Sugar Spoonie Series Part III: Sucrose 101

We saved the best tasting sugar molecule for last, sucrose. Commonly known as plain old table sugar, the kind people have been spooning into their morning coffee for decades. Sucrose is the main sugar molecule found in cookies, candies and cakes. However, it is also found in high levels in certain fruits, sauces and salad dressings.

Sucrose is a disaccharide sugar molecule, a combination of two monosaccharide sugar molecules, glucose and fructose. It is estimated that 1 in 5000 people of European descent have sucrose intolerance, more formally known as Genetic Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency (GSID). Sucrose intolerance (GSID) is the condition in which sucrase-isomaltase, an enzyme needed for proper metabolism of sucrose (table sugar) and starch (i.e., grains and rice), is not produced or the enzyme produced is either partially functional or non-functional in the small intestine.

When an individual cannot digest sucrose, he/she develop often painful and life altering gastrointestinal (GI) symptoms after consuming food or beverages containing sucrose. Many patients who have GSID (sucrose intolerance) also have irregular amounts of the enzymes required for starch digestion, so they often experience similar GI symptoms after eating starchy foods (bread, potatoes).

Symptoms of Sucrose Intolerance (GSID):

  • Stomach cramps
  • Bloating
  • Excess gas
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting

It is important to note, that GSID symptoms might present differently in children than adults since adults have a longer GI tract. So often the symptoms are not as severe in adults as they are in children. Symptoms in children do not begin manifesting until they begin to ingest sucrose or starchy foods like formula, juices or medicine sweetened with sucrose.

Symptoms of Sucrose Intolerance (GSID) in Infants and Children:

  • Chronic abdominal pain
  • Watery diarrhea
  • Failure to thrive (poor physical growth)
  • Abdominal swelling
  • Gassiness
  • Colic
  • Irritability
  • Vomiting
  • Diaper rash

You would be surprised to find how many items on our grocery store shelves contain high levels of sucrose. Here is a detailed list of foods high in sucrose. Some offenders are apple juice, flavored coffee creamer and packaged pasta sauce. If you or your child is experiencing the above symptoms after consuming foods high in sucrose or starch, keep a food journal and write down what was consumed and what were the symptoms. This way when you make an appointment with your gastroenterologist (digestion specialty physician), it will give the doctor great insight into what may be causing the digestive distress.

The good news is food intolerances and sensitivities are treatable either through a customized diet plan and/or medication. Often the challenge is getting the proper diagnosis, as so many gut illnesses have overlapping symptoms, plus GSID still has a low level of awareness among many doctors. This is why keeping a food and symptoms journal is so helpful to a physician. The doctor can assess your information and prescribe additional testing.

For those of you, or your children, who have already been diagnosed with sucrose intolerance (GSID), 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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