Plants, animals and humans cannot survive without nitrogen, as nitrogen controls a wide array of metabolic and biochemical processes in the body. Nitrogen is converted to nitrates which are an integral part of proteins and essential for cellular growth and development.
Nitrogen is the basic ingredient of food both vegetarian and non vegetarian. Vegetarian diet includes more of carbon and less of nitrogen while non vegetarian diet contains more of nitrogen and less of carbon. Nitrogen controls a wide range of biological process and hence it is crucial for health.
Deficiency Of Nitrogen In Humans
Nitrogen is a critical element and is essential for formation of proteins.Hormones and chemicals produced in the body also contain significant amount of nitrogen. Hormones and chemicals are essential as they control various metabolic activities and regulate cellular functions. Nitrogen comprises of approximately three percent of the body mass. Humans acquire nitrogen from the food that they eat. Studies have shown that nitrogen is critical during pregnancy.
According to a report published by the University of North Dakota, nitrogen is important component of the amino acids and is essential to ensure structural integrity of the amino acid. This in turn helps amino acids to perform their functions efficiently.
Symptoms Of Nitrogen Deficiency
Deficiency of nitrogen in humans is associated with manifestations of symptoms similar to Kwashiorkor, a form of malnutrition, due to inadequacy of protein in diet. Since nitrogen is an integral part of amino acids, its deficiency may result in symptoms similar to Kwashiorkor. These symptoms include,
- Change in the color of the skin and rash on the skin
- Decrease in the muscle mass and failure to gain weight and grow normally
- Fatigue and generalized weakness
- Swelling and edema, especially affecting the dependent parts of the body
- Large and protruding belly
- Lethargy, apathy and irritability
- Increased susceptibility to severe infections due to a poor immune system
Physical examination of the individual with nitrogen deficiency may be associated with enlargement of the liver accompanied with generalized swelling. Nitrogen deficiency can be detected using various tests like serum creatinine, arterial blood gas analysis and measuring the total protein levels in the blood.
Nitrogen deficiency can be related to severe complications like shock, permanent physical and mental damage and shock.
Treatment For Nitrogen Deficiency
Treatment for deficiency of nitrogen would depend primarily on the severity of the condition and ability to restore normal blood volume and blood pressure. The basic treatment protocol is as follows,
- Providing an adequate supply of calories in the form of carbohydrates, fats and simple sugars is essential. Once the body starts metabolizing these components for energy, proteins intake should be stepped up.
- Concurrently vitamin and mineral supplements are essential, as deficiency of nitrogen could have interfered with the ability of the intestine to absorb other nutrients.
- It is recommended that the person should eat slowly in order to treat the underlying malnutrition and nitrogen deficiency. Include foods that are rich in protein at a later stage. Non vegetarian diet is rich in nitrogen. Legumes, pulses and cereals are also good sources of proteins and nitrogen and can help treat nitrogen deficiency.