There are several highly effective ways to treat fructose malabsorption – starting with a low fructose diet, some wonderful drugs, which let you eat whatever you want as long you take them before your meal, and some valuable tips to enhance fructose absorption. Already curious? Then read on.
Get relief from Fructose Malabsorption symptoms with a fructose reduced diet
So let’s start with the low fructose diet. Maybe you think, that the solution might be eliminating any fructose-containing foods from the diet. But it is not that simple … or that awful.
Not every food that contains fructose may be a problem for you. Other naturally occurring sugars like glucose also come into play. As I describe under Facts and Symptoms, glucose aids the absorption of fructose along the small bowel. This means that fruits such as papaya can be eaten by malabsorbers without any annoying consequences, as these contain more glucose than fructose.
Fructans are also problematic
Unfortunately, dietary exclusion of fructose in its purest form (as monosaccharide) is not the only thing you should do. You should also avoid fructans during that phase as you might also have difficulties in absorbing them. The role that fructans play in Fructose Malabsorption is still focus of several studies, but it is usually recommended to reduce their intake when having Fructose Malabsorption.
So what are fructans? Fructans are chains of fructose molecules, which normally end with a glucose unit. They can be found in several grains and vegetables, such as artichoke, leek, and onion. You can find detailed information on some problematic foods in the table.
|Aspharagus||1.4 - 4.1%|
|Garlic||9 - 16%|
|Globe artichoke||2 - 6.8%|
|Jerusalem artichoke||16 - 20%|
|Leek||3 - 10%|
|Onion||1.1 - 10.1%|
|Wheat bread (white)||0.7 - 2.8%|
|Wheat flour||1 - 4%|
|Wheat pasta||1 - 4%|
Avoid sorbitol as it worsens Fructose Malabsorption symptoms
Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that is often used as an artificial sweetener in sugar-free (“light”/diet) food. It naturally occurs in stone fruits, such as peaches, cherries, and plums, and often appears in dried fruits, like raisins and figs. Sorbitol worsens the absorption of fructose. Right now, the reason is not fully understood and still under investigation. One reason may be its laxative effect by drawing water into the large intestine. This stimulates bowel movement and reduces the time in which fructose can be absorbed within the small bowel. Another reason may be that sorbitol inhibits the GLUT5 transport protein.
So, what exactly should I do?
In general, for Fructose Malabsorption treatment it’s best to restrict the intake of foods with high fructose and a fructose:glucose ratio > 1, fructans, and sugar alcohols like sorbitol. Check out my Favourable Foods, my free nutrition guide, or one of the apps you can find in My Resources for detailed information about what food contains how much and therefore should be avoided or can be eaten without nasty consequences.
Studies have shown – and this is also my personal experience – that following a fructose reduced diet will bring you a significant improvement in symptoms . After about 1 month of strict Fructose Malabsorption diet, I haven’t had any symptoms of cramps, pain, diarrhea, heartburn, and hypoglycemia anymore. And this is awesome!
Besides that, fructose is no essential nutrient for a human and is unlike glucose no preferred energy source for muscles or the brain. It will be converted into fat to a large extent. So, reducing the ingestion of fructose will also have other positive effects.
And here are the important phases of the low fructose diet
- Phase (Elimination): Try to eliminate fructose, fructans, sucrose, which is broken down by the human body into glucose and fructose, and sorbitol, which is also converted to fructose and glucose, for 4-6 weeks. I know it is hard, as fructose hides everywhere. But you should try it. Your fructose thresholds may somewhat increase by doing so.
- Phase (Testing): Then, gradually reintroduce small amounts of fructose to determine your new threshold. For example, start with fruits with a fructose:glucose ratio of 1 or less and low sorbitol content (e.g. bananas and grapes). Do not try to eliminate fructose completely from your nutrition after the first phase. Otherwise, your symptoms may worsen in the long term, as the production of the GLUT5 transport protein will be reduced.
- Phase (Low fructose nutrition): Your goal should be a fructose reduced nutrition without any Fructose Malabsorption symptoms after the first two phases. If you follow the first two steps properly, this can be a possible goal for you!
More useful rules for the Fructose Malabsorption diet
Avoid the following foods or reduce them:
- All dried fruits
- Stone fruits, which contain high amounts of sorbitol, such as peach and apricot
- Sugar-free (“light”) candies, gums and drinks, as they are sweetened with sorbitol or other sugar alcohols
- Fruit juices and sweetened soft drinks
- Sweetened milk products and yogurts
- Sweet baked goods, as they are often made with fructose or at least sucrose
- Foods with high fructan content, such as wheat, tomato paste, artichokes, onions, asparagus, and chicory
- Food that causes flatulence, like cabbage and legumes
Tips for an effective and more pleasant fructose-free diet:
- Check out my Favourable Foods or one of the apps you can find in My Resources for foods you are allowed to eat
- Use alternative sweeteners for sweetening foods
- Eat only completely ripened bananas, as they have a better fructose:glucose ratio
- Drink no cider and no sweet wines
- Strictly avoid onions, as these are one of the greatest contributors to the Fructose Malabsorption symptoms
- Read food labels carefully! (I was shocked to see onions, artificial sweeteners like sorbitol, and fructose on so many labels.)
Keep in mind, that such a diet may lead to a deficiency of certain nutrients. So please consult a doctor or a nutritionist, if you are feeling bad during that diet or if you are just uncertain.
But now, I want you to take action and give it a try!
Do you have more useful tips? Please leave a comment below.
- Susan J Sheperd, M Nut Diet, APD*; Peter R Gibson, MD, MB, FRACP. Fructose Malabsorption and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Guidelines for Effective Dietary Management, Journal of the American Dietetic Association, 2006:106:1631-1639.