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Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Malabsorption is failure of the body to absorb vitamins, minerals and other nutrients from food. It is much more common for a variety of reasons in the modern world, particularly with the decline of our overall gut health and digestion.

Causes / Risk factors of Malabsorption

  • Impaired digestive function
  • Celiac disease
  • Bacterial overgrowth in colon
  • Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
  • Food allergies
  • Certain medications: some antibiotics, antacids, anti-obesity drugs, colchicine, phenytoin
  • Damage to intestine from surgery or radiation
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Chronic disease / cancer of the pancreas, gallbladder, liver and bile ducts
  • Pernicious anaemia (B12 malabsorption)
  • Tapeworm infection
  • AIDS
  • Cystic fibrosis


  • Bloating, cramping, gas
  • Chronic diarrhea with bulky, fatty stools
  • Weight loss, muscle wasting and failure to thrive
  • Symptoms of anemia and other nutrient deficiencies (fatigue etc.)


  • Identify /address underlying cause
  • Repair intestinal mucosa
  • Support digestive function
  • Replenish healthy bowel flora
  • Replenish nutrients

Diet plan guidelines to support Malabsorption

  • Healthy, balanced wholefood diet high in fresh fruit and veg, fish, grass-fed meats.  A Paleo style is well indicated
  • Identify / remove food allergens especially wheat, dairy
  • Apple cider vinegar/lemon juice / papaya / pineapple with meals to support digestion
  • Avoid drinking tea and coffee near mealtimes: interferes with mineral absorption

Supplements that support Malabsorption

  • Digestive enzymes
  • Probiotics
  • Multivitamin and mineral supplement
  • Easily assimilated protein sources e.g. quality protein powder
  • Specific nutrients as such as zinc and magnesium: increase stomach acid
  • Glutamine and vitamin A: for repair of gut mucosa
  • Vit C & bioflavonoids: immune support and uptake of minerals

Herbal medicine treatment that supports Malabsorption

  • Digestive / Gall bladder stimulants : gentian, ginger, St Mary’s, yellow dock, dandelion
  • Gut repair: goldenseal, calendula, slippery elm, aloe


The above nutritional and herbal considerations will assist in the symptomatic management of malabsorption.  Uncovering the underlying cause of the condition is of the utmost importance.  It should be assessed with any patient suffering any chronic condition. 

Malabsorption affects every body system, if we can’t absorb our nutrients, we can operate our biochemical pathways and nourish our body. 

A functional medicine approach will assess and correct malabsorption issues if they are present and in turn directly have a positive impact on every compromised body system.  Poor digestive function, SIBO, parasites, bacterial infections, intestinal permeability and certain medications such as proton pump inhibitors are common underlying causes. 

At our Perth clinic of Advanced Functional Medicine we have successfully uncovered and treated malabsorption through functional testing as a major contributing factor in a wide range of diseases and conditions.

If you or a family member require assistance with malabsorption, another digestive disorder or would like to be comprehensively tested, we would love to hear from you.  What symptoms are you currently experiencing?  Have you had your digestive function tested?  Please write a comment below.

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Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper – ND

Jarrod Cooper - ND is the founder of Advanced Functional Medicine Australia. He is a Naturopathic Doctor with extensive functional medicine training from leading practitioners in the USA and worldwide.

He is leading the way with advancements of functional medicine, clinically implementing worldwide best practices in Functional Medicine throughout Australia.

Jarrod consults in person from Perth, Western Australia and also online via Telehealth throughout Australia and worldwide.

If you are looking for personalised treatment, we highly recommend contacting Jarrod Cooper’s Advanced Functional Medicine clinic in Australia.


  1. Liz Sollazzo on April 28, 2020 at 6:00 pm

    What a surprise to come across your site today!

    I wish I’d met you in 2015, when I had a worm invasion, the small thin ones that were common when I was a kid. I tried both of the treatments available over the counter at pharmacies, to no avail. So off I went to the doctor’s, was given 2 consecutive courses of appropriate pills, to no avail. After 6 months had passed, I Googled, and Googled, and Googled, til I saw a comment from a reader that said to chew I think it was 1/4 of a cup of pumpkin seeds, followed a short time later with a dose of castor oil, and repeat that routine a specific amount of time later, 3 times.

    It sure did the trick. It made me a very happy vegemite to get rid of those little critters, & be able to sleep through the night again, after 6 1/2 months of very poor sleep.

    Currently, I have a protein absorption problem, & at 73 years of age, I’m beginning to suspect I may have had it, at least off & on, since I was sent to boarding school at age 12. I eat plenty of protein, & take a Bio-Zyme tablet 1/2 an hour before breakfast & tea, so feel it must be being digested.

    My symptoms are many, the most annoying two being poor concentration, as well as poor balance sometimes, both of which interfere with my life quite a bit.

    On the advice of my local doctor (who’s beginning studying nutrition 🙂 ), I’ve started to drink whey drinks twice a day when possible, & they’re being quite effective. However, I would like to have the cause treated if possible.

    I’ll be making an appointment with you once we can more easily cross our state region borders, to have your test/s, that may determine the cause of my malabsorption.

    I look forward to meeting you then.


    Liz Sollazzo

    Australind, Australia

    • Jarrod Cooper on May 1, 2020 at 8:39 am

      Hi Liz
      thanks for your message, yes worms and parasites can be tricky and annoying, not to mention very detrimental to your health. In addition to face to face consultations, we also offer online video telehealh consultations Australia wide. Malabsorption is an issue for many people with poor gut health and we often need additional support for our gut and digestion as we age.
      Feel free to contact us if you would like any further information.
      Kind Regards
      Jarrod Cooper – ND

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