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Malabsorption Syndrome

Condition Basics

What is malabsorption syndrome?

Malabsorption syndrome is the inability to absorb nutrients, vitamins, and minerals from the intestinal tract into the bloodstream.

What causes it?

Causes of malabsorption syndrome may include:

  • Diseases affecting the intestine itself, such as celiac disease.
  • Absence or low levels of certain digestive enzymes.
  • Diseases of the pancreas, such as chronic pancreatitis or cystic fibrosis.
  • Diseases caused by parasites, such as giardiasis or worms.
  • Changes in the bacteria normally found in the intestinal tract.
  • Surgery, such as removal of the gallbladder, that alters or reduces the length of the intestinal tract.
  • Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of malabsorption syndrome may include:

  • Gas, bloating, and vague abdominal discomfort.
  • Frequent diarrhea and foul-smelling stools.
  • Weakness.
  • Weight loss.

Your doctor can evaluate your symptoms to determine the cause and recommend treatment.

How is malabsorption syndrome treated?

Treatment for malabsorption syndrome may include a special diet, medicine to replace intestinal enzymes or reduce spasms, and vitamin or mineral supplements, such as B12 and iron.

Credits

Current as of: February 10, 2021

Author: Healthwise Staff
Medical Review:
William H. Blahd Jr. MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney MD - Family Medicine
E. Gregory Thompson MD - Internal Medicine