What is Short Bowel Syndrome?

Short bowel syndrome is a physical condition in which the small intestine is considerably shorter than normal. The condition is most often the result of surgery conducted to treat some type of disease, although there are some instance in which the shorter bowel is a birth defect. In either case, the individual suffering with a short bowel is unable to absorb essential nutrients properly through the consumption of food. There are a number of short bowel syndrome symptoms that may be present. The stool is often very sticky or oily, and will have an extremely foul odor. Excess and constant fatigue is often present. The individual suffering with this condition is likely to have trouble maintaining a healthy weight and is often malnourished. At the same time, the body may tend to retain more fluid that normal. Recurring pain in the abdomen is also very common with this syndrome.

Most of the complications are due to the inability of the person suffering with short bowel syndrome to absorb important vitamins and minerals. In particular, the inability to retain vitamins such as A, B12, D, E, and K are common. Among minerals, processing sufficient amounts of calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and folic acid is often impossible. These deficiencies in turn lead to diminished health, manifesting as muscle spasms, anemia, and moderate to severe pain in the bones. There is also the increased chance of bruising easily and lacking the ability to clot blood properly when injured.

Dealing with the effects of short bowel syndrome nutrition deficiencies normally involve both oral and intravenous vitamin and mineral supplements as a means of increasing the potential for maintaining proper nutrition each day. In addition to the supplements, prescription medications to address the discomfort of various pains and the lack of energy are likely to be prescribed by the attending physician.
Along with taking medication and supplements each day, there is a high likelihood that the patient will be placed on a special short bowel syndrome diet that includes foods processed for easier absorption. Often, the diet focuses on the consumption of foods that are loaded with nutrients and are naturally easier for the body to process.

While there is no cure for the condition, surgery is sometimes an option with short bowel syndrome. In situations where the problem is discovered at birth, it is possible to treat pediatric short bowel syndrome with procedures to section and lengthen the bowel may be an option. Bowel transplants have been attempted as a form of treatment for short bowel syndrome but currently are one of the less successful ways of dealing with the problem. At present, the most effective short bowel syndrome treatment is finding ways to provide an adequate amount of nutrition through supplements.