Symptoms of Malnutrition

When your body isn't getting the vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients necessary for healthy tissues and organ functions, a condition known as malnutrition develops. Malnutrition can be caused by both under- and over-nutrition. In recent years, American children usually develop malnutrition because of an unbalanced diet rather than nutritional deficiencies. To find out whether you have any of the symptoms of malnutrition, read on.

10 + Symptoms of Malnutrition

All of your body's systems may become affected by malnutrition, depending on the underlying causes. Patients with mild or moderate malnutrition may not notice any symptoms, but these will appear and gradually become more severe as the condition continues. 

1.  Weight Loss

It sounds obvious: Sudden weight loss is a sign that you're not getting enough nourishment. Different individuals have different body shapes, and some people are naturally slim. However, any dramatic weight loss should be carefully monitored, even if you're trying to lose some pounds. Take a look in the mirror to see if you have an overall healthy appearance. If not, you may be missing out on some essential nutrients. 

2.  Hair Loss

Hair loss is also one of the obvious symptoms of malnutrition. Your hair needs many different nutrients (vitamins, mineral, proteins, and fats) to grow and stay strong, so if your hair is falling out, malnutrition could be the reason. To combat this problem, try eating more lean meats, leafy greens, and healthy fats.

3.  Headaches

An unhealthy diet can be a major cause of headaches. If you are not getting the nutrients you need, your nervous system may be adversely affected by the food you eat. Furthermore, changes in blood pressure and hormonal levels, also linked with diet, can also lead to headaches. Try to ensure you eat enough calories through a balanced diet, and see if your symptoms improve.

4.  Fainting

One of the key symptoms of malnutrition is experiencing dizzy spells and even loss of consciousness. This may first appear as the loss of balance and coordination, or feeling faint when you move your head. Inadequate nutrition can make you hypoglycemic (low blood sugar levels) and this can trigger fainting attacks. If you're affected, it may be worth speaking to a doctor to see if this is down to malnutrition.

5.  Low Mood

One of the best ways to protect yourself against depression is by eating a healthy balanced diet. For optimal brain function, you need sufficient protein. Moreover, if you're living on refined carbohydrates, the blood sugar and insulin spikes can cause dramatic mood swings. Thus, low mood is also prone to happen when you are malnourished. Make changes to your daily diet to ensure you get enough fruit, vegetables, healthy fats and proteins.

6.  Persistent Bleeding

If you constantly notice yourself bleeding, without any apparent underlying cause, or with very minor bumps and scratches, it could indicate that your diet is not right, and you lack certain vitamins and minerals. Constant bleeding is one of the common symptoms of malnutrition. You may also notice your lips becoming cracked and sore. These problems can often be sorted out with a change in diet.

7.  Weak Eyes

Many sick people have a weak, sallow appearance in their eyes. Eye health is a key factor in determining a person's overall health. It is heavily influenced by diet, particularly the vitamins and minerals you consume. Having weak eyes is a serious sign of an unhealthy diet, so change the foods you eat to get your eyes glow again.

8.  Unhealthy Mouth

Malnutrition can cause bleeding gums and cracked, thinning teeth. You need sufficient amounts of nutrients such as zinc, magnesium, iron, and protein in order to maintain good oral health. If not, problems will show every time you open your mouth. If you're worried about your diet, speak to your doctor or dentist for advice on how to improve your symptoms.

9.  Acne

When your body is unable to effectively eliminate toxins, it expels them through the skin, causing acne to appear. Inadequate diet can cause hormone levels to go awry, leading to further skin problems. Therefore, you need to make sure you're getting the right nutrients in order for your body to be able to process toxic waste products efficiently.

10.  Other Symptoms

Further symptoms of malnutrition include the following:

  • Water retention and bloating
  • Tiredness and irritability
  • Stunted growth
  • Tightened skin, as a result of swelling
  • Muscle loss and weakness
  • Fragile bones/osteoporosis
  • Slowed reactions
  • Memory loss
  • Dry or yellow skin
  • Irregular periods in women
  • Heart problems
  • Decreased kidney/liver function
  • Reduced lung capacity
  • Frequent infections
  • Cracks or creases at the sides of the mouth
  • Swollen thyroid gland
  • Yellow scaly skin between the lips and nose
  • Pigmentation loss in the skin or hair
  • Whitish fungal growth on the tongue

When to See a Doctor

Body mass index can be really helpful to know when to see a doctor. To determine the approximate healthy weight range for your height, you'll need to calculate your body mass index using the following formula: Weight (kg) / [Height (m)] 2. You can also click HERE to find out if you are in the normal range.

If this is under 18.5, or if you experience any of the symptoms of malnutrition described above, make an appointment with your doctor.

Your physician will assess for malnutrition by examining your behavior, body-fat distribution, organ function, and general appearance. You may then be asked to keep a food diary. For further information, your doctor may perform:

  • Urine and blood tests to measure the levels of vitamins, minerals, and waste products.
  • X-rays to analyze bone density, and to visualize heart and lung damage, and any gastrointestinal disturbances.

Since malnutrition is closely related with everyday diet, watch the video below to make healthy and balanced diet for you and your family.

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