Throughout history, many people have experienced prolonged starvation or malnutrition due to famine, drought, or war. However, even when these dramatic periods for humanity came to an end and people got the opportunity to eat normally, some people could not survive. Because a condition called “refeeding syndrome” was extremely deadly for people who were deprived of food for a long time! Let’s get acquainted with the disease called refeeding syndrome, which can be fatal when returning to normal eating habits after prolonged hunger or malnutrition…
What is refeeding syndrome?
Refeeding syndrome is a fatal disorder that occurs in people who return to normal eating habits after prolonged fasting or malnutrition. The main thing that causes the appearance of this deadly disease is the body’s reaction to a sharp change in eating habits.
Returning to a normal diet after a long period of malnutrition causes many changes in the hormonal structure of the body.
This is because food deprivation changes the way food is digested by the body. For example, the hormone insulin is responsible for the breakdown of carbohydrates into glucose. Therefore, with a decrease in carbohydrate intake, the secretion of the hormone insulin in the body also decreases.
In the event of a prolonged carbohydrate deficiency, the body begins to digest stored fats and proteins for energy production. In this case, as well as how the body digests, the metabolism and hormonal balance in the body also changes.
When refeeding begins, the body’s responses change again and suddenly!
Meanwhile, cells need various electrolytes, such as phosphate, to convert incoming glucose into energy. However, due to prolonged malnutrition, he cannot provide the electrolytes he needs. In such cases, various electrolyte disorders occur, such as “hypophosphatemia”, meaning a decrease in the level of phosphates in the blood, and these disorders are often deadly.
In addition to hypophosphatemia, there are other signs of refeeding syndrome.
For example, pathological changes in the level of sodium and fluid in the body as a whole. Similarly, changes in fat, glucose, and protein metabolism are among the important features of the syndrome. In addition, thiamine, magnesium, and potassium deficiencies are among the disorders that occur with refeeding syndrome.
It is claimed that refeeding syndrome can affect all people.
However, the likelihood of the syndrome may increase due to prolonged fasting, malnutrition, or a heavy diet. In addition, certain medical conditions, such as long-term anorexia, alcohol use disorder, and cancer, are among the factors that can cause the syndrome.
What are the symptoms of refeeding syndrome?
Burnout, weakness, confusion, irregular heartbeat, heart failure, difficulty breathing, and high blood pressure can be listed among the common symptoms of refeeding syndrome. In addition, according to studies, these symptoms appear within 4 days after the refeeding process.
Who is at risk?
There are many internationally recognized risk factors that indicate that a person may have refeeding syndrome. Accordingly, the risk group includes people with a body mass index below 16 and those who have lost more than 15 percent of their body weight in the last 3-6 months.
In addition, people who have eaten little or no food for the past 10 or more days in a row, and those who have abnormally low levels of phosphate, magnesium, and potassium on blood tests, are also advised to seek medical attention as soon as possible.
To treat the syndrome, you need to seek professional help.
Due to the syndrome, sudden and fatal symptoms occur. Treatment of refeeding syndrome usually includes methods to normalize the patient’s deficient electrolyte levels and slow the effects of the syndrome.
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