Signs and Symptoms of Absorption Disorders

Symptoms of absorption disorders depend on which nutrient or nutrients are being malabsorbed. Common symptoms include the following:

  • Abdominal pain and cramps
  • Bloating
  • Chronic diarrhea (frequent bowel movements and passage of light-colored, soft, and foul-smelling stool [called steatorrhea, pronounced stē ă-tō-rē ă])
  • Excessive gas in the GI tract (e.g., flatulence)
  • Failure to thrive and delayed puberty (in children)
  • GI bleeding (i.e., blood in the stool)
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Weight loss

Over time, absorption disorders can cause vitamin and mineral deficiencies (e.g., vitamin B12 deficiency, iron deficiency) and can result in serious complications such as severe anemia, bone loss, dehydration, and malnutrition.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 13 Mar 2008

Last Modified: 23 Sep 2014