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Can Malabsorption of Nutrients Cause Weight Gain?

author image Jessica Bruso
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.
Can Malabsorption of Nutrients Cause Weight Gain?
Malabsorption can affect weight. Photo Credit Jose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images

If you experience malabsorption, your body has trouble absorbing some of the nutrients in the food you eat. This could involve vitamins, sugars, proteins or fat or just food in general. Check with your doctor if you think this is a problem for you, because certain serious medical conditions can cause malabsorption. While there is a chance malabsorption could cause weight gain, it's more likely that it will cause weight loss.

Malabsorption and Weight Loss

Malabsorption symptoms include diarrhea, muscle wasting and weight loss. If you're not digesting or absorbing fats, proteins or carbohydrates properly, you won't get as many calories from the food you eat, which can lead to weight loss. Even if you eat what would normally be plenty of food, it can be hard to stay at your normal weight.

Potential for Weight Gain

You're not likely to gain weight due to increases in fat or muscle mass if you're experiencing malabsorption, but some types of malabsorption could cause buildups of fluid in the body, called edema, or bloating. Either of these could make you feel like you are gaining weight. Once you treat the cause of the malabsorption, you'll most likely stop having these symptoms and find it easier to maintain your weight.

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Other Common Symptoms

Other potential symptoms of this condition include easy bleeding and bruising, swollen tongue, pain in your bones, fractures, anemia, gas, decreased nervous system function, night blindness, fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms, hair loss and dry skin. The nature of your symptoms depend on which nutrients you're having difficulty absorbing.

Potential Considerations

If you don't treat the cause of your malabsorption, it could lead to further health problems, including kidney stones, gallstones and osteoporosis. Some potential causes include celiac disease, medication interactions, cancer, weight-loss surgery, chronic liver disease, HIV or AIDS, parasitic infection, Crohn's disease, Whipple's disease and lactose intolerance.

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