Fructose Malabsorption Symptoms in Children vs Adults

Fructose Malabsorption Symptoms

Fructose malabsorption (previously known as dietary fructose intolerance) refers to a condition in which the intestines do not fully break down the sugar enzyme, fructose. In people without the disorder between 25 and 50 grams of fructose can be absorbed in the small intestine in each sitting. However, those who have the digestive woe are unable to properly process this amount, and 25 grams or less are adequately broken down in the intestines per intake. The disorder is typically easily diagnosed by a fructose malabsorption test, which is known as a hydrogen breath test. This investigation involves the consumption of a fructose filled beverage, which is followed by exhalation into an apparatus that is similar to a balloon. Hydrogen output is measured during this test, which can identify whether or not intolerance to fructose is present. However, getting to a diagnosis and a test in the first place can be difficult due to the often challenging identification of fructose malabsorption symptoms in children and adults.

Symptoms of the condition can vary somewhat from children to adults. However, some indications are commonly found in many people experiencing an impaired ability to process fructose, regardless of age. One of these is abdominal gas. From big people to little people, abdominal gas can be present when the ability to break down the sugar is impaired. Gas can also lead to and be associated with stomach bloating, and both can create painful sensations in the abdomen as well as feelings of fullness and even cramping. The bloating related to fructose malabsorption occurs from the fermentation of the sugar within the intestines. Other fructose malabsorption symptoms that can occur in both adults and children include nausea, constipation and diarrhea.

Because many of the symptoms of improper fructose processing are gastrointestinal in nature, it is not uncommon for the condition to be mistaken for irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). IBS refers to a collection of gastrointestinal symptoms that can create acute or long term discomfort, and it is thought to be one of the most common bloating causes. Upset stomach, vomiting, bowel irregularity, stomach cramping, gassiness and flatulence and feelings of constant indigestion have all been associated with irritable bowel syndrome, and this is likely why the two conditions are often confused. Interestingly enough, it is thought that intolerance to fructose may be one of the most common causes of IBS.

However, there are many fructose malabsorption symptoms that are not gastrointestinal in nature, and these can vary between children and adults. For instance in adults, signs of depression, headaches, acne, reflux, rashes and eczema have been observed, along with excessive carbohydrate cravings. Conversely, infants may encounter skin rashes and colic. In children, stomach cramping and stomach aches may be the predominantly complained about symptoms, although abdominal pain is a nearly universal sign of the condition.

Because of the high sugar content of the American diet, fructose malabsorption symptoms are seen more in this region than in most other parts of the world. Diets that are higher in refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup contribute to this. Perhaps not surprisingly, fructose intolerance is best managed with dietary changes. Cutting out high fructose foods like concentrated fruit juice, honey, and products containing corn syrup is essential. What may be surprising though are the healthy fruits that also fall into this category. Mangos, honeydew melon, papaya, watermelon, raisins, dried figs and quince are all considered higher fructose fruits. But, these can possibly be substituted with lower fructose fruits like peaches, plums, citrus, pineapples and raspberries, which can potentially lead to a reduction in fructose malabsorption symptoms, when enjoyed in place of higher fructose alternatives as a part of a fructose intolerance diet.

It is important that if an inability or inadequacy to process fructose is suspected that it be discussed with a health care provider. He or she will help to determine if dietary fructose is responsible for symptoms or if there is another underlying cause. Additionally, a health care provider can also help to differentiate between irritable bowel syndrome symptoms and those related to fructose intolerance, as well as determine whether or not a link between the two may be present in an individual. Finally, a doctor can be an invaluable resource for dietary information should a diagnosis of fructose intolerance be delivered, in order to reduce discomfort and prevent future incidences of fructose malabsorption symptoms.