Nutrition is essential to your overall wellness. However, a sudden (acute) or long-term (chronic) illness may affect how your body takes in and absorbs the nutrition it needs to remain healthy and maintain your weight. This can result in a serious condition known as malnutrition. If this occurs, you may need nutrition support to regain weight and restore your health.
At the Mount Sinai Health System, we offer a multidisciplinary approach to treating a variety of nutritional issues with our team of physicians, dieticians, and social workers who collaborate to give you the quality care you need to address your nutritional needs.
Causes of Malnutrition
There are several types of malnutrition and associated causes.
- Malabsorption: Your body is not able to absorb enough nutrients to sustain your weight or hydration which may be the result of chronic pancreatitis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or short bowel syndrome.
- Short bowel syndrome and intestinal failure: This is typically the result of substantial loss of the small intestine from surgery or trauma. It can cause substantial loss of fluids, electrolytes, and an inability to maintain your nutritional health.
- Celiac disease: This is a chronic condition caused by inflammation due to an underlying chronic illness such as pancreatic cancer or IBD.
- Starvation-related malnutrition: This is a chronic condition without underlying inflammation, and may be caused by anorexia nervosa.
Celiac disease is your body’s immune reaction to eating gluten, protein found in wheat, barley, and rye. An estimated one out of a hundred people are affected by gluten intolerance. Celiac disease can damage the lining of your small intestine and interfere with the absorption of nutrients.
Symptoms can include diarrhea, fatigue, anemia, and weight loss. If you have a close relative with celiac disease, you should also be tested. Approximately one in ten people may have celiac disease.
We diagnose celiac disease with a simple blood test for an antibody. If the blood test is positive, we next perform an upper endoscopy, and take small samples of cells from the top of your small intestine.
While there is no cure for celiac disease, you may be able to relieve your symptoms by eating a gluten free diet.
You may need nutritional support to maintain healthy hydration and nutritional levels. For that purpose, we use oral feeding (enteral) or intravenous feeding (parenteral) to supplement your nutritional intake.
- Enteral nutrition: Specialized nutritional formulas are delivered to the digestive system through a tube. The tube may pass through the nose to deliver nutrition into the stomach or small intestine. Or, the tube may pass directly through the skin into the stomach (PEG tube) or small intestine (DPEJ tube). Learn more about enteral nutrition.
- Total Parenteral Nutrition (TPN): If you cannot support your fluid and nutritional needs through your stomach and intestines, we can deliver nutrients through a vein to provide carbohydrates, protein, fat, and electrolytes in a specialized formula. that is ordered by qualified medical personal. Learn more about parental nutrition.
Your Mount Sinai team of doctors is here to help you maintain or restore your nutritional health by treating and preventing the compromising condition of malnutrition.