Friday, June 14, 2013
Information about Malnutrition
What is Malnutrition?
What is Malnutrition? Malnutrition describes both the nutritional value and the amount of food a person consumes. While not eating enough food clearly causes malnutrition, bad nourishment can also leave you malnourished. According to the World Food Program, when a person is not getting enough food or not getting the right sort of food, malnutrition is just around the corner. Disease is often a factor, either as a result or contributing cause. Even if people get enough to eat, they will become malnourished if the food they eat does not provide the proper amounts of micronutrients - vitamins and minerals - to meet daily nutritional requirements.
Good nutrition is critical to overall health and well-being, but with Gastroparesis, it's even harder to get the vitamins and minerals that your body needs in order to sustain yourself. When you cannot keep food that contains nutrients your body needs down, it becomes a huge problem - almost a hole that you cannot dig yourself out of.
How Does Malnutrition Start?
According to the Mayo Clinic, the causes of malnutrition might seem straightforward: too little food or a diet lacking in nutrients. Malnutrition can occur as a result of inadequate food intake, digestive disorders, problems with absorption and other medical conditions, according to Medline Plus. Excess consumption of alcohol can also lead to malnutrition and vitamin deficiencies. Malnutrition is often caused by a combination of physical, social and psychological issues. For example:
Health concerns. Adults often have health issues (in our case, Gastroparesis) that can lead to decreased appetite or trouble eating, such as chronic illness, use of certain medications, difficulty swallowing or absorbing nutrients, or trouble chewing due to dental issues. A recent hospitalization might be accompanied by loss of appetite or other nutrition problems. In other cases, a diminished sense of taste or smell decreases appetite. Dementia also can contribute to malnutrition.
Restricted diets. Dietary restrictions — such as limits on salt, fat, protein or sugar — can help manage certain medical conditions, but might also contribute to inadequate eating.
Limited income. People might have trouble affording groceries, especially if they're taking expensive medications. Also, gluten free products tend to be more expensive than food that contains gluten. Additionally, when you are on a specific diet like the Gastroparesis diet from Mayo or FOODMAP, those foods tend to be a bit more expensive.
Reduced social contact. Adults who eat alone might not enjoy meals, causing them to lose interest in cooking and eating. I found this interesting. I forget to eat if no one is home because I am usually not hungry. If someone does not remind me to eat, I don't.
Depression. Grief, loneliness, failing health, lack of mobility and other factors might contribute to depression — causing loss of appetite. When your social life is nonexistent due to Gastroparesis, it does make you depressed. I speak from personal experience. I have issues leaving my house because of vomiting and nausea, so that contributes to my lack of appetite.
Problems Caused By Malnutrition
According to the Mayo Clinic and Medicine Plus, malnutrition can cause:
A weak immune system, which increases the risk of infections
Poor wound healing
Muscle weakness, which can lead to falls and fractures
Lack of specific nutrients in your diet. Even the lack of one vitamin can lead to malnutrition.
An unbalanced diet
Certain medical problems, such as malabsorption syndromes and cancers
In addition, malnutrition can lead to further disinterest in eating or lack of appetite — which only makes the problem worse. Additionally, with Gastroparesis, you may not have an appetite to begin with.
Symptoms may include fatigue, dizziness and weight loss, low energy, easy bruising and slow wound healing, or you may have no symptoms. Your doctor will do tests, depending on the cause of your problem. Treatment may include replacing the missing nutrients and treating the underlying cause.
Signs of malnutrition can vary depending on which nutrients are lacking in the diet. Malnourishment can compromise the immune system and make people more vulnerable to illness. If left untreated, malnourishment can lead to illness, physical disability and even death.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Malnutrition?
According to LiveStrong, malnutrition can affect every system in the body, depending upon the cause of the malnutrition. In mild to moderate cases of malnutrition, no symptoms or signs may be evident; however, as the condition persists, the signs and symptoms will become more pronounced.
The most common symptoms of malnutrition include significant weight loss, weight gain (distension of the belly), fatigue, dizziness, anemia, dry skin, edema, bone and joint pain, brittle nails, and loss of hair color, according to Lab Tests Online.
These can become apparent at any point after the lack of nutrients is realized by the body. When weight loss is the only symptom, doctors sometimes make a diagnosis based on the body mass index (BMI) of the patient, which takes into account age, gender, height and weight. Your doctor may order a series of blood tests that will determine if you are malnourished by your vitamin levels. However, there are symptoms that you can look out for below:
Oral Symptoms. Swollen and/or bleeding gums are the first oral symptoms of malnutrition. As the malnutrition continues, the teeth may begin to decay. When only the gums are affected, the oral effects of malnutrition can be reversed; however, once the teeth begin to decay, the damage is permanent.
Musculoskeletal Symptoms. Fragile bones, osteoporosis and muscle loss and/or weakness are symptoms of malnutrition. When calcium or vitamin D are the nutrients lacking, these symptoms may manifest shortly after the body becomes malnourished.
Mental Symptoms. Malnutrition can cause a slowed reaction time. However, in the elderly population, malnutrition may cause dementia and/or memory loss.
Decreased Organ Function. As malnutrition ravages the body, the organs may begin to function less efficiently. This can lead to heart problems, decreased liver function, kidney failure, decreased lung capacity, intestinal problems, stomach irregularities and abnormal menstrual cycles in females.
Abdominal Symptoms. Ascites, which manifests as a swollen or bloated abdomen, is a sign of malnutrition. This condition is exacerbated when the liver, kidneys or intestinal tract is affected.
Dry Skin. People with malnutrition may develop abnormally dry skin, despite the use of lotions and creams. In severe cases, the skin may begin to crack.
Treatment for Malnutrition
According to LiveStrong, treatment for malnutrition focuses on correcting the malnutrition and restoring normal weight. If malnutrition is caused by inadequate food consumption, an increase in food intake is recommended. If malnutrition occurs as a result of underlying medical conditions, it is necessary to correct the condition. Once the condition is corrected, the malnutrition usually corrects itself with a proper, balanced diet.
However, with Gastroparesis, it's hard to eat meals that replenish nutrients and vitamins because of our recommended diet. Talk with your doctor. They can prescribe vitamin injections to help with your malnourishment and send you to a nutritionist to go over a better, or more thorough diet plan. Below is the B-12 injection I take to bring up some of my vitamin levels because I'm malnourished.
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