Symptoms Of Starvation

A Guide to the Symptoms of Starvation

The symptoms of starvation are unpleasant, to put it mildly. While some symptoms can be easily treated, there are a few symptoms which could prove to be lifelong health issues. It is obvious that failing to eat can result in death, but forcing the body to go into starvation mode by eating too little can cause just as much damage as out-and-out starving. Starvation can be caused by many things, such as an eating disorder like anorexia nervosa, self-imposed fasting, abuse, gastrointestinal disease, depressive disorder, or simply not being able to obtain food (famine, lack of money, or being stranded in terrain where little edible food can be found). Let’s take a look at some of the symptoms of starvation and how they can pose not only an immediate effect but also a life-long one.

Obvious Weight Loss

Of all of the symptoms of starvation, weight loss is usually the first to spring to mind. Weight loss occurs as a result of the body turning on itself for energy. Every movement a person’s body makes require energy, which it would normally receive from food. If the body does not receive enough nutrients through the diet then it will begin breaking down and processing fat stores into energy. If starvation lasts a substantial time, the body will soon run out of excess fat stores and will begin using up vital fatty tissues. Eventually it will begin breaking up muscles and drawing nutrients from the skeletal structure.

Anemia and Scurvy

With an obvious lack of food, the absence of vital nutrients such as iron and Vitamin C causes conditions such as anemia and scurvy to develop. Anemia is a condition in which one’s red blood cell or hemoglobin count drops below normal. Red blood cells are responsible for taking oxygen from the lungs and delivering it to tissues all over the body. Without oxygen, the cells of the human body simply cannot function. The initial symptoms of anemia are weakness, inability to concentrate, and shortness of breath. Eventually one may develop a quickened heartbeat, pale skin, gums, and tongue, and occasionally swelling in the arms and legs.

Scurvy is a condition that results from lack of Vitamin C, which is used by the body to produce collagen. Vitamin C is found in high concentration in kiwifruit, oranges, grapefruit, and watercress. Failure to ingest enough Vitamin C makes one feel fatigued and often nauseous. Eventually their joints and muscles begin to feel achy or painful. Skin and hair quality suffers, often becoming dry and lackluster. Wounds take much longer to heal than normal and internal bleeding may occur in muscles and joints, particularly in the arms and legs.

Dehydration and Poor Circulation

Failing to eat and drink properly eventually results in dehydration. As the body fails to absorb enough water, it begins pulling it from all areas of the body in order to function. The brain and other vital organs quickly begin to suffer and fail to function properly. The skin becomes tight and brittle making it painful to move. Hair and nails become dry and can split or fall out entirely. A headache will likely be one of the first symptoms to pop up as the brain loses moisture.

As the body quickly runs out of strength, all of the muscles in the body become weak, including the heart. As the heart fails to pump as hard as it should, the decrease in blood flow means that cells within the body start to die off. At this point, there are so many other symptoms causing issues within the body that desperately need fresh oxygenated blood. Failure to address these symptoms in a timely manner can and will result in death.