Malabsorption is a problem getting nutrients into the body. It can happen even when someone is eating enough.
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There are many steps in the breakdown of food and movement of nutrients from gut to the rest of the body. The stomach and intestines need to be able to push food through the system. The stomach, liver and pancreas make fluids that help break down food. Once food is broken down, the nutrients can pass through the walls of intestine to the blood. Problems with any part of this process can cause malabsorption.
The risk of malabsorption is higher in people with:
Malabsorption may cause:
- Weight loss
- Bloating and swelling in the belly
- Bulky, foul-smelling stools
- Weak muscles
You will be asked about your symptoms and past health. A physical exam will be done. The doctor may suspect malabsorption based on what is told to them. Blood tests may help to show imbalances in some nutrients. Other tests may be done to look for a cause.
Treatment will be based on the cause. Treating the cause may stop malabsorption.
Special food or supplements may be needed to improve nutrition. Some vitamins, minerals, fats, or proteins may need to be increased. It may be needed if the cause cannot be fully treated or until the cause is managed. Nutrients may also be given by IV.
American College of Gastroenterology http://patients.gi.org
NORD—National Organization for Rare Disorders https://rarediseases.org
Canadian Association of Gastroenterology https://www.cag-acg.org
Health Canada https://www.canada.ca
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- Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Daus Mahnke, MD
- Review Date: 05/2018
- Update Date: 01/16/2020