultant in Chandigarh (India). He has vast experience of herbs and their applied uses. He has successfully treated numerous patients suffering from various ailments, throughout the world. He is CEO and Founder of Krishna Herbal Company and Planet Ayurveda in Chandigarh, India. He researched age old formulas from ancient Ayurvedic text books to restore health and save human beings from the worst side-effects of chemical-based treatments.