How to Tell If You’re Allergic to Sugar

Updated on March 28, 2019
Katie Lamb profile image

Katie is a previous personal trainer and class instructor helping clients to lose weight and gain lean muscle through diet and exercise.

How to Tell if You're Allergic to Sugar

Sugar can be found in natural forms and manufactured forms and is used in our bodies as an energy source. It generally tastes amