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A to Z: Intestinal Malabsorption

May also be called: Malabsorption; Malabsorption Syndrome

Intestinal malabsorption (mal-ab-ZORP-shun) is difficulty absorbing nutrients from food in the intestines.

More to Know

In the stomach, food is processed into a thick liquid called chyme. Chyme is then squirted down into the small intestine, where digestion of food continues so the body can absorb nutrients into the bloodstream.

When someone has intestinal malabsorption, something causes the small intestine to have trouble absorbing nutrients, especially sugars, fats, proteins, and vitamins. When this happens, the nutrients are passed out of the body in the stool (poop). This can cause abdominal pain, diarrhea, weight loss, flatulence, bulky stools that smell bad, weakness, fatigue, and muscle wasting.

Intestinal malabsorption is a common symptom of a number of diseases and conditions, including infections like traveler's diarrhea, lactose intolerance, Celiac disease, inflammatory bowel disease, endocrine disorders, cystic fibrosis, certain medications, and surgeries or treatments for conditions of the digestive tract. Treatment for intestinal malabsorption depends upon which condition is causing it.

Keep in Mind

In many cases, intestinal malabsorption happens after a stomach flu or intestinal flu. In those cases, it usually clears up within a couple of days and is no cause for concern. Longer-lasting cases should be examined by a doctor to determine the cause and the best course of treatment.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

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