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Are Fructose Malabsorption Symptoms Causing My IBS?

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Our food system is incredibly complex! Deciphering the ingredients of your diet is extremely challenging. It's even more difficult when attempting to figure out what's causing your stomach pain. We were in the same proverbial boat with our tummies. 

Until I discovered these low FODMAP recipes!

That's why we started The Gut Program!

The Gut Program helps tons of people identify the trigger foods that provoke IBS symptoms and other food sensitives. The nutritional packages available in this program categorize which foods you can eat, and which ones will worsen your abdominal discomfort. The system is simple to use and is designed to help save you time and money. Instead of sifting through ingredient lists, eating bland tasting food, and worrying about your nutritional intake—you can take advantage of the Gut Program!

Whether you suspect you have irritable bowel syndrome or are experiencing fructose malabsorption symptoms, your gut is probably not feeling great well after eating certain foods. The first step is figuring out which foods are the culprits. With the prevalence of fructose sensitivity, this is a good place to begin. You can find low FODMAP ratings here!

Understanding Fructose Malabsorption Symptoms

Many tummy maladies have similar symptoms. Bloating, constipation, abdominal pain, and diarrhea are common symptoms of both IBS and fructose malabsorption.

My gut symptoms improved when I started replacing fast food with these gluten-free crackers!

Those with fructose malabsorption or fructose sensitivities may also feel dizziness, reflux, heartburn, lethargy, depression, and headaches. Finding the cure for these symptoms may be as simple as ridding fructose from your diet. 

Some foods that are high in fructose:

  • Apples 
  • Pears
  • Honeydew
  • Mango
  • Peach
  • Watermelon
  • Honey

'Breaking Down' Fructose 

Many abdominal discomforts like fructose malabsorption symptoms stem from high fructose corn syrup, which has risen in consumption by 1,000% from the 1970s. High fructose corn syrup has what's called fructose—a sugar that occurs naturally in many fruits and some vegetables.

Fructose is also found in honey, table sugar, and processed foods. Of course, foods with higher amounts of fructose will be harder to absorb. A good rule-of-thumb for determining foods that have high fructose levels is—if it's sweet it probably has fructose! But not all sweets are also bad for the gut! This book will tell you if your snacks are low or high in FODMAP.


When glucose is mixed with fructose in an equal or greater amount, this makes fructose easier to absorb. Choose starchy foods like russet potatoes, sweet potatoes, and sweet yellow corn that are higher in glucose by at least 50%. 

What is Fructose Malabsorption?

Fructose Malabsorption Symptoms

Fructose malabsorption is when your body has difficulty metabolizing or breaking down fructose in the digestive system. Most fructose is broken down in the small intestine, the first stop in the digestive tract. The unabsorbed fructose is carried to the colon where naturally-occurring bacteria produce gases in a process called bacterial fermentation. Methane, hydrogen, and carbon dioxide gases swell up in the intestines causing the painful sensations linked with fructose malabsorption symptoms.  Clinical studies have shown that between 10 to 50% of the U.S. population cannot absorb 25 grams of fructose. While around 80% of us cannot absorb 50 grams of fructose.  

Testing for Fructose Malabsorption

After dealing with fructose malabsorption symptoms you can visit a physicians' office for a Hydrogen Breath Test. No blood is drawn and there are also home-kits available. The breath test analyzes your breath for the detection of the hydrogen and methane gases released from bacterial fermentation of unabsorbed fructose. 

However, the test is problematic. Some have tested positive without symptoms, while others test negative with continuing abdominal pain. These breath tests do not test for carbon dioxide or osmotic effects leaving discrepancies. They also test for pure liquid fructose which is more difficult to absorb. This means many who don't have fructose malabsorption symptoms will test positive and vice-versa.

The margin for error with the Hydrogen Breath Test leaves one of the best ways of testing for symptoms is undergoing a trial fructose-free diet. Rid all fructose from your diet for 2-6 weeks and observe. If your symptoms begin to decline, then you have discovered your trigger food. Please be advised that you should always consult a physician and dietician when undergoing nutritional therapy diets. 

Fructose Malabsorption Symptoms & IBS

Many associate fructose malabsorption symptoms with IBS-D (diarrhea type) but fructose can also cause symptoms of IBS-C (constipation type).  Depending on your body's metabolism, and the amount of fructose you ate, will affect the severity of your symptoms. Some people have a higher tolerance for fructose. Others will have difficulty with only a few grams of fructose and will need to avoid eating foods with fructose altogether.  

  • Once the bacteria start interacting with the fructose in your intestine, gases are generated, and you'll begin feeling fructose malabsorption symptoms.  After consumption, unabsorbed liquid fructose takes around 2-3 hours to begin feeling the effects. 
  • Solid foods containing fructose take longer to metabolize. This means that anywhere from 3 to 8 hours after you ingest foods with fructose is when you'll begin feeling abdominal discomfort.
  • If you feel immediate discomfort this is probably due to osmotic effects, or rapid fluid shifts. This is when fructose will draw excessive water to your GI tract causing diarrhea. 

Treating fructose malabsorption symptoms is usually as simple as following a fructose-free diet. 

The Low FODMAP Diet

An academic study from Monash University found that 28% of IBS patients were triggered by 25 grams of liquid fructose. The same academic team found that 56% of IBS patients reported symptoms decreasing after beginning a low-fructose diet while 20% of patients from the same study reported feeling complete relief. 

If you have been diagnosed with IBS it's a good idea to begin a low FODMAP diet that can not only alleviate your symptoms but can help you plan out a well-balanced meal plan that's easy to stick with. Not to mention, it actually tastes good! Check out The Gut Program for more information on jump-starting your diet with a low FODMAP diet program.

AuthorAbout The Author: Drew is the founder of The Gut Program and a gut health expert. His work has been featured on The Gut Program,, Ask Men, and The Gut BrainConnection Community. Learn more at his personal site.

Want to know the top 10 tips for starting the low FODMAP Diet and get a FREE recipe?

Even if you are new the low FODMAP diet or an expert, these tips will help you get started on the right foot! We will cover how to get started, how to read labels, the elimination phase and more. A FREE recipe and grocery guide are included!

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