“Fructose intolerance” is a term used interchangeably for hereditary fructose intolerance, a metabolic disease, and fructose malabsorption, intestinal inability to absorb fructose. These are two very distinct health issues.
Hereditary fructose intolerance is a rare genetic disorder, marked by the absence of enzyme aldolase B. This enzyme is involved in metabolic assimilation of dietary sugars. This is a very serious condition as it can lead to permanent liver and kidney damage.
With hereditary fructose intolerance, after the consumption of fructose and sucrose your body cannot change glycogen into glucose. As a result, your blood sugar falls and an unhealthy substance builds up in your liver, kidney and small intestines.
Symptoms of heredity fructose intolerance typically are noticed when a baby first starts on food. Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar that is very often used in numerous foods, including baby food.
Heredity fructose intolerance symptoms caused by eating fruits and foods containing fructose and sucrose may include:
- poor feeding
- enlarged spleen
- excessive sleepiness
- failure to gain weight
- severe abdominal pain
Hereditary fructose intolerance can be life threatening in infants and its symptoms are similar to those of galactosemia and liver disease.
Hereditary fructose intolerance can range from mild to severe. Its possible health complications involve:
For a few suffering from hereditary fructose intolerance, even total removal of fructose and sucrose from their diet may not prevent severe liver disease.
Those with fructose malabsorption, previously referred to as dietary fructose intolerance, have difficulty digesting fructose. It is not a food allergy and it is less of a health concern because it doesn’t cause liver or kidney damage.
Fructose malabsorption frequently causes symptoms of:
Some may experience these symptoms as well:
Generally, the human intestine isn’t designed to absorb an unlimited amount of fructose, so intestinal upset may result when fructose is over-consumed. Doesn’t necessarily mean you have malabsorption, may just mean you ate too much fructose for your body to handle.
Probably the main health worry with fructose malabsorption is diarrhea caused malnutrition, primarily limited opportunity for calcium and iron uptake. And anemia and osteoporosis are possible future health consequences of these deprivations.
Eliminating dietary consumption of fructose, or a fructose free diet, is the staple treatment for either forms of fructose intolerance. Fructose is not an essential nutrient, so you’ll live a healthy life without it.
Unfortunately, adhering to a fructose free diet is not a simple matter of cutting out fruit. Not that easy.
Fructose is in table sugar (half fructose and half glucose) and high fructose corn syrup, and it’s naturally present in other foods. In addition, sorbitol is converted to fructose during healthy digestion.
Here’s just a basic overview of foods to avoid for fructose free diet treatment:
- fruit juices
- sugar cane
- sugar beets
- sweetened milk
- table sugar ~ sucrose
- high fructose corn syrup
- soda, flavored water, sports drinks
- confectioner’s sugar, powdered sugar
Fructose is used to sweeten many processed foods and beverages, so read those labels before you buy.
You may be able to handle some dietary fructose if your malabsorption is mild. And although sucrose does contain fructose, it’s in a bound form, which makes it easier to stomach.
Avoiding fructose and sucrose altogether is the substantial treatment for those with hereditary fructose intolerance. The healthy news is that you’ll likely experience fewer dental caries and not be a candidate for insulin resistance syndrome.
And finally, if you suffer with IBS, some research indicates malabsorption of dietary fructose might trigger its symptoms.