A medical condition in which there is improper absorption of the number of nutrients from the intestines is termed as Malabsorption. This almost affects lipids absorption and at times even single absorption of nutrients is selectively affected.
Associated Risks: Many times enzymes are not properly produced by the body which may result in a fault in the digestive system.
Diseases of the liver or gall bladder may also alter the digestive process.
When there is a surgery performed for the removal of portions of intestines it may also result in absorption problems.
Mucosal lining of the intestine may also get injured by radiation therapy which may become the principal cause of diarrhea and remain present up to several years.
Bacteria that normally thrive in the intestines may also be affected by the use of certain antibiotic drugs which may disturb the functioning of intestines.
Use of certain medicines such a laxatives and mineral oil may also give rise to the problem of malabsorption.
Symptoms: The major symptoms of malabsorption syndrome are flatulence, bloating, diarrhea, intestinal cramps and weight loss. With the passage of time deficiency of vitamins, iron, proteins and minerals may also occur. This can lead to lack of proper nutrition and further consequent problems such as anemia, osteoporosis, impaired bone formation, dermatitis and defective vision. Growth retardation may take place in children affected with malabsorption syndrome.
Other symptoms of malabsorption syndrome include formation of fissures at the corners of the mouth, signs of vitamin, mineral and nutrient reduction, weakness or fatigue, coarse hair, tingling in the toes or fingers and numbness or a feeling of burning in the legs or feet.
Causes: There are several factors that are responsible for causing malabsorption such as chronic pancreatitis, cystic fibrosis, gluten enteropathy and lactose intolerance.
Diagnosis: Diagnosis is done with the help of seventy two hour stool collection to measure the levels of fat in stool. Where there is excess of fat in faeces it indicates malabsorption.
Next essential step is to set the basis of differentiation between absorptive normality and digestive normality. This is done with the help of D-xylose test. D-xylose is a sugar that is thrown out through urine and does not need to be digested to be absorbed. When the excretion of D- xylose is low it suggests absorptive normality. Factors such as bacterial growth are responsible for this and it is confirmed by breath test or Jujenal biopsy.
Other tests such as Barium enema, CT scan, MRI scan, ultrasound and X-rays are also required to identify abnormalities of the gastrointestinal tract.
Treatment: The treatment for malabsorption syndrome should include nutrient and fluid replacement of the patient concerned. Proper advice from a dietitian should be seeked for nutritional support and meal planning.
The patient should avoid fruits and fluids that are responsible for causing diarrhea. He should eat small frequent meals instead of large few ones throughout the day. Diminishing levels of protein in the blood may also give rise to excess fluid volume. Restrictions on the intake of fluid are advised in such cases.
In some of the cases Vitamin B injections may also be required in addition to oral iron supplements. Missing intestinal enzymes may be replaced by enzyme supplements. Pancreatic supplements become necessary in case of patients suffering from chronic pancreatitis and cystic fibrosis. Abdominal cramping can be reduced by the use of antispasmodic drugs. Diet modifications are required in case of patients suffering from lactose intolerance and avoid foods which are not easily digestible.