What You Need to Know About Short Bowel Syndrome

Short bowel syndrome, which is also called short gut, occurs as a result of someone having at least half of their small intestine removed, and sometimes the removal of a portion of the large intestine. This leaves the patient unable to absorb water and other nutrients.

To understand the syndrome, we first have to understand exactly what the small intestine is, and the job it performs. This tube-shaped organ is located in between the stomach and the large intestine, and it’s where most food is digested and nutrients are absorbed.

The small intestine is approximately 20 feet long, and includes:

  • Duodenum: The first part of the small intestine where iron and other minerals are absorbed.
  • Jejunum: The middle section of the small intestine, where carbohydrates, proteins, fat, and most vitamins are absorbed.
  • Ileum: The lower end of the small intestine, where bile acids and vitamin B12 are absorbed.

The large intestine is only about five feet long and absorbs water and nutrients from partially digested food. It’s where waste is changed from liquid to solid matter called stool.

Short bowel syndrome is rare. It affects about three in every one million people. It’s caused by a variety of health events. They include, but aren’t limited to:

  • cancer
  • Crohn’s disease
  • gastroschisis
  • internal hernia
  • intestinal atresia
  • intestinal injury
  • intestinal injury from trauma

Some of the health complications of people with short bowel syndrome are malnutrition, peptic ulcers, kidney stones, and intestinal bacterial overgrowth.

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn

Erica Zahn is passionate about raising awareness of rare diseases and disorders and helping people connect with the resources that may ease their journey. Erica has been a caregiver, and is a patient, herself, so she completely relates to the rare disease community--on a deeply personal level.

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