Short Bowel Syndrome or SBS is known by another name. Short Gut Syndrome or simply short gut is used interchangeably with SBS. It is a malabsorption disorder: a state arising from the abnormality in digestion or absorption of food nutrients across the GI (gastrointestinal) tract. SBS can be caused by internal or external factors.
Internally, some children are born with congenital short bowels which leave them with only 1/3 of the normal length of their small intestines. Necrotizing enterocolitis or NEC is also a medical condition that is primarily seen in premature infants, where portions of the bowel undergo tissue death or necrosis, which often results in SBS. In some rare cases, SBS is caused by the complete dysfunction of a large segment of the bowel; and this usually occurs only when the individual has reached puberty and thereafter.
Externally, especially with cases of cancer, SBS can be caused by the surgical removal of the small intestine. Some drastic methods to reduce food intake by incising parts of the bowel as a dieting tool are also causing SBS. Surgical practices for various diseases like Crohn’s disease, injury or trauma to the small intestine, tumors of the small intestine, Volvulus, or any surgery to remove diseases or damaged portions of the small intestines often results to SBS as well.
Some of the generalized symptoms of SBS include: abdominal pain, fatigue, fluid retention, frequent diarrhea then steatorrhea (oily or foul smelling stool,) severe weight loss and malnutrition. Complications to this medical condition may also include deficiencies in vitamin and mineral intake resulting to anemia, easy bruising, painful muscle spasms, pain felt in the bones, poor blood clotting, and scaling of the skin.
Usually, SBS is treated by prescription medicines, directed at one or two specific symptoms. Anti-diarrheal medicines like codeine and loperamide are given for the diarrhea; lactase supplements to help lessen abdominal bloating and diarrhea associated with lactose intolerance, proton pump inhibitors to reduce stomach acid that may be causing the abdominal pains, and supplements for the vitamin and mineral deficiencies.
For more extreme cases, there is always the option of surgery that may (depending on each medical condition) include intestinal lengthening, intestinal tapering and even organ transplant. Individuals who suffer from the later stages of malnutrition are given parenteral nutrition (PN) or nutrition administered through intravenous line; and / or nutrition administered through gastronomy tube.
Currently, medical researchers are setting their sights on the possible benefits of treating some of the effects caused by Short Bowel Syndrome with human growth hormones. Human growth hormone treatments cannot alleviate all the painful symptoms of SBS. It is however, helpful in reducing some of the discomforts brought about by this medical condition.
Human growth hormones help in the regeneration of cells necessary for healing. It helps develop bone and muscle mass faster than usual. Severe weight loss often exhibited with individuals with SBS leads to muscle atrophy.