Malnutrition – Everything You Need To Know About It

Image : © Mqdee

What strikes you the moment you hear the word malnutrition? The picture of skinny children with protruding bones, right? We obviously never think of an overweight guy as malnourished!

However, let me tell you that both are genuine examples of malnutrition. While the first one is a hardcore citation of under nutrition or sub-nutrition, the other is a case of over-nutrition. Nevertheless, the fact remains that we always tend to accept only malnourishment as malnutrition. This article tries to explain what exactly the term malnutrition stands for; what causes this medical condition; how you can treat it; and what are the various ways of preventing the same.

What Exactly Is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is a health condition where a person consumes nutrients in an excessive, insufficient, or in an imbalanced way.

Malnutrition can also be defined as the insufficient, excessive or imbalanced consumption of nutrients. Lack of sufficient nutrients could hamper with proper growth, leaving them under the attack of various health conditions, such as rickets, stunted growth, or even organ failure. On the other hand, over nutrition can also have similar results, with the person falling prey to obesity, hypertension, diabetes, and heart attack.

If you glance through the reports of World Health Organizations, you will be shocked to find that this is the number one threat the world is currently combating with. More than hundreds of millions of people are currently trapped within the clutches of this deadly health condition. Obesity is on the rise, while on the other end of the spectrum are poorly-fed kids.

Effects Of Malnutrition:

The affects of malnutrition varies from person to person. However, there are some generic symptoms, which would enable a doctor to identify that the person is suffering from malnutrition.
Here are the signs of under nutrition:

  • Extreme loss of adipose tissue
  • Difficulty in breathing, with the person suffering from frequent respiratory failures
  • Difficulty to recuperate after a surgical procedure
  • Depression
  • Extremely low body temperatures
  • A dip in the white blood cell count
  • Frequent infections and delayed recovery
  • Delayed wound healing
  • Low libido
  • Irregular menstrual cycles
  • Extreme levels of fatigue and tiredness
  • Irritability and anxiety
  • Extremely dry skin and scalp
  • Alopecia

The person may even develop organ failure, in extreme cases. In children, lack of proper nourishment could trigger:

  • Slow behavioral growth
  • Mental retardation
  • Persistent digestive disorders
  • Irritability
  • Lack of interest in playing and studies

The other end of the spectrum is even more frightening. An obese person is under the massive risk of malnutrition as he tends to binge on only fattening foods. Let us take a look at what to look for in such people:

  • Binge eating
  • High BMI
  • High waist to hip ratio
  • Diabetes
  • Hypertension
  • Stress, anxiety, and irritability
  • Depression
  • Low or nil libido
  • Irregular periods
  • Polycystic ovarian disease
  • Dry skin
  • Premature graying of hair

What Causes Malnutrition?

Malnutrition could arise from many factors. While sub-nutrition among the poor, mostly arises due to unavailability of proper nutritious food, the over nutrition could be an aftermath of sedentary lifestyle or health conditions, such as the improper functioning of the thyroid gland or PCOD.
Here is a glimpse into what you could term as the triggers of malnutrition:

  • Lack of access to adequate nutrients
  • Mental disorders, such as depression, bulimia, or anorexia nervosa
  • Physical illness, such as dysphagia or a recovery period
  • Digestive disorders, such as ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease
  • Extreme vomiting or diarrhea
  • Extreme use of laxatives
  • Starving
  • Extreme dieting
  • Addiction to alcohol
  • Absence or improper breastfeeding

How To Treat Malnutrition:

You need to identify the root cause as well as the gravity of malnutrition to treat the condition. If the root cause is a medical disorder, then that needs to be addressed and cured in the first place. Once the underlying cause is cleared out, the next course of action would be to put the concerned person on an adequately planned nutritious diet to ease out the leftover signs of malnutrition.

A typical malnutrition treatment program will come with an exclusive diet plan along with a set of nutritional supplements, depending on the severity of the case. In extreme cases, patients are put on tube feeding, so that they receive the right amount of nutrients. The person is then kept under strict monitoring to ensure that the recovery is on the track.

In cases of over nutrition, the person is asked to cut down the supplements or food items that have triggered this condition. In case of obesity, the treatment will be decided based on the total body weight and BMI, in general. While there are no exact ways to find out the right weight for your height, there are assorted ways that people usually rely on. You can let the doctor follow his rules and abide by the same so that you overcome the condition.

How To Prevent Malnutrition:

The sole way to keep away malnutrition –which means both ends of this broad spectrum – is to make sure that your meals are always balanced. And for this, you have to include the following major food groups in your diet:

  • Proteins
  • Carbohydrates
  • Vegetables
  • Fruits
  • Healthy fats
  • Milk and other dairy sources [If you are a vegan, you must include equivalent sources of nutrients in your diet]
  • Make sure you drink at least 1.5 liters of water daily

If your risk of malnutrition rises from a health condition, then your dietary requirements are definitely going to be quite complex. You can hire a personal dietician who could help you create a personalized diet plan to overcome the condition and deal with it in a better way.

Malnutrition is not just about food. It is about lifestyle, your attitude, and much more. If you want to deal with this condition, you ought to change your view and relation with food. Make sure exercise is a part and parcel of your life along with a healthy diet.

Have you ever come across anyone who is a victim of malnutrition? What would be your course of action to rectify the same? Why don’t you share your thoughts with us?

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