Food Intolerances: Malabsorption Explained

Food intolerances are a common issue that many people deal with on a daily basis. They are often misunderstood and can be difficult to diagnose due to their wide range of symptoms. This article will delve deep into the topic of food intolerances, with a special focus on malabsorption, a key factor in many food intolerances.

Malabsorption is a state where the body is unable to properly absorb nutrients from the food consumed. This can lead to a variety of health problems, including nutrient deficiencies, digestive issues, and more. Understanding malabsorption and its role in food intolerances is crucial for those who suffer from these conditions.

Understanding Food Intolerances

Food intolerances are different from food allergies. While allergies trigger an immune system response, intolerances are usually related to the digestive system's inability to process certain foods. Symptoms can range from mild discomfort to severe pain, and can include bloating, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and more.

Food intolerances can be caused by a variety of factors. Some people lack the enzymes needed to break down certain types of food. Others may have a sensitivity to certain chemicals or additives in food. In many cases, food intolerances are linked to malabsorption issues.

Common Types of Food Intolerances

Lactose intolerance is one of the most common types of food intolerance. It occurs when the body is unable to break down lactose, a sugar found in milk and dairy products. This is usually due to a deficiency in the enzyme lactase.

Gluten intolerance, also known as non-celiac gluten sensitivity, is another common type of food intolerance. People with this condition experience symptoms similar to those of celiac disease, but without the associated damage to the small intestine.

Diagnosing Food Intolerances

Diagnosing food intolerances can be challenging. Unlike food allergies, there is no single test that can definitively diagnose a food intolerance. Instead, diagnosis is usually based on a process of elimination, which may involve keeping a food diary, eliminating certain foods from the diet, and then reintroducing them to see if symptoms return.

Some medical tests can also help diagnose food intolerances. These may include breath tests, blood tests, and stool tests. However, these tests are not always conclusive, and a negative result does not necessarily rule out a food intolerance.

Understanding Malabsorption

Malabsorption is a condition where the body is unable to properly absorb nutrients from food. This can occur for a variety of reasons, including damage to the small intestine, certain medical conditions, and the use of certain medications.

Malabsorption can lead to a variety of health problems, including nutrient deficiencies, weight loss, and digestive issues. In severe cases, it can lead to malnutrition and other serious health complications.

Causes of Malabsorption

There are many potential causes of malabsorption. Certain diseases and conditions can damage the small intestine, making it harder for the body to absorb nutrients. These include celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and cystic fibrosis.

Some medications can also interfere with the body's ability to absorb nutrients. These include certain antibiotics, antacids, and medications used to treat high cholesterol. In some cases, malabsorption can also be caused by surgical procedures that remove or bypass parts of the small intestine.

Symptoms and Diagnosis of Malabsorption

Symptoms of malabsorption can vary widely, depending on the cause and severity of the condition. Common symptoms include diarrhea, weight loss, bloating, and fatigue. In severe cases, malabsorption can lead to signs of malnutrition, such as muscle wasting and poor growth in children.

Diagnosing malabsorption usually involves a combination of medical history, physical examination, and laboratory tests. These tests may include blood tests, stool tests, and imaging studies of the small intestine. In some cases, a biopsy of the small intestine may be necessary to confirm the diagnosis.

Malabsorption and Food Intolerances

Malabsorption can play a significant role in many food intolerances. When the body is unable to properly absorb nutrients from food, it can lead to symptoms similar to those of a food intolerance. In some cases, the malabsorption may be specific to certain types of food, leading to a food intolerance.

For example, lactose intolerance is essentially a form of malabsorption. People with this condition lack the enzyme lactase, which is needed to break down lactose. As a result, they are unable to properly absorb lactose, leading to symptoms such as bloating, diarrhea, and stomach cramps.

Treatment of Malabsorption-Related Food Intolerances

Treatment for malabsorption-related food intolerances usually involves managing the underlying malabsorption issue. This may involve dietary changes, such as avoiding certain foods or taking supplements to replace missing nutrients.

In some cases, medication may be necessary to treat the underlying cause of the malabsorption. For example, people with celiac disease may need to follow a strict gluten-free diet to prevent damage to their small intestine. Similarly, people with lactose intolerance may benefit from lactase supplements to help them digest lactose.

Living with Malabsorption-Related Food Intolerances

Living with a malabsorption-related food intolerance can be challenging, but it is often manageable with the right treatment and lifestyle changes. It's important to work closely with a healthcare provider to develop a treatment plan that works for you.

It can also be helpful to connect with others who are dealing with similar issues. Support groups, both online and in person, can provide a valuable source of information and emotional support.


Understanding the link between malabsorption and food intolerances can help those affected by these conditions to better manage their symptoms and improve their quality of life. While these conditions can be challenging to live with, they are often manageable with the right treatment and lifestyle changes.

It's important to remember that if you suspect you have a food intolerance or malabsorption issue, you should seek medical advice. Proper diagnosis and treatment can help prevent long-term health complications and improve your overall well-being.

Back to blog

Keto Paleo Low FODMAP Cert, Gut & Ozempic Friendly

1 of 12

Keto. Paleo. No Digestive Triggers. Shop Now

No onion, no garlic – no pain. No gluten, no lactose – no bloat. Low FODMAP certified.

Stop worrying about what you can't eat and start enjoying what you can. No bloat, no pain, no problem.

Our gut friendly keto, paleo and low FODMAP certified products are gluten-free, lactose-free, soy free, no additives, preservatives or fillers and all natural for clean nutrition. Try them today and feel the difference!