Overcoming malnutrition? Get your health back on track with these 5 tips
Malnutrition symptoms: What are they?
Let’s start with a malnutrition definition. It occurs when a person’s diet does not provide enough, or the right balance, of nutrients for optimal health. It occurs when a person gets too much or too little of certain nutrients and can refer to over or under nutrition.
According to a recent consumer survey amongst Australians, 19% of people surveyed believe that being overweight is a sign of malnutrition, while 71% think being underweight is the leading malnutrition sign1.
While weight is a common malnutrition symptom, there are many others including:
• A reduced appetite, with a lack of interest in food and drink in general
• The inability to focus and concentrate
• Feeling tired all the time, even when sedentary
• A general feeling of being weaker than usual
• Getting sick often and taking a longer time to recover
Overcoming any illness takes time and a committed approach to getting your health back on track. Malnutrition is no different.
The downside is there is no quick fix and you may find it challenging at times to consistently ensure your body gets the right nutrients and the right amount of these nutrients, for your particular health situation.
The upside is, that you will get better and recover well if you follow the expert advice of your healthcare professional and have a cheer squad of family and friends around you providing ongoing support and encouragement. Who knows, perhaps you will feel even better than you did before your malnutrition diagnosis.
Top 5 tips to conquer malnutrition
Here’s our top 5 tips for recovering well from malnutrition. These are general suggestions and do not replace the professional advice of your healthcare professional, who will provide a tailored plan that takes into account the severity of the malnutrition and the presence of any other underlying health conditions or complications.
Tip 1: Follow the advice of your healthcare professional
As the saying goes, leave it to the experts. The best place to start when recovering well is to speak your healthcare professional. Let them know that you’d like to recover well from malnutrition and need advice and guidance on the best approach for you in relation to your diet and exercise. As tempting as it is to self-manage, listen to and prioritise the advice of family and friends, or ask Dr Google, always trust that your healthcare professional is on Team YOU and committed to the same positive health outcome that you are.
As your nutritional requirements may change over the course of your recovery from malnutrition, it is advisable to consult a dietitian who can help you to understand these changes and devise strategies to help meet your specific nutrition goals, based on individual factors such as age, weight, health status and physical activity.
Tip 2: Consume a balanced diet
There is a reason the saying “you are what you eat” has stood the test of time. It’s true! Our bodies and the way they work, respond to what we put in them, which is why it’s a good idea to ensure you get the right amount of essential nutrients each day, as part of your commitment to recovering well.
The Australian Government’s Department of Health2 outlines six essential nutrients that the body needs to function properly, including:
The type and length of treatment from a structured diet will depend on the individual circumstances of the person diagnosed, but it’s likely that gradually increasing the intake of essential nutrients like protein, energy, vitamins and minerals, fibre and fluids will be included in a malnutrition treatment plan.
Tip 3: Stick to the (professional) plan
Of course, having a balanced diet to follow that’s appropriate to your needs is important, but the key to recovering from malnutrition to feel well is consistency. To help you stay committed to nourishing your body you need to3:
– Eat regularly throughout the day, rather than one or two heavy meals
– Choose nutritious foods you enjoy eating
– Try having small amounts often, if you don’t feel like eating
– Avoid processed foods (extra tip: don’t buy them!)
– Tell your family and friends about your diet needs so they can support you…who knows, they may even join you!
Tip 4: Stay active
It’s important to stay active while recovering well, but in an appropriate way. While it’s tempting to see exercise as something you’ll do when you’re “back to normal”, keeping active as much as possible during your treatment for malnutrition will mean recovering well becomes your reality. Of course, we’re not recommending a marathon or taking on Mt Everest! But regardless of your age, physical ability or health condition, there is generally something you can do to improve your movement4.
It is best to speak to your healthcare professional, as they can advise you on the activities you are capable of doing safely, plus how frequently to do them, with the aim of building your strength slowly and steadily over a realistic time period.
Tip 5: Shake it up up with nutritional support
Your healthcare professional will advise on the best treatment option to restore your nutritional balance. Often daily nutritional support is recommended to ensure essential nutrients for good health are consumed on a consistent, ongoing basis. This can be in a ready-to-drink shake format, like a product such as Fortisip Compact Protein , which can help you or a loved one achieve your daily nutritional needs when your usual diet is not enough. Available in a variety of delicious flavours, one compact 125ml bottle is packed full of energy, protein and 28 vitamins and minerals to help you rediscover your nutritional balance.
Want to find out more?
Check out the resources and support section for more advice and information. You can also take our Missing Malnourished Quiz if you think that you or someone you know, could be at risk of malnutrition.
Fortisip Compact Protein
Fortisip Compact Protein can help you or a loved one achieve your daily nutritional needs when your usual diet is not enough. One compact 125ml bottle is packed full of energy, protein and 28 vitamins and minerals to help you rediscover your nutritional balance.
Causes of malnutrition
Malnutrition can be caused by a wide and varied list of factors. Diagnosis of an illness, physical limitations and the consumption of foods with low nutrient density, can all have a part to play. Find out more here.
- The Digital Edge Weekly Omnibus Survey conducted amongst 1,500 Australians in February 2021. Data on file.
- The Department of Health Canteen Manager training nutrients : https://www1.health.gov.au/internet/publications/publishing.nsf/Content/canteen-mgr-tr1~nutrients
- Better Health Channel Victoria, Illness – tips to help you recover: https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/ServicesAndSupport/illness-tips-to-help-you-recover
- How exercise is changing lives. Health Direct; 17th May 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/blog/3-ways-exercise-changes-lives