The main function of the small intestine is to absorb food, and when it fails to do so, malabsorption syndrome occurs. This syndrome includes several types of disorders that prevent the absorption of certain nutrients or fluids. In the following, you will get acquainted with different types of malabsorption and its causes, and you will also read about the methods of its diagnosis and treatment. Stay with us.
What is malabsorption syndrome?
Absorption syndrome is a disorder in which the body is unable to get the nutrients it needs through diet. The most well-known cases of this syndrome are lactose malabsorption and celiac disease (gluten malabsorption). People with a history of bowel or stomach surgery may also suffer from malabsorption syndrome.
Difficulties in absorbing nutrients may be related to macronutrients such as proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, or micronutrients such as vitamins and minerals, or both. Because the ability to absorb nutrients is affected, it is important to see a doctor immediately if you have symptoms and receive appropriate treatment.
What causes malabsorption syndrome?
A disorder in at least one organ of the digestive system can lead to malnutrition. Digestion begins when salivary enzymes break down food into smaller pieces to be absorbed. As it continues to pass through the esophagus, stomach, and small and large intestines, enzymes affect food and digest it.
Absorption may occur when a person’s digestive system does not produce enough enzymes, bacteria or other pathogens are present, or small and large bowel movements are faster than ever.
There are different types of malabsorption, each with a different underlying cause. Absorption syndrome is usually another symptom of another disease. According to experts from the School of Pharmacology Samuel University, These factors may cause malabsorption syndrome:
1. Cardiovascular diseases
- Heart failure;
- Contractile pericarditis;
- Insufficient blood supply to the intestinal arteries.
۲. Drug-induced disorders
Taking these medications may cause malabsorption:
- Stimulant laxative.
3. Incomplete digestion
- Gastric surgery, such as gastric bypass surgery and weight loss surgery;
- Gastrinoma (a tumor in the pancreas that causes excessive secretion of gastrin).
4. Lack of adequate absorption level
- Short bowel syndrome;
- Bypass of the jejunum of the small intestine.
- Whipple disease;
- Acute infectious intestinal inflammation;
- Tropical gastrointestinal malabsorption;
- Parasitic infections (such as Giardia or helminthiasis).
6. Intestinal mucosal disorders
- Crohn’s disease;
- Accumulation of cystine;
- Eosinophilic esophagitis;
- Imloidosis (excess starch);
- Non-tropical gastrointestinal malabsorption.
7. Lymphatic vessel obstruction
- Lymph node cancer in the intestine;
- Lymphangitis (dilation of lymph vessels).
8. Decreased bile salt concentration
- Liver disease;
- Ileum resection;
- Large bacteria in the small intestine.
Some types of malabsorption syndrome do not fall into any of the following categories. These include diabetes mellitus, carcinoid syndrome and mastocytosis. Long-term use of antibiotics and radiation therapy may also impair absorption.
What are the symptoms of malabsorption syndrome?
1. General symptoms
Symptoms of malabsorption appear when unabsorbed nutrients pass through the digestive tract. You can see the following symptoms in your body quickly:
- Gas accumulation;
- Abdominal cramps;
- Bloating and swelling of the abdomen;
- Light or white stools;
- Stool that looks greasy.
It needs different nutrients to maintain the health of the body. When nutrients are not well absorbed, these effects appear in the long run:
- Tongue pain;
- Weight Loss;
- Bone pain;
- Muscle analysis;
- Bones that crack easily;
- Anemia (which may cause shortness of breath).
۲. Symptoms of malabsorption syndrome by food type
The point that helps to diagnose the cause of the disease is that the lack of each nutrient causes its own symptoms. The following is the effect of malabsorption of each nutrient:
- Bعدی قندها: Causes bloating, gas accumulation and severe diarrhea;
- Fats: Your stool is light in color and has an unpleasant odor, is soft and large, and floats;
- Protein: It causes dryness and hair loss and edema or accumulation of water in the body, which is manifested in the form of swelling;
- Some vitaminsMay cause anemia, malnutrition, hypotension, weight loss, or muscle wasting.
Nutrition syndrome can have different effects on people depending on age or gender; For example, it may stop women from menstruating or reduce the growth of children. Children can be much shorter in height and weight than their peers.
Who is most at risk for malabsorption syndrome?
Factors that increase the likelihood of malabsorption include:
- Intestinal surgery;
- Drinking large amounts of alcohol;
- Travel to South Asia such as India, Caribbean;
- Family history of malabsorption or cystic fibrosis;
- Use of medications such as laxatives or civil oils.
What is the diagnosis of malabsorption syndrome?
Your doctor will consider malabsorption if you are deficient in nutrients or have chronic diarrhea, or if you are losing a lot of weight despite eating well. There are several tests to confirm this diagnosis:
1. Stool test
A stool test measures the amount of fat in your stool. This test provides the most reliable result; Because most of the time, fat is found in the feces of someone who has malabsorption.
۲. blood test
This test measures the amount of certain nutrients in your blood, such as vitamin B12, vitamin D, folate, iron, calcium, carotene, phosphorus, albumin, and protein. Reducing one of these does not necessarily mean that you have malabsorption syndrome. It may be a sign that your diet does not have a healthy amount of all nutrients. If the level of these substances in your body is normal, it means that you do not have a problem of absorption.
3. Respiratory tests
Breathing tests may be done to diagnose lactose malabsorption. If lactose is not absorbed, it enters the gut. Intestinal bacteria break down this lactose and produce hydrogen gas. Excess hydrogen is absorbed from the extra intestines into your bloodstream and reaches your lungs. In this way, you expel this gas through exhalation. So if your breathing hydrogen gas is high after eating lactose-containing foods, you may be lactose intolerant.
Imaging of your digestive system is done to find structural problems; For example, your doctor may order a CT scan to look for thickening of your small intestinal wall, which could be a sign of Crohn’s disease.
If your doctor suspects that there may be abnormal cells in your intestinal wall, he or she may order a biopsy. Most sampling is done with an endoscope. As a tube passes through your mouth into the esophagus and stomach, it reaches your small intestine to pick up a small piece of cell wall.
What are the treatments for malabsorption syndrome?
Your doctor will first try to treat symptoms such as diarrhea quickly. Drugs such as iopyramide are useful for this. It will also try to replace nutrients and fluids that your body has not absorbed. You will be monitored for signs of dehydration such as severe thirst, poor urine output, and dry mouth, tongue, and skin.
Next, your doctor will try to treat the cause of the malabsorption syndrome; For example, if he or she detects that you are lactose intolerant, he or she may tell you not to drink milk or other dairy products or may prescribe lactase tablets. At this time, your doctor may also refer you to a nutritionist.
Your dietitian will prescribe a diet to get all the nutrients your body needs. You may need these:
- Enzyme supplementsThese supplements help your body absorb nutrients that are not absorbed by the body alone.
- Vitamin supplementsYour nutritionist may prescribe large amounts of vitamins or other nutrients to compensate for the deficiency caused during the illness (due to lack of absorption through the gut).
- Diet changes: Your diet is adjusted to increase certain foods and nutrients; For example, your dietitian will tell you to avoid high-fat foods that reduce diarrhea, and to increase the amount of potassium in your diet to balance your body’s electrolytes.
The final word
Problems with malabsorption syndrome depend heavily on the underlying cause. If left untreated, the disease can lead to weight loss, malnutrition and even reduced progression. The sufferer may have poor wound healing, a weakened immune system, and low energy levels.
It is very important to pay attention to your symptoms to prevent these changes, and if the malabsorption factors recur, go to the doctor and be treated. With this method, you can prevent unwanted complications of this disease.