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Poor Food Digestion Symptoms

By Nancy Clarke ; Updated August 14, 2017

Your digestive system can malfunction for many reasons, so you’ll need a correct diagnosis to put your symptoms into perspective. You may suffer from slow digestion and difficult bowel movements, or food may pass too quickly through your intestines for healthy digestion. A nutritional deficiency can display specific symptoms related to a diet low in vitamins or minerals. According to the USDA Dietary Guidelines for Americans, a lack of adequate fiber is a common reason for poor food digestion symptoms.


Constipation often indicates a dietary imbalance or nutritional deficiency. This symptom occurs when the colon absorbs too much water during digestion, resulting in hard stools that your body has trouble eliminating. You may have fewer than three bowel movements a week, straining during elimination and bloating in the periods in between. According to the National Institutes of Health, too much dietary fat, a lack of dietary fiber, pregnancy or surgery can initiate constipation.


Your stomach may fail to pass food along to the intestines at an efficient rate, causing digestion to pause or halt. Delayed stomach emptying, or gastroparesis, can create vomiting symptoms; you'll regurgitate undigested food particles several hours after eating. The American College of Gastroenterology notes that you can distinguish this symptom from vomiting associated with a virus when it recurs or is associated with a sensation of feeling full soon after eating. Symptoms of nausea and bloating may also indicate poor digestion.


Malabsorption of nutrients triggered by a food intolerance or nutritional disorder may cause several types of diarrhea or otherwise abnormal stools. As the Merck Medical Library states, poorly digested sugars can cause explosive diarrhea, while poorly digested fats can result in unusually light-colored stools. Lactose-intolerant people may experience chronic diarrhea, nausea, flatulence and bloating. Your doctor may evaluate a stool sample that has undigested food content, to see why food is moving through your intestinal region too quickly.

Weight Loss

Unintentional weight loss, especially when eating a healthy diet, may point to digestive malfunctions. For instance, the Merck Medical Library reports that children who develop lactose intolerance may not gain weight at a normal rate when their diets contain milk. In other situations, chronic diarrhea and/or reduced nutrient absorption can cause weight loss. Losing weight in conjunction with diarrhea and other symptoms, such as confusion and skin irregularities, may be specific to a nutrient deficiency, such as inadequate dietary niacin, or vitamin B-3.

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