What is malabsorption?

Malabsorption occurs when nutrients from food are not absorbed properly from the GI tract. It is not a disease but it is however a result of another condition that is present in the body.

Most of our nutrients are absorbed through the small intestine. When a person with celiac disease (gluten intolerance) eats food containing gluten the body will not recognize the gluten and it will treat it as a foreign matter and not utilize the nutrients. Eventually the small intestine’s mucosal lining becomes damaged and the vital nutrients can not be absorbed resulting in poor health. The only cure would be for the patient to consume a 100% gluten free diet.

Not being able to absorb nutrients as a result of any illness can have symptoms that vary from patient to patient.

Symptoms of malabsorption

  • Anorexia
  • Cramping
  • Weight loss
  • Gas
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fatty stools (the stool will float to the top of water and have a foul smell)

Anemia, weakness, and fatigue can also occur because vital nutrients such as iron, vitamins, or folic acid are not being absorbed. A vitamin B12 and vitamin K deficiency is very common. When vitamin K is not properly absorbed into the body it can cause blood to thin and possibly result in an excess of bleeding.

If protein is not being absorbed into the body it can lead to a deformation of bones and possible osteoporosis.

In general a a lack of absorption of vitamins, protein, fat, and carbohydrates can cause diarrhea, malnutrition, calcium deficiency, poor vision or night blindness. It is very important to see you doctor for regular screening and check ups to ensure your body is getting the valuable nutrients it needs.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will evaluate your medical history, perform a physical with complete blood work and stool samples.

Sometimes your physican may require a tissue small from your small intestine for microscopic analysis.

Treatment of malabsoption

Depending on the resulting illness treatment varies. In extreme cases surgery may be required. For most people dietary restrictions are recommended and medications are administered. If it is a result of celiac disease a strict gluten free diet is the only treatment.

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