If you have malabsorption, your intestines don't properly absorb nutrients like vitamins and minerals, fats, proteins or carbohydrates. Many different medical conditions and diseases can cause malabsorption, typically diseases that affect your gastrointestinal system. You might benefit from taking certain dietary supplements if you have malabsorption. Consult your doctor before taking any supplements to discuss the proper dosage and potential adverse effects.
Malabsorption can have numerous different causes, such as conditions like Crohn's disease, celiac disease, certain types of cancer and cancer treatments, HIV/AIDS, and the bacterial infection known as Whipple's disease, says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. People with celiac disease have an abnormal allergy to gluten, which is a type of protein in barley, rye, wheat and oats. Intestinal parasites and some disorders that affect your digestion like short bowel syndrome or pancreatic conditions can also cause malabsorption. Food intolerances and allergies like lactose intolerance are also potential causes of malabsorption. Each condition that causes malabsorption has its own separate treatment options and drug therapies.
Malabsorption conditions can prevent your intestines from absorbing nutrients from the foods that you eat, so taking supplements can often help prevent or treat deficiencies. If you have Crohn's disease, which is a type of chronic inflammatory bowel disease, you might need to take supplements of zinc, calcium and vitamin D, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. If you develop specific deficiencies due to the intestinal disorder called celiac disease, you can benefit from taking supplements of vitamins A, D and K, calcium, iron, folic acid, magnesium, and zinc, notes the University of Michigan Health System. Alternatively, your doctor may recommend that your take a multivitamin-mineral supplement. If you have Whipple's disease or a similar bacterial infection that causes malabsorption, you may need to take calcium, vitamin D, folic acid, iron and magnesium supplements, according to MayoClinic.com. Ask your doctor about which dietary supplements you might need before you begin taking any of them.
In addition to dietary supplements that can help correct nutrient deficiencies caused by malabsorption, certain other natural supplements could help. For example, supplementation with omega-3 fatty acids like those in fish oil capsules, probiotics like Saccharomyces boulardi, glutamine or N-acetyl glucosamine could also help treat the symptoms related to Crohn's disease, says the University of Maryland Medical Center. People who have celiac disease and develop persistent depression may benefit from taking extra vitamin B6, according to the University of Michigan Health System. Also, people with celiac disease may require supplements of lipase and pancreatic enzymes, because they often don't produce enough digestive enzymes from the pancreas. Herbal supplements like boswellia, marshmallow, turmeric, cat's claw and slippery elm may offer anti-inflammatory or soothing actions on your intestines that could improve your symptoms if your have an inflammatory bowel disease. However, no conclusive medical research proves that any of these supplements can effectively treat malabsorption or the related diseases.
Keep in mind that other dietary and lifestyle changes can also help in treating medical conditions underlying malabsorption. For instance, avoiding excessive alcohol consumption and the use of laxatives can help support proper digestion and absorption of nutrients, says the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center. If you have a malabsorption condition, you should drink only bottled water and consume only cooked foods while traveling. People with severe Crohn's disease sometimes need to follow an elemental diet, which is a type of liquid diet that's easy to digest, notes the University of Maryland Medical Center. Quitting smoking, reducing stress and exercising regularly can all help reduce your Crohn's disease symptoms as well. A gluten-free diet is often recommended for people with celiac disease, according to the University of Michigan Health System.
Discuss any and all dietary or lifestyle changes, including the use of dietary supplements, with your health care provider beforehand. Keep in mind that people with malabsorption-causing diseases often need the help of a registered dietitian to ensure that they're getting adequate nutrients. You shouldn't take any kind of herbal or natural supplement before first consulting your doctor. Even vitamin and mineral supplements can cause side effects, drug interactions and other health dangers.