Many think malnutrition is an issue only those in destitute, impoverished areas have to worry about, but in reality, the problem is much more close to home than that.
In fact, there are millions of nutrient-deficient children right here in the United States.
But it doesn’t stop there. At this very moment, dozens of first-world countries have malnutrition problems. Take France, for example, where 63 percent of newborns are deficient in iron and another 55 percent are born anemic. Across the entire European continent, The World Health Organization estimates that 33 million people are at risk for malnutrition there, too.
To make matters even worse, WHO says malnutrition causes a whopping 1 million child deaths worldwide ever year. One million!
It’s pretty obvious that we, as a worldwide population, need to take nutrition more seriously. That doesn’t just mean cutting out “bad” foods, but taking care to get the proper amounts of vitamins, minerals and nutrients our bodies need daily.
And in a world where obesity is climbing at alarming rates, this could have immense benefits on both our children and our lifespans across the globe. Keep reading to learn about how you can spot malnutrition and how to treat it if you do.
Chances are, you know someone with malnutrition or, more specifically, a nutrient deficiency. Yes, they might be that super skinny friend that never eats more than a few bites, but they could also be that healthy-looking loved one you have no reason to be alarmed at.
The truth is malnutrition comes in all shapes and sizes. At its core though, it’s simply a body that’s lacking in one or more vital nutrients – like iron, iodine, vitamin A, zinc and more.
So how do you spot malnutrition in your loved ones? Better yet, how do you know if you’re nutrient deficient? Here are a few signs:
- Quick and unexpected weight loss
- Lethargy and fatigue
- Recurrent infections
- Slow healing time
- Difficult concentrating and focusing
- Failure to grow (in children)
- Changes in hair and skin color
- Muscle cramps and heart palpitations (usually a calcium or potassium deficiency)
- Weakness and thinning hair (iron deficiency)
- Depression (vitamin D deficiency)
If you’re worried you or a loved one might be nutrient deficient, your family doctor can run a panel of blood tests to check. They’ll be able to let you know which minerals and vitamins your body is lacking, as well as if any infections or other underlying issues might be present.
Getting the Right Nutrition
Once you recognize malnutrition or a nutrient deficiency, it’s time to take action. Specifically, you need to start consuming more healthful, nutrient-packed foods, and giving your body the vitamins and minerals it lacks.
Fortunately, this is easier than it sounds. Here’s a list of great food items to choose for each deficiency. Work these into your diet, and fight malnutrition from within.
- Calcium – milk, yogurt and dark, leafy green vegetables (think spinach and kale)
- Potassium – bananas, beans, peas, whole grains, milk
- Iron – Beef, beans, lentils, spinach, oysters
- B12 – Fish, chicken, milk, yogurt
- Magnesium – Almonds, cashews, peanuts, edamame, spinach
- Vitamin D – milk, yogurt, salmon, tuna
You can also get vitamin D from good old sunshine, so make sure to spend some time in the great outdoors each day – even if it’s only for a moment. Walk your dog, take a lap around the building at lunch, or just park a little further away when you park at the grocery store.
The main thing to focus on is balance. Don’t just eat so-called “healthy” frozen meals every day. Make it a point to work in fruits, veggies, good carbs, protein and water into your everyday diet, and give your body the fuel it truly needs.
In a nutshell, it’s time to stop thinking of foods as “good” and “bad,” and start thinking “can my body use this?” and “will this make me stronger, healthier or live longer?” If the answer is no, toss it aside. Give your body the nutrients it needs, and it will reward you tenfold in the long run!
Take a Look
Look at your daily meals, as well as your overall health. How do you feel? Could you feel better than that? More alert? More focused? More energetic? If so, you probably have malnutrition to blame.
Fortunately, you’re not alone. Millions of people across the globe suffer from this same condition, and all it takes is a few lifestyle changes, and it can be a thing of the past. Contact your doctor to get a work-up of your deficiencies, and start switching up your diet today. Remember, the best quality nutrients come from fresh natural foods, but if you opt to use supplements, always talk to a physician first. Some of these can interfere with existing medications and conditions.