Short Bowel Syndrome occurs when a patient is unable to absorb enough vitamins, minerals, water or other nutrients. Not all IBD patients will suffer from Short Bowel Syndrome but it is far more common in the IBD population than in healthy individuals. This is due to the fact that IBD itself, damage to the intestines, removal of a portion of the intestines or intestinal surgery can all cause the condition to occur.
The main symptom of Short Bowel Syndrome is diarrhea. If this severe diarrhea goes on for a long period it can lead to dehydration, malnutrition, muscular wasting, weight loss or even death. Other symptoms may include; cramping, bloating, heartburn, fatigue and an overall feeling of weakness.
Depending on the severity of symptoms there are treatments that can help to deal with the problem of short bowel syndrome. Some things that can help deal with mild forms of the disease include; eating smaller more frequent meals, medications to relieve the diarrhea and replenishing fluid through oral intake or iv fluids. Supplements are often used to make up for the missing nutrients. In severe cases patients may require parenteral nutrition.
Parenteral nutrition is used to give patients nourishment through the use of an IV to replace salts, glucose, amino acids and lipids. This type of nourishment completely bypasses the GI tract though is often used in combination with some oral intake or enteral nutrition. This helps to maintain the integrity of the GI musculature.
Sometimes no food is able to be given other than through an IV and this process is called TPN or Total Parenteral Nutrition. It is not recommended that patients go this route for an extended period due to the increased risk of complications (although there are patients who have survived long periods on TPN).
As you can see Short Bowel Syndrome can be very serious. It’s incidence in the IBD population calls for patients to be informed about the dangers of this syndrome. If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, especially if they are out of the “norm” for your IBD, it is imperative that you seek medical attention. Patients can dehydrate rapidly so it is not recommended that you self treat or ignore the symptoms for very long.
If you or someone you know is exhibiting symptoms of short bowel syndrome please seek medical attention. Left untreated it can become increasingly hard to manage or even deadly.
Jennifer Rackley is a nutritionist and mother of three girls. Two of her children have dealt with acid reflux disease, food allergies, migraines, and asthma. She has a Bachelor of Science in dietetics from Harding University and has done graduate work in public health and nutrition through Eastern Kentucky University. In addition to writing for HealthCentral, she does patient consults and serves on the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Adolescent Gastroesophageal Reflux Association.