• Definition

    Malabsorption is difficulty absorbing nutrients from food.

    Causes, incidence, and risk factors

    Many diseases can cause malabsorption. Malabsorption is usually the inability to absorb certain sugars, fats, proteins, or vitamins from food. It can also involve a general malabsorption of food.

    Some of the causes of malabsorption include:

    • AIDS and HIV
    • Biliary atresia
    • Celiac disease
    • Certain medications (cholestyramine, tetracycline, some antacids, some medications used to treat obesity, colchicine, acarbose, phenytoin)
    • Certain types of cancer (lymphoma, pancreatic cancer, gastrinomas)
    • Certain types of surgery (gastrectomy with gastrojejunostomy, surgical treatments for obesity, partial or complete removal of the ileum)
    • Cholestasis
    • Chronic liver disease
    • Cow's milk protein intolerance
    • Crohn's disease
    • Damage from radiation treatments
    • Parasite infection, including Giardia lamblia
    • Soy milk protein intolerance
    • Whipple disease

    Vitamin B12 malabsorption may be due to:

    • Pernicious anemia
    • Bowel resection
    • Tapeworm infection (diphyllobothrium latum)