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Symptoms of carbohydrate intolerance include diarrhoea, cramping and flatulence resulting from maldigestion and malabsorption of fermentable short-chain carbohydrates or FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligo-, Di-, Mono-saccharides And Polyols). These carbohydrates include fructose (found in large amounts in certain certain fruits like apple, mango and watermelon, dried fruits, honey and high fructose corn syrup), lactose (found in milk and milk products), fructans (found in wheat, garlic and onions), galactans (found in legumes) and the polyols (includingsuch as sorbitol, and  mannitol, maltitol, xylitol and isomalt (found in stone fruits - e.g nectarine and peach) certain vegetables (e.g. mushrooms and cauliflower).fruits with large seeds in them), certain vegetables and added as artificial sweeteners).

Who’s at risk of carbohydrate intolerance?

“Carbohydrate intolerance appears to be more common in individuals who have an underlying functional gastrointestinal (GI) disorder, such as irritable bowel syndrome,” says Jasly Koo, Dietitian, from the Nutrition and Dietetics Department at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital, a member of the SingHealth group.

How to treat carbohydrate intolerance?

It has been suggested that a low FODMAPs diet may be useful for these individuals as it is hypothesised that FODMAPs are poorly-absorbed in the small intestine, are highly osmotic, and rapidly fermented by the naturally occurring gut bacteria. Hence, following a low FODMAPs diet may reduce symptoms.

“It is advisable to seek your doctor’s advice before starting the diet and to embark on the diet only under a dietitian’s supervision to ensure that your child’s diet isthe diet remains well-balanced and nutritionally adequate and meets his/her growth requirements.while the low FODMAPs diet is trialled for approximately 4 weeks. The diet should then be reviewed by the dietitian, who will then advise on which foods (and the amount) to be reintroduced into the diet”, says Ang Bixia, Senior Dietitian, who's also from the Nutrition and Dietetics Department at KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital.

Fructose intolerance

Fructose intolerance has also been reported. This is due to our intestines having a limited ability to absorb fructose. Hence, large amounts of fructose can bring about symptoms similar to lactose intolerance, i.e. abdominal pain, cramping, diarrhoea and bloating.

Tips for treating fructose intolerance

People with fructose intolerance may need to limit or avoid fruits containing large amounts of fructose such as pears, apple, mango and watermelon. Avoid consuming large amounts of dried fruits and fruit juices as these are concentrated sources of fructose. Foods sweetened with high fructose corn syrup such as soft drinks and confections (sweets, jam) as well as honey can also bring about symptoms. 

Find out more about food additives and the symptoms they trigger in those with food intolerance.

Ref: N18