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Diet for Malabsorption

You might need to follow a diet for malabsorption if you have had surgery to either your stomach or small intestine, suffer from pancreatic insufficiency or have an inflamed bowel caused by a chronic disease such as celiac disease or ulcerative colitis. The diet requires you to limit your intake of fiber, fat and lactose -- the sugar found in milk -- as well as other sugars in some cases. Other foods might also need to be limited, depending on your degree of malabsorption and additional medical issues. The following is a basic guide, and you should consult your doctor or dietitian to help you design a plan based on your individual needs.

Diet Guidelines

The diet for malabsorption is meant to help decrease your diarrhea and improve your nutritional status. Eating small, frequent meals might improve tolerance and decrease diarrhea. Limiting your intake of foods that exacerbate diarrhea can also help, including foods high in fat such as fried foods, high fat meats, gravies and rich desserts, and foods high in fiber such as fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains and legumes. The lactose in milk and other dairy products can also cause diarrhea and should be avoided. Concentrated sweets, such as soda, sugar and sweet desserts, might also be a problem and should be avoided or limited depending on your tolerance. It is also recommended that you drink liquids between meals.


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Grains provide your body with calories, energy and B vitamins. All of your grain choices should be made from refined flours to reduce fiber and roughage. Good choices include white bread, white rice, white pasta and refined ready-to-eat cereals such as corn flakes, farina and saltine crackers.


Fruits are an important source of nutrients in your diet, especially potassium. Chronic diarrhea causes your body to lose a lot of potassium, making it important that you get adequate intakes from your diet. Fruits are also a source of fiber, so you need to be careful of your choices. Good fruit choices for malabsorption include ripe bananas, canned or cooked fruits without skins or seeds, and diluted juice.


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Vegetables are also a good source of potassium -- and like fruits, a source of fiber. Good choices include cooked or canned green beans, carrots, potatoes without the skin, beets, spinach, squash, mushrooms, asparagus and peas. Chronic diarrhea also causes your body to lose a lot of sodium. Vegetable juices are high in potassium and sodium, and can help you replace your losses.


Your body needs an adequate intake of protein to support immune health and lean body mass. Good choices on your diet include lean, tender or ground meats such as poultry, veal, pork, beef or fish. Eggs are also a good source of protein and usually are well tolerated, along with creamy peanut butter.

Dairy Foods

Dairy foods provide your body with calcium for bone health. However, you need to be careful about your choices to limit your intake of lactose. Include lactose-free, low-fat or nonfat milk, small amounts of cottage cheese, cream cheese and yogurt without fruit or nuts.

Added Fats

Added fats provide calories, but you need to limit your intake to four to six servings a day to help limit malabsorption. Healthy fats and serving sizes include 1 tsp. of butter, margarine or oil; 1 tbsp. of low-fat mayonnaise; 1 tbsp. of salad dressing; 2 tbsp. of low-fat salad dressing; or 1 tbsp. of gravy.