Malabsorption: symptoms and treatment

Malabsorption — an ailment of a chronic nature, in which there is a violation of absorption of nutrients in the intestine. As a result, serious metabolic disorders appear. Malabsorption syndrome includes a number of different clinical manifestations — from pain syndrome in the abdomen and diarrhea, to hair loss, anemia and so on. This pathological condition can develop in both an adult and a child. Restrictions on sex do not have a disability.

Malabsorption syndrome can be both congenital and acquired. Congenital pathology is diagnosed in 10% of cases. Usually it can be detected already in the first few days of a child’s life. Acquired malabsorption in children can begin to progress at any age against the background of existing pathologies of the intestine, stomach, liver.

It is worth noting that the symptoms of a child’s illness can manifest gradually, which to some extent makes diagnosis difficult (the ailment can be «masked» for other pathologies). Malabsorption syndrome in children often occurs in the form of disaccharidic insufficiency or celiac disease.


Causes of progression of malabsorption syndrome in children and adults:

  • enzyme deficiency;
  • deficiency of bile salts;
  • damage to the intestinal wall
  • disturbance of blood circulation in the human body
  • various injuries resulting from the pathogenic activity of microbial agents
  • the presence of parasitic diseases is a common cause of the progression of this bowel disease
  • autonomic neuropathy;
  • hyperthyroidism
  • Zollinger-Ellison syndrome;
  • atrophic gastritis
  • prolonged consumption of certain pharmaceuticals may also cause malabsorption progression.


Malabsorption syndrome in children and adults is classified according to the severity of the disease:

  1. First or light. A person loses up to 10 kg of his weight. He has a decline in working capacity, general weakness, as well as symptoms of hypovitaminosis;
  2. Second or moderate. A person loses more than 10 kg in weight. The patient has such symptoms: anemia, multivitaminosis, a violation of water-electrolyte homeostasis. The level of sex hormones decreases;
  3. Third or heavy. The patient loses weight heavily, as nutrients are practically not absorbed in the intestine. There is also a severe disturbance of electrolyte metabolism, osteoporosis, severe anemia, swelling and convulsions.


Malabsorption syndrome has both general symptoms and specific symptoms. Usually in children and adults they appear gradually.

Common symptoms of impaired absorption in the intestine:

  • weight reduction. Since the intestine does not absorb sufficient nutrients, the body does not receive adequate nutrition;
  • Pain syndrome in the upper abdomen. Can give in the lumbar region;
  • bloating
  • flatulence;
  • Asthenovegetative syndrome. With the progression of malabsorption in humans, there is increased fatigue, weakness, apathy. All this is due to the lack of nutrients that the CNS is so needed;
  • After eating, the patient immediately exits the gases. This symptom is due to the fact that too much undigested food has accumulated in the small and large intestines
  • Diarrhea. This is a characteristic symptom of malabsorption in children and adults. The volume of excrement is greatly increased. They become fetid and watery. If the cause of malabsorption is cholestasis, then the feces will have a fat gloss (undigested fats)
  • damage to the skin. The patient has fragility of nails, dry skin, glossitis, seborrhea, dermatitis. It is also possible that small bleeding in the skin and mucous membranes can occur.

Specific symptoms of impaired absorption:

  1. formation of peripheral edema. Since the intestine is disturbed by protein absorption, swelling of the lower leg, stop, is manifested. In severe cases there is accumulation of exudate in the abdominal cavity;
  2. hypovitaminosis. Since the body does not receive enough vitamins, people can begin to progress such conditions: night blindness, neuropathy, pain in articular joints and bones, hemorrhages under the skin, bleeding gums and the like
  3. dysfunction of the glands of the endocrine system. Develops amenorrhea, sexual dysfunction (in the representatives of the stronger sex)
  4. violation of mineral metabolism. If there is a deficiency of calcium, the patient has pain in the bones, as well as convulsions. With a deficiency of potassium, there is a weakness in muscle structures. With a deficiency of zinc and iron, anemia progresses and various skin rashes appear on the skin.

Glucose-galactose malabsorption

Glucose-galactose malabsorption is an ailment that is transmitted at the gene level. Its main cause is the disruption of the structure of the gene, which is responsible for the production of a specific protein that carries galactose and glucose through the intestinal walls.

Usually, this pathology in children is diagnosed in the first weeks of their life. It is worth noting that glucose-galactose malabsorption has very serious consequences. Due to the violation of tissue respiration, the mental and physical development of the child is significantly slowed down. Gradually, the metabolites of galactose begin to accumulate in vital organs — the brain, liver, heart, provoking a disruption of their functioning.


If you have the above signs, you should immediately go to a medical institution to see a gastroenterologist for a full diagnosis of pathology. Diagnosis of malabsorption includes such activities:

  • anamnesis and symptom score;
  • Initial inspection. With the help of palpation, the doctor has the opportunity to detect the tension of the anterior abdominal wall, as well as the areas on the stomach in which the patient feels painful sensations;
  • A blood test. With malabsorption there is a decrease in hemoglobin, as well as red blood cells;
  • blood biochemistry
  • Coprogram. In excrement, you can find dietary fiber, undigested food particles, fats, etc.
  • Ultrasound;
  • esophagogastroduodenoscopy
  • Colonoscopy
  • CT;
  • MRI.


Treatment of malabsorption is mainly aimed at eliminating the disease, which was the reason for the progress of this dangerous condition. For example, if a violation of absorption of substances was provoked by pancreatitis, prescribe antispasmodics and enzyme preparations. If the cause of malabsorption is cholecystitis, the course of treatment is supplemented with antispasmodics and choleretic.

Malabsorption treatment scheme:

  1. diet therapy. The patient should strictly adhere to the diet number 5. In the diet include kefir, cottage cheese with a low percentage of fat, not acidic fruits, boiled vegetables, compote. It is forbidden to eat canned food, beans, sausages, fatty foods, smoked products, ice cream, alcoholic beverages, salted fish and so on. It is necessary to increase the amount of protein — up to 150 grams per day. Food should be taken fractionally;
  2. Vitaminotherapy;
  3. Probiotics
  4. analgesics
  5. antibiotics
  6. astringents
  7. Enterosorbents


If the timely failure to conduct a full treatment of the disease, then the human body will not receive the necessary amount of nutrients. As a result, such complications will soon begin to progress:

  • severe anemia
  • the bones become more fragile and, with little physical impact, can break down
  • The lack of vitamins greatly affects the work of organs, the condition of hair, nails
  • decrease in sexual function in the stronger sex, including impotence.

Preventive measures

  1. timely prevention and treatment of gastrointestinal ailments
  2. Regular visits to a doctor for preventive examination
  3. early diagnosis of hereditary pathologies
  4. consuming enough vitamins

  5. the exclusion of smoking and the consumption of alcoholic beverages