How High Fructose Foods & Drinks Cause Digestive Problems
In this article:
- Why a common sugar in your diet feeds intestinal bacteria.
- How fructose causes bloating, intestinal distress and lots of flatulence.
- What are the highest sources of fructose in your diet from fruits, sweeteners, processed foods and drinks with alternatives.
- How to cut back on fructose, improve your intestinal health and reduce your risk of obesity and many diseases.
What is Fructose?
Many fruits and most sweeteners contain high levels of fructose. This simple sugar is usually absorbed in moderate amounts in your upper intestine. The problem with fructose is that the now common processed food diet contains far too much of it.
Fructose is sometimes called fruit sugar and fruits are the traditional source of it. Your digestive system can usually comfortably deal with the amount of fructose in the occasional apple, pear or kiwi fruit.
It’s a different story however, when you start consuming excessive amounts from the sweeteners found in many processed foods, and particularly sugary drinks.
Common table sugar is a big source of fructose, but in recent decades it has been eclipsed by the huge increase in high fructose corn syrup consumption.
This highly fattening ingredient, strongly linked to an increased risk of serious diseases, has been added to a staggering number of processed foods. So much so that it’s quite a challenge to find a product without it in the middle aisles of most supermarkets.
By far the biggest source of high fructose corn syrup in most American diets through are sugary beverages like soda, ‘sport’ drinks and commercial fruit juices.
So called sport drinks and packaged fruit juices often contain more than 50 grams of fructose per 33 oz bottle. Even worse, a large 34 oz bottle of the most popular soda contains 108 grams of total sugars, or 27 teaspoons, of which up to 65% of this is fructose (and that’s just the start of the health problems with this damaging drink).
To top it all off, carbonated soda introduces excess carbon dioxide gas into your digestive system. Any that you don’t burp out is only going to contribute to more intestinal gas.
Fructose Malabsorption in Your Digestive Tract
All of us will experience an inability to metabolize fructose at high enough levels, though just where this level is appears to vary considerably from person to person. Some can guzzle fructose laden sodas and fruit juices without obvious, or at least immediate problems. While others will suffer bloating, intestinal cramps and excessive gas when they drink much lesser amounts.
Studies show that approximately 30% of healthy adults can’t absorb more than 50 grams of fructose without experiencing gastrointestinal distress and up to 70% of patients with irritable bowel syndrome have fructose intolerance.
When you give your digestive system too much fructose for it to absorb, it has to go somewhere, and that somewhere is down to your lower intestine for bacterial break down.
Fructose is a favorite food for colon bacteria and they proliferate and produce large amounts of gas in the presence of it. Symptoms of fructose malabsorption include bloating, abdominal pain and cramps, increased intestinal noises, excessive flatulence and diarrhea.
Despite all of this, fructose malabsorption is one of the simplest causes of bloating and excessive gas to fix. You just need to have less of it.
Unlike indigestible galactans and fructans, fructose can be absorbed in your upper intestine and utilized by your body. Just not in the ridiculous amounts too many of us are regularly consuming.
High Fructose Foods and Drinks
Use this list of high fructose sweeteners, drinks, processed foods and fruits to see where the most likely sources of fructose are in your diet. Aside from otherwise healthy fruit, any others that you can remove or reduce can not only help digestive problems, it will also likely improve both your waistline and your overall health.
- High fructose corn syrup
- Agave syrup
- White sugar
- Sodas, especially cola
- Commercial apple, grape, pear and orange juices
- ‘Sport’ and ‘energy’ drinks
- Mango, guava, apricot nectar
- Iced teas
- Fruit punch drinks
- Canned apples, pears and other fruits with syrup
- Fruit based baby food
- Dried fruits like sultanas, raisins, apple, dates, prunes and figs
- Bottles sauces and condiments
- Desserts like cakes and ice cream
- Sweetened snacks like pastries, cookies and candy
- Snack bars
- Fast food hamburgers, salads and most other items on the menu
- Canned and packaged soups
- Breakfast cereals
- Most sweet tasting and many savory processed foods
- All dried fruits
Low or Fructose Free Alternatives
- Dark chocolate
- Maple syrup
- Herbal teas
- Lemon water
- Sparkling water
- Freshly made vegetable juices
- Coconut water
- Fish & Seafood
- Coconut oil, olive oil & avocado oil
- Herbs and spices
- Packaged foods without fructose
Cutting Back on Fructose
Of the high fructose list, the fruits are by far the healthiest source of fructose, but it’s still a good idea to limit those for a while too if you’re experiencing digestive issues.
High fructose corn syrup has no place in a healthy diet. It will not only increase your risk of diabetes, heart disease and liver failure, it’s also one of the most effective human body fatteners ever invented.
Replacing soda with healthier alternatives and cutting back on sugary snacks is a great start, but other foods you may have thought of as healthy, like canned fruit or apple juice, are also important to ditch. This is not just for bloating and flatulence, but for your long term health and wellbeing.
- Go through the high fructose list and see what you can replace or eliminate. There’s a more thorough list with just about every fructose containing food here if you’re wondering about a food or drink that isn’t listed.
Photo credit: Henry Burrows