Malnutrition is a condition that results from the lack of food or lack of food that contains the proper nutrients the human body requires in order to keep functioning properly. In some cases, a person may continue to consume what they consider food, but it may not contain sufficient amounts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to fulfill all of their needs. Medically speaking, someone who loses between 5 and 10 percent (or more) of their body weight in the course of three to six months and is not dieting is likely to be suffering from malnutrition. Here are other signs and symptoms to watch for.


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General weakness and increased feelings of fatigue are often signs of malnutrition. Finding that daily activities are too tiring or simply too hard to complete are telltale signs, as are muscles that have visibly decreased in size, and an appearance of overall weakness, similar to when a person is suffering from an illness such as the flu.



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The body requires a constant supply of new blood cells in order to sustain life. Anemia is a condition in which the body’s ability to produce red blood cells is impaired – in this case, it is by lack of nutrition. With fewer red blood cells available to carry oxygen to the cells of the body, anemia causes feelings of exhaustion and weakness.



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Since malnutrition takes a toll on every bodily function, it can result in greater susceptibility to infection because the ability of the immune system to combat it has been diminished. This could make it easier for someone to come down with a common virus such as cold or flu, or even more exotic and dangerous infections such as the so-called flesh-eating bacteria.



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Increased irritability may also be a factor for someone who is malnourished. The brain is one of the most demanding organs in the body when it comes to nutritional requirements, and it is not uncommon to see changes in personality which often includes irritability in malnourished individuals.



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Malnutrition is quite likely to cause wounds to heal much more slowly since the body’s normal repair functions are hampered by the lack of proper nutrients. It could also mean that colds and flu will take more time to run their course, and cause more discomfort than they normally would.


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Excessive dryness of both the skin and hair may occur as a result of malnutrition. The body has an incredible ability to prioritize how it will make use of dwindling nutritional stores, and what little nutrition the body has to use will be diverted away from non-essential functions that keep both skin and hair healthy.



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In some ways, the effects malnutrition has on the body are unpredictable and will vary from individual to individual. While one person suffering from malnutrition may experience constipation, another may experience problems with persistent diarrhea.



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As with mood changes, lack of proper nutrients for normal brain function can also trigger depression, which can range in severity from mild to severe. Sometimes the sequence may work in reverse, where depression causes someone to lose interest in eating, which might then cause malnutrition and set off a vicious circle as both conditions worsen over time.