Malnutrition refers to the lack, excess or imbalances in a person’s nutrient consumption. Malnutrition has two main sets of conditions. These are caused by either problems absorbing nutrient from food or a lack of enough nutrients in a diet. Below are the two conditions:

Nutritional deficiency

This is when the body does not get enough nutrients from food. A deficiency can cause many health problems including, stunted growth, being underweight, skin disorders and digestive problems.

Obesity and diet related chronic diseases

People with malnutrition are not only underweight. They can be both underweight and overweight. Obese people usually miss out on important nutrients that we need to stay healthy. Malnutrition can also cause chronic diseases such as stroke, heart diseases, cancer and diabetes.

People exposed to malnutrition

Poor people and people living in disturbed areas are the most vulnerable to malnutrition. These are people in countries suffering from poverty, wars and natural disasters, such as earthquakes and droughts. This can contribute to increasing hunger and malnutrition by disrupting the natural production and distribution of food.

Malnutrition can affect people of all ages but mostly infants suffer more from a lack of important nutrients for normal growth. Then also the elderly may suffer severely from malnutrition due to aging, diseases and other factors that cause a poor appetite. People who abuse alcohol and drugs may suffer from poor nutrition or be underweight.

Symptoms of malnutrition

The symptoms that appear on people who suffer from malnutrition depend on the missing nutrients in the body, and there are some general symptoms that people can suffer from, including the following:

  • Fatigue
  • Paleness of the skin
  • Difficulty breathing
  • A strong desire to eat
  • Hair loss Constipation
  • Drowsiness
  • Heart tremors
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Depression
  • Tingling and numbness in the joints

Malnutrition in children

Hunger is not the only cause of malnutrition. A child may still become thin despite eating enough amounts of food, and this can be due to several factors:

  • A child’s food does not contain the correct nutrients, vitamins and minerals that the body needs.
  • The child suffers from a wheat allergy or what is called Celiac disease; this is suffering from digestive disorders caused by a protein called gluten which is found in wheat, barley etc.
  • If the child has a disease called cystic fibrosis, which leads to problems in absorbing food nutrients.
  • The child suffers from dental issues.
  • Anorexia.
  • The child has suffered severe head injuries.
  • The child suffers from an eating disorder.

Symptoms of malnutrition in children

Malnutrition affects both the mind and the body and its severity depends on the degree of deficiency. Below are some of the symptoms:

  • Feeling dizzy
  • Feeling tired
  • Having low energy in the body
  • Dry and peeling skin
  • Swelling and bleeding gums
  • Tooth decay
  • Slow growth
  • Muscle weakness
  • Stomach bloating
  • Osteoporosis
  • Slow learning ability

Diagnosis of nutritional deficiency in children

Malnutrition in children is diagnosed by measuring the child’s weight and height and then comparing them to the charts that show the average height and expected weight of the child at this age. Some children show slower growth than their peers, which may then show that they suffer from malnutrition. However, this is not always the case because some children may appear younger for their age as a result of genetics, and has nothing to do with malnutrition.

Treating malnutrition in children

Treating malnutrition at home

Malnutrition in children can be treated at home for children who are able to eat and digest food well by:

  • Collaborating with a nutrition counsellor to develop a treatment plan and a diet equal with the patient’s situation.
  • Increasing the intake of protein, carbohydrates, water, minerals, and vitamins.
  • Give soft or pureed food for those who have difficulty swallowing or chewing.
  • Take nutritional supplements of vitamins and minerals.
  • Monitor your body mass index regularly.
  • Babies who are underweight due to lack of protein, may need protein bars or protein supplements.

Malnutrition treatment in the hospital

Patients with moderate to severe malnutrition, who cannot take food orally will need the intervention of a hospital medical team. This consists of doctors, gastroenterologists, dieticians, psychologists etc. This team performs nasogastric tube feeding, parenteral nutrition, and other methods used to put food into the body.

Prevention of malnutrition

Malnutrition can be avoided by following a healthy and balanced diet, which includes four main food groups, including the following:

  • Bread, rice, potatoes, and other starchy foods; This group forms the bulk of the diet and provides the necessary calories to the body, through the analysis of starches into sugar molecules, which are later converted into energy in the body.
  • Milk and dairy products; They are good sources of fats and simple sugars like lactose.
  • Fruits and vegetables; they are good sources of vitamins, minerals, and fiber.
  • Meat, poultry, fish, eggs, beans, and other sources of protein; Protein forms the building blocks of the body.

Malnutrition diseases

  • The parchment
  • Kwashiorkor
  • Osteoporosis
  • Rickets
  • Scurvy
  • Depression
  • Goitre
  • Beri Beri disease
  • Iron deficiency anaemia
  • Sodium Deficiency disease
  • Pellagra disease

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