3.Dealing with malnutrition

As long as you are malnourished you are vulnerable to illness in a way other people aren’t, and the longer you are malnourished the more chance there is of doing lasting damage you can’t undo, or which will put you in crisis. You cannot do the things you need to do, whatever they are, if your body is shutting down under you and the symptoms get very debilitating and unpleasant. The current economic situation is only likely to worsen and you may need to prepare for a time when you could be much less able to address it.

Malnutrition is not hunger, and it is the total lack of hunger that maybe the first hurdle you cross (after figuring out how to pay for the food or obtain it!!). Eating to fill up is not what you now have to do, you have to correct the deficiencies your body is telling you about, this is a very new way of eating and involves going back to the roots of nutrition. You can do most of the work treating malnutrition yourself (and will probably have to), but it is vital that if you even begin to suspect you are malnourished, you go to a doctor and you make sure you seek medical advice. The consequences of your body suddenly learning to eat and stay nourished can feel unpredictable, and frightening if you do not know what to expect(I didn’t) and malnutrition can be a source of lasting damage.

Why you need the doctor.

  • Blood tests. You will need blood tests which check for any deficiencies you may have. These blood tests are very important and guide any future treatment, do not delay them if at all possible. One of the tests is a test of your blood sugar and requires you to fast for 24 hours before it is done, if you do not feel it is safe to fast in order to have that test, say so and it can be done at another time. These tests could take a week to come back, you should not wait a week to start treating your malnutrition and you should talk to your doctor about how to do this.
  • Food and vitamin supplements. A doctor can prescribe these. While you can buy food supplements, you may be unprepared for what happens when you suddenly start giving your body food it is not expecting. If you need food supplements, even if you buy them, see your doctor before you start using them.  I had started increasing my calorie intake and creating an appetite, with the help of supplements, and it felt like I kicked my body out of a starvation mode(this is not a scientific term, I do not wish to stray into ‘Dr.’ Mckeith territory). Unfortunately that is when the symptoms that indicated crisis point started, and it was late at night and I was alone.
  • Dietician- a doctor can refer you to a dietician, and you need to see a dietician who understands malnutrition and can help you change things. Referrals can take weeks and there is likely to be a great deal of pressure on these services at the moment, so it is best not to assume  a dietician will oversee you starting to address your malnutrition. It is very likely to be you on your own, or with the help(I cannot guarantee on behalf of an NHS that is currently being smashed to bits) of your (a?) GP and if you are lucky, friends or family.
  • You need a check up. You need your blood pressurem your weight, and god knows what else checked, and you need it on your medical records that this is a problem in case anything goes wrong in future.

First things first

When you view a plate of food, largely in the way you view the wood of the table it sits on, it is not altogether easy to get your body to eat it. Food is the treatment for malnutrition. You now have to learn to eat.

Not only that but you have to start ingesting food in a way that your body can cope with, and be aware that what you are actually doing is waking your body up to the role food is supposed to play in keeping it running. This is not as simple as ‘just eat something’.

Somewhere during this process, while you are probably mentally on trying to convince it it needs calories, your body is going to change the way it responds to food and probably going to notice how depleted it is, in a much more noticeable way. You are going to have to meet those nutritional needs. You are going to start getting hungry again, and will probably crash quickly and leave yourself unable to do stuff, if you do not address that hunger quickly. Learning to respond to and prevent hunger again, is what this process is about.

It is important to prepare for this by having nutritious food that you can eat at hand, it may be that your (lack of) budget means you have to go back to the bare bones of nutrition and you may be eating food groups in their most basic, cheaply available form. This may be monotonous or unappetising, but this food is petrol and you are going to feel so amazing when you are getting energy from places that are not your bodies emergency resources, you are going to want to. You may even learn to like these things, and start to go off the things that you used to really like, and even if you only make a few changes once you have recovered, you might find they make a huge difference.

You can do this immediately, you shouldn’t wait if at all possible but it is important you prepare because this is not a problem which will ever be fixed by just remembering to have breakfast the odd day. It is worth treating this as an emergency on a par with the washing machine breaking down or an eviction notice, it is a damn sight more important than anything British Gas or a debt collector may have to say.

You can treat malnutrition quickly, fairly cheaply and you can feel solid again within days.

What is in this blog?

Budgeting, debt, and prioritising food over everything else.

Do you have malnutrition?

Getting appetite back.

Introducing food groups

Building up and establishing routines

Food and Vitamin supplements

Weight Gain

Eating outside your budget

Resources and who to talk to…

About tea and roll ups.



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