Malnutrition is not something that happens over night. It is a process by which your body tells you it is not getting what it needs to function and tries to stop functioning, the symptoms creep up, and either present as other things(depression) or can be attributed to your failure(procrastination….).
I have padded out a list of malnutrition symptoms I found online. I am going to discuss some of them in detail because they can be difficult to recognise.
Symptoms that led to me going to Doctor
Underweight with a BMI(Body Mass Index) of 18.(My BMI had been there for well over 5 months). (You can be malnourished and be overweight, or even within a healthy weight range).
Inability to gain weight or regain appetite.
Symptoms that should have led to me going to the Doctor
Memory loss. (Inability to remember what I was saying, even as I opened my mouth, this got progressively worse over a period of months).
Loss of concentration.
Periods of mental ‘absence’. I would realise I had been staring at the wall for ages, and had barely noticed. This was often in the midst of day to day life or when interacting with others, in the end this would punctuate almost conversation I had. My children noticed this and it frightened them.
Skin would easily bruise and healing times for simple cuts and grazes increased.
Mild but regular diarrhea that would not go away for more than a day or so.
Symptoms which indicated crisis point
Dry skin which couldn’t be eased by moisturising.
Dry cracked lips which were not eased by moisturising.
My eyes were sunken, ie when I ran my fingers over my face I could feel they were further away than they had been before. The skin at the corner of my eyes was almost folding as if I was much older than I was. This was a noticeable difference.
Parts of my vision disappearing and weakening.
Tingling in my eyes.
Feeling cold all the time, even on hot days or with the heating and several layers on.
Severe Lethargy. For instance it would take all morning to get the energy to do a simple task. I interpreted a day when lethargy was so bad I couldn’t move off the couch to even do the breakfast dishes, after the kids had gone to school, as me being lazy or depressed. Turns out if you don’t have calories in your body, you don’t have energy to function. Rather like a car needs petrol.
Pressure headaches. These are headaches which feel like a bubble between your skull and your brain and are unique. The pressure may only appear for moments at a time and the iller you get, the longer they stay. This pressure can move and change location, and this can be very frightening, because you aren’t used to having pressure between your skull and your brain.
Impaired ability to think- this is a difficult symptom to explain. About 3 days before the worst of the symptoms started, the thinking that would allow me to read a book, or consider a problem, stopped. Noticeably. My brain went quiet, and it took all the energy I had to care about what was happening in front of me, never mind think about abstract problems, this was after a period of months where my concentration and ability to think had eroded. It switched back on about a week after I started eating properly. Noticeably.
- Loss of skin tone, hair pigment and colour
- Weight loss, decreased muscle mass, and weakness
- Dry scaly skin
- Oedema (swelling of limbs, due to build-up of fluid)
- Hair that has lost its pigment
- Brittle and malformed (spooned) nails
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Slow wound healing
- Bone and joint pain
- Mental changes such as confusion and irritability
- Goitre (enlarged thyroid gland)
- Periods stopping
Specific nutrient deficiencies may cause characteristic symptoms. For instance, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to tingling, numbness, and burning in the hands and feet (due to nerve damage), a lack of vitamin A may cause night blindness and increased sensitivity to light, and a lack of vitamin D can cause bone pain and malformation. The severity of symptoms depends on the intensity and duration of the deficiency. Some changes, such as to bone and nerves, may be irreversible.
This is not a definitive list, malnutrition is about the erosion of your body and as you are unique there will be symptoms you notice that others don’t get. Malnutrition and being thin are different, you can be malnourished even if you are a healthy weight or overweight. It is fair to say by the time I treated this, I had turned into a ghost of my former self, existing on autopilot but I looked within the realm of normal. We do not live in a country where malnutrition is something you think could be happening and the combination of these symptoms created feelings which are akin to despair, and could have been interpreted in a million ways.
Starvation is malnutrition.
THESE SYMPTOMS ARE TREATABLE AND DISAPPEAR REMARKABLY QUICKLY.
Once your body is nourished again, you will be astonished at the difference food makes. You will feel ‘solid’ again.