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Fructose May Cause Digestive Problems

Common Sweetener Behind 'Unexplained' Pain, Flatulence, Other Symptoms

Only 'Scattered Awareness'

Phil Jaffe, MD, spokesman for the American College of Gastroenterology and associate professor at the University of Connecticut School of Medicine, says that fructose intolerance has earned "scattered awareness" among his colleagues over the past decade but remains underdiagnosed.

"I don't think 75% of my patients who have bloating and discomfort are fructose intolerant, but it probably is a significant number," he tells WebMD. He routinely screens his patients for fructose intolerance.

"Not only was this study well done, but this is an important clinical issue because lots of people with bloating, gas, and other symptoms don't have a good handle on why they have these symptoms," says Jaffe, who also was not involved in the study.

"Unless you are specifically screened for fructose intolerance, you may not know it can be a cause of problems. And fructose is in virtually all processed foods because it is cheaper to use than cane sugar."

Both experts advise that if you notice digestive problems soon after eating, you should see your doctor about getting a fructose breath test. In addition to limiting high-fructose foods, spacing the amount consumed can help you side-step symptoms.

"The issue isn't that you are not able to absorb fructose entirely, it's that you are unable to absorb it in high amounts," says Jaffe. "So if you have a piece of fruit, wait a few hours before you have another if you are among those with these symptoms. If you have small amounts at a time, even if you have malaborption problems, it's likely that you'll better tolerate fructose. But life is too short to eliminate all those high-fructose foods from your diet."

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