Malabsorption: The impaired absorption by the intestines of nutrients from food. Malabsorption can be specific and involve sugars, fats, proteins, or vitamins. Alternatively, malabsorption can be general and nonspecific.
The causes of malabsorption include cystic fibrosis (from lack of pancreatic enzymes to digest food), lactose intolerance, celiac disease (gluten-induced-enteropathy, sprue), Whipple disease, acrodermatitis enteropathica (zinc malabsorption), biliary atresia, pernicious anemia, and the parasites Giardia lamblia (giardiasis), Strongyloides stercoralis (threadworm), and Necator americanus (the hookworm).
The signs and symptoms depend on the type of malabsorption and may include failure to thrive (in infancy and childhood), diarrhea, cramping, frequent bulky stools, bloating, flatulence (gas), and abdominal distention. Treatment depends on the exact cause.