It seems that every other person now, from youngest to oldest, has a problem of some sort with some food product. Allergies, Lactose intolerance, Celiac disease. I want to share my story of another, less well-known problem in hopes of saving someone else from the many years of pain and embarrassment that I’ve had. After 30 years of trying to figure out what was the problem with my digestive system, I finally have an answer–Fructose Malabsorption.
My problems began almost as soon as I became pregnant the last time, a change in my all-so-regular bathroom schedule. It wasn’t much at first, an extra trip to the bathroom shortly after my usual daily bowel movement. By the time I was 5 months pregnant, I was usually running to the bathroom several times every morning–and I do mean running. I hoped that after having the baby I would get back to normal.
Instead of normalcy, I developed a new symptom which eventually was discovered to be gallstones. O.k., I thought, I have the gallbladder removed and everything will be fine again.
Nothing has been fine in that department for all these years. For me, the lack of a gallbladder can make greasy foods trigger a bout of diarrhea, but I could deal with watching my intake of Kentucky Fried Chicken. Unfortunately, careful monitoring of greasy foods did not make the problem go away.
I tried watching the milk products, thinking I was lactose intolerant but that wasn’t it. I tried pointing my finger at various other things but nothing seemed to make a difference.
I eventually developed another symptom: painful cramping which can last for hours and totally wear me out. On a really bad day the cramping can trigger nausea and I absolutely hate throwing up while sitting on the toilet! For want of a better label, I call my problem IBS: Irate Bowel Syndrome.
Last November, after several good days, I had a really bad one but I had eaten almost the same things. Once again, I turned to the internet looking for an answer–this time salt is on my hit list. The search led me not to an article about salt and IBS but two separate articles, one about salt and high blood pressure and one about fructose malabsorption and IBS. I started reading and nodding my head, yep, yep, yep. That sounds so familiar! And I had had something with honey in it the day before. Only soda (can you say high fructose corn syrup?) and applesauce have more fructose than honey.
So here’s the deal. Fructose gets to the small intestine where it is picked up by transporters, the mini-vans of your digestive system. If there aren’t enough transporters for the amount of fructose, this unabsorbed amount then travels to the large intestine–probably in the back of a pickup truck–where it causes many kinds of trouble. It creates an osmotic load and is fermented by the good bacteria in the large intestine. In other words, it pulls in moisture which causes diarrhea, and the fermenting causes gas, bloating and pain. It would seem I’m a little short on mini-vans.
Now I’m trying to get a feel for what I can eat, how much fruit can I tolerate before the pickup trucks start loading up. Sugar is no problem as it is sucrose, one molecule of fructose and one of glucose. When these two travel together, they’re more easily absorbed.
Two small slices of canned peaches did me in the next day. A lovely, tasty balsamic vinegar-brown sugar reduction I made also did not go over well. Ice cream with candy pieces has enough HFCS in the candy pieces to kick it over the edge.
The biggest offenders aren’t fruit but the liquid sweeteners: high fructose corn syrup, honey, molasses, agave. Look in your cupboards, check the ingredients on the pre-packaged food. It’s amazing how many items have one of these sweeteners, even stuff you wouldn’t think of like some peanut butters. Smucker’s makes their jams with HFCS and corn syrup instead of sugar so I have to stick to my homemade jams and apple butter but how much? A couple of teaspoons has been as much as I’ve used and so far so good.
It’s a work in progress and I still have bad days as I experiment, but I have almost no really bad days. I miss some things like apple with peanut butter–half an apple one afternoon came back to kick my butt the next day. And I need to learn to eat some vegetables that I have resisted in order to replace the vitamins and minerals I’m not getting from fruit.
This hasn’t been an easy post to write but if I can help one person discover what is causing their distress and save them years of pain, then it’s been worth it. There’s quite a bit of info online about Fructose Malabsorption, but you first have to know to look for it. Now you know, assuming you’ve read this far. 😉