Malabsorption Treatment & Management

Updated: Dec 16, 2014
  • Author: Stephan U Goebel, MD; Chief Editor: Julian Katz, MD  more...
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Medical Care

Two basic principles underlie the management of patients with malabsorption, as follows: (1) the correction of nutritional deficiencies, and (2) when possible, the treatment of causative diseases.

  • Nutritional support
    • Supplementing various minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins, which may be deficient in malabsorption, is important.
    • Caloric and protein replacement also is essential.
    • Medium-chain triglycerides can be used as fat substitutes because they do not require micelle formation for absorption and their route of transport is portal rather than lymphatic.
    • In severe intestinal disease, such as massive resection and extensive regional enteritis, parenteral nutrition may become necessary.
  • Treatment of causative diseases
    • A gluten-free diet helps treat celiac disease.
    • Similarly, a lactose-free diet helps correct lactose intolerance; supplementing the first bite of milk-containing food products with Lactaid also helps.
    • Protease and lipase supplements are the therapy for pancreatic insufficiency.
    • Antibiotics are the therapy for bacterial overgrowth.
    • Corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory agents, such as mesalamine, and other therapies are used to treat regional enteritis.