Sugar Spoonie Series Part 1: Fructose 101

“Just a spoonful of sugar makes the medicine go down, in a most delightful way.” Maybe this was true for Mary Poppins, but for those who suffer from sugar sensitivity or intolerances there is nothing “delightful” about the side effects.

During the month of February, we are running a three part series focusing on the top three sugars that people are sensitive or intolerant to. Our goal is to raise awareness for these invisible illnesses that affect millions of Americans on a daily basis. Spoonie (#spoonie) is a popular social media support network for those suffering with chronic and invisible illnesses. Today we are starting a subset of the #spoonie community for those who suffer from sensitivities, intolerances or allergies to sugar. Help us spread the word, and use the hashtag #sugarspoonie when posting on social media.

We start our series with a sugar most commonly associated with fruit, fructose. It is a single molecule sugar, which nearly 33% of the population struggles to absorb properly. Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in honey, vegetables, fruits and grains. It is also commonly found in many processed foods like soft drinks and packaged sweets.

Fructose malabsorption is a digestive disorder in which proper absorption of fructose does not take place in the small intestine. In a healthy person, 25-30 grams of fructose are absorbed at one time. However, in people with fructose malabsorption, it is less than 25 grams of fructose is absorbed at any given time.

So what are the symptoms of fructose malabsorption? Many of the symptoms are similar to other gut health conditions, such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) or sucrose intolerance (GSID), which can make diagnosing difficult. So it is important to track your food intake, and then track the symptoms that occur after meals and snacks. Common symptoms of fructose malabsorption are:

  • Bloating
  • Gas
  • Diarrhea or constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Stomach pain
  • Brain fog, mood changes
  • Nausea or vomiting

Fructose malabsorption is on the rise as our modern food system is filled with highly refined sugars. The human body was not built to process such high levels of sugar consumption. For those who are diagnosed with this condition, the treatment is to limit or avoid foods with the sugar fructose. Typically, your doctor will refer you to a nutritionist or registered dietitian to help create a food plan that best works for you. There are some good online resources to find the fructose content of specific foods. For example, salad dressing, baby food and beer often contain high levels of fructose that you may not expect.

If you are experiencing the above listed symptoms, you do not need to suffer. Make an appointment with a gastroenterologist (digestion specialty physician), and bring along your food and symptoms journal. For the millions of you who have already been diagnosed, connect with one another and share your experience, strength and hope by using the hashtag #sugarspoonie.

The hyperlinks to other webpages that are provided in this article were checked for accuracy and appropriateness at the time this article was written. does not continue to check these links to third-party webpages after an article is published, nor is responsible for the content of these third-party sites.

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