Kwashiorkor is a malnutrition deficiency developed by the insufficient amount of protein in one’s diet. It is more common in children than in adults. This condition is found mostly in countries and communities with lower income levels as well as countries struggling with famine and countries who do not know the essence of feeding children with adequate and wholesome meals.
As human beings, we all need essential nutrients such as fats, proteins, vitamins and other minerals to grow strong and healthy. All these nutrients and minerals are derived from the food we eat every day.
Despite its threatening nature, Kwashiorkor can be prevented and even treated, although it may deform those who suffered immensely from it even after treatment.
People with Kwashiorkor are often identified with swollen bellies. Swollen ankles and feet are other symptoms. Sometimes, skinny legs and cracked skin which peel off gradually can be associated with Kwashiorkor patients. They are also prone to fatigue and diarrhea. The frequent passage of watery stool and vomiting dehydrates the patient, making them very weak and easily tired. They can hardly walk long distances because their energy levels are very low. Hardly do they increase in weight or height. When they are injured and develop sores, the wound takes a longer time to heal, exposing them to severe infections, due to a breakdown of their immune systems.
Irritability, the state of been easily upset or frustrated, also suggests that one has Kwashiorkor. The least thing which mounts pressure or stress on those individuals puts them on edge, making them avoid people or lash out at people easily. Their hair also loses its natural texture and colour, some turning from black to brown or reddish brown, and its strands fall out easily.
All these symptoms, among others, indicate that one has Kwashiorkor. A diagnosis from a doctor will help clear any doubt. The doctor may check for liver enlargement and then check for sugar and protein levels in the individuals by testing the blood and urine.
It is essential that the moment symptoms are noted, immediate medical attention is sought. Negligence to treatment may deprive the affected person of the strength and happiness every individual desires. Besides taking in appropriate meals to rectify the damage, some hospital’s practical ways of treating people with Kwashiorkor include providing adequate heat to keep their bodies warm because in such cases the patient cannot produce enough heat as expected because of some damages in their immune systems.
Wounds should be treated with antibiotics since such people in that poor condition are prone to severe infections. Administering special rehydration solutions to patients who are frequently passing loose stool and vomiting also would enable them to replace lost fluids. Giving vitamin supplements to treat mineral and vitamin deficiencies is also advisable.
A natural and effective way to treat Kwashiorkor is to introduce patients to a variety of food in a gradual process, first by allowing them to take in more calories from protein. Research from Dietary Guidelines from the Institute of Medicine recommend that 10 to 35 percent of an adult’s daily calories should come from protein, 5 to 20 percent for young children and10 to 30 percent for older children and teenagers.
Some common foods which contain protein include beans, eggs, milk yogurt, cheese, seafood, lean beef, peas and nuts. Vegetables such as kontomire, carrot, lettuce, etc. should be included in the meal regularly as well.
It is very essential to always seek medical advice from a doctor, a dietician or a nurse before planning one’s diets so as to ascertain the exact quantity of meal to take at a time.
Recovery from Kwashiorkor will take time and occur gradually but progress will depend on how severe one’s condition is. Parents and guardians must handle younger ones with care and feed them with a balance diet. The old tradition where elders eat the bigger and better portions of a meal while children are fed the opposite needs to be reversed immediately as children require more nutrients to grow healthy and adults require less to maintain health.
Story by: Jennifer Ocansey Akle (Diploma 1 A)