When your body doesn’t receive enough of the nutrients it needs, you might be defined as malnourished. Contrary to popular belief, people who are sick or live in developing countries aren’t the only ones who can suffer from malnourishment.
Even a person who is overweight can be malnourished if the foods they eat lack essential vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. The best way to nourish your body is to educate yourself on what it needs and why it needs those things.
Signs of Malnutrition
Symptoms of malnutrition include:
- Chronic fatigue
- A decreased ability for your body to fight off illness or heal wounds
- Behavioral and psychological changes
- Reduced muscle mass
- Poor libido and fertility problems
- Difficulty regulating body temperature
- Breathing problems
You should see your doctor if you notice these symptoms. They could be caused by a lack of important nutrients in your diet, but they could also be indicative of more serious health issues.
Specific micronutrient deficiencies might cause minimal or no symptoms, but it could still impact your growth, immune system and your body’s ability to function at an optimal level. For example vitamin D and iron deficiencies have few obvious signs in most people, but they can lead to weakened bones, cognitive changes and serious risks for pregnant women. Similarly a vitamin C deficiency, caused by lack of fresh fruit and veggies, can lead to scurvy.
Who is at Risk?
Malnutrition is most commonly seen in low-income families or in older adults with reduced mobility. Certain long-term health conditions, like cancer, anorexia, AIDS and Celiac Disease can also put you at a higher risk. However, anyone who doesn’t properly fuel their body can experience the symptoms listed above.
With warmer weather around the corner, there is inevitably a spike in dieting and exercising. Some fad diets come with the risk of malnutrition. It is also dangerous to rapidly increase your exercise regimen without properly adjusting your diet. If you don’t eat enough of what your body needs, it can actually go into “starvation mode” where it feels the need to store fat instead of burning it. Dizziness and muscle weakness can also occur, which is especially dangerous when you’re working out.
How to Avoid Malnutrition
To avoid malnutrition, eat a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, fats, carbohydrates and protein. Include as much variety as possible instead of eating the same things day after day.
If you have concerns that you’re not receiving proper nutrition, seek guidance from your doctor or a nutrition specialist. They can point you in the right direction and conduct tests to ensure that your body is healthy.