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
- 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.)
TREATMENT STRATEGY FOR MALABSORPTION
- 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
- 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
FUNCTIONAL MEDICINE TREATMENT OF MALABSORPTION
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.