Malnutrition is the lack of important minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients needed by your body to function and grow properly. If you are not eating a healthy diet or skip meals often, you become prone to malnutrition.
It is a major cause of concern in underdeveloped countries such as Ethiopia, Madagascar, etc., suffering from extreme famine. Most children in these regions have serious signs of malnutrition. About 10% of the families experienced a food deficit in the US, particularly during the pandemic, which is a core reason for undereating.
A significant malnutrition illness in the US is iron deficiency, which commonly affects women. As females go through menstruation and pregnancies, they are at high risk of iron deficiency and can experience symptoms of anemia.
Getting good supplements and consuming a nutrient-packed diet can prevent signs of malnutrition at every age. Let’s go through some of the main symptoms of malnutrition you should look out for:
Fatigue is among the leading signs of malnutrition. People experiencing aftereffects of undereating often complain of muscle pain and weakness.
They feel unnecessarily tired all the time, despite having a good night’s rest. One of the main reasons behind this lethargy is anemia. If your body cannot produce fresh blood, you won’t get energized.
It can interfere with your daily routine and make it difficult to perform routine chores without exhaustion. If you experience chronic fatigue, you should consult a qualified medical practitioner or nurse.
Most registered nurses enrolled in the undergraduate RN to BSN degree are well-equipped in dealing with nutritional deficiency lethargy.
- Lack of focus and memory issues
Malnutrition is also associated with decreased brain activity and negative effects on cognitive development. According to a study on mice, a lack of nutrients results in poor dendrite formation and reduced neuronal activity.
In children, it can have disastrous impacts on the brain growth and intelligence. Even in adults, nutritional deficiency lowers the focus and decreases memory. Such people can have trouble remembering things.
At an early age, it results in poor academic performance. When you grow up, malnutrition can affect your productivity at the workplace.
Research also shows that people with nutritional lack show early signs of dementia, and the disease generally progresses with time. Scientists agree that not getting proper nutrients can aggravate the risk of cognitive disabilities.
Believe it or not, your mental health is directly affected by what you eat. Moodiness and irritability are common signs of malnutrition that are often ignored.
Some people experience serious anxiety and depression because of malnourishment. Malnutrition results in a lack of sleep, making you feel frustrated and irritated throughout the day.
Research also shows that people with nutritional deficiencies do not perform well socially and have trouble communicating with others and controlling their emotions. Such people have sudden outbursts, both as school-going children and adults.
You might not know this, but malnutrition can also cause diabetes. According to a study, patients with severe nutritional deficiencies show high blood sugar levels and a rare form of diabetes called Malnutrition-Related Diabetes Mellitus (MRDM).
Check your blood sugar to figure out any initial signs of diabetes mellitus.
- Low BMI and weight loss
Have you recently experienced sudden weight loss? It’s time to check your BMI or Body Mass Index. It is the universal system to determine whether your body mass is in accordance with your height and weight.
Low BMI indicates poor nutritional intake and could be a sign of malnutrition. Ensure your BMI is within the normal range and does not go below or above that zone.
Related: 6 Types of Eating Disorders
- Frequent infections
If you have recurring infections that are not going away despite getting proper medical treatment and medications, it may be because of malnutrition. To get rid of illnesses and diseases, you don’t need drugs only but a healthy diet packed with essential vitamins, minerals, and compounds that strengthen your immune system.
Otherwise, the viruses and bacteria will continue to attack your body the first chance they get.
- Loss of appetite
Loss of appetite is also caused by malnutrition. Another term for this condition is anorexia.
You might experience a reduced urge to have meals and feel full when it’s time to eat. At times, many comorbidities such as mental health issues and infections could further aggravate appetite loss and lead to severe malnutrition.
- Reduced bone density
Your bones need more nutritional strength to maintain adequate density as you age. According to a study, 24% of postmenopausal women with a BMI lower than 18.5 have low bone density.
If you’re undereating or suffering from malnutrition, your bone density will reduce and make you prone to osteoporotic fractures. Post fracture complications also increase if you lack basic nutrients.
- Hair loss
Severe cases of malnutrition can also result in hair loss. Your hair needs sufficient nutrients to grow healthily, including proteins, vitamins, and fatty acids.
But if you lack these nutritional minerals, you might experience hair loss in the form of patches and structural changes. Some people even notice a loss of natural hair color.
Primarily, a diet low in protein can lead to hair thinning. Luckily, if you start getting proper nutritional requirements, you can reverse the hair fall, and your hair can grow back. Keep in mind, though; it could take up to 6 months to see full growth!
Hopefully, once you’ve understood the signs of malnutrition you need to watch out for, you need to find solutions to counteract the ravages of malnutrition and restore the imbalances that have damaged the body.
Lack of nutrition often impacts children at a young age. You might notice that they are not as agile as other kids their age or seem quite weak physically.
If you know a child who is performing badly at school, it could be because of malnourishment of the brain. Additionally, signs of malnutrition in adults appear gradually.
Adults may dismiss most of the symptoms early on, further impacting their overall wellbeing. When in doubt, it’s always best to consult a professional nurse or doctor and get professional guidance on eating a nourishing diet.