Malnutrition: Symptoms and Treatment
If you fail to get the proper amount of nutrients that your body needs for an extended period of time, you may find yourself dealing with malnutrition symptoms. Malnutrition is a condition that a person might experience if he/she does not have access to nutritious foods or if he/she eats the wrong types of food. You might be thinking that you eat regularly and become full after most of your meals, although you continue to experience malnutrition symptoms. The truth is that it is possible to be undernourished if the foods that you eat do not satisfy your body’s vast vitamin and nutrient needs. For instance, if your diet mostly consists of a few types of fruit and vegetables, you can still become malnourished despite the seemingly healthy type of foods that you eat. The problem would lie in the fact that your diet lacks fiber from grains, protein from beans, nuts, and meat, and vitamins and minerals from dairy products and various vegetables.
Malnutrition doesn’t only affect people due to a lack of nutrients, but it can also occur due to an imbalance of nutrients, such as getting too much of certain vitamins and minerals. This can lead to a host of other issues in addition to malnutrition.
In order to determine whether malnutrition is the possible issue, you have to understand the signs to look for. Malnutrition symptoms range from being obvious to being minor and typically overlooked. Extreme weight loss without purposeful dieting, dizziness, and loss of energy are the most obvious symptoms of malnourishment. It may also be difficult to concentrate or absorb information, the abdomen may become bloated, and bones will become weakened and break easily. Less obvious symptoms include swelling and bleeding of the gums, dry skin (even when lubricants and lotions are applied), and severe decrease in nail health. Your body will also find it more difficult to carry out everyday processes performed by the liver, kidneys, and heart.
If the malnourishment isn’t very extensive, the list of symptoms may be a little broader. Fatigue is usually one of the first malnutrition symptoms to crop up. This is because the body doesn’t have enough readily available energy and nutrients that the muscles, brain, and organs need to operate at top capacity. If you are experiencing a long-lasting sap in your energy levels, you may not be eating properly. Another early sign of malnourishment is a change in mood. Mood swings can be caused by many things, but a drop in blood sugar and other essential nutrients can cause one to become crabby, anxious, and even depressed. Dizzy spells are also a common sign of malnutrition. They may happen after sitting or standing up or can occur at random throughout the day.
Common Causes of Malnutrition
Malnutrition can be caused by a number of different things. Someone who suffers from an eating disorder such as anorexia or bulimia would be at a high risk of becoming malnourished. It is also possible to become malnourished if the body is unable to absorb specific nutrients. Being unable to obtain food, having a limited and unvaried diet, and digestive disorders are other ways that a person may start to experience malnutrition symptoms.
Getting a Diagnosis
If the idea of seeing a doctor about your symptoms is a little unnerving, rest assured that you are not alone. It isn’t always pleasant to describe your symptoms and undergo tests, but catching malnutrition in the early stages is the best way to avoid long term damage to your body. Before a diagnosis can be made, your doctor will have a series of standard questions to ask you. Answer these questions as accurately as possible and don’t be afraid to speak up if you feel that you have relevant information to offer your doctor. In addition to a nutrition evaluation, your doctor may also want to do a blood test to get an accurate idea of your current nutrient levels and to rule out other possible conditions.
The treatments used for malnutrition come in a few different forms but the basic idea is the same – to replace the missing vitamins and minerals. In severe cases where the patient is facing an emergency case of malnourishment, an IV may be used to pump a nutrient liquid directly into the bloodstream. Other methods include adjusting the patient’s diet to include a variety of necessary nutrients and using vitamin tablets. Once the deficient nutrients have been brought up to healthy levels, it may not be necessary to continue overcompensating through diet and supplements. In order to avoid falling back into a state of poor nutrition, the patient may be asked to maintain a well balanced diet using a variety of different foods. If a medical disorder is suspected or even confirmed, such as anemia or malabsorption issues, then a doctor may recommend a supplement be taken on a regular basis until further notice.
Some of the symptoms of malnutrition can occur after a few days of improper eating. If symptoms do not occur frequently or only develop after a stunt of bad eating habits, the symptoms should disappear after a few well balanced meals.