Why do some malnourished people have bloated stomachs?


What’s the science behind this?

In: Biology

If someone eats a very low number of calories with not enough protein (you can get protein from animal meat, for example), your organs won’t work properly.

In this case, the disease causes swelling under the skin which makes people with it look very bloated

When you don’t get enough protein in your diet you get an osmotic imbalance in the the gastro-intestinal system. Where there’s an osmotic imbalance there’s going to be water either flowing towards it or flowing away from it. In the case of malnutrition the water flows towards the gastro-intestinal system which causes a build up in the abdomen and the distended stomach.

I believe it is a condition called oedema (edema in some countries). Which is a condition that causes swelling of limbs usually (sometimes stomach) due to fluid leaking from the bloodstream and into the tissue. The severe form of oedema that is a result of malnutrition is called Kwashiorkor.

This is known as Marasmus-Kwashikor; Marasmus is inadequate energy and protein intake (what most people visualize as malnourishment), and Kwashiorkor which is adequate energy intake but not enough protein intake.

The people with bloated stomachs have Kwashiorkor malnutrition. This happens because the only intake they have is food that is poor in protein, like grains and breast milk. What happens is that the body needs to compensate for the low protein by producing its own in the form of albumin, a protein produced by the liver. However, the primary use of albumin is to maintain a fluid balance between your tissues and bloodstream.

Without getting overly complicated, the albumin is taken up by the tissues, mostly in the abdominal region, causing fluid to enter the tissues as well. This is what creates the bloating that you see.