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Malabsorption

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Definition

Difficulty in the digestion or absorption of nutrients from food substances.

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Causes

  • Malabsorption can be the failure to absorb specific sugars, fats, proteins or other nutrients such as vitamins.
  • General nonspecific malabsorption of food.
  • Some of the specific causes of malabsorption include:
Cystic fibrosis
Lactose intolerance
Zinc malabsorption
Biliary Atresia
Celiac disease
Vitamin B12 malabsorption
Whipple Disease
Parasitic Infestation
Cow's Milk Intolerance
Soy Protein Intolerance

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Symptoms

  • Chronic diarrhea
  • Bloating, flatulence (gas) and cramping
  • Growth failure
  • Frequent bulky stools
  • Muscle wasting
  • Distended abdomen

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Implications

Prolonged malabsorption can result in malnutrition and diseases caused by vitamin and mineral deficiencies.

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What You Can Do

  • Treat the individual condition
Disease
Treatment
Cystic Fibrosis
  • Oral enzymes and better nutrition.
  • Supplemental high-calorie nutrition, special vitamins and enteric-coated oral pancreatic enzymes can help you maintain or even gain weight.
  • Use fat-soluble vitamin supplements.
  • Drink plenty of liquids to help loosen the mucus. This is especially important in the summer as you tend to tend to lose a lot of fluids due to hot weather.
Lactose Intolerance
  • Use an assortment of dairy products as not all dairy products have the same amount of lactose. Eat products containing cultured milk, such as yogurt, because the bacteria used in the culturing process naturally produce the enzyme that breaks down lactose.
  • Buy lactose-reduced or lactose-free products.
  • Use lactase enzyme tablets or drops. These contain the enzyme that breaks down lactose, reducing the amount your body must digest on its own. The drops may directly be added or you can take tablets just before a meal or a snack
Celiac Disease
  • Avoid all foods that contain gluten like all foods made from many grains, including wheat, barley and rye. This includes any type of wheat (including farina, graham flour, semolina and durum), barley, rye, bulgur, Kamut, kasha, matzo meal, spelt and triticale. Amaranth, buckwheat and quinoa are gluten-free as grown, but may be contaminated by other grains during harvesting and processing. .
  • Oats that may be contaminated with wheat may be harmful.
Whipple Disease
  • Treatment is with antibiotics.
  • To reduce the risk of relapse, you typically continue taking the antibiotics until tests for T. whippelii are negative.
  • Take nutritional supplements during treatment
Parasitic Infestation
  • Giardiasis
    • Furazolidone
  • Trichomoniasis
    • Treatment with an antibiotic called Metronidazole is commonly used to cure infection.
    • Avoid alcohol consumption throughout the course of treatment and for 48 hours after antibiotics are completed.
    • Avoid having sexual intercourse until treatment has been completed.
  • Amoebiasis
    • Metronidazole - oral or intravenously

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Malabsorption