What is malabsorption syndrome?
Malabsorption syndrome is an umbrella term used for several related medical conditions caused by a lack of the nutrients needed to help the body absorb other nutrients.
They are all caused by a problem with the absorption of nutrients by the intestines.
Malabsorption syndrome (MDS) is the name given to a group of conditions that occur when the body does not absorb nutrients, vitamins, and minerals, particularly vitamin B12, from food.
Malabsorption syndrome is most commonly caused by deficiencies of B12, folate, and vitamin D, but can also be caused by vitamin K deficiencies.
A simple blood test can detect a deficiency and correct it.
B12 deficiency is rare but can be treated with a very high dose of vitamin B12 injections.
Vitamin D deficiency is also rare and usually diagnosed in people with a family history of bone cancer or rickets. In these people, low vitamin D levels in their blood can be due to something genetic. Vitamin D deficiency is treated with a daily vitamin D supplement, though if it’s severe, you can also have a bone density scan.
Folate deficiency can be diagnosed with a blood test.
Why does MDS occur?
Malabsorption syndrome occurs when the body doesn’t absorb some of the nutrients and vitamins it needs to function well.
This can be due to problems with the stomach and intestines, which makes it hard for food to pass through.
B12 deficiency can happen when the body doesn’t make enough B12 on its own, as is the case with some people with an autistic spectrum disorder.
Some patients with MDS have a decreased ability to absorb certain vitamins in their bodies. This can occur because the intestine has been damaged, for instance by chemotherapy.
How is MDS treated?
Some people with MDS may have mild problems, and do not need any treatment. Others may have very severe, sometimes life-threatening problems which may require surgical treatment.
Vitamin B12 injections
People who have severe vitamin B12 deficiency can be given very high doses of vitamin B12 by injection, but this has to be done under medical supervision.
Folate deficiency can be treated by taking a daily supplement of folate.
Vitamin D deficiency can be treated by taking a daily supplement vitamin D.
Symptoms and signs
Many symptoms of malabsorption syndrome are similar to those of other conditions, including irritable bowel syndrome.
If you think you have malabsorption syndrome, you should get tested and get treatment if necessary.
Symptoms of malabsorption syndrome include:
- Low or no appetite
- Stomach pains
- Mild fatigue
- Diarrhea and constipation
- Bloating, gas, and bloating
- Light-colored stools
- The most common signs and symptoms of malabsorption syndrome are:
- Hair loss, which may be a sign of undescended testes
- Infections such as ear infections
- Feeling more sensitive to food textures and flavors
- Vomiting that’s less frequent or nocturnal
- Muscle weakness
- Difficulty with speaking or walking
- Malabsorption syndrome is rare, and it is unknown how many people have it.
How is MDS diagnosed?
Your doctor may run a simple blood test to check for certain nutrients, as they may be missing from your blood.
Common blood tests for MDS are Protein and amino acid screening
This can check your body’s ability to absorb some important nutrients. It can also detect the presence of an enzyme called homocysteine oxidase, which is missing from certain genetic diseases.
This test is to check the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12. It is also used to check your liver’s ability to absorb vitamin B12.
Lysozyme is a waxy substance that can be found in many foods and fruits. It’s an antimicrobial substance that’s also found in the body’s digestive system.
The presence of this substance is an indication that the body’s ability to absorb certain nutrients is impaired.
The antibodies that can be found in the blood are another indicator that you have MDS.
To diagnose MDS, your doctor will run tests to rule out other diseases that can cause malabsorption, such as Crohn’s disease or celiac disease.
Genetic tests may also be carried out, depending on your family history of MDS.
MDS can be difficult to treat, but in some cases, the diagnosis can be made through the use of a medical food or tablet.
If your symptoms improve after you start taking the supplement, you may have MDS and you should speak with your doctor.
Diet is often one of the easiest ways to prevent MDS. Diet is often one of the easiest ways to prevent MDS.
The best way to prevent MDS is by making some lifestyle changes.
- The most important lifestyle changes include:
- eating a balanced diet
- avoiding too much salt
- stopping smoking
If left untreated, MDS can cause severe complications. Symptoms can include depression, anxiety, and other psychological problems.
Corticosteroids are usually the first-line treatment for MDS, and these work by lowering your body temperature and making your blood more acidic. This may decrease your risk of complications.
You should usually take corticosteroids with food or in capsule form, as the medication can interact with some medications, including:
Lactose intolerance medications, such as lactase, which you may be taking to increase the amount of lactase in your system. Lactase is a sugar that’s necessary for your body to absorb B12 and essential vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids.
You should reduce or stop taking these medications as soon as you’ve started corticosteroids.