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Treatment for malnutrition (undernutrition) depends on the underlying cause and how malnourished the person is.

They may be given advice to follow at home, or they may be supported at home by a dietitian or other qualified healthcare professional. In severe cases, treatment in hospital may be needed.

Dietary changes and supplements

A dietitian will advise about dietary changes that can help.

They may create a tailored diet plan that ensures the person gets enough nutrients.

They may also suggest:

If these measures aren’t enough, taking extra nutrients in the form of supplements may be advised. These should only be taken on the advice of a healthcare professional

For more information and advice, see:

Feeding tubes

For people who are unable to eat enough to meet their body's needs – for example because they have swallowing problems – an alternative way of getting nutrients may be needed.

This can include:

These treatments are usually first started in hospital, but they can be continued at home if the person is well enough.

Read about how swallowing problems are treated for more information about these feeding methods.

Care and support services

Some people who are malnourished also need extra care to help them cope with underlying issues such as limited mobility.

This may include:

Read more about care and support for feeding and nutrition problems.

Treating malnutrition in children

Malnutrition in children is often caused by long-term health conditions, for which hospital treatment is often needed. But this isn't the case for all children with malnutrition.

Treatment may involve:

Severely malnourished children need to be fed and rehydrated with great care so can't be given a normal diet straight away. They will usually need special care in hospital.

Once they're well enough, they can gradually return to a normal diet and continue this at home.

It's important that treatment is monitored regularly to make sure it's working. Regular weight and height measurements will be taken, with referral to specialist services if there's no improvement.