Nutritional and Ayurvedic Treatment for Malabsorption
Malabsorption is faulty absorption of fat, protein, sugar (natural forms) and/or vitamins. Malabsorption occurs when there is a fault in absorbing nutrients through food from the gastrointestinal tract (GI tract). There is a difficulty in both digestion and absorption of the nutrients. Malabsorption typically impacts growth, development, weight loss or other health conditions. Typically, significant loss of fat-soluble vitamins is seen in malabsorption.
What causes Malabsorption
- Poor diet/malnutrition
- Low stomach acid
- Excessive stomach acid/Zollinger-Ellison syndrome
- Deficiency in enzyme production
- Food allergies & intolerances – usually protein in a food
- Autoimmune conditions
- Damage to the intestine – injury, infection, inflammation
- Stomach flu
- Prolonged use for antibiotics (creates imbalance in the healthy gut flora)
- Certain drugs such as, laxatives, mineral oils, tetracycline, colchicine, or cholestyramine, which may lead to harm the intestinal lining.
- Radiation and chemotherapy
- Alcohol abuse
- Excessive smoking
- Intestinal Surgery
- Excessive exercise
Signs and Symptoms of Malabsorption
- Sudden and/or unintentional weight loss despite eating a balanced diet
- Lethargy or fatigue
- Lack of focus, poor memory, and lack of mental clarify
- Digestive challenges include, diarrhea or constipation, bulky-fatty-mucus stools (that sticks to the toilet), excessive gas, bloating, abdominal distension, nausea-vomiting and cramping in the abdominal area.
- Growth failure in children
Common diseases linked to Malabsorption
Lactose intolerance (lack of lactase enzyme in the body), Celiac disease, Colitis, Crohn’s disease, SIBO, Cystic Fibrosis, Chronic pancreatitis, liver disease, Whipple’s disease are often seen to be a reason for malabsorption.
There are also rare conditions such as, Schwachman-Diamond syndrome (a genetic disease affecting the pancreas and bone marrow), short bowel syndrome, and Biliary atresia (a blockage in the tubes (ducts) that carry bile from the liver to the gallbladder) that can cause malabsorption. infectious diseases, parasites and toxins in food can also cause malabsorption.
Types of Malabsorption and their Impact on Health:
When fats from food is not absorbed properly it passes through the small intestine to colon causing fatty, foul smelling, mucus high stools (steatorrhea). This will lead to malabsorption of fat-soluble vitamins such as, Vitamin A, D, E and K. All symptoms of deficiencies of these vitamins will show up such as, dry skin or skin lesions, frequent infections, and growth delays in children.
Fat malabsorption can also result from a lack of bile from diseases of the gallbladder, surgical gallbladder removal, bile ducts or liver.
Protein Malabsorption will cause dry hair, hair loss, edema/fluid retention, muscle wasting, muscle loss, poor strength and increase in injury risks.
Lack of enzymes such as, lactase can cause milk intolerance. Lack of healthy gut flora (probiotics) can also lead to malabsorption of carbohydrate. In people with fructose malabsorption, the cells of the intestine cannot absorb fructose normally, leading to bloating, diarrhea or constipation, flatulence, and stomach pain.
Bile Salt Malabsorption (BAM):
Bile is a liquid substance that the liver produces to aid in food (fat) digestion. The body usually releases bile at the correct amount based on the food is ingested. However, sometimes the body may produce excessive bile which then goes to the small intestine and then passing on to the colon. This results in watery bowel movements, urgency etc. which many may lead to incontinence.
Vitamin and Mineral Malabsorption:
Fat soluble vitamin deficiency can be due to fat malabsorption. This will lead to night blindness (vitamin A deficiency), weak bones and bone pain (vitamin D deficiency), Bleeding gums and nosebleeds (vitamin K deficiency) and paleness, weakness and dizziness (vitamin deficiency anemia).
Calcium, magnesium, and iron malabsorption can be a result of low stomach acid and medication.
Diphyllobothrium latum infestation and Juvenile pernicious anemia can cause B12 malabsorption. Sore, red tongue is a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Protocol for Healing Malabsorption:
For individual protocol you can book me for a consultation. I can design step by step custom plan according to your age, health and life condition to repair your malabsorption.
Ayurvedic Steps to Manage Malabsorption
A protocol to heal malabsorption needs to be maintained for 6 weeks.
- Improve “Agni” by eating ginger tea or ginger capsules. Or add apple cider vinegar in water first thing in the morning.
- Meal plan to eat foods rich in fiber, vitamins-minerals, and healthy fats. Remove inflammatory foods.
- Do not combine incompatible foods. Check my ebook Eat Right for your Body Type.
- Remove liquids such as caffeine, alcohol, juices and high sugar fruits and starchy vegetables.
- Remove toxic foods – hydrogenated oil, pop, cookies, baked goods, fried foods, sweets, packaged foods that contain harmful preservative, artificial sweetener, color etc.
- Remove Dairy products to reduce mucus.
- Add probiotic rich foods or supplements (speak with an Herbalist or Nutritionist for the right supplement).
- Add good fats such as, flax oil, evening primrose oil, nuts, seeds and avocado in the diet.
- Add hingvastak churna in your diet. See recipe on my blog,
- For weakness, fatigue and/or lethargy add Triphala in the diet.
- For parasites or infections add Trikatu in the diet.
- Reduce amounts of grains and increase fiber rich carbohydrate.
- Eat meals in regular hours.
- Have 3 main meals without any snacking.
- Drink herbal tea that increases absorption. Such as, cumin, fennel, chamomile and peppermint.
- Power walk for 15-20 minutes a day.
- Pranayama or breathing exercise helps to improve digestion and reduce anxiety.
- Drink warm water in between meals, instead of cold water.
- Prefer bitter, sour and pungent tasting foods avoid sweet, salt and astringent until gut repair is complete.
If you have been diagnosed with IBS, IBD, Celiac, SIBO or Crohn’s disease it would be recommended to seek professional help who can prepare an individualized diet chart and supplement chart for you that includes herbs and protein to reduce malabsorption.
Please share you own experience with us. Have you experienced any of the symptoms mentioned above?