Fructose malabsorption – Diet, Symptoms, Causes, Treatment

Fructose malabsorption occurs when a person cannot absorb fructose, the type of sugar that is found in fruits. When the ability of the body to absorb fructose is impaired, fructose will pass through the intestine and will be broken down by bacteria leading to unpleasant gastrointestinal symptoms like gaseous bloating and diarrhea. The malabsorption of fructose will also result to the increased propagation of intestinal yeast and bacteria which metabolize fructose.

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A Hydrogen breath test will reveal if a person is suffering from fructose malabsorption. It is the same test used in diagnosing lactose intolerance. The treatment for fructose malabsorption helps sufferers by alleviating the unpleasant intestinal symptoms, reducing the blood sugar level and any damage to the kidneys and liver.

What is fructose malabsorption?

Fructose is a type of sugar found in fruits, wheat, sugar cane, some vegetables, honey and sugar beets. It is also present in commercial foods and beverages because it is used as a sweetener. Fructose malabsorption is a digestive disorder occurring in the small intestines, wherein fructose is not absorbed which makes the intestine highly concentrated with the said sugar causing a number of digestive problems.

Why is fructose not absorbed in the intestines?

Just like any type of sugar, fructose needs transporters to travel through the intestines and to the bloodstream. When the function of the fructose transporter is hinderedthis results in a condition called fructose malabsorption. The body’s ability to absorb fructose might be impeded due to several reasons, and these are:

  • Overabundance of fructose

When there is an excess of fructose, the transporters will become saturated which would result in passing unabsorbed fructose to the intestines.

  • Defective fructose transporter

A defective fructose transporter can be inherited from family members, in which the fructose transporter is not able to move the fructose out to the small intestines. A defective fructose transporter can be detected during childhood.

  • Reduction of the small intestines through surgery

Surgical reduction of small intestines is done if the patient suffers from Crohn’s disease and cancer. The procedure does not only result to malabsorption of fructose but of other sugars as well, such as galactose and glucose.

Malabsoprtion of fructose may also occur due to Celiac disease, radiation or chemotherapy, Small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) and Dumping Syndrome.

Who are at risk of developing fructose malabsorption?

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The condition can affect anyone of any age group, but a higher incidence is noted in children; though the condition is manageable through low-fructose diet. People with medical conditions such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), Crohn’s Disease, Celiac Disease and Dumping Syndrome are also at risk of developing the condition.

Fructose Malabsorption symptoms

People suffering from fructose malabsorption disorder will exhibit symptoms such as:

  • Mild to severe stomach spasms, cramping and pain
  • Constipation
  • Abdominal bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Flatulence
  • Hypoglycemia
  • Oily stools

Secondary symptoms may also occur such as headache, weight loss, sugar cravings, fatigue, mental depression, vomiting, anxiety and chronic heartburn.

How does a low-fructose diet help people with fructose malabsorption problem?

A diet that is low in fructose helps people with problems in absorbing fructose by reducing the severity of digestive symptoms and preventing any further damage to the liver and kidneys. People with problems in digesting and absorbing fructose could tolerate little amounts of fructose, and a low-fructose diet helps them enjoy their meal without worrying over unpleasant digestive symptoms.

What are the things to remember when following a low-fructose diet plan?

A lot of things are involved when following a low-fructose diet plan and its effectiveness depends upon learning what they are.

  • Determine what should be avoided

One of the best ways to deal with the unpleasant symptoms of fructose malabsorption is to avoid the foods that have high fructose content like fruits. Fruits that are rich in fructose include pineapples, pears, mangoes, apples, oranges, watermelon and peaches. Concentrated fruit juices should also be limited. Foods that contain fructose corn syrup must likewise be avoided. Fructose corn syrup is often used as sweeteners in foods and beverages like candy, yogurt, packed desserts, jam, condiments, sports drinks, honey and soda.

  • Learn what should be consumed

There are a number of foods that contain low amounts of fructose such as banana, blueberry, honeydew melon, lime, kiwi, mandarin, strawberry, lemon and grapes. Some vegetables also contain less fructose such as carrots, red bell pepper, lettuce, green beans and celery.

  • Make it a habit to read the labels

This involves reading both the nutritional information and ingredients to determine if the particular food product is safe for your fructose malabsorption problems.

  • Keep a food diary

This helps in tracing down foods that can trigger the symptoms of fructose malabsorption and eliminate them in the diet. A food diary also helps physicians design the treatment plan based on the needs of the individual.

Fructose malabsorption occurs when the body’s ability to absorb fructose is hampered, and the treatment is primarily targeted to alleviate the accompanying symptoms by following a low-fructose diet plan.

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