Here’s What You Ought to Know About Re-feeding Syndrome

Refeeding Syndrome is a complication that can prove to be lethal. It occurs when an individual with malnourishment, gets proper nutrition. If someone provides nutrition in haste, there can be a deadly imbalance in the body’s electrolyte levels. Consuming excess food or liquid nutrition supplement during the initial five to seven days, it triggers the production of protein, fat, and glycogen in the cells. Sudden changes in the body can cause brain, heart, and kidney damage as well, which can be life-threatening. Know more about the syndrome below.


The refeeding syndrome symptoms can have potentially lethal effects. When an individual suffers from malnourishment, the body tends to overcompensate the loss. This is probably the reason why people with malnourishment have healthy test results at the inception.

When that individual gets proper nutrition and hydration, it leads to complications. For instance in the first one week or so your body starts overcompensating.

Now, while the person reinitiates the eating and drinking process, it’s normal for the body to find the change overwhelming. The symptoms of refeeding syndrome include hypokalemia hypophosphatemia, hypomagnesemia, hyponatremia, low blood pressure, and anemia. One might also experience an increase in the heart rate, heart arrhythmias, abnormal urine tests, abnormal liver function, abnormal kidney function tests, weight gain. Metabolic changes like vitamin deficiencies are also common symptoms. Aside from these, the list of syndromes also includes fatigue, difficulty in breathing, nausea, abdominal pain, vomiting, muscle pain, swelling, and paralysis too.


Refeeding syndrome has been a problem for several decades now. It is usually prevalent among people with food deprivation owing to famine, poverty, capture, or illness. When medical professionals chance upon individuals with malnourishment until a few decades ago, they replenish these people with proper food. Feeding them in large quantities was also seen as an option. All in all, to suffice for their long phases of hunger, instant nourishment was the only probable solution.

These doctors were in for a shock after noticing that people with malnourishment often died instead of getting better when they got proper food. They lost their lives within days of starting to eat and drink. Thus making the medical stall realize that they need to come up with a different approach. Instead of instantly replenishing the starving individuals, they rehydrate and reefed them gradually. This approach takes into account all the pros and cons. This was a crucial period, and keen eyes were on the patients to monitor them in case anything lethal occurs.

What Happens To The Body

When the body does not get sufficient hydration and nutrition, it uses the fat stores and muscle to compensate for the energy loss. If a person is in a state of starvation for a long time, the body will be using these stores more energy. This means that if the individuals continue to starve, their stores will not replenish in the way they should. Malnourishment forces the body to handle all activities less effectively.

Loss of fat and muscles has a detrimental impact on an individual’s agility and vital organs. The heart happens to be the most vulnerable muscle. Hence, patients with malnourishment tend to develop issues related to the heart. In addition to that, the more a person remains prone to malnourishment, the more vulnerable they will be to illness and injuries. It harms the immune system of the person. Thus it takes the patients a longer time to heal.


Refeeding syndrome occurs in adults who have been suffering from malnourishment and have been under intensive care. Not only adults, but refeeding syndrome can also happen with kids as well, though that’s not common. However, the problem lies in the fact that the amount of research done on this is not adequate. Oncologists, who are working to heal patients suffering from malnourishment, are likely to come across refeeding syndrome the most.

As you might have known by now, refeeding syndrome is a condition that can put your life at risk. The imbalances caused need immediate medical attention. As a malnourished individual starts to recuperate, the treatment methods need to change to ward off any complications later on. So, if you think you might be experiencing refeeding syndrome or know someone, consult a specialist.