Lack of energy and nutrients can cause children to become malnourished. This condition can have severe consequences such as physical and mental retardation in children, weak resistance, increased morbidity, and mortality in children under 5 years of age.
1. What is childhood malnutrition?
Malnutrition is a lack of energy and nutrients that affects the normal life, functioning, and growth of a child’s body.
Child malnutrition can be classified into 3 types:
- Underweight malnutrition: Due to undernutrition leading to a weight lower than the norm for children of the same age and sex, defined as a weight below the norm for children of the same age and sex (under – 2SD). The underweight category reflects persistent undernutrition as well as undernutrition at the time of assessment.
- Stunted malnutrition: Due to prolonged growth retardation resulting in a child not attaining the required height of a child of the same age in the reference population, defined as when the height is below the norm for children of the same age. age and gender (under -2SD). The stunting form reflects chronic growth retardation, which persists in the past, and may begin as early as the fetal stage due to maternal undernutrition.
- Underweight malnutrition: When the child’s weight-for-height indicator falls significantly below the recommended value in the reference population, defined as the weight-for-height lower than the child’s standard for the same age group. age and gender (under -2SD). The emaciated form reflects acute undernutrition due to either not gaining weight or losing weight.
2. Causes of malnutrition in young children
Malnutrition can occur due to a lack of supply, increased nutrient consumption, or both.
Lack of offers:
- Not providing enough food.
- Children are anorexic, and not eating enough.
- Poor diet, inappropriate processing, lack of energy and nutrients.
- Children are sick, especially with long-term illnesses.
- Digestive-absorption disorders.
- Intestinal parasitic infection.
- Loss of nutrients due to disease.
In most cases, malnutrition occurs due to a combination of both mechanisms, both decreasing energy intake and increasing energy expenditure (For example, a sick child but the mother is on a diet).
3. Effects of malnutrition on young children
The weakened immune system, increased risk of infections:
Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies (deficiency of protein, iron, zinc, vitamins, etc.) weaken the child’s immune system, making them susceptible to infections, frequent antibiotic use, anorexia, and diarrhea. poor metabolism, unable to absorb nutrients, making malnutrition worse.
Disruption of bodily functions, causing many health problems:
Malnutrition will cause disorders in the body’s organs. The most severely affected organs are the liver, heart, and kidneys which can lead to fatty liver, heart failure, kidney failure, etc.
Micronutrient deficiency also causes many health problems. For example, vitamin A deficiency causes corneal dryness, and night blindness, which adversely affects children’s vision; lack of iron, protein, and some B vitamins causing anemia; lack of protein, calcium, zinc, vitamins A, D, K, … affect bone development, protein deficiency causes edema, …
Influence on stature. Malnutrition affects the function of all organ systems of the body, including the musculoskeletal system, especially in the first 1000 days of life (fetal stage and first 2 years). Early and prolonged malnutrition makes children grow up stunted, while adults have short stature, increasing the risk of obesity later in life.
Malnutrition affects the normal development of the brain during the period of children under 6 years old due to the lack of substances necessary for the brain and intellectual development of children such as fat, carbohydrates, iron, iodine, DHA, and Taurine,…
Malnourished children are also often slow, and have problems with language, memory, and social communication, leading to a decrease in the ability to pay attention, learn, and absorb.
4. Rehabilitation treatment of malnourished children
- Treatment of acute conditions: Dehydration or systemic edema, electrolyte disturbances, acute heart failure, infections, parasitic infections, digestive and absorption disorders,…
- Supplement deficient nutrients: vitamin A, iron, calcium, vitamin D, folic acid, and multivitamins,…
- Raise the nutritional ratio to the maximum suitable for the child’s ability to digest and absorb, and use energy-rich foods, and special nutritional products,…
Malnutrition rehabilitation at home:
Make sure to provide enough energy, protein, and nutrients to meet the needs of nutritional recovery and body development.
Increase dietary energy for daily meals if children cannot eat enough according to needs by:
- Feed multiple dishes at the same time.
- Increase the number of meals a day if the child cannot eat much at one time.
- Feed as thick as possible, using moringa powders to loosen solid food while ensuring the consistency of the food.
- Increase energy-rich foods: add fat to your child’s food, and use high-calorie foods.
- Fortified feeding after an illness.
- Breastfeeding continues after 12 months. If there is not enough breast milk, choose a suitable substitute.
- Periodically monitor the nutritional status and health of children.
5. Prevention of child malnutrition in the community
Breastfeeding immediately after birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months: Breast milk is always the most perfect first food for babies and good food, accepted by babies in the later stages. Breast milk, in addition to providing nutrients, also provides disease-fighting factors, protecting babies from infectious diseases.
- Nutritional care for children with reasonable meals: Introduce weaning foods to children from 6 months of age. Feed children with all 4 groups of nutrients (carbohydrate, protein, fat), without dieting, and can maintain breast milk under 2 years of age. If there is not enough breast milk, choose a suitable substitute.
- Food hygiene and safety: This is the most important issue in protecting children from intestinal infections, helminths, etc. Choose fresh food for children, avoid long-term preservation unless there is a freezer properly, limit for children to use processed, canned food, and cook cooked food thoroughly.
- Environmental hygiene – personal hygiene for children and caregivers.
- Monitor children’s growth chart monthly: To detect malnutrition or risks if any and intervene early.
- Prevention and treatment: Thoroughly treat respiratory infections, diarrhea, etc., without overusing antibiotics, but only using antibiotics as indicated, in sufficient doses, in sufficient time, with active nutritional care. during the illness and nutritional recovery after the illness.
- Periodic deworming every 6 months for children from 2 years old.
- Encourage your child to exercise regularly. Exercise will help the metabolism in the body take place normally and excrete unwanted toxins from the body. If your child doesn’t like to exercise, you can organize some fun games or take him for a swim or bike ride.
To prevent and improve malnutrition in children, parents should supplement with supportive products containing lysine, essential micro-minerals, and vitamins such as zinc, chromium, selenium, and B vitamins to help meet the full needs of the child. meet the nutritional needs of the child. At the same time, these essential vitamins also support digestion, enhance nutrient absorption, help improve anorexia, and help children eat well. Parents can also apply dietary supplements and functional foods derived from nature for easy absorption. The most important thing is that the improvement of the baby’s symptoms must take place over the long term. Combining many types of functional foods at the same time or continuously changing many types in a short time can make the baby’s digestive system not adapt completely not good.