Malabsorption is the inadequate absorption of nutrients from the intestines. Malabsorption may involve failure to absorb certain vitamins, minerals, carbohydrates, proteins, or fats. The condition is associated with a number of diseases that affect the intestines or other areas of the gastrointestinal tract.
Contact your doctor if you suspect malabsorption. Having a doctor treat the underlying condition that affects the intestines is crucial to reversing malabsorption.
Many diseases or conditions that affect the intestines can cause malabsorption, including:
The following factors increase your chance of developing malabsorption. If you have any of these risk factors, tell your doctor:
If you experience any of these symptoms, do not assume it is due to malabsorption. These symptoms may be caused by other, less serious health conditions. If you experience any one of them, see your physician.
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history and perform a physical exam. Your primary care physician may refer you to a gastroenterologist.
Tests may include the following:
The specific underlying condition must be treated in order to reverse the malabsorption. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you.
Depending on the cause and severity of the malabsorption, you may need to make up for nutritional deficiencies by consuming additional nutrients through foods or supplements. A diet rich in vitamins and minerals along with increased quantities of fat, protein, or carbohydrate may be required. Nutrient supplementation may include folate, iron, and injections of vitamin B12. In some cases, such as with severe diarrhea, nutrients may be given intravenously while you are rehydrated.
To help reduce your chances of getting malabsorption, take the following steps:
American College of Gastroenterology
National Organization for Rare Disorders
BC Health Guide
Mahan LK, Escott-Stump S. Krause’s Food Nutrition and Diet Therapy . Philadelphia, PA: WB Saunders Company; 1996.
Malabsorption tests. Medical University of South Carolina website. Available at: http://www.ddc.mus... . Accessed August 17, 2005.
Taber’s Cyclopedic Medical Dictionary . 18th ed. Philadelphia, PA: FA Davis Company; 1997.
Last reviewed October 2012 by Daus Mahnke, MD
Last Updated: 10/31/2012
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