Marasmus is a serious nutritional disorder where there is extreme wasting of muscles, fats and tissues of body. It is mainly caused due to lack of protein and energy and is commonly seen in children from developing countries. While it is a life-threatening condition, timely diagnosis and treatment can help. It is important to know the dietary treatment for marasmus in order to manage the condition and prevent further complications.

Medically, malnutrition is a condition where the body is unable to get sufficient amount of calories and nutrients from food. It can occur due to inadequate nutrition, starvation or any illnesses. Marasmus is a serious malnutrition disorder affecting a large number of children in developing countries. Children in developing countries are prescribed with low-protein and high carbohydrate diets after they are weaned from breastfeeding, which increases their risk of marasmus. Although marasmus can occur in children, but anyone on predominantly carbohydrate rich diet can also develop marasmus due to lack of adequate protein in the diet.

The dietary treatment for marasmus involves consuming foods that are rich in carbohydrates, proteins and essential nutrients. To prevent the onset of any health complications caused by marasmus, it is necessary to make changes in your diet under supervision of medical professionals.

Marasmus is mainly caused by poor nutrition and the symptoms of marasmus vary depending upon the severity of the disease and condition. Significant weight loss, lethargy and chronic diarrhea are some of the common symptoms of marasmus. Since it is nutritional disorder, changes in diet can correct the problem and prevent recurrence. If marasmus is caused or associated with any underlying medical condition, dietary treatment for marasmus must be accompanied with additional treatment.

Dietary Treatment for Marasmus Patients

Causes of Marasmus

To understand the dietary treatment for marasmus, it is necessary to understand the causes of marasmus. Marasmus is mainly caused when the person consumes insufficient amount of calories and protein. This nutritional disorder urges the body to use the available calories to produce required energy and as a result the body experiences wasting of muscles and other related symptoms of protein energy malnutrition. Some of the other factors that cause marasmus in developing countries includes medical conditions like obesity patients treated with stomach stapling, anorexia nervosa, cancer, and infants on restricted diets.

People from places where supply of food is short are also likely to develop marasmus. Contaminated water, overpopulation and poverty are some of the other factors that can cause marasmus due to unavailability of adequate food.

Some of the other factors that cause marasmus in developed countries are abrupt or early weaning and early introduction to diluted milk formula. In adults, marasmus is caused due to viral infections, bacterial infections, parasitic infections and anorexia nervosa, which severely affect the diet and nutrition of a person.

While planning dietary treatment for marasmus patients, the causes need to be considered, so that appropriate nutritional factors and deficiencies can be corrected.
Some of the other factors that affect dietary factors and cause marasmus are:

  • Intestinal diseases
  • Diet limited in calories and protein
  • Poor Maternal Nutrition
  • Malaria
  • Gastroenteritis
  • Infections
  • Under nutrition
  • Breastfeeding when amount of milk is reduced
  • Chronic infectious diseases.

Dietary Treatment for Marasmus Patients

Marasmus can be diagnosed with physical examination, measurements and growth assessments. In cases, where infection or other causes are suspected, blood tests and sometimes scans may be ordered. Lack of motion in malnourished babies can also confirm the diagnosis of marasmus. Malnourished children are often low in energy and hence they are unable to move and perform physical activity.

As a best treatment option, doctors usually monitor and design the most appropriate dietary treatment for marasmus patients. The treatment usually starts with introduction of carbohydrate rich foods that provide the required amount of calories and protein to the body of the patients.

High protein and high energy diet is prescribed as a part of dietary treatment for marasmus patients.

  • The patients diagnosed with marasmus need to consume foods that are rich in protein like poultry, fish, meat, soybeans, eggs and legumes.
  • Milk and dairy products are rich in protein and it should be used to treat marasmus.
  • Patients are asked to take water drained from boiled green grams, fruit juices, sugar cane juice, porridge of lentil and rice, vegetables soups, cereals, milk shakes, porridges of pulses.

It is important to ensure that the food being consumed is cooked properly. Breastfeeding mothers are required to provide their babies with sufficient and the most suitable complementary feedings even in weaning stage.

Dietary treatment for marasmus patients includes citrus fruits, vegetables soups and green vegetables. Also recommended is a diet rich in Vitamin E, oilseeds and vegetables oils like cotton seed, soy and safflower oil. Dietary treatment for marasmus patients recommends including wheat germ, garlic, Brazil nuts, Grains, which are the good source of selenium for better improvement. Japanese sea vegetables are also helpful which need to be included in dietary treatment for marasmus patients.

Wheat Grass juice is highly recommended as it can develop immunity in patients and they are highly nutritious. As a part of your dietary treatment for marasmus, doctors may also ask you to drink the boiled mixture of mint, water and basil leaves to boost the immune system.

Chicken, liver, oatmeal, beef, seafood, sea plants nut, milk, spinach, and seeds are also helpful and are often included in dietary treatment for marasmus patients. Whole wheat grains are a great source of zinc and can be opted for. By increasing the intake of zinc you can decrease the episodes of diarrhea. Patients are advised to increase the intake of antioxidants like Vitamin A and Vitamin C.

Specific nutritional supplements may also be considered while planning dietary treatment for marasmus patients.

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Written, Edited or Reviewed By:

, MD, FFARCSI

Last Modified On: April 4, 2017

Pain Assist Inc.

Pramod Kerkar
  Note: Information provided is not a substitute for physician, hospital or any form of medical care. Examination and Investigation is necessary for correct diagnosis.

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