Food intolerances consist of the inability of the digestive tract to break down certain food components effectively. One manifestation of a food intolerance is fructose.
Let’s break down what it means to have a fructose intolerance, how you can recognize the signs of fructose intolerance, and what foods you can avoid to minimize those symptoms.
what is fructose intolerance?
Fructose is one of a group of carbohydrates called simple sugars or monosaccharides. It can show up in everything from certain fruits (fructose is often called “fruit sugar”) and vegetables to honey, and even processed foods.
A fructose intolerance occurs when you cannot properly absorb fructose in the digestive tract. When that is the case, the fructose passes through the smaller intestines and into the lower intestines, where it breaks down through fermentation, causing uncomfortable gas and bloating in the process.
types of fructose intolerance and who has it
There are two types of fructose intolerance. Hereditary fructose intolerance (HFI) is a rare condition inherited from one’s parents.
Digestive fructose intolerance (DFI) is called fructose malabsorption. It is estimated to be present in 30-40% of the population and simply means over time, the body struggles to absorb fructose sugars.
what foods have fructose?
There are many foods that contain fructose, starting with the obvious candidate: fruit. Apples, pears, cherries, watermelon, grapes, and similar fruits contain a lot of fructose. In addition, some vegetables, like asparagus, sugar snaps, zucchini, and artichokes, are fructose-heavy.
The association with fruits spills over into similar products, too. Raisins, figs, dates, and other dried fruits can be troublesome for those with a fructose intolerance, as can fruit juices, jams, fruit compotes, and applesauce.
As already mentioned, honey is also a concern, as is a variety of other sweeteners, including maple syrup, agave syrup, molasses, palm and coconut sugar, sorghum, and the self-betraying ingredient “high-fructose corn syrup.”
The ability of fructose to sweeten also means it can be present in many processed foods, where it is consistently used as a sweetener. This includes things like cookies, dressings, cereals, and soft drinks. If you’re concerned about fructose intake, read your labels.
how can you recognize fructose intolerance?
When you have a fructose intolerance, there are some tell-tale symptoms, including:
- Bloating and gas
- Either diarrhea or constipation
- Intestinal cramping
- Abdominal pain
Many of these are symptoms that are common with other food intolerances, too, which is why it’s always wise to discuss your symptoms and potential intolerance concerns with your primary care physician as well as a certified food dietician.
managing a fructose intolerance
A fructose intolerance is never fun. It can leave you bloated, uncomfortable, and even in pain.
If you suspect you’re dealing with a fructose intolerance, it’s wise to take steps to diagnose the issue and address your symptoms. A low-fructose diet can help with this. For instance, certain fruits like bananas, blueberries, carrots, and avocados are low-fructose options.
The important thing is that you take that first step by committing to resolve your digestive issues. Review the symptoms and signs above. If you can relate to them and you’re suspicious that a fructose intolerance is at the root of the problem, take action now so that you can start enjoying your food again.