Health

HERE’S HOW TO BEAT THE ODDS AGAINST A NUTRITIONALLY POOR SOCIETY!

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Did you know that approximately half of all deaths in children under 5 years of age are due to poor nutrition? According to a recent survey conducted by UNICEF, this global dilemma is responsible for 3 million young and unfortunate deaths each year! This deteriorated state of children’s nutrition is not only worrisome, it is rather an emergency. That being said, according to a report published in 2016, the number of children affected fell from 198 million to 155 million showing a positive overall trend. But is this enough?

Malnutrition is often considered as a lack of food or is commonly attributed to nutritional deficiencies only. Images of skinny kids with pot bellies immediately come to mind. This is a misconception. Malnutrition occurs when the intake of nutrition is either too low or too high. In other words, poorly balanced. You can overeat and still be undernourished. Makes any sense?

Here are the types of malnutrition:

Undernutrition: when you don’t get the required amount of nutrition contents.

Overnutrition: when you get more the than the required amount of nutrition (obesity).

See, the more food you stuff your face with doesn’t necessarily mean your diet contains all the nutrients your body needs. More calories don’t equal more vitamin and minerals. Several years of research suggest that Americans suffer from substantial nutritional deficiencies. For instance, the typical American diet lacks plant derived nutrients, vitamin A, E and D, and essential fatty acids. It does contain increased quantities of refined food which leads to leads to obesity or overnutrition.

This article will deal mainly with undernutrition and focus on the causes, signs of malnutrition in children, and malnutrition treatment. Eating well from the beginning will ensure a healthy life in the long run.

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Medical criteria for malnutrition:

The American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics and the American Society for Parental and Enteral Nutrition (ASPEN) have cultivated a standardized set of diagnostic characteristics to identify and document malnutrition.

At least two or more of the following six characteristics must be present:

  • Insufficient energy intake
  • Weight loss
  • Loss of muscle mass
  • Loss of subcutaneous fat
  • Localized or generalized fluid accumulation that may sometimes mask weight loss
  • Diminished functional status as measured by hand grip strength
  • Causes of malnutrition in adults and children

Malnutrition can be caused by various conditions:

Medical conditions that either cause loss of appetite such as cancer and liver disease or prevent proper digestion and absorption of nutrients such as Crohn’s disease and Ulcerative Colitis.

  • Dysphagia and odynophagia
  • Difficult or painful swallowing
  • Mental conditions such as depression or schizophrenia
  • Eating disorders like anorexia nervosa
  • Physical factors such as poor dental hygiene, disabilities, ill-fitting dentures etc.

The causes of malnutrition in children are similar to adults. However, medical conditions such as cerebral palsy, congenital heart disease or childhood cancers can lead to a significant decline in nutritional status. Malnutrition due to insufficient intake of food may be rare in the western world, however, is the leading cause of malnutrition in developing countries.

An interesting point worth mentioning here is that the youth, especially teenagers, in the west struggle with ideas of a certain ‘body image.’ They are always plagued with perceptions of ‘fitness goals’ and what they consider to be ‘beauty’. Stress eating and eating disorders are on the rise, inevitably leading to malnutrition in adolescents.

Moreover, malnutrition causes a wide array of signs and symptoms, the most common being unexplained weight loss. It can be sudden or over a period of time. Other symptoms of malnutrition include:

  • Feeling tired most of the time
  • Getting sick more frequently
  • Longer recovery time after sickness
  • Poor concentration
  • Depression
  • Difficulty in keeping warm
  • Delayed wound healing

If you have been experiencing any of the above malnutrition symptoms, please don’t brush them under the carpet. It’s a good time to visit your physician.

Signs of malnutrition may sometimes go unnoticed as many of them are non-specific such as dry skin, brittle nails and hair fall.

Malnutrition in children manifests as stunted growth or failure to grow at expected rate for that specific age, discoloration of skin and hair, irritability and sluggishness. Low energy levels, as compared to other children and getting tired more easily, are also signs to watch for. The effects of malnutrition do not only influence the physicality of a child but hinders mental and emotional growth as well.

Understanding how malnutrition affects child development fosters better management and care. The effects of malnutrition places children at risk for short-term complications such as frequent infections and a weakened immune system as well as long-term complications including stunted growth and weak bones. Cognitive impairments such as learning difficulties, memory deficits and impaired school performance may also occur.

It is safe to say that even the most privileged societies may have underprivileged segments when it comes to nutrition and health. Thankfully, malnutrition can be corrected. For an improved path to wellness you can try the following:

  • Make healthy dietary choices. Consume more fruits and vegetables and replace fatty processed foods with lean meat and whole grains.
  • Opt for healthy snacks in between meal times such as nuts, granolas, dates and raisins.
  • Replace salt with flavorful herbs and spices so you could enjoy your mealtime. Add colorful vegetables to your platter to tempt your taste buds even further!
  • Try exercising a couple of times a week. Just take a stroll around the neighborhood. Physical exercise will ensure strong and healthy bones in the long run.
  • Plan your weekly groceries ahead of time. Make a list of the fresh produce you want to include and look up interesting recipes. Homecooked meals will always trump those greasy burgers from the fast-food place.

Nutritional supplements can be incorporated in your routine, be it in the form of pills or energy shakes. Try the pill reminder app iMEDtracker that will make sure you don’t miss a single dose!

Just remember, to nourish is to flourish. The healthy choices you make today will impact the greater part of your tomorrow!

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