Sucrose intolerance is a real condition that has been linked to various forms of gastrointestinal distress. Sometimes sugar intolerance is confused with other digestive issues and is often overlooked as a diagnostic possibility. Sucrose is found in sweets and treats, but it’s also found in most fruits and some vegetables. In addition, it is found in many processed foods like crackers and snack bars.
Sucrose is a disaccharide, meaning it is made up of two molecules of sugar, one molecule of fructose and one molecule of glucose. In order for sucrose to be broken down into fructose and glucose (monosaccharides), a patient needs sucrase, a digestive enzyme found in the small intestine. Patients with sucrose intolerance don’t have sufficient sucrase enzyme activity to break down sucrose.
Symptoms of sucrose intolerance include gastrointestinal issues such as diarrhea, constipation, flatulence, vomiting, bloating and abdominal pain. Sucrose intolerance is similar to lactose intolerance. In fact, lactose and sucrose are both disaccharides, which must be broken down into monosaccharides for the body to use as energy.
Sometimes sucrose intolerance is diagnosed in infants, toddlers and very young children. This is typically diagnosed as Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency (CSID). These young children usually have no sucrase enzyme activity at all or very little. Other times, older children, teens and adults can have sucrose intolerance but may not be diagnosed until later in life. Typically, these people would have some sucrase enzyme activity, but not enough to be able to consume a typical Western diet.
There are acquired types of sucrose intolerance as well that are associated with any disease that affects the small intestine. Examples include celiac disease, Inflammatory Bowel Disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome.
Many people that experience gastrointestinal difficulties try to self-diagnose their disorder by eliminating foods from their diet. While eliminating foods is the recommended protocol for sugar intolerance, it is more beneficial to seek the guidance of a medical professional before embarking on a major dietary change. Removing foods from the diet should be done in a methodical manner to find the real culprit. It is difficult to remove all sources of sucrose from your diet as sucrose is found in many common foods.
Tests and other diagnostic tools can be helpful in determining sucrose intolerance without risking your health. By eliminating one food group on their own, patients can create other health issues by missing out on essential nutrients. For example, if you suspect you are lactose intolerant and remove dairy from your diet, then you must be sure to find other sources of calcium and vitamin D so that you don’t become deficient in those nutrients.
If you have ongoing digestive symptoms and you suspect you may have sucrose intolerance, talk to your physician.