The Rise of Fructose Malabsorption


Fructose MalabsorptionIf you’ve been having stomach troubles, fructose malabsorption may be to blame. Around 1 in 3 people have fructose malabsorption (FM), most of which don’t even know they have it. Could you be one of them? Finding out starts with knowing what FM is. It is a digestive disorder in which the absorption of fructose is impaired within the digestive tract. Individuals with FM have defective fructose receptors, leading to a higher concentration of fructose within the intestines. If you have irritable bowel syndrome, there is a fair chance you might have FM as well, as the two disorders commonly go hand in hand. Here’s your go-to guide on some commonly asked questions about fructose malabsorption.

Quick Fact: In 1977-1978 the average fructose consumption was approximately 37 grams per day.  Now, we’re hovering at 55 grams.  The worst part: consumption was highest among adolescents (12–18 years) at 72.8 g/day (12.1% of total calories), and mostly coming from sugar-sweetened beverages, grains and fruit juice.

What are the symptoms of fructose malabsorption?

Symptoms of fructose malabsorption include bloating, diarrhea and/or constipation, stomach pain, either mild or chronic, flatulence, vomiting, and even depression. It is diagnosed through a hydrogen breath test.

What kinds of foods contain fructose?

Unfortunately, many of your favorite foods probably contain fructose. These include many fruits, such as grapes, raisins, apples, pears, raisins, grapes, and watermelons. Onions, honey, fruit juice, and wheat also have fructose. Additionally, as noted by the name, high fructose corn syrup also contains large numbers of fructose (you probably want to stay far away from HFCS anyway).

On the flip side, pineapples, strawberries, blackberries, lemons, limes, rhubarb, and avocado are the fruits lowest in fructose.

What does a fructose-free diet look like?  

  1. Stay away from these foods.
  2. Consuming foods rich in protein, fat and vegetables low in fructose (click here for list)
  3. Stay away from canned fruit.
  4. Do not consume these fruits if you have FM: Prunes, pears, cherries, peaches, apples, plums, applesauce, apple juice, pear juice, apple cider, grapes, dates, mango, watermelon.
  5. Consume these ‘intestine-friendly’ vegetables: Asparagus, cauliflower, green peppers, broccoli, leafy greens, celery, mushrooms, white potatoes, shallots, spinach, cucumber, root vegetables.
  6. Avoid these at all costs: honey, flavorings with fructose, desserts (ice cream, candy, cookies, bars) sweetened with fructose, cereal or other processed foods fructose on the label.  Note: I never recommended consuming any of these foods (minus the honey in trace amounts).
  7. Stay away from most alcoholic beverages, except for these recommendations.

There isn’t a cure for fructose malabsorption, but it can be managed by limiting the amount of fructose in the diet.