Talking about what your child eats, how much, how often may not be the most stimulating conversation, but it is one worth having. Your child may be physically satisfied with what they are eating (i.e.-they aren’t hungry) but they may not be getting the right vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to remain healthy.
Malnutrition-What is It?
Malnutrition is defined as the condition of the body when it does not get the right amount of vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to maintain healthy organs and healthy tissue function. Malnutrition can contribute or even cause increased sensory, physical, and intellectual difficulties. A malnourished person may be undernourished or overnourished.
- Undernourished-when the body receives too few of the essential nutrients or consumes or excretes them more rapidly than they can be replaced
- Overnourished-when the body is provided with excess nutrient and energy intake frequently or over time to the point that it becomes dangerous to your health. A child that eats too much food, too many of the wrong kinds of food, or too many processed foods can become obese.
Malnutrition-What are the Causes?
- If someone doesn’t get enough food over a long period of time, they can become malnourished.
- Someone receiving enough food that they don’t feel hungry may still be malnourished because they aren’t receiving the right vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.
- Children, adolescents, and infants need more nutrients for proper nourishment than an adult.
- Some conditions cause mechanical feeding difficulties such as Micrognathia.
- Some medical conditions prevent children from digesting or absorbing their foods properly. A child with celiac disease may have difficulty absorbing nutrients due to damage to the small intestine. Children with cystic fibrosis have difficulty absorbing nutrients because the CF affects the pancreas which produces dietary enzymes.
- Malnutrition is an issue that complex children experience all too frequently due to feeding difficulties and oral motor dysfunction.
- Special Needs Children with feeding tubes are frequently malnourished due to vomiting, gagging, nausea, limited tolerance
- Special Needs Children are at increased risk of overnourishment due to mobility limitations that limit physical activity.
- Some Genetic disorders have obesity listed as a clinical feature (Prader-Willi Syndrome and Bardet-Biedl Syndrome)
- Some medications cause weight gain.
Malnutrition-What are the Symptoms?
The signs and symptoms of malnourishment may very depending upon which nutrients are involved.
- Fatigue and low energy, muscle weakness
- Swollen or bleeding gums, decaying teeth
- Problems with organ function
- Poor growth
- Dry, scaly skin
- Difficulty paying attention and slow reaction time
- Poor immune function (difficulty fighting off infections)
- Stomach bloat
- Problems learning
Malnourishment-What Can You Do?
So what can you do about it? We know “Your Plate is full"? (pun intended).
- Talk to your Doctor about an appointment with a nutritionist. Through assessment a nutritionist will be able to determine if your child is receiving the right foods.
- Some of what you will need to do is do less. Yes, that’s what we said. Your child will probably need more time to complete his/her meal. So less time running errands or rushing through dinner.
- Plan ahead. Set aside a time to make several days of food and seal and refrigerate. This gives you the time to assess that all the food groups are represented. In the long run you will save time.
- Children need at least three meals and two snacks per day, a healthy balance of vitamins, minerals, proteins, and carbohydrates.
- Avoid “empty" calories. These are foods that have limited nutritional value such as processed foods, fast foods, soft drinks, candy, chips.
RSVP Home Care is #1 in pediatric home care in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana. With over a century of health industry experience at our fingertips, our goal is to share that expertise with you and your loved ones with excellent care and service. We are providers of durable medical equipment and carry a full line of pediatric enteric feeding equipment. Our respiratory therapists are licensed to practice in Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana.