Shosha Roga(Emaciation)
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Malnutrition is one of the most serious problems facing the third world countries today. India is one of the leading countries in this respect, where about 212 million people are registered as malnutrition. Malnutrition arises due to poverty, when the person is not able to consume a proper diet and hence suffers from several dietary deficiency diseases.

It is very necessary to be aware of the proper dietary requirements that must be met for the correct maintenance of the human body. This article deals with emaciation, which is the most prevalent symptom of malnutrition.


Definition of Emaciation (Shosha Roga)


Emaciation is the condition in which a person suffers from severe nutritional deficiency, due to which the body becomes very lean, almost to the point of skin and bones. Emaciated people are extremely thin, and there is almost no observable flesh anywhere on the body.

The Indian name for emaciation is shosha roga, which literally means ‘exploitative disease’. The emaciated body actually looks like someone who has been long tortured and kept away from food. Another term for the disease is karshya. But karshya means simply ‘leanness’, which could arise due to malnutrition or due to any other disorder. Shosha roga is leanness especially due to malnutrition. In this manner, shosha roga and karshya are both distinct disorders, though the symptoms may be the same.

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Types of Emaciation (Shosha Roga)

Emaciation is indicative of several dietary deficiency diseases. Hence, there are different types of emaciation based on what dietary factor has caused it. The following is a list of the different kinds of malnutrition and the emaciation they cause.

Dietary Deficiency Disorder

Caused Due to

Key Features


Kwashiorkor is observed only in children who have been weaned from the mother’s milk but their diet is not supplemented with proteins.

Kwashiorkor leads to emaciation of the upper body, but the abdomen bloats up due to ascites. Edema is very commonly observed in kwashiorkor. The hair of the child becomes grey blond, and the face becomes full-well rounded.


Marasmus occurs in children who are deficient in proteins, carbohydrates as well as fats. Marasmus is therefore also called as Protein Energy Malnutrition.

Marasmus reduces the circumference of the arms and the limbs of the child. The emaciation is severe; and the height and weight both are below normal values.


Beriberi is caused due to prolonged deficiency of vitamin B1, i.e. thiamine. It is commonly observed in people whose diet contains primarily of polished rice.

In people with beriberi, the emaciation is not very much; but there is severe weakness. Beriberi is a nervous disorder, hence the malnutrition is accompanied with a general weakening of the mental faculties of the person.


Pellagra is caused due to the prolonged deficiency of vitamin B3, i.e. niacin. It is commonly observed in North Indian people whose diet contains primarily of maize.

People suffering from pellagra will have dermatitis and severe weakness. The emaciation is not very much, but the disease is serious, often leading to death.

Nutritional Deficiency

Nutritional deficiency refers to the general deficiency of food, which causes severe emaciation.

People who starve for longer periods of time, are prone to suffer from emaciation. This can be corrected by meeting their proper dietary requirements.

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Causes of Emaciation (Shosha Roga)

There is only one cause of emaciation, and that is starvation. The following are the prime contributing factors towards starvation and hence, emaciation:-

Poverty is the most prevalent contributing factor for emaciation. Given that the greatest number of emaciated people is found in the developing and the underdeveloped countries, it is obvious that people living under the poverty belt are emaciated. This is because poor people simply do not have the money required to buy the requisite foods.

Ignorance about food causes emaciation even in the economically well-to-do sector of society.

There are several food customs and fallacies that are adopted in different countries. More often than not, these customs cause the deprivation of a particular ingredient from the diet of the person causing emaciation. This is more observed in the case of tourists and emigrants to other countries.

The busy urban life is also contributing to emaciation. People are just too busy to eat. Along with this, people have faulty eating timetables.

Anorexia nervosa is the disorder in which a person is just too afraid of eating. This causes much of the malnutrition emaciation in the urban areas.

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Symptoms of Emaciation (Shosha Roga)

There are many symptoms of emaciation. Though all these symptoms indicate emaciation, all the symptoms may not occur together in a single person.

First and foremost is the bodily appearance of the person. There is a lot of muscle and tissue wasting and the body reduces to merely skin and bones. The ribs are clearly seen in the chest cavity.

Fatigue is very common. The person cannot do even the simplest activity without getting unduly tired.

Eyesight becomes weak in most cases. The eyes may also appear yellowish, as in jaundice, or reddened.

Skin pigmentation occurs in most cases. This is the reason why emaciated people appear darker than people on a healthy diet.

There are several infections that may appear on the skin. Eczema, rabies, etc. are common skin ailments found in emaciated people.

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Complications of Emaciation (Shosha Roga)

Emaciation is one of the earliest indications that the body is losing out on an important ingredient of the diet. Hence the onset of emaciation often indicates a more severe condition present within the body. Hence it is necessary to take emaciation seriously.

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Transmission of Emaciation (Shosha Roga)

Emaciation is not an infectious or contagious disease that can be spread from one person to another. It is caused due to dietary deficiency, which can be corrected only by a proper diet.

