We all depend on food and drinks for meeting the demands of our body. As long as the system has the ability to absorb the required* nutrients from the food, there is no problem. But when the body cannot absorb the necessary vitamins and minerals from the food, it causes deficiency. The inability of the body to absorb the necessary nutrients from the food is known as malabsorption. The energy derived from the source of food is sent into the blood through the intestine to carryout various functions.

Symptoms :

Some of the signs of malabsorption are foul smelling stools, bloating, fullness in the stomach, discomfort in your abdomen, loss of weight (unintentional), frequent diarrhea and flatulence and fatigue. The intestine can no longer absorb necessary nutrients like iron/Vitamin B12 which can adversely affect the general health condition of your body.

Deficiency of fat particles in your body can produce foul smelling stools which are difficult to flush out. Similarly deficiency or malabsorption of proteins in the blood can cause edema and hair loss. When there is increased deficiency of sugars in your blood it can cause bloating and frequent diarrhea. Loss of vitamins can lead to anemia, low blood pressure and loss of weight.

Causes :

Number of diseases and disorders can cause malabsorption. Any abnormality in the intestine or gastrointestinal tract will seriously affect the rate of absorption. Malabsorption can be caused due to celiac disease, any diseases in the gallbladder or liver, lactose intolerance, AIDS or other autoimmune disorders, Whipple disease, excessive growth of bacteria, excess production of gastric acid and damage to the intestine due to injury or surgery or infection.

Some other factors that cause malabsorption are overuse of antibiotics, pancreatitis, and birth defects in the gallbladder, undergoing radiation or chemotherapy and inflammation of the intestine. Diseases like short bowel syndrome and tropical sprue can also affect the function of intestine leading to malabsorption.

Who are at risk?

Long term use of antibiotics, certain diseases like cystic fibrosis or celiac disease, undergoing surgery on the intestine, excess use of laxatives, and over consumption of alcohol can cause increased risk of developing malabsorption. People who travel frequently to regions of Southeast Asia and India where tropical sprue is prevalent are at increased risk of developing malabsorption.

Tests and Diagnoses :

Your doctor will listen to your symptoms after collecting your medical history. He may order for blood tests for determining the levels of minerals and nutrients. If necessary pancreatic function test will be done for confirming the lab report. Stool test is to be done for testing the presence of excess of fat. To identify the rate of intestine absorption Xylose absorption test is done. In some cases, a biopsy is done by taking out small tissue sample from the intestine.

Treatment :

The aim of the treatment is to make good the deficiency of required nutrition. Hence giving supplemental nutrition is the best choice. The affected person should include a diet rich in minerals and vitamins that has necessary nutrients like fat, vitamins and proteins. In severe cases extra nutrients will be given through intravenous fluids by admitting the patient in hospital.

Anyone having the symptoms of malabsorption or diagnosed with this problem should get in touch with a dietician for adding the required nutrients in food. Eat small quantities of meals frequently to overcome excess of fatigue and dizziness. Absorption of nutrients from the food becomes easy for the intestine if you take small meals number of times per day. Subsequently weight loss can be overcome if you follow the diet chart of your dietician.

Prevention :

Many diseases and conditions that cause malabsorption can be managed by you by taking appropriate measures. Follow the instructions of your doctor and include plenty of supplementary nutrition in your diet.

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