A new resource has been launched to help healthcare professionals identify, assess and manage the symptoms of gastrointestinal intolerance (GI) in malnourished adults.

The guide, by Abbott Nutrition provides support for multi-disciplinary teams working in disadvantaged communities.

When symptoms suggestive of GI intolerance occur, prompt management is essential to prevent dehydration, weight loss and exacerbation of malnutrition, according to the guide. Effective symptom management improves patient quality of life and can help prevent hospital admissions and reduce the high economic burden already posed by malnutrition. But recognising the symptoms of GI intolerance, understanding possible causes and deciding on the best management strategy can be a challenge.

Kelly McCabe, head of dietetics and therapies at the London Oncology Centre and chair of the expert group that developed the guide, said: “GI intolerance affects a large and diverse group of people in the community. It can have a considerable impact on patient quality of life, yet is often under-recognised and under-diagnosed. There is a real need for practical guidance in this area.”

GI intolerance arises as a result of maldigestion and/or malabsorption of food and may be caused by clinical factors such as Coeliac disease, enzyme deficiency or GI surgery; or medicines including antibiotics and laxatives. The main symptoms include diarrhoea, steatorrhoea, bloating and abdominal discomfort.

A recent survey among dietitians indicated that less than 20% of respondents would consider themselves to be very confident in managing all of the symptoms of GI intolerance. In addition, more than three quarters (78%) of survey respondents felt that more guidance is needed to support healthcare professionals dealing with patients experiencing symptoms of GI intolerance in the community.

The consensus guide takes a symptom-based approach that can be used across all patient groups, regardless of the cause of GI intolerance. It brings all of the information together in a concise format that is easy to use on a day-to-day basis and seeks to highlight red flag symptoms which require further specialist referral.

Carole Glencorse, medical director at Abbott Nutrition, said: “The symptoms associated with GI intolerance can be diverse. We anticipate that this practical guide will assist all members of the multi-disciplinary team to better identify and manage GI intolerance in malnourished patients in the community.”