Let’s Kick Malnutrition out of our Families and Communities.
The current issue of “You and your Health” focuses on Malnutrition. This article discusses the meaning, types, signs and symptoms, assessment, those at risk, prevention and treatment of malnutrition. Health professionals (including health or nutrition educators, teachers, etc) operating locally and globally may use the facts to effectively health educate their clients or children. Health and non-medical visitors to our website are therefore encouraged to auto educate themselves and their clients through the monthly issues of “You and your Health”. Their audience should families, social groups, various health clinics, communities, etc.
Prior to delivering any health talk to his or her audience the educator must acquaint himself/herself with facts on the subject matter. The educator should prepare a brief, relevant, introductory motivating story or song. Relevant teaching/learning aids such as posters, flip charts, pictures, live objects, etc must be made handy and used appropriately to reinforce the educator’s message. The Lecture-discussion method should be used.
A mother in dire need of nutrition education and empowerment - in order to properly feed her malnourished twins.
What Does Malnutrition Mean?
Malnutrition is a nutritional condition caused by eating too little or too much of certain food nutrients like carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals.
What are the Main Types of Malnutrition?
(i) Undernutrition is a type of Malnutrition which results from not getting enough protein, calories or micronutrients (i.e, deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, especially iron, zinc, vitamin A and iodine. Undernutrition leads to low weight-for-height (wasting), height-for-age (stunting) and weight-for-age (underweight). Kwashiorkor and Marasmus are forms of undernutrition. The former results from severe protein deficiency, causing fluid retention and a protruding abdomen while the latter results from severe calorie deficiency leads to wasting and significant fat and muscle loss.
(ii) Overnutrition: Overconsumption of certain nutrients, such as protein, calories or fat, can also lead to Malnutrition. This usually results in overweight or obesity. It’s possible to be overweight or obese from excessive calorie consumption but not get enough vitamins and minerals at the same time.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Malnutrition?
The signs and symptoms of malnutrition depend on the type. The signs and symptoms of Undernutrition include weight loss; loss of fat and muscle mass; hollow cheeks and sunken eyes; a swollen stomach; dry hair and skin; delayed wound healing; fatigue; difficulty concentrating; irritability and depression and anxiety. Since undernutrition leads to serious physical issues and health problems, it can increase your risk of death.
The main signs of overnutrition are overweight and obesity, but it can also lead to nutrient deficiencies. Signs of nutrient deficiencies include: Vitamin A: Dry eyes, night blindness, increased risk of infection. Zinc: Loss of appetite, stunted growth, delayed healing of wounds, hair loss, diarrhea. Iron: Impaired brain function, issues with regulating body temperature, stomach problems. Iodine: Enlarged thyroid glands (goiters), decreased production of thyroid hormone, growth and development issues. The long-term effects of overnutrition are the higher risk of obesity, high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes.
How can Malnutrition be Assessed?
Symptoms of malnutrition are assessed by healthcare providers when they screen for the condition. Tools that are used to identify malnutrition include weight loss and body mass index (BMI), charts, blood tests for micronutrient status and physical exams. If you have a history of weight loss and other symptoms associated with undernutrition, your doctor may order additional tests to identify micronutrient deficiencies.
Who are at a Higher Risk of Malnutrition?
Malnutrition affects people in all parts of the world, but some populations are more prone to the condition. They include: (1) People living in developing countries or areas with limited access to food. Undernutrition and micronutrient deficiencies are especially common in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia (2) People that live in poverty or have low incomes. (3) Individuals with increased nutrient needs, especially children, pregnant or breastfeeding women and alcoholics. (4) Older adults, particularly those who live alone. (5) Patients with conditions that cause nutrient malabsorption such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, Ciliac disease and bacterial overgrowth in the intestines.
How do You Prevent Malnutrition?
The prevention of malnutrition depends on the type and its underlying causes.
Undernutrition can be prevented through healthy eating, that is, eating a diet with a variety of foods that include enough carbs (rice, potatoes, cassava, yams, plantains, etc); proteins (eggs, meat, dairy products, fish, soy beans, etc); fats and oils (pork, butter, palm oil, avocado, etc); vitamins and minerals (fruits, nuts, vegetables, etc). In addition you should drink a lot of water and take regular exercises.
Children and adults at risk of overnutrition are encouraged to eat healthy foods listed above and take a lot of water and regular exercises. To prevent weight gain or obesity avoid eating too many calories, including highly processed foods and sugary cereals.
Government agencies, independent organizations and schools should get involved in preventing malnutrition. Their role should be to provide iron, zinc and iodine pills, food supplements and nutrition education to populations at risk of undernutrition.
How Can Malnutrition be Treated?
Treating malnutrition often involves more individualized approaches. If you suspect that you or someone you know is undernourished, talk to a doctor or a healthcare provider who’ll assess the signs and symptoms of undernutrition and recommend interventions, such as working with a dietitian to develop a feeding schedule that may include supplements. A severely malnourished child should be admitted in a health unit for further laboratory blood tests, intensive treatment and parental nutritional counseling.
Conclusion Malnutrition can be eliminated from our families, communities and the world at large, if we practice healthy eating, engage in regular exercises and support the malnourished. The article was written by Chief Lewindia Nicholas (B.Sc. Health Education, University of Ibadan, Nigeria) - edited by Lizzie Streit (MS , RDN) Source: Trusted Source – Healthline Media.