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

Causes 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).

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

  • Diarrhea, Age 12 and Older
  • D-Xylose Absorption Test
  • Giardiasis
  • Upper Gastrointestinal (UGI) Series

By: Healthwise Staff Current as of: February 21, 2012
Medical Review: William H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
H. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine

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