Short bowel syndrome occurs when an individual is unable to absorb food nutrients properly due to disease of the small intestine, or surgery to remove a significant part of the small intestine1. While short bowel syndrome is not related to allergies, amino acid based formulas may be useful to help provide enough nutrition while the small intestine recovers.
What is the small bowel?
The small bowel, also known as the small intestine, is a tube shaped organ that connects the stomach to the large intestine. It plays an important part in the digestive process by absorbing most of the nutrients and fluids from the foods we eat. Loss of any part of the small intestine makes it more difficult to absorb these important nutrients.
What is short bowel syndrome?
Short bowel syndrome occurs due to the removal of more than 50% of the small bowel. The most common reasons for this in infants and children are abnormalities in the way the intestine has developed and necrotising enterocolitis (NEC), a condition where part of the tissue of the intestine is destroyed2. The body’s reaction to removal of a section of the small intestine varies and symptoms will depend on the amount and part of the small intestine that was lost.
What is the Treatment?
The small intestine has an amazing ability to recover and function following surgery. After a section has been removed, the remaining small intestine can grow longer and increase its ability to absorb nutrients2. This process is called ‘intestinal adaptation’. Short bowel syndrome can improve over time, once intestinal adaptation takes places
During this time it is important your child receives enough fluids and nutrition for growth and development2. To help do this, your child may be prescribed an amino acid-based formula by their doctor. Amino acid based formulas are already ‘digested’ and can be more easily absorbed by the body. This type of formula can help provide the right nutrition while the small bowel adapts.
Short bowel syndrome occurs when an individual is unable to absorb food nutrients properly due to disease of the small intestine, or surgery to remove a significant part of the small intestine
- National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases. 2015. Short bowel syndrome. US Department of Health and Human Services. Viewed 31 May 2016 http://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-topics/digestive-diseases/short-bowel-syndrome/Pages/facts.aspx#sup1
- Better Health Channel. 2012. Short Bowel Syndrome. Victorian Government. Viewed 31 May 2016. https://www.betterhealth.vic.gov.au/health/conditionsandtreatments/short-bowel-syndrome
- Bines et al. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr, 1998; 26:123-128.