Fructose Malabsorption and Digestive Health

Fructose-sodaA common, but still relatively unknown cause of digestive problems is fructose malabsorption. More and more people are becoming aware of the dangers of high fructose corn syrup to their health, but fewer would know that excess fructose can also lead to bloating, intestinal cramps and excessive gas.

Ahead is just what fructose is, why so many people are experiencing fructose malabsorption and a list of both high fructose foods, drinks, sweeteners and fruits and fructose free or low fructose alternatives for better health.

What is Fructose?

Many fruits and most sweeteners contain high levels of fructose. This simple sugar is usually absorbed in moderate amounts in your upper intestine. The problem with fructose is that the now common processed food diet contains far too much of it.

Fructose is sometimes called fruit sugar and fruits are the traditional source of it. Your digestive system can usually comfortably deal with the amount of fructose in the occasional apple, pear or kiwi fruit. It’s a different story however, when we start consuming excessive amounts from sweeteners found in many processed foods, and particularly sugary drinks.

Common table sugar is a big source of fructose, but in recent decades it has been eclipsed by the huge increase in high fructose corn syrup consumption. Also known as HFCS, this highly fattening ingredient, strongly linked to an increased risk of serious disease, has been added to a staggering number of processed foods. So much so that it’s quite a challenge to find a product without it in the middle aisles of most supermarkets.

By far the biggest source of high fructose corn syrup in most American diets through, are sugary beverages like soda, ‘sport’ drinks and commercial fruit juices.

So called sport drinks and packaged fruit juices often contain more than 50 grams of fructose per 33 oz bottle. Even worse, a large 34 oz bottle of the most popular soda contains 108 grams of total sugars, or 27 teaspoons, of which up to 65% of these are fructose (and that’s just the start of the health problems with this dangerous drink).

What Causes Fructose Malabsorption

All of us will experience an inability to metabolize fructose at high enough levels, though just where this level is appears to vary considerably from person to person. Some people can guzzle fructose laden sodas and fruit juices without obvious, or at least immediate problems. While others will suffer bloating, intestinal cramps and excessive gas when they drink much lesser amounts of these products.

Studies show that approximately 30% of healthy adults can’t absorb more than 50 grams of fructose without experiencing gastrointestinal distress and up to 70% of patients with irritable bowel syndrome have fructose intolerance.

When you give your digestive system too much fructose for it to absorb, it has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is down to your lower intestine for bacterial break down.

Fructose is a favorite food for colon bacteria and they proliferate and produce large amounts of gas in the presence of excess fructose. Symptoms of fructose malabsorption include bloating, abdominal pain and cramps, increased intestinal noises, flatulence and diarrhea.

Fructose-foodsDespite all of this, fructose malabsorption is one of the simplest causes of bloating and excessive flatulence to fix. You just need to have less of it.

Unlike indigestible oligosaccharides found in beans and gas producing vegetables, fructose can be absorbed in your upper intestine and utilized by your body. Just not in the ridiculous amounts too many of us are regularly consuming.

High Fructose Foods and Drinks

Use this list of high fructose sweeteners, drinks, processed foods and fruits to see where the most likely sources of fructose are in your diet. Aside from otherwise healthy fruit, any of the others that you can remove or greatly reduce can not only help digestive problems, they’ll also likely improve both your waistline and your overall health.

Fructose Sweeteners

  • High fructose corn syrup
  • Agave syrup
  • White sugar
  • Honey
  • Golden syrup and most other syrup sweeteners

Fructose Sweetened Drinks

  • Sodas, especially cola
  • Commercial apple, grape, pear and orange juices
  • ‘Sport’ and ‘energy’ drinks
  • Mango, guava, apricot nectar
  • Iced teas
  • Fruit punch drinks

High Fructose Foods

  • Canned apples, pears and other fruits with syrup
  • Fruit based baby food
  • Dried fruits like sultanas, raisins, apple, dates, prunes and figs
  • Bottles sauces and condiments
  • Desserts like cakes and ice cream
  • Sweetened snacks like pastries, cookies and candy
  • Snack bars
  • Fast food hamburgers, salads and most other items on the menu
  • Canned and packaged soups
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Most sweet tasting and many savory processed foods

High Fructose Fruits

  • Apples
  • Grapes
  • Pears
  • Watermelon
  • Berries
  • Kiwi fruit
  • Cherries
  • Bananas
  • All dried fruit

Of this list, the fruits are by far the healthiest source of fructose, but it’s still a good idea to limit those for a while too if you’re experiencing digestive issues.

High fructose corn syrup has no place in a healthy diet. It will not only increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and liver failure, it’s also one of the most effective fatteners of the human body ever invented.

So go through this list and see what you can eliminate. There’s a more thorough list with just about every fructose containing food here if you’re wondering about a food or drink that isn’t listed.

Replacing soda with healthier alternatives and cutting back on sugary snacks is a great start, but other foods you may have thought of as healthy, like canned fruit or apple juice, are also important to ditch. This is not just for bloating and flatulence, but for your long term health and wellbeing.

Next is a list of fructose free or low fructose foods, drinks and sweeteners you can use as an alternative to the high fructose products above. There’s also a list of low fructose fruits which are the best choices to eat if you have fructose malabsorption that is leading to digestive problems like bloating, abdominal cramps and excessive flatulence.

Fructose Free or Low Fructose Alternatives

Low Fructose or Fructose Free Sweeteners

  • Stevia
  • Coconut sugar
  • Dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids, preferably higher)
  • Maple syrup (check it doesn’t have added HFCS)
  • Lakanto

Fructose Free and Low Fructose Drinks

Fructose Free Foods

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish and Seafood
  • Nuts and Seeds
  • Coconut oil, olive oil, avocado oil
  • Herbs and spices
  • Rare packaged foods without terms like syrup or fructose on the label
  • All Paleo approved recipes

Low Fructose Fruits

  • Papaya
  • Pineapple
  • Lemon
  • Lime
  • Grapefruit
  • Clementines
  • Apricot
  • Peach
  • Nectarine
  • Cranberries
  • Cantaloupe
  • Avocado

Cutting back on the amount of fructose you consume isn’t just good for reducing your gastrointestinal problems like bloating and flatulence either. Fructose is a highly fattening substance, metabolized by your liver into triglycerides and strongly linked to an increased risk of many life threatening diseases.

If you drink sugary sodas or commercial fruit juices these will usually be the biggest sources of fructose in your diet. Swapping out these for healthier alternatives is one of the best things you can do for your health.

If you suspect you may have fructose malabsorption, then compare this list of high fructose foods and low fructose alternatives and see where you can make some changes. Your body will thank you for it in more ways than one.

Photo 1 credit: dcJohn / Photo 2 credit: Phil King / Photo 3 credit: beautifulcataya

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