Fructose Malabsorption – the what, how, and why.

Fructose malabsorption is possibly one of the more common gut problems that I see in clinic, and in our online programs. Fructose malabsorption occurs when your gut lining is in poor shape, and the fructose molecules cannot absorb through the gut lining – as they are rather large molecules. What then happens, is that the fructose stays in your gut and ferments. Then it expands, creating gas, bloating, pain as well as some or all of these other poor gut health symptoms; depression, anxiety, fatigue, tiredness, arthritis, itchy ears, constant runny nose, post nasal drip, smelly stools, smelly flatulence, constipation, diarrhoea, headaches, migraines, insomnia, itchy skin, hives, sleep disturbances, fluid retention and weight control.

That’s a pretty big list isn’t it. You may have only a few of these signs and symptoms or you may have most of them.

You may be wondering how does fructose malabsorption develop?

Allow me to explain. Fructose malabsorption develops because your gut lining is in poor shape. The gut lining may be in poor shape due to you having food intolerances that are undiagnosed, and you have continued to eat those foods unknowingly or knowingly plus ignored the symptoms.

Fructose malabsorption may occur due to you eating too many high fructose foods, and consuming high fructose drinks such as fruit juices and soft drinks. Stress can also play a large role in the development of poor gut health, but it is not the only contributor.

Fructose malabsorption can develop due to poor food choices, pharmaceutical medications, too much alcohol and caffeine, and gut infections such as gastroenteritis that often occur after a bout of food poisoning. Sadly, I often see fructose malabsorption often occurring due to eating disorders such as anorexia nervosa or bulimia. Sometimes a fructose malabsorption problem does not become apparent until you have decided that you are going to become healthier and start to juice lots of fruits.

You may have had a fructose malabsorption gut problem for many years and have just put up with the symptoms, not realising that your symptoms are from fructose, or you have known but have been unsure how to address the problem.

Poor gut health is commonly called leaky gut syndrome, but with a fructose malabsorption problem it is not so much the leakiness of the gut that is problematic, it is the damaged villi that cause most of the problems. What happens is – that the food that you eat that contains high amounts of fructose or fructans cannot pass through the villi, as it is too much for the villi to process and the molecules that need to pass through are too big. Fructose is absorbed through the gut lining passively, and when it cannot pass through it stays in the gut and ferments and creates large amounts of gas which then cause pain, bloating and other health symptoms that I have previously described.

The key with addressing fructose malabsorption is to drastically reduce fructose or fructan containing foods from the diet. Note: it is impossible to remove all fructose from the diet, but it is possible to reduce it enough for your symptoms to clear.

Your gut is then slowly able to repair as the problematic foods have been removed, your gut does also need additional help with healing and there are specific gut healing powders and herbs that will help to speed up the process. I always recommend this as a low fructose diet is not ideal for long term gut health, as many fructose foods contain inulin and other fibres that are important for your microbiome. The fibres in fructose foods, especially garlic, onions, bananas, lentils and artichokes actually provide your microbiome with the bacteria to grow your own good bacteria. This keeps your immune system in great shape, your gut healthy, and contributes to good mental health.

If you think it is possible that you have a fructose malabsorption problem you can buy our online gut healing program here, or you can make a time for a naturopathic consultation here so we can organise testing, confirmation and proceed with individualised treatment.