Dietary Fructose Intolerance or DFI is a dietary disorder that occurs when the body’s digestive system is incapable of absorbing fructose properly. For those who may not be familiar, fructose is a naturally occurring sugar found in fruits, honey and some vegetables. High concentrations in the form of corn syrup are also used to sweeten many processed foods and beverages.
When individuals who are intolerant to fructose consume these foods, they often experience uncomfortable symptoms, such as bloating, cramps, gas, diarrhea, fatigue and weight loss. These symptoms occur because the body cannot fully absorb the natural sugar in the small intestine during the digestive process. As a result, in the large intestine naturally occurring bacteria break down undigested fructose into carbon dioxide and hydrogen gases, as well as short chain fatty acids.
Research studies show that dietary fructose intolerance is associated with several conditions, including an increase in plasma and liver triglyceride levels, a moderate elevation of amylase and lipase-enzymes in blood levels, lower Vitamin E, Vitamin C and glutathione activities, the onset of mental depression and more.
Unfortunately, it is not clear exactly what causes DFI. However, some theories suggest that bacteria, health conditions such as celiac disease, intestinal injury and medical treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation may be involved.
Dietary fructose intolerance is a fairly common condition. In contrast, it is very different from hereditary fructose intolerance (HFI), which is a genetic disorder and can result in serious health complications, including liver disease and mental retardation if left untreated.
Diagnosing Dietary Fructose Intolerance
A series of noninvasive hydrogen breath tests can identify those who have DFI. A Fructose Intolerance Breath Test checks for the presence hydrogen. A high level of hydrogen indicates a positive finding. Additional tests may be indicated including:
Lactose Breath Test
Glucose Breath Test
Sucrose Breath Test
3C stable Radioisotope
Prior to taking the tests, specific instructions will be given on how to prepare, including what can and cannot be consumed during the 24 period before testing. It is important that patients follow the instructions closely; otherwise, test results will not be accurate.
Treating DFI with Diet
To date researchers have not been able to discover an enzyme that would help break down fructose. Until then, fructose intolerance is treated or managed by restricting the amount of foods and beverages containing fructose in the diet. Additionally, a simple sugar, dextrose, may be used as a substitute.
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