What is Malabsorption Syndrome?
The main role of your small intestine is to absorb nutrients from the food you eat into your bloodstream. Malabsorption syndrome refers to several disorders in which the small intestine can’t absorb enough of certain nutrients and fluids. These nutrients can be macronutrients (proteins, carbohydrates, and fats), micronutrients (vitamins and minerals), or both.
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What Causes Malabsorption?
- Digestive system malfunctioning-Any defect in the functioning of the digestive system (for example, an inadequate production of bile salts by the liver, or digestive enzymes by the pancreas, or cells lining the intestine, or damage to the intestinal absorptive cells) can prevent the proper breakdown of foods and the absorption of adequate amounts of nutrients.
- Alcohol may result in Chronic Pancreatitis-A major cause of malabsorption is chronic pancreatitis (often related to alcohol abuse), which may lead to decreased secretion of pancreatic enzymes that digest food—especially fats and protein.
- Inflammation or other abnormalities (Crohn’s Disease and Amyloidosis) in the mucous membrane that lines the intestine may prevent nutrients from being absorbed through the intestinal wall.
- Surgery to remove diseased segments of the intestine may result in an inadequate amount of absorptive surface. This is called short bowel syndrome.
- Infections (including acute infectious enteritis) and tapeworm or other parasites may inhibit proper digestion. Some infections may result in an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria, which may also lead to malabsorption. AIDS-Those with AIDS are particularly prone to malabsorption, since the disease damages immune defences against secondary infections that may cause digestive problems.
- Obstruction-Any obstruction of the lymphatic system, as may occur with lymphomas and tuberculosis, may also interfere with nutrient absorption.
- Certain cardiovascular problems may result in malabsorption (Congestive Heart Failure and Pericarditis).
- Certain medications may induce malabsorption. These medications include cholestyramine (a cholesterol-lowering drug), neomycin (an antibiotic), colchicine (an antigout drug), and certain laxatives.
- Diseases -Other diseases, including diabetes mellitus, hyper- and hypothyroidism, and carcinoid syndrome, may cause malabsorption for reasons that are unclear.
-Diseases such as abetalipoproteinemia, AIDS, biliary atresia and celiac disease cause malabsorption.
Who are more prone to get it?
- Children with a bad stomach flu may have a greater chance of a short-term bout of malabsorption syndrome.
You may not need treatment for a short-term problem. Ongoing malabsorption syndrome is more likely if you have one of the following digestive diseases:
- Celiac disease
- Cystic fibrosis (your body produces thick mucus that interferes with lung and digestive health)
- Crohn’s disease (the inflammation from this disorder makes it harder for your intestines to absorb nutrients)
- Other things that can increase your chances of having the syndrome:
- Using laxatives or taking antibiotics for a long time.
- Intestinal surgery
- Traveling to places known for intestinal parasites
What are the Symptoms of Malabsorption syndrome?
- Stools that float and are bulky, greasy and unusually malodorous
- Excessive gas
- Abdominal discomfort or cramps, especially after eating
- Weight loss or emaciation
- Night blindness (vitamin A malabsorption)
- Easy bruising (vitamin K malabsorption)
- Bone pain and painful muscle contractions (calcium malabsorption)
- Paleness (pallor) and other symptoms of anaemia
- High susceptibility to infection
- Muscle wasting
How to prevent Mal absorption syndrome?
- Malabsorption is preventable only when the underlying cause (such as an infection) is preventable.
- Avoid drinking too much alcohol.
- When going to places with questionable water supply, drink only bottled water, eat only cooked foods, and avoid fresh salads or other washed produce.
- Limit use of certain medicines, such as antibiotics, that can adversely affect the function of the intestines.
- Do not use laxatives.
How to Diagnose Malabsorption syndrome?
- Patient history, including use of alcohol and physical examination
- Blood tests for anaemia and other nutritional deficiencies
- Stool samples looking for undigested fat.
