What is fructose malabsorption?
One in five australians experience gastro symptoms in some way shape or form that come under the term of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS is loosely classified via gastrointestinal symptoms: bloating, abdominal cramps, gas, constipation, diarrhoea, etc. There are many theories for why it occurs, but nothing has been completely confirmed by science. It's believed a variety of triggers may play a role including stress, a gastro bug/parasite/infection, poor diet and/or an imbalance in healthy gut bacteria. This can lead to gut sensitivity, especially to gas production, and/or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO). What we do know, is that more and more of us are having these issues and certain foods are adding fuel to their fire.
A key player for gut distress is that naturally occurring fruit sugar, fructose. It is a fructo-oligosaccharide (FOS). Humans actually don't have the enzymes to break down (FOS) well. So they are "malabsorbed" in all of us, and broken down by the bacteria in our gut. Despite this, many of us tolerate a moderate level of fructose in our diets just fine.
However, for some with a sensitive digestive system or IBS, fructose can cause tummy trouble even with a lower dose. This can be a problem for wholefood/realfood eaters who have cut out all refined sugars and many grains as it's not so much the fructose alone that causes the issues, but the ratio of glucose to fructose in what we eat. Glucose helps 'transport' the fructose molecule, helping more of it to be absorbed, and reducing the unwanted side effects.
As a result, restriction of high fructose foods is recommended to reduce symptoms such as bloating, gas, abdominal distention, pain and fatigue. Fructose isn't just from fruit either - higher fructose foods include honey, agave, some packaged products and vegetables too.
Fructose and Zinc
Some fructose malabsorbers may find they have difficulty with wounds and blemishes healing. They may take longer than normal to heal, and appear more inflamed than usual. This may be contributed to fructose malabsorption. One study found that zinc was poorly absorbed in those with fructose malabsorption. Zinc plays a key role in skin health and wound healing.
If you suspect you may have fructose intolerance - it's best to see a health practitioner who specialises in the area of intolerance and FODMAPs. You may end up cutting out too many foods, or not realising what foods may be causing your symptoms. It may not even be fructose at all. Unnecessarily eliminating foods is not the answer to great gut or overall health. But figuring out what your personal triggers are and avoiding or limiting them - is definitely a step in the right direction!