Impact of malnutrition on child’s health

Just as fuel makes an automobile run, food and nutrition is the fuel for human beings. In the case of malnutrition, there is an adverse effect on the health of the child. Let us look at some of the causes, symptoms, and remedies of malnutrition. 

What is Malnutrition?

The World Health Organization defines Malnutrition as ‘Malnutrition, in all its forms, includes undernutrition (wasting, stunting, underweight), inadequate vitamins or minerals, overweight, obesity, and resulting diet-related non-communicable diseases. (Source: WHO Website)

Malnutrition refers to deficiencies, excesses, or imbalances in a person’s intake of energy and/or nutrients. The term malnutrition addresses 3 broad groups of conditions:

  • undernutrition, which includes wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age);
  • micronutrient-related malnutrition, which includes micronutrient deficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals) or micronutrient excess; and
  • overweight, obesity, and diet-related non-communicable diseases (such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes, and some cancers).

What are the causes of malnutrition?

  • Inadequate intake of food and nutrition – Not eating enough food and advised nutrition (Refer: Food pyramid, daily nutrition calculator)
  • Malabsorption of nutrition due to medical conditions – Patients with certain conditions may have a lower rate of absorption of nutrients in the body. In this case, it is advised to take suggestions from the referring doctor and consciously find ways to upkeep the nutrient take.
  • Socioeconomic factors – This is an unfortunate social factor. Do get in touch with associations and organizations which are helping in eradicating this

What is the impact of malnutrition on the body?

  • Immunity – Your white blood cells can decrease with low nutrition and this gives rise to contracting more infections and diseases easily
  • Healing – With nutrition deficiency, the body takes more time to heal and you may see the wounds take a longer time to recover
  • Muscle and bones – One is more prone to have body aches and joint pains, slips, and falls. It becomes difficult for the child to commit everyday acts such as running, walking, physical activity due to lack of strength. It limits the overall growth and development of the child
  • Eye health – Nutrition deficiency can deteriorate your eye health hence giving rise to eye-related illnesses such as glaucoma, cataracts, macular degeneration. It also can hamper your eyesight making it difficult for the child to study or focus on activities,
  • Mental strength – A child needs to have good focus and concentration to be able to study and indulge in games, physical activities, and daily ongoing. Malnutrition can dull the memory, speech, cognitive abilities leading to slow intellectual and brain development 
  • Organ health – We need all the organs to have good health to be able to function well. Our heart, kidney, liver, etc. each have their own dietary needs to be in good health.
  • Common symptoms – Dizziness, dehydration, headaches, lack of focus and concentration, lack of physical strength, low immunity, vision problems, body pain and ache, weight loss, loss of appetite, tiredness and lack of energy, anxiety, easy irritability, non-interest in social life, digestive issues, pale and dull skin, lacklustre hair
  • Approach a doctor to diagnose malnutrition if even after you take all necessary dietary steps, yet the child exhibits the symptoms of malnutrition. There are various medical and blood tests to determine nutrition deficiency in the body

How to bridge Malnutrition?

  • Make a wholesome dietary plan referring to the food pyramid and daily dietary needs of the child as per ones’ age, height, weight, gender, and Body Mass Index (BMI)
  • Try oral supplements –Some over-the-counter products too are available such as protein powder, vitamin tablets, flavoured drinks, health beverages, ayurvedic supplements, etc. Refer to a healthcare advisor and opt for supplements if one has any pre-existing medical condition
  • Intravenous solutions – These are solutions for extreme cases of malnutrition and are to be taken only under a guided medical supervision
  • Spread health and awareness on nutrition need to advocate good health
  • Start monitoring the child regularly and treat the specific symptoms 

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