Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fructose Malabsorption: When Your Bowl of Cherries Is Too Big

Cherries AND the Game of Thrones book!  Win win!
Nothing, really compares to fresh cherries.  Sweet, succulent, and bursting with summer.  You can preserve it all you want, but, but jammed, jellied, frozen, it's just not the same.  So when cherries are in season, I rationalize the price and buy up big bags of it.

Well, turns out I'm really the only one in the house who really cares.  The pit turns off the young 'uns, and Foodgoat just doesn't seem to be a fruit person in general.  So it was left to me to eat several pounds of cherries.  Not that I mind.  Bursts with summer, remember?
This is not the bowl I ate.  I ate a much bigger bowl.
So one day at work, I had a bowl of cherries.  A big bowl.  A much bigger bowl of cherries than one might normally eat.

And two hours later I had the worst stomachache ever.  The WORST.  Just in time for a work meeting too!

Of course I had to google my symptoms, because nothing's more fun that self-diagnosing with the Internet!  Even though the obvious explanation is that nobody should eat so many cherries.

I discovered fructose malabsorption, a digestive disorder (formerly known as dietary fructose intolerance) where the small intestine has a limited ability to absorb fructose, less than 25g per sitting.  When they eat too much, the unabsorbed fructose goes on to the large intestine, gets fermented by bacteria, and causes a range of gastrointestinal symptoms.

Fructose malabsorption has been estimated to affect from 30% to 80% of the adult American population  and may affect children as well.  Seems awfully common, doesn't it?

How do you treat it?  Avoid fructose, foods with a high fructose-to-glucose ratio (glucose helps you digest fructose, did you know that?), high fructose corn syrup, and sorbital (some sugar-free sweeteners are converted to fructose during digestion, did you know that?). 

It sounds a lot like lactose intolerance, just with fruit.

Do I have fructose malabsorption?  Maybe not.  Okay, probably not.  Even healthy people have a limited ability absorb fructose, between 25-50g of fructose per sitting.  I'm going to say I had a pound of cherries.  One pound has about 28 g of fructose.  Right in the range of the limit of what normal people can handle. And clearly too much for me.

So maybe I don't have a disease.  Maybe I'm just a cherry glutton. 


  1. I think you're just a cherry glutton. ;-)

    A friend from Australia has fructose malabsorption and then last year also diagnosed with Celiac. If you have to constantly looking for a restroom, that's a sign there. No onion, no garlic, and certain kinds of vegetables, and no gluten. At least he could have some dairy. It was interesting trying to find things for him to eat in the US. Thank goodness we're at least sensitive to gluten-free needs.

  2. Anonymous12:59 AM

    I bought what I guess was a two-pound bag of cherries today. I ate about half of it earlier in the day and wondered why I had a stomachache before dinner. It is almost midnight and I just sat down with the rest of the cherries (to practically finish them off), but wanted to see if I was over-doing the fructose. That's when I saw I'm doing about the same thing with these cherries that you did!

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