Sugar Allergy May Not Exist, but Sugar Intolerance Does
Food allergies and intolerances are nothing rare. A lot of people all over the world are sensitive to foods like milk (or lactose), peanuts, nuts, wheat (or gluten), soy, egg, fish and shellfish, and other foods. However, rare food allergies or sensitivities may also develop in some cases. There are people who experience abnormal reactions after eating sugar. And while a true sugar allergy is extremely rare and almost non-existent, sugar intolerance is quite a commonly occurring condition.
Sugar is a common and sometimes unavoidable part of our diets. Both natural and processed foods may contain this ingredient. When we consume sugar, cells in your body use it to produce energy. Therefore, an allergy or intolerance to sugar may lead to serious health complications.
Prevention of the symptoms of sugar intolerance may require avoidance of sugar in your diet. In this article, we will discuss the ways to avoid exposure to sugar and the health complications associated with sugar intolerance.
What’s the Difference between Sugar Allergy and Sugar Intolerance?
According to existing data, there have been hardly any reported cases of a true sugar allergy. On the contrary, sugar intolerance is a common phenomenon. Both conditions imply the development of abnormal symptoms after eating sugar. However, there are a number of key differences between the two.
When it comes to an allergy to sugar or any other allergy, the symptoms a person experiences are a result of the immune system’s overreaction to a substance that is normally harmless. The immune system tries to get rid of an allergen by releasing chemical called histamine, which is responsible for many allergy symptoms.
Sometimes, people confuse an allergy with intolerance. However, food intolerance doesn’t have anything to do with the immune system. It rather results from the digestive system’s inability to process a food properly.
The symptoms of food allergies often include: sinus congestion, runny or stuffy nose, sneezing, headaches, nausea or vomiting, abdominal cramps, skin rash or hives, and red skin. In severe cases, people with food allergy may develop anaphylaxis.
Anaphylaxis is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical help. The symptoms of an anaphylactic reaction include: swollen lips, tongue, or throat, difficulty breathing, wheezing, low blood pressure, increased heartbeat rate, as well as dizziness and fainting.
On the other hand, food intolerance causes various digestive problems. The symptoms usually occur several hours after a person eats the food. If you have a sugar intolerance, you may develop bloating, gas, abdominal cramps, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and fatigue. In many cases, nausea or stomach cramps appear first. As the sugar passes through the organs of the digestive system, a person may develop bloating or gas. Diarrhea may occur, when the sugar exits the body. Avoiding sugar helps to avoid these symptoms.
Sometimes, people with sugar intolerance may also experience restlessness or lack of attention.
Lactose intolerance is a typical example of sugar intolerance, which affect up to 65 percent of the global population, according to experts. Being intolerant to lactose means that your body is not able to digest lactose – the sugar contained in milk.
Who Is at Risk for a Sugar Intolerance?
The risk for developing lactose intolerance is higher in people of particular ethnic backgrounds, including West African, Arab, Jewish, Greek, Italian, and East Asian people.
Having other digestive conditions like irritable bowel syndrome, or celiac disease may also contribute to problems with digesting certain sugars, including fructose and lactose.
In addition, being intolerant to certain sugars may also lead to other health complications. Thus, a person with a glucose intolerance may be affected by prediabetes or type 2 diabetes. Besides, fructose intolerance has been associated with a risk for kidney failure.
Sugar intolerance may be dangerous for a person’s health. If you have a severe intolerance to certain types of sugar, you may need to carry required medication with you wherever you go.
The main source of energy used by the cells in our body remains sugar. If you are sensitive to sugar, you will need to find other nutrients to fuel your body enough.
How Can You Control Sugar Intolerance?
Specialists recommend that people or intolerances keep a food journal where they write down everything they eat during the day and the symptoms they experience. This can help to identify foods that are causing abnormal symptoms. You may want to eliminate these foods from your diet afterwards.
If you have sugar intolerance, you will likely need to avoid foods containing the types of sugar you are sensitive to.
Both natural and processed forms of sugars can cause intolerances in some people. Sugars are often contained in foods like fruits or fruit juices, soft drinks and sweetened beverages, milk, baked goods and desserts, condiments (ketchup, jelly, etc.), nut butter and nut milk, as well as prepared breakfast cereals, and granola bars.
What Are the Hidden Sources of Sugar?
Sugar can also be found in food products that some of us don’t even think about. For example, various pasta sauces, salad dressings, and chips contain this ingredient. Therefore, always to make sure to read the ingredients labels of food you are buying.
If you have a sugar intolerance, you may also need to avoid sweet foods containing brown sugar, glucose cane syrup, cane juice, beet, juice, corn syrup, fructose, agave, honey, molasses, and ice syrup.
What Can You Replace Sugar with?
There are various sugar alternatives available on the market. Most people who are sensitive to sugar can tolerate substitutes like stevia, xylitol, saccharin, or aspartame.
However, these artificial sweeteners are still not the best choice, as they are associated with certain potential health problems. Thus, a recent research suggests that many sugar substitutes may contribute to the development of glucose intolerance.
The Bottom Line
Unlike sugar allergy, sugar intolerance is a common condition. If you experience abnormal symptoms after consuming sugar, you should visit your doctor, who will make a proper diagnosis based on your symptoms, medical history, and test results. Your doctor may use blood tests or breath tests to determine sugar intolerance.
In case of intolerance to sugar, you may need to keep an elimination diet and keep a food journal. Working together, you and your doctor will find the best solution to your health problems.