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People who are at Risk of Emaciation (Shosha Roga)

The following people are at greater risks of emaciation:-

  • People who live under poverty conditions and are not able to afford their basic foods are very much susceptible to emaciation.
  • People living in areas that suffer regular geographic calamities like floods and famines are also vulnerable to emaciation. This is because such natural conditions adversely affect the food production, due to which the person will suffer from malnourishment.
  • People who have a history of certain dietary deficiency diseases could be more sensitive to deficiencies in the diet. Such people have a higher degree of becoming emaciated.

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Prevention and Basic Care during Emaciation (Shosha Roga)

The prevention of emaciation can only be done by taking the right foods in the right amount. For this, a proper knowledge of the dietary requirements of the body is absolutely essential. If there is any doubt, then you must meet with your physician or a dietician to get tips on what foods you are lacking in.

At the same time, governments must take adequate measures to solve the food problems in their countries. Food is one of the most important factors needed for human survival, and the development of the country can only occur when their population is well-fed.

Stress plays a key role in causing emaciation. It is seen that some people who eat well are still emaciated. This could be due to the excessive tensions and worries that they take. Hence, it is necessary to be relieved from stresses. Especially if a person is already emaciated, then worries must be definitely kept away, as they are a sure way of leading the emaciated person towards his or her death.

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Diet for People with Emaciation (Shosha Roga)

The importance of a good well-balanced diet for people with emaciation cannot be stressed enough. Carbohydrates, proteins and fats, all are very vital dietary nutrients that are needed for the proper growth of the body. They are called as the proximate principles of food because they get oxidized in the body and provide energy for the various metabolic activities of the body. The following list mentions the important sources of foods that contain these vital nutrients:-

Dietary Nutrients

Plant Source

Animal Source


  • Food grains such as rice, wheat, sorghum, maize, etc
  • All kinds of breads and pastas
  • Vegetables such as beans, carrots and potatoes
  • Citrus fruits and bananas
  • Barley, oatmeal and bran

Carbohydrates are sparingly present in animal foods.


  • Soy and soy products
  • Pulses and legumes
  • Nuts and seeds
  • All meats and fishes
  • Milk and milk products
  • Eggs


  • Oils obtained from vegetable sources such as coconut oil, groundnut oil and palm oil
  • Ghee and butter
  • Ice-creams, cakes and chocolates
  • Fishes such as salmon and tuna
  • Animal fat and lard

Only a dietician will be able to tell how much of each of these prime nutrients are required by your body. At the same time, it must not be forgotten that they are several vitamins and minerals which the body requires in addition to the above-mentioned proximate principles of foods.

There are the following dietary don’ts for emaciated people, which must be followed:-

Dry foods must be avoided, as they contain only calories and no nutritional value.

Pungent foods must be avoided for the same reason.

The food must be kept light, but the volume should be gradually increased from one day to the next.

If the deficient nutrient is identified, then it must be included in the diet; but excessive dependency of one kind of nutrient is detrimental to the quantities of the other nutrients.

Emaciated people must keep regular eating timetables and must not eat at odd intervals. The dinner must not be had at too late in the night.

Finally, an emaciated person must not exert too much, as his or her diet does not provide the necessary nutrients required for work.

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Ayurvedic Treatment of Emaciation (Shosha Roga)

Some herbs have been ascribed with curative properties for emaciation. Though the best cure of emaciation is to eat well, the following herbs help by increasing the bulk of the body and in helping the proper absorption and assimilation of the food.

Ayurvedic Name of the Herb

Biological Name of the Herb

Common English Name of the Herb

Action on the Human Body


Withania somnifera

Winter Cherry, Indian Ginseng

No other herb is as effective in the treatment of emaciation as ashwagandha. It is the prime ingredient in almost all the Ayurvedic preparations for the treatment of both shosha roga and karshya. Ashwagandha improves the person’s tendency to eat, and also improves the assimilation of nutrients in the body.


Mel despumatum


Honey is ascribed with an extremely large number of curative properties in Ayurveda . Out of its myriad benefits, honey can also treat people with emaciation. It improves the appetite due to which people feel a stronger urge to eat.

Some other herbs that are potent in the treatment of emaciation are given below:-

Ayurvedic Name of the Herb

Biological Name of the Herb

Common English Name of the Herb


Centella asiatica

Indian Pennywort, Gotu Kola


Ginkgo biloba

Maidenhair Tree, Ginkgo


Valeriana officinalis



Avena sativa


The herbs mentioned above have been expertly mixed into preparations. These preparations contain just the right proportions of herbs so as not to produce major side effects. The following are some herbs that are effective in the treatment of emaciation:-

Type of Preparation

Name of Preparation


Dashamoolarishta, Ashwagandharishta


Swarna Bhasma, Vidaryaadi Kashaya


Ashwagandha Choorna, Dhaatu Pushti Choorna


Amrita Praasha Ghrita, Vidaryaadi Ghrita


Kushamandha Lehya, Ashwagandha Lehya


Vata Kulantaka Rasa


Ashwagandha Vati

It must be borne in mind that while taking any Ayurvedic preparation, the doctor must be consulted first. Most of the herbs do not have any side-effects (and are indeed a regular part of the diet), but some people may be allergic to certain herbs and may show adverse reactions.

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