In general, there is more emphasis on talking about the dangers of overeating than under-eating. However not eating enough, like overeating, can have significant health consequences.
Aside from the more common symptom of weight loss, there are some more serious signals your body will indicate when you’re not receiving your optimal nutritional intake. To find out what they are, HealthMinute asked nutrition health experts.
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Although under-eating can be caused deliberately by trying to lose weight or overexercising, Clinical Nutritionist, Hayley Stathis tells HealthMinute that indirect lifestyles factors, such as stress, is a significant cause of under-eating saying, “we become so stressed and busy that our diet is based on convenience foods and lacking nutrient-dense whole foods.”
There are many signs which appear when someone is not eating enough. Some symptoms will present immediately, while others will appear weeks or months later.
Lethargy, lack of energy and fatigue are the most common signs, as well as frequent cravings and irritability, which can blood sugar and hormonal imbalances. Clinical Nutritionist Victoria Tsoleridis says”under-eating can cause you to feel fatigued continuously which leads to not having enough energy to get out of bed or being able to get through a normal day.”
2. Constantly Feeling Cold
Our bodies requires a certain amount of calories to regulate our body temperature which will drop if we’re not consuming enough calories leading to a constant feeling of being cold. Tsoleridis says, “people who have a calorie-restricted diet will have a lower body temperature where the body is looking for a way to keep warm. It does this by creating more body hair known as lanugo which provides a layer of insulation. ”
3. Hair Loss
Undereating, especially if there is no sufficient nutritional intake can cause hair loss. Research has shown that deficiencies in proteins, essential fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins can lead to hair loss or other abnormalities including changes in hair color or structure. Tsoleridis says, “For some, it can be a sudden reduction in hair volume and your shower drain will inform you if you’re losing hair. If your nails start to lose their shine and break easily – these are signs that your body is not getting enough protein. ”
4. Mood Swings
Depression, which is not necessarily a sign of malnutrition, has been linked to poor nutrition in recent studies. Tsoleridis says, “Being hungry can leave us in a constant bad mood, as without sugar to fuel the brain, we are more prone to aggression and lose the ability to control our mood.”
5. Reproductive Difficulties
A significant diet change will often lengthen or shorten menstrual cycles, move ovulation periods, or change a woman’s fertile window. Additionally,
When we’re not getting enough food, the body may not adequately produce sex hormones we need for reproduction.
Nutrigenomics Specialist at myDNA, Dr. Carlotta Petti agrees, “if you don’t provide enough nutrients for your body it is not able to produce hormones, which can influence your fertility.”
The reduction in hormones can also lead to a lack of desire for sexual intercourse which can lead to a domino effect in reproductive difficulties.
6. Getting Sick More Often
Tsoleridis says, “if you’re getting sick more frequently than others or staying sick longer, this could be a sign of malnutrition. If the body doesn’t receive the right nutrients in the right amounts, then the immune system cannot function to its optimal capacity. ”
This can lead to getting sick, and illnesses like the common cold may last longer than they should.
Dr. Petti says, “not eating enough foods that contain the vitamins or minerals you need increases the risk of certain diseases, decreased immune function. While over-eating is linked to poor health, as it can be the cause of many preventable chronic diseases.”
So for optimal nutrition, how many calories do we actually need?
Dr. Petti says, “the number of calories an adult should eat varies substantially depending on their size and activity level. For an average sized woman, 2000 Calories (about 8000kJ) is recommended while for average sized men, about 2500 Calories (about 10500kJ) is recommended.”
Tsoleridis says it’s important to note, that the calories you consume need to be nutritionally strong calories, not empty ones, “it’s easy to consume 1000 calories in a few glasses of wine, but they don’t have the same nutritional value or profile as a piece of chicken with vegetables. Fuelling the body with proper nutrition, including the macronutrients complex carbohydrates, lean protein (animal and vegetable sources), good quality fats and the micronutrients will come with it, including the vitamins and minerals that sustain our life.”
A massive fruit and veg haul from @dandenongmarket 🥦🍆🥒🌽 A few things- eating healthy doesn’t have to be expensive; and that’s why I love this market, you can get fresh stuff for (very) reasonable prices (I got loads of vine ripened tomatoes at $1.99/kg, 2 kilograms of free range chicken drumettes for $14, a big bag of baby spinach for $2, zucchini’s at $3/KG). I don’t buy fancy stuff, I don’t buy superfoods (we can talk about the evidence for those things another day), I just buy loads of “regulation” fruit and vegetables and all the research says it’s enough to reduce chronic disease risk and risk of certain cancers.
If you’re concerned about under-eating, The Wholesome Doctor & General Practitioner, Dr. Preeya Alexander says, “If you’re experiencing any of the above signs, it’s important to see a healthcare professional such as a GP.”
“It’s beneficial to chat to a professional in the field such as a nutritionist or dietitian, and visit your GP for a blood test to ensure you are not suffering from any underlying nutritional or health deficiencies,” Dr. Preeya says.