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What Is Carbohydrate Malabsorption?

A person with a carbohydrate malabsorption can not properly digest starches and sugars.
Gas is released by the unabsorbed material in the colon causing the sufferer to feel bloated.
Cramps can be a symptom of carbohydrate malabsorption.
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  • Written By: Felicia Dye
  • Edited By: Heather Bailey
  • Last Modified Date: 17 March 2014
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The group of nutrients known as carbohydrates includes starches and sugars. Carbohydrate malabsorption may sometimes be referred to as carbohydrate intolerance. This is because people who suffer from this condition have problems tolerating certain carbohydrates after they consume them. This is generally due to an inability to break down the carbohydrates during the digestive process. This condition often leads to bowel problems that can range in severity.

Carbohydrates are humans’ fuel. The body breaks them down and feeds them into the bloodstream. This is how a person gets her energy. If she suffers from carbohydrate malabsorption, however, then this process does not work correctly. The carbohydrates remain undigested and continue passing through the intestinal tract.

Symptoms of this condition can include cramps, diarrhea, and gassiness. These symptoms are associated with the fact that the undigested carbohydrates eventually make their way to the colon. When this happens fluids are attracted and the unabsorbed material begins to ferment. This causes gases to be created that can make a person feel bloated.

It is believed that the malabsorption of certain carbohydrates, such as lactose and fructose, may be linked to depression. Evidence has shown the link in women. In men, however, carbohydrate malabsorption is not believed to have the same adverse mental health effects. It has also been found that children who suffer from this condition grow at a slower rate than their peers.

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Lactose intolerance is one of the most widely found types of carbohydrate malabsorption. These conditions can be present at birth or may be developed later in life. One of the reasons that these conditions occur is due to a lack of intestinal enzymes. The problem may also be induced by drinking fruit juices that contain sorbitol.

Carbohydrate malabsorption is commonly diagnosed following a breath test. When conducting this test, the objective is to detect hydrogen levels. If carbohydrates are properly digested, these levels should be low.

In most cases, a person will only have a problem digesting certain carbohydrates, such as lactose. In these cases, treatment may involve the person avoiding foods that contain those carbohydrates she cannot absorb. A person may also be instructed to take enzyme supplements.

Not being able to absorb carbohydrates properly can lead to nutritional problems. In severe cases, a person may have to be admitted into the hospital. While there, she may need to be treated with a special diet.

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Discuss this Article

anon273859
Post 5

I get bowel pain/cramps esp after eating potatoes, semolin and coconut. Could this be what I have? I also get very alkaline stools.

Valencia
Post 3

@MissMuffet - sorry to hear about your health problems. I wonder if you have a problem with the sugar in fruit, as my college roommate had similar issues.

You could ask your doctor to run a fructose intolerance test to be sure. If this turns out positive you will need to watch out for hidden sugars, which seem to be in everything these days.

MissMuffet
Post 2

I suffer a lot from stomach aches and gas and my mother is always telling me to eat less fruit. Is it possible that I am suffering from carbohydrate malabsorption syndrome?

I can't imagine quitting my fruit habit for very long. Apples and bananas are convenient to eat and low in calories, two things which are really important to me in my daily life.

Windchime
Post 1

I'm happy to read this article because many people don't realise they have some kind of malabsorption syndrome. Even the doctor may make a mistake when trying to diagnose the problem, as many of the symptoms are similar to those of irritable bowel syndrome.

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