We all know the saying, “you are what you eat.” Unfortunately for many people, your body may not let this adage be the case. If you have recently been diagnosed with malabsorption syndrome or think that you may be suffering from it, here’s five things you should know.
1. Malabsorption Syndrome Affects the Small Intestine
Malabsorption Syndrome is a group of disorders that occur in the small intestine. Most of the body’s digestion of food occurs in the small intestine, and it’s also where most of the nutrients are taken into the body. The nutrients – such as protein, vitamins and calcium – are then carried through the blood and circulated throughout the body. Malabsorption syndrome occurs when the small intestine fails to extract the nutrients, leading to a number of other disorders and symptoms.
2. Malabsorption Syndrome Can Be a Symptom of a Chronic Condition
Malabsorption syndrome may be caused by a wide variety of reasons. In some cases, it may be caused by a chronic disease:
This chronic condition can fill the digestive tract and the lungs with heavy mucus, which can prevent the walls of the intestine from breaking down food properly. People with cystic fibrosis also often usually lose enzymes that are used in the digestive process.
Crohn’s disease is known as an inflammatory bowel disease. While it may cause several symptoms, the inflammation of the digestive tract prevents the intestines from properly functioning, leading to malabsorption.
Celiac disease directly affects the small intestine, so malabsorption is common for people who are not managing their condition correctly. Similar to allergies, celiac disease is an immune system condition that leaves people intolerant of gluten. When people with celiac eat gluten, the small intestine is damaged.
3. You May Not Need Direct Treatment for Malabsorption
The most common treatments for malabsorption depend on what’s causing it. In some cases patients are put on a special diet, other times medications or antibiotics. But many times malabsorption is a potential side effect of several temporary conditions, including bacterial infections, viruses such as the flu, and parasites. It can also occur from consuming too many laxatives or being on too many antibiotics. In many of these cases, either changing behaviors or waiting until/treating the underlying condition will allow malabsorption to dissipate.
4. Several Tests May Be Done for Malabsorption
If patients do not have any known condition that causes malabsorption, there are multiple tests a gastroenterologist can perform to confirm the syndrome if it’s suspected:
- Stool tests to see if it contains too much fat.
- A biopsy to see whether the intestine is infected using an endoscopy.
- A lactose hydrogen breath test to measure hydrogen levels after drinking a dairy product.
- Imaging tests to look for structural problems in the digestive system.
5. Just Follow Your Nose
Since malabsorption is a digestive issue, many of the warning signs are related to your bowel movements. If your stool is starting to smell particularly worse, it’s one of the most common red flags for malabsorption, especially when combined with frequent diarrhea, loose stools, stools that are lighter in color or tend to be difficult to flush because they float (too much fat content). Beyond paying attention to your time in the bathroom, symptoms may also include weight loss or scaly skin.
See a Gastroenterologist to Discuss Malabsorption Syndrome
If you have been diagnosed with malabsorption or suspect you may be suffering from malabsorption syndrome, make an appointment with Digestive Healthcare Center today. Our team provides premier digestive care for New Jersey residents, with three locations in Hillsborough, Somerville, and Warren. Not in New Jersey? Schedule a telemedicine visit!