Your small intestine is designed to absorb nutrients from the foods you eat into your bloodstream, and for most people, that’s exactly what it does. For a small portion of the population, their small intestine doesn’t absorb the right amount of nutrients or fluids for one reason or another. This can deprive the body of necessary proteins, vitamins and minerals needed for healthy bodily function. In this blog, we take a closer look at why malabsorption may be occurring, and how the issue can be successfully treated.
What’s Causing Intestinal Malabsorption?
Incomplete intestinal absorption can be caused by a few different issues, which is why it is so important to reach out to a gastroenterologist if you’re showing symptoms. However, before we dive into symptoms, let’s take a look at some of the causes. Potential causes of malabsorption syndrome include:
- Intestinal damage caused by an infection, inflammation, trauma or surgery.
- Intestinal lining damage from prolonged antibiotic use or from radiation therapy.
- Underlying health conditions like Crohn’s disease, pancreatitis or celiac disease.
- Gallbladder or biliary duct problems.
- Lactose intolerance.
- Certain birth defects.
- Digestive problems where the body can’t produce enzymes necessary to break down food.
As you can see, there are a wide range of causes for intestinal malabsorption, so you’ll want to figure out your underlying cause so treatment can be successful. But in order to seek care, you first need to recognize that there is an issue, and that can be done by keeping an eye out for symptoms. Symptoms of malabsorption syndrome include:
- Loose stools
- Hair loss
- Dry hair
- Unexplained weight loss
Diagnosing and Treating Malabsorption Syndrome
If you’re dealing with any of the above symptoms or believe you’re dealing with an intestinal absorption issue, contact a gastroenterologist in your area. They’ll begin by listening to your symptoms and reviewing your medical history. They may also ask a few questions about your diet and which foods seem to make symptoms worse or better. From there, they may opt to conduct a few different diagnostic tests. The most common are a blood or stool test to look for the presence of certain biomarkers that could predict an absorption issue. Imaging tests and an intestinal biopsy may also be ordered if other issues like Crohn’s or abnormal cell development is suspected.
Treatment will depend on your specific underlying cause. Fortunately, treatment is typically pretty straightforward once the underlying issue is determined. For many patients, medications can help your body absorb nutrients or provide it with supplements for what it can’t absorb on its own. Other patients may find relief by working with a dietitian who can help create a diet plan that ensures they get the nutrients they need despite their malabsorption issue. A dietitian can also explain which foods to avoid in order to prevent symptoms from developing. Most patients find that symptoms can be controlled with simple daily adjustments, but we also offer more hands-on care should it become necessary.
For more information about malabsorption syndrome, reach out to Dr. Bhatti’s team today.