The definition of malabsorption is difficulty in the digestion or absorption of nutrients from food substances. There are various causes, risk factors and frequency of occurrences to consider. Malabsorption results from a wide array of conditions and diseases. Quite often, it can be the inability to absorb specific types of food. These can include fats, sugars, proteins, vitamins and minerals as well as general malabsorption of foods. Side effects or peripheral conditions that may arise are regular large stools, diarrhoea, bloating or cramping, failure to gain weight as well as growth defects in children and muscle wasting.

Malabsorption basically involves consuming food but not benefiting from such activities in the way you would think. It is essentially caused by any of the following: Soy milk protein intolerance; lactal bumin intolerance; Abetalipoproteinemia; biliary atresia; lactose intolerance; celiac disease (gluten induced enterropathy); cystic fibrosis (the primary cause of this condition in America); parasites; chronic pancreatitis; Whipple disease and Shwachman-Diamond syndrome.

Symptoms of this serious and potentially life-threatening malady include bloating and flatulence; specific food avoidance; chronic diarrhoea and growth difficulties. Complications can arise which may involve vitamin and mineral deficiency diseases and malnutrition. These can lead to problems in both children and adults. Generally speaking, the syndromes of this nature may result from impaired absorption within the intestines. With this condition, the small bowel generally struggles to properly digest the food that people with this condition consume. Abdominal problems may arise that can include jaundice ad pancreatic cancer. In essence, weight loss, glossitis, carpopedal spasms, cutaneous bruising, flatulence, abdominal distention, bloating or discomfort from intestinal bulk and gas production.

Nutritional deficiency diseases such as anaemia develop, (as iron and folic acid consumption is impaired). Calcium deficiency is common and may cause bone discomfort, thiamine (B1) and B12 deficiencies can cause paresthesia, while deficiencies of vitamin K can lead to hypoprothrombinemia. In general, it can pose extreme health issues and without treatment, the results can be hazardous.

Muscle weakness can also ensue. The best test for identifying such problems is direct measurement of faecal fat.

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