Sugar is a four letter word

...when you live with Fructose Malabsorption

NOTE: This is NOT a book or writing related post. This post and others tagged "Fructose Malabsorption" are filed under "Author Life" because this is my life: where sugar is a 4-letter word.


I'm here to talk about something near and dear to my heart, and hopefully, raise a little awareness for an underdiagnosed dietary condition.

I'm a fructose malabsorption sufferer.

This is my personal journey from suffering almost constant gut problems for most of my adult life to living symptom free with a happier gut.

What is Fructose?

Fructose is also known as fruit sugar. It's found in fruit, honey, high fructose corn syrup (hfcs), and many vegetables. It also lurks as a component of processed foods, table sugar, syrup, agave syrup, and many other foods such as wheat (the fructans in wheat break down into fructose).

It's important to note that fructose is not the same as glucose! Glucose is the sugar many people associate with being necessary for life. Fructose is more like a cheap, fake imitation and absolutely non essential to a healthy diet.

What is Fructose Malabsorption?

This is the term used when fructose is not fully absorbed in the small intestines and passes through to the large intestines. Once fructose makes it to the large intestines, three things happen:

  1. Water permeates into the large intestines. This excess water causes diarrhea. (But for some fructose malabsorption sufferers, the opposite happens.)
  2. The bacteria living in your large intestines eat the excess fructose and produce gas. This causes bloating - sometimes very intense and painful bloating. I call this the pseudo pregnant belly response.
  3. The hydrogen gas produced by the bacteria is purged from the body as horrid, nasty gas.

Everyone who suffers from fructose malabsorption has different threshold levels, trigger foods, and reactions. No two fructose malabsorption sufferers are alike! Some people can tolerate more fructose than others. And oftentimes, levels of tolerance increase or decrease depending on the overall health of your gut.

Any other symptoms?

The most common symptoms are the ones mentioned above: bloating, gas, cramping and diarrhea. However, when diarrhea occurs over prolonged periods, deficiencies of folic acid, zinc, iron, calcium, vitamin C and vitamin E can appear.

Other symptoms include fatigue, headaches, brain fog, and mood changes. Personally, I suffered from all of these. The brain fog is the one that blindsided me the most. I never realized how hard it was to think. Writing after I starting managing my fructose malabsorption became SO much easier and in my opinion, the depth and quality of my writing improved too.

Is there a cure?

Short answer - no.

More complicated answer - you can greatly reduce the intensity and number of attacks by:

Eliminating or limiting how much fructose enters the large intestines.

And...this is my life now.

I need to be vigilant about what I eat and how I cook it. The days of eating frozen TV dinners and living off surgery cereal and flavored coffee creamer are over. Unfortunately, so is the convenience of those foods. My life is now filled with preparing most meals from scratch or relying on the few takeout items I've discovered don't trigger an attack. And...I'm okay with that because for the first time in well over two decades, I feel good. Too bad it took me this long to figure out my issues but I'll save that story for another post.

Check back for more posts tagged "Fructose Malabsorption" under "Author Life" if you're interested in learning more about this dietary condition.
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