Treatment involves finding ways for you to absorb more nutrients so your symptoms can be controlled. The options include:
- Special diets
- Eating small, frequent meals
- Vitamin and mineral supplements
- Medications to control diarrhea and help your small intestine absorb nutrients
- Nutritional support, either tube feeding through the stomach or small intestine (enteral nutrition) or feeding into a vein (total parenteral nutrition or TPN)
Your Mayo treatment team will regularly assess your care plan to make sure your nutritional needs are met.
The success of treatment depends partly on which sections of the small bowel were removed, and how much small bowel remains. Over time, the inner lining of the remaining small bowel may grow, increasing the bowel's ability to absorb nutrients. This "intestinal adaptation" can take up to two years.
Mayo research suggests that under the careful supervision of care providers, some people with short bowel syndrome may be weaned off tube feeding or intravenous nutrition. The factors that affect the success of weaning include:
- The overall length of remaining small bowel. People with at least two to three feet of small bowel and a colon, or at least five feet of small bowel and no colon, can usually be completely weaned from tube feeding or intravenous nutrition.
- An intact ileocecal valve. This sphincter muscle slows the movement of food through the bowel and allows more nutrients to be absorbed.
- An intact ileum. This part of the small bowel is more adaptive and absorbs more nutrients than does the jejunum. The ileum's presence makes successful weaning from tube feeding or intravenous nutrition likelier.
- Overall bowel health. Weaning off intravenous nutrition may be difficult for people with active Crohn's disease, radiation enteritis or cancer.