Malnutrition is a condition that occurs when the body receives insufficient amounts of the essential nutrients. The body
may not receive sufficient nutrients if the diet is not balanced, if there are problems with digestion or absorption of food
or if the individual has certain medical conditions. 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.
Early symptoms of Malnutrition:
Fatigue and Low Energy
Food provides the body with valuable nutrients that support physical strength and energy. Carbohydrates provide
glucose--the body's primary energy source. Protein is needed for muscle development and tissue repair, and fat aids in
nerve communication and nutrient absorption. Decreased energy and fatigue, also described as tiredness or lack of
motivation, commonly occur as initial symptoms of malnutrition. According to the Mayo Clinic, malnutrition is a serious
problem among elderly populations. In these cases, fatigue and energy shifts associated with malnutrition may be
mistaken for natural effects of the aging process. Children with malnutrition may demonstrate excessive tiredness,
reduced desire to "play" or partake in other normal physical activities and frequent desire for naps.
Nutrition and food intake help support mood balance. Eating appropriate amounts of food and nutrients helps the body
maintain blood sugar balance. Specific nutrients, such as B vitamins, magnesium and omega-3 fatty acids are known to
support brain function, energy and positive moods. For these reasons, people with malnutrition may exhibit emotional
irritability once the condition sets in. As malnutrition progresses, emotional irritability may worsen and lead to more
serious complications, such as depression. Since many people find pleasure in eating, restriction of food, inability to
access healthy foods and reduced appetite may also contribute to irritable moods.
Dizziness, or light headedness, is a common symptom of malnutrition. People with malnutrition may feel as though they
might faint or experience frequent "head rushes" (dizziness upon standing). Dizziness may appear suddenly or gradually
and varies in intensity. As with other symptoms of malnutrition, dizziness generally worsens as malnutrition progresses,
both in severity and frequency. Disorders that cause malabsorption of nutrients and diets extremely low in hydrating
foods, such as fruits, vegetables and fluids, may cause dehydration in addition to malnutrition. Dizziness in these cases
may result from dehydration, malnutrition or both.
We here at Little Leakers try to provide beneficial information. I always thought that I would know if my child was
malnourished. Even when I felt that I was knowledgeable about my son's condition and health issues. But I was wrong.
I also thought that if he ever became malnourished the doctor's would know. Well, they eventually knew but not until my
son was deathly ill. At Little Leakers we strive to request that everyone become knowledgeable and active about their
health and the health of their families. Had I known the signs of malnutrition I would not have been so naive.
At the age of 5 my son caught what we thought to be a virus or cold. He began vomiting to which after 3 days
continued. I took him to the hospital to which he was admitted right away. He was 5 years old and only weighted 35
pounds. (I didn't know this at the time) I cant even explain the thoughts and feelings that came over me. I won't go on
with my part in this story. My son received a central line and became a TPN patient while he was in the hospital. You
see his body leaks to much to sustain itself on a normal diet. My point in this is to stress that by seeing your child
everyday you miss the subtle signs of malnutrition. I almost lost my son. Don't be that naive and make the same mistake
I did. Learn about the signs of malnutrition and be active with your child's doctor. Learn how to read the labs and what
levels to watch.
The hard part is that everyone around you will see the signs of malnutrition before you do. But they won't say anything
to you about it because they will feel that it's not their place to do so.
Had I have known the early symptoms of Malnutrition I might have been able to do more for my son. As I look back I
realize that he did show signs of malnutrition. Fatigue and low energy was the most pronounced symptom. He also used
to complain of his legs hurting and could not walk long distances. He also wouldn't run. I did bring this to his doctor's
attention on numerous occasions. But nothing came of it.
I learned later that over time in the process of malnutrition if there is no fat in the body, the body will turn to the muscles.
The body will use the muscle to survive. Luckily my son's body did not receive any damage do to his time being
malnourished. And I feel thankful and blessed. This is something that no one should have to experience. Please learn
from my story and be proactive.