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Being underweight can be caused by a variety of factors, including eating disorders like anorexia Nervosa, it can also be linked to certain medical conditions including; hyperthyroidism, cancer, diabetes, psychological problems, inflammatory bowel disease and infections.3 4 Genetics also plays an important role in whether an individual would be underweight or not.5 It may also be a symptom of Malnutrition (a condition that occurs when your body does not get enough nutrients) or Malabsorption (when there is difficulty absorbing nutrients from food). 4
Major symptoms include; Low body weight, BMI of ≤18.5, feelings of fatigue, malaise etc. 3
People who are underweight are at risk for health complications, compromised immunity, and may have an increased risk of anemia, heart irregularities, reduced sex hormones, loss of bone density, infertility, hypotension, poor wound healing, low-birth-weight infants( as a result of pre-pregnancy underweight & failure to gain weight during pregnancy), Vulnerability to infections, Loss of Menstruation(Amenorrhea) and osteoporosis. 3 6 7
Prevention & Treatment
In order to avoid or treat being underweight, an overall lifestyle change is necessary. A combination of improved diet, exercise, and appetite stimulants are helpful. 7 8 Exercise helps to keep bones strong & maintain muscle tone, it can also stimulate appetite. Diet should include Nutrient rich food & calorie dense snacks; it should be a diet rich in Fruits, Vegetables, Proteins and Fats from Plant sources. The major focus should be increased intake of healthy calories.8 9 Appetite stimulants like B vitamin supplements can also be used.2