- Culture of the microorganisms inhabiting the intestine.
- Breath tests to detect lactose intolerance or bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine.
- Biopsy of intestinal tissue (may be taken during endoscopy; that is, visual inspection of the upper small intestine with a flexible, lighted scope)
- Upper GI (gastrointestinal) and small bowel series (use of barium to create a clear image of the intestine on x-ray)
Treatments for Malabsorption syndrome?
- In some cases, the only treatment necessary is to avoid certain foods that trigger or exacerbate symptoms. For example, those with lactose intolerance should avoid milk products; those with non tropical sprue (celiac disease) may be cured by avoiding all foods containing gluten (a protein found in wheat, rye, oats and barley).
- The underlying disorder causing malabsorption must be diagnosed and treated. For instance, antibiotics are given to cure an infection.
- Nutritional supplements may be prescribed. Common supplements include calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins A, D, E, and K.
- Pancreatic enzymes may be prescribed to correct insufficient production of them.
- Corticosteroids may improve absorption in some cases of inflammatory diseases.
- In many cases a high carbohydrate, low-fat diet is recommended; it is easiest to digest and absorb.
- A sweat test (collection of sweat from the skin) may be performed to see if cystic fibrosis is present.
When should I consult a physician?
Call a doctor if diarrhoea or other digestive problems persist for longer than three days.
Can Homeopathy help in treating malabsorption syndrome?
Yes, Homeopathy will not just help for treating Malabsoption syndrome with its symptoms like diarrhoea etc. but it will also help in restoring the internal lumen’s ph. level so macro as well as micro nutrients start absorbing well.
What Homeopathic medicines are commonly indicated in such cases?
Constitutional medicine is indicated however few frequently indicative medicines are as follows-
Can I take homeopathy as well as allopathy?
It depends on the case for instance in cases like patient has acute infection or patient has underlying condition like diabetes mellitus in such cases allopathy or insulin whichever is indicated medicine patient is advised to continue to manage acute complaints and homoeopathy will help for long term relief.
What are the complications?
If your body isn’t getting the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients it needs to stay strong and thrive, you could have serious complications. When it’s not treated, malabsorption syndrome might lead to:
-Greater chance of infections
-Slower growth and weight gain in children
Certain nutrients, such as vitamin A and zinc, are vital for a healthy immune system and proper growth. If your body isn’t absorbing these and other important vitamins and minerals, your health can suffer.
What dietary restrictions are recommended and what diet is advised?
The diet for malabsorption is meant to help decrease your diarrhoea and improve your nutritional status. Eating small, frequent meals might improve tolerance and decrease diarrhoea.
Limiting your intake of foods that exacerbate diarrhoea can also help, including foods high in fat such as fried foods, high fat meats, gravies and rich desserts, and foods high in fibre such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes.
The lactose in milk and other dairy products can also cause diarrhoea and should be avoided. Concentrated sweets, such as soda, sugar and sweet desserts, might also be a problem and should be avoided or limited depending on your tolerance. It is also recommended that you drink liquids between meals.
Grains provide your body with calories, energy and B vitamins. Good choices include white bread, white rice, white pasta and refined ready-to-eat cereals such as corn flakes, farina and saltine crackers.
Fruits are an important source of nutrients in your diet, especially potassium. Chronic diarrhoea causes your body to lose a lot of potassium, making it important that you get adequate intakes from your diet. Good fruit choices for malabsorption include ripe bananas, canned or cooked fruits without skins or seeds, and diluted juice.
Vegetables are also a good source of potassium — and like fruits, a source of fibre. Good choices include cooked or canned green beans, carrots, potatoes without the skin, beets, spinach, squash, mushrooms, asparagus and peas.
Your body needs an adequate intake of protein to support immune health and lean body mass. Good choices on your diet include lean, tender or ground meats such as poultry, veal, pork, beef or fish. Eggs are also a good source of protein and usually are well tolerated, along with creamy peanut butter.