Malabsorption Syndromes

P M Tsai and C Duggan, Harvard Medical School,

Boston, MA, USA

© 2005 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.

The human gastrointestinal tract has an impressive capacity for water, electrolyte, and nutrient absorption. In some disease states, however, this excess capacity is outpaced by either intestinal secretion or inadequate absorption. Malabsorption is defined as the inability of the gastrointestinal tract to adequately absorb nutrients. Although strictly speaking, malabsorption is distinct and contrasted with maldigestion (inadequate breakdown of nutrients in the intestinal lumen), the therapeutic implications of these two conditions are often similar. Multiple causes of malabsorption exist (e.g., inflammatory bowel disease, cystic fibrosis, and short bowel syndrome). We review the pathophysiology, symptoms, and nutritional therapies for common malabsorption syndromes.

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