Sucrose Intolerance – Cause, Symptom and Treatment
Sucrose Intolerance: Sucrose is common sugar also known as white sugar or table sugar. This sugar has a rapid absorption rate due to the very short length of its molecular structure, which is the combination of only two monosaccharides.
It is the smallest components within the group of carbohydrates, others are glucose and fructose. By containing two molecules monosaccharides, sucrose is a disaccharide.
What is the Sucrose Intolerance:
The intolerance to sucrose consists of an alteration that occurs at the digestive level, specifically in the intestinal area. Sucrose Intolerance is due to the absence of the enzyme responsible for separating the two molecules of sucrose. This enzyme is called ‘Sucrase‘.
Without the action of this enzyme, sucrose cannot be digested and therefore absorbed. For the same reason, sucrose cannot cross the intestinal wall and continue their way through the large intestine until they are eliminated by the anal canal.
Occasionally, a total absence of Sucrase can be found in some patients, so that small amounts of sucrose can trigger the symptoms of intolerance. But many people contain minimal amounts of the enzyme, so they tolerate certain small amounts of sucrose that can be digested.
In these cases, it is important to discover the threshold limit of the amount of sucrose that these people can take up to saturate enzyme levels. When this level is exceeded it is likely that the amount of sucrose that remains undigested causes the symptoms.
Fortunately, the prevalence of this intolerance is very low in the world in general, being somewhat higher among the inhabitants of Canada and Greenland.
In many cases, the intolerance to sucrose is associated with the deficit of other digestive enzymes that digest other sugars such as lactose or milk sugar and fructose or fruit sugar. In these cases, the alteration affects the sugars that can not be digested normally due to enzymatic deficiency.
Causes of Sucrose Intolerance:
As I mentioned earlier the cause of sucrose intolerance is the deficit of the enzyme that helps in the digestion of sugar: Sucrase. This deficiency has a genetic origin and is present from birth.
In some occasions, and when there is already a certain predisposition, this lack of sucrase can be unnoticed until ages where the consumption of sucrose is higher.
In the case of babies, at the time they introduce the fruits or infant formulas with sugar addiction it is usually when the symptoms are noticed and the intolerance is discovered.
Also, some children may tolerate greater amounts of sucrose over the years and begin as a serious problem of digestion, may lead to major alterations.
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Symptoms of Sucrose Intolerance:
If you suffer continuously from discomfort in the digestive system without apparent cause, you should be aware of what you eat, because many people develop intolerance to sucrose over time, and triggers the annoying symptoms by eating mixed foods with simple sugars.
Sucrose (a simple sugar) is a monosaccharide that includes glucose and fructose, is synthesized in the body by an enzyme called Sucrase, which divides the molecules and digests them.
Thus, when there is a lack of said enzyme this kind of intolerance is generated because the body is not able to metabolize its components. Usually, it is derived from genetic factors. Let’s see some of its symptoms:
- Abdominal swelling,
- Cramps in the stomach.
This condition can often be confused with lactose intolerance, and the only way to know which of these two intolerances is suffered is through medical tests.
The main cause of the intolerance to sucrose seems to be of a non-physical nature, that is, organic and functional, and, in some cases, even psychological, since the triggering factor would be stress.
This state of continuous tension produces cortisol, the stress hormone, which regulates the production of insulin. Additionally, the pancreas, due to stress, would increase the secretion of insulin, in such a way that the organism would be intolerant to sugars.
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Consequences of Sucrose Intolerance:
Obviously, this intolerance has some consequences also. The people who suffer it, at the beginning tend to lose weight even if they eat in excess, then end up gaining weight.
Another consequence of this discomfort is hypoglycemia. In fact, the body is exposed to a temporary lack of sugar and the first organ that feels this discomfort is the brain, which needs sugar.
It should be mentioned that the intolerance to sucrose does not cause diabetes, but in the long term it can.
In turn, other symptoms are generated, not serious, but annoying, such as nausea, abdominal swelling, nervous tension, alterations in the bacterial flora, therefore, constipation, dysentery and a continuous need to eat.
The more sugars are swallowed, the more you notice the need to eat foods that contain it.
