Malabsorption is a digestive condition that inhibits your body from efficiently absorbing nutrients from food. There are numerous causes for this condition, but most involve damage to the mucous lining of the small intestine, where most absorption occurs. Malabsorption can affect growth and development and result in health problems, such as indigestion, malnutrition, and an increased risk of bone fractures.
What are the symptoms of malabsorption?
- Abdominal bloating or cramping
- Fatigue or weakness
- Fatty stools (steatorrhea)
- Weight loss
- Persistent diarrhea
What are the causes of malabsorption?
Various factors can cause malabsorption, including:
- Celiac disease
- Crohn’s disease
- Short bowel syndrome
- Lactose intolerance
- Parasitic diseases
- Damage to the lining of the intestine from radiation therapy
- Pancreatic conditions such as cystic fibrosis and chronic pancreatitis
- Damage to the lining of the colon from medications such as tetracycline and cholestyramine
How is malabsorption diagnosed?
During your consultation, our gastroenterologist will review your medical history and ask about your symptoms and what foods you eat. To determine the cause of your condition, your doctor could perform numerous tests, including:
- Stool test: The doctor may order a stool test to check for the presence of excess fat in your stool, which may be the cause of malabsorption.
- Blood test: By measuring your blood’s protein levels, the doctor can determine if and to what extent you are malnourished.
- Sweat test: A sample of your sweat can be examined to help identify cystic fibrosis.
- Breath test: By measuring the amount of hydrogen in your breath after consuming a lactose solution, our doctor can determine how well you absorb nutrients.
- Biopsy: A small tissue sample is removed from the small intestine and examined to check for any indications of infection or other issues.
- Endoscopy: Our doctor may examine your intestines using a long, flexible tube equipped with a camera.
How is malabsorption treated?
Treatment options for malabsorption include:
- Antibiotics: may be prescribed if your condition is the result of an infection.
- Dietary modifications: our doctor will recommend a dietary plan that will ensure you are consuming the nutrition your body requires while avoiding the food types (such as lactose or gluten-containing foods) that are causing your malabsorption.
- Enzyme supplements: to help with the absorption of nutrients that your body is not able to do on its own.
- Vitamin supplements: to compensate for nutrients that are not being absorbed by your intestine.
You could require additional nutrition, either in the form of an oral formula, via tube, or through a vein, to treat the effects of malabsorption.
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