Malabsorption Treatment & Management

Updated: Jan 24, 2019
  • Author: Muhammad Bader Hammami, MD; Chief Editor: Praveen K Roy, MD, MSc  more...
  • Print

Medical Care

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

Nutritional support

Caloric and protein replacement is essential. It is crucial to supplement the patient with various minerals, such as calcium, magnesium, iron, and vitamins, which may be deficient in malabsorption. 

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 extensive regional enteritis and following a massive resection, 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 a product such as Lactaid also helps.

The use of protease and lipase supplements are the therapy for pancreatic insufficiency. Antibiotics are used to treat small intestinal bacterial overgrowth. Corticosteroids, anti-inflammatory agents, such as mesalamine, and other therapies are used to treat regional enteritis. Pancreatic enzymes supplementation is the treatment for pancreatic insufficiency.