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What Is Malnutrition?


Updated June 25, 2014



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Definition: Malnutrition defines a condition that occurs when the body is not getting enough nutrients. Whether resulting from an inadequate or unbalanced diet, digestive or absorption problems or other medical conditions, malnutrition can lead to serious illness and eventually death.

Causes of Malnutrition

  • Lack of one or more vitamins in the diet
  • Inadequate food intake
  • Starvation
  • Inability to absorb or digest food

Symptoms of Malnutrition

Symptoms of malnutrition can vary, from mild to very severe. General symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Weight loss
  • Extreme lack of energy
  • Weakened immune system

How Is Malnutrition Related to COPD?

Malnutrition can be a complication of COPD. Why? One reason is because dyspnea -- the hallmark symptom of COPD -- makes it extremely difficult for COPD patients to complete a meal. It can also make patients feel like they don't have an appetite at all.

How Can COPD Patients Prevent Malnutrition?

People with COPD require 10 times as many calories as healthy people to breathe. Insufficient calories related to dyspnea leads to a lack of energy. Lack of energy makes it even more difficult to breathe or complete any type of activity. An increase in dyspnea related to lack of energy makes it nearly impossible to eat. The cycle will continue if not somehow interrupted.

The best way to supplement calories without having to eat more to do so, is to eat foods that are higher in calories. The following article includes a list of healthy, high calorie foods to add to your shopping list:

How to Get Extra Calories in a COPD Diet

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