Having trouble digesting food can cause problems with absorption of nutrients, including fat and carbohydrates. Since fats and carbs are in almost all of the foods you eat, absorption issues may cause abdominal cramping, gas and diarrhea. If you notice these unpleasant symptoms after you eat, check with your doctor. Absorption issues may be an underlying cause to something more serious.
Digestion and Absorption
Your body needs carbohydrates and fat for energy to support everyday functions. When you eat foods containing these nutrients, your body has to digest them before they can absorb. Digestion of fat and carbohydrates allows your body to turn these complex molecules into simpler forms it can absorb into the bloodstream.
Malabsorption means your body has problems absorbing nutrients from the foods you eat. It can occur from a variety of issues. Since digestion begins in your mouth when you chew, trouble absorbing fat and carbohydrates might come from inadequate chewing. Complex carbohydrates, such as starch, begin deconstructing in the saliva in your mouth. If you eat in a hurry or have difficulty chewing, you might have problems with absorption farther down in your digestive tract. Malabsorption issues also might stem from a medical condition. Since fat and carbohydrates absorb in your small intestine and colon, any disorder of your intestines might cause poor absorption. Additionally, an allergy or intolerance, such as celiac disease or lactose intolerance, might cause an episode of diarrhea when you ingest these types of foods, limiting proper absorption.
Having chronic intestinal or bowl problems, such as irritable bowel syndrome, greatly affects absorption of fat and carbohydrates as well as other nutrients. A normal, healthy colon absorbs nutrients, water and salt from partially digested food. When you have IBS, your colon might be sensitive to certain foods, spices and stress. You might suffer from uncontrollable diarrhea, disabling your body's ability to absorb beneficial fats and carbohydrates fully before excretion. While there is no cure for IBS, eating smaller meals and limiting fat in your diet might help to alleviate symptoms.
Your medications may affect proper fat and carbohydrate absorption. Antacids, for example, reduce acidity in your stomach. Overuse of this type of medication can affect how well your stomach breaks foods apart, limiting proper absorption when food hits your digestive tract. Certain weight-loss medications may inhibit absorption of fats. "Fat-blocker" medications work by disabling lipase, an enzyme in your small intestine that breaks apart complex fat molecules. Some of the fat you ingest remains undigested and passes through your stool, explains Dr. Donald Hensrud on MayoClinic.com While taking these types of medications, you might experience oily, loose stools that you cannot control.
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Your Digestive System and How It Works; April 2008
- The National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse; Irritable Bowel Syndrome; September 2007
- National Center for Biotechnology Information; Malabsorption; July 2010
- MayoClinic.com; Alli Weight-Loss Pill: Does it Work?; Donald Hensrud; June 2010