Short Bowel Syndrome



Short bowel syndrome occurs when half or more of the small intestine is removed. It reduces the absorption of vitamins and minerals from food.

Risk Factors

Factors that may increase the chances of short bowel syndrome:

  • Crohn disease —most common reason for the removal of the small intestine
  • Vascular problems
  • Premature birth or very low birth weight
  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Intestinal atresias
  • Gastroschisis



Symptoms of short bowel syndrome may include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Cramping
  • Bloating
  • Heartburn
  • Malnourishment
  • Poor growth
  • Dehydration
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Weight loss
  • Food sensitivities


Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. Blood tests may also be performed to check for nutritional and absorption problems.



Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:


If you are malnourished, your doctor may give you food, fluid, and electrolytes through an IV. You will be advised to gradually increase your caloric intake and avoid certain foods. Initially, your diet will be high-protein, low-fat, and lactose-free.


In addition to changing your diet, you may need to take vitamin and mineral supplements. Antidiarrheal medications and medications that slow the contraction and relaxation of the intestinal muscles can also slow your digestion so you can absorb more nutrients. Depending on your symptoms, your doctor may prescribe an H2 blocker, a proton pump inhibitor, cholestyramine, and/or octreotide.


Transplantation of small bowel is an option for those who cannot maintain their nutritional status with other treatments.


There are no current guidelines to prevent short bowel syndrome.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.