When the cause of malabsorption is treatable, the primary goal of treatment is to treat the cause.
In patients who cannot be completely restored to normal (for example after extensive surgical removal of the intestine), special dietary measures need to be adopted. Dietary treatment will also depend on the site of malabsorption. If fat is being malabsorbed, a low fat diet should be consumed. Certain oils called medium chain triglyceride oils are easier to absorb in certain disease states and may be helpful as a calorie supplement.
For carbohydrate malabsorption, disaccharides, specifically lactose, often must be restricted. This involves limiting milk products or choosing many of the low lactose products now available. Lactase enzyme tablets may also be taken with milk products to digest the lactose. Vitamin and mineral supplementation needs to be tailored to individual needs, based upon serum levels, and clinical symptoms.
Pancreatic enzymes are available in capsules or tablets and in combination with a low fat diet may benefit the patient with pancreatic disease.
For the patient with severe malabsorption, in whom dietary measures are not feasible, feeding can be administered intravenously.
Occasional diarrhea and bloating are not causes for alarm in most cases. Certain food substances contain materials that humans cannot digest well and they cause bloating and gas (beans, cabbage). This is not a sign of malabsorption.
However, persistent diarrhea, weight loss, greasy stools and signs of vitamin deficiency (sore tongue etc.) should prompt further attention.
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