In my part time profession as a health technician, I test patients for dietary intolerances. Unfortunately I am considered as one of the UNLUCKY ones that has lactose, fructose, sucrose and sorbitol intolerance (so sad, I know). Having had years of experience with dietary restrictions and trial and error with foods, I have become a self-proclaimed expert in providing dietary advice for patients who get the bad (or good) news from me if they are intolerant to a certain sugar.
For those of you interested, here’s how the test works. Patients are required to;
- Restrict their diet the day before the test
- Turn up at 9am (8:30 for early birds like me)
- Breathe into a machine that detects hydrogen levels in the breath in parts per million (ppm)
- Give them a drink (eg. lactose solution for a lactose test)
- Breathe into a machine every 30 mins for 3 hours to monitor breath hydrogen levels
Following the test, we can generally give a good indication of whether the patient is intolerant or not depending on the hydrogen levels of the patient. If the patient’s hydrogen levels rise 20 ppm above the baseline reading, this suggests an overactivity of bacteria in the bowels – which is consistent with malabsorption.
The question I pose is, WHY!? Why have some of us evolved to absorb certain sugars over others?
An astonishing 1 in 3 people have fructose malabsorption. Fructose can be found in foods such as honey, tree and vine fruits, berries and most root vegetables. Most importantly it has been developed from sugar cane, sugar beets and corn (high fructose corn syrup) as a cheap commercial sweetener and additive to soft drinks and processed foods.
I came across a theory which provided an explanation for the increasing prevalence of fructose malabsorption in our western society. It was suggested that the high prevalence of fructose as a sweetener and additive to pre-packaged foods leads to over-consumption of fructose, resulting in the body’s inability to deal with it. Not only does excess consumption of pre-packaged foods contribute to increased levels of dietary intolerances, it can also contribute to the ever increasing incidences of type-2 diabetes.
So the next time you feel bloated or in pain after eating an apple or drinking a bottle of coke, chances are you could have fructose malabsorption, making supermarket foods in your diet a thing of the past.