short bowel syndrome

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Short bowel syndrome is a condition in which your body is unable to absorb enough nutrients from the foods you eat because you don't have enough small intestine.

The small intestine is where the majority of the nutrients you eat are absorbed into your body during digestion.

Short bowel syndrome can occur when:

Portions of the small intestine have been surgically removed. Conditions that may require surgical removal of large portions of the small intestine include Crohn's disease, cancer, traumatic injuries and blood clots in the arteries that provide blood to the intestines.

Portions of the small intestine are missing or damaged at birth. Babies may be born with a short small intestine or with a damaged small intestine that must be surgically removed.

Short bowel syndrome treatment typically involves special diets and nutritional supplements and may require nutrition through a vein (parenteral nutrition) to prevent malnutrition.


Symptoms of short bowel syndrome can vary, but the most common one is diarrhea. Because diarrhea can lead to dehydration and malnutrition, it’s a serious symptom and must be treated.

Other symptoms of short bowel syndrome may include:

weight loss

bodily weakness and fatigue

cramping and bloating in the belly

swelling in the legs (edema)

nausea and vomiting

foul-smelling or pale, greasy stool

heartburn and gas


Causes of short bowel syndrome include having parts of your small intestine removed during surgery, or being born with some of the small intestine missing or damaged. Conditions that may require surgical removal of portions of the small intestine include Crohn's disease, cancer, injuries and blood clots.

Risk factors

Crohn disease —most common reason for the removal of the small intestine.

Vascular problems.

Premature birth or very low birth weight.

Necrotizing enterocolitis.

Intestinal atresias.


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Complications that can — but won’t necessarily — result from short bowel syndrome include:

gallstones and kidney stones

intestinal bacterial overgrowth

peptic ulcers

any of the conditionsdescribed in the “Symptoms”section above

In addition, treatments may cause complications, such as:

catheter-related infections, blood clots, and kidney or liver problems developing from TPN

organ rejection and infections developing after a transplant


It's best to eat small meals often. Don't have foods that are high in simple carbohydrates, such as juices. Some people with severe short bowel syndrome will need long-term parenteral nutrition. This can sometimes cause problems.

small, frequent feedings.

avoiding foods that can cause diarrhea, such as foods high in sugar, protein, and fiber.

avoiding high-fat foods.