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What is malabsorption?

Malabsorption is difficulty in the digestion or absorption of nutrients from food. Malabsorption can affect growth and development, or it can lead to specific illnesses.

Some of the causes of malabsorption include:

  • Cystic fibrosis (the number one cause in the United States)

  • Chronic pancreatitis

  • Lactose intolerance

  • Celiac disease 

  • Whipple disease

  • Shwachman-Diamond syndrome (a genetic disease affecting the pancreas and bone marrow)

  • Cow's milk protein intolerance

  • Soy milk protein intolerance

  • Biliary atresia 

  • Abetalipoproteinemia

  • Vitamin B-12 malabsorption may be due to:

    • Diphyllobothrium latum infestation

    • Juvenile pernicious anemia

  • Parasites

    • Giardia lamblia

    • Strongyloides stercoralis

    • Necator americanus (hookworm)


Symptoms of malabsorbtion include:

  • Avoiding specific foods

  • Chronic diarrhea 

  • Bloating and gas

  • Growth failure  

Diagnosis and Treatment 

Diagnosis and treatment will depend on the specific disease causing the malabsorption.

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