Diagnosis of Sucrose intolerance:
It is possible through genetic analysis or determination of enzymatic activity in small bowel biopsies during endoscopy and the C12-sucrose breath test, these are the most accurate diagnostic methods.
The tests hydrogen breath and breathing sucrose are simple and useful, but less accurate. A proper study of the patient’s medical history and observation of food-related reactions may indicate the source of the food intolerance.
The nutritional history should include:
- Identification of suspect food, drinks, sweets, candy, or chewing gum.
- How much time elapses after having eaten for the onset of symptoms?
- What types of symptoms occur?
- How much food is required to cause a reaction?
- Does the reaction occur with each meal?
- Does the reaction only happen under certain circumstances? For example, when doing exercises or in stress?
- When did the last reaction happen?
- Are fever, asthma, eczema present?
- Do any other members of the family have allergic reactions to food? If so, who?
Sucrose Intolerance Test:
The tests of breathing are the most useful and non-invasive tests to determine the many intolerances to various sugars. For example fructose, lactose, sucrose, and sugar alcohol (sorbitol, xylitol).
They are well validated, widely used, but there are still some discussions about the ideal conditions to carry out the test.
These tests should not be used in children, in fact, small doses of this test are applied in infants. The examination procedures are identical for all intolerances.
The following recommendations are important details to follow for an adequate test procedure:
- Dietary restrictions, no smoking or excessive exercise from the day before the test, as well as not taking antibiotics in the last week before the test.
- Ingestion of a specific amount of sugar or sugar alcohol to be analyzed for intolerance.
- Regular breathing samples were taken for a standardized period.
- Diary of symptoms during the next day to keep a record of them.
- Measurement of specific gases, for example, hydrogen and methane, in breathing samples.
Remember that an intolerance is diagnosed based on the symptoms following the test and the concentrations of the gases in the breathing samples. The diagnosis is confirmed by a significant decrease in symptoms while following a diet low in poorly tolerated sugar or sugar alcohol.
A tip from a dietitian expert is of great help to identify food and drinks that have difficulty identifying the ingredient to which they are intolerant.
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Treatment of Sucrose Intolerance:
The basic treatment foresees the intake of supplements that contain the Sucrase enzyme. This should be taken with sodium alginate to prevent the acidity of the stomach from destroying the supplement capsule before it takes effect. In addition, it is necessary to eliminate the consumption of refined sugar, which can be replaced by a little fructose.
Remember that it is useful to know what is the right diet for those intolerant to sucrose, hence, the best treatment is that approved and recommended by a doctor.
There are remedies to mitigate, at least in part, this type of intolerance, especially by eliminating the simple sugars of one’s own diet, not only sucrose, that is, the classic white and refined sugar, but also all the foods in which it is present, therefore, candy, sweets, cookies, alcoholic beverages, wine, soft drinks, and fruit juices containing sugar.
On the other hand, the intake of complex but integral carbohydrates should be preferred because, thanks to their fiber supply, they are able to prevent sudden increases in blood sugar levels.
Another useful tip to balance the glycemia can be to add the root of ginger in the dishes and also replace white sugar with agave syrup, or maple, which lower the glycemic index.
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What to Eat and to Avoid if you Sucrose Intolerant?
One of the main ways to prevent the symptoms of sucrose intolerance is to avoid foods high in sucrose content, and beverages, including dried fruits, canned fruits, fruit juice, applesauce and Other processed fruit products:
Honey, maple syrup and any processed food or drink that is high in sugar content. Particularly those made with high fructose corn syrup, including many of the soft drinks, which tend to be poorly tolerated.
Fresh fructose-rich fruits that can be problematic include apples, pears, watermelon, and mangoes.
Asparagus, tomatoes, and artichokes are rich in fructose compared to most vegetables, so they may not be very well tolerated.
While foods containing fructans, including garlic, leeks, onions and whole wheat products, can trigger symptoms.
Additionally, many fresh fruits can be well tolerated in small proportions, so avoiding them would not be entirely necessary.
Finally, avoid foods that have sugar in one of their first four main ingredients.
In relation to what you can eat, you would not need any nutritional supplement when you follow a diet low in sucrose. In fact, you will get the nutrients that your body needs through a healthy and well-balanced diet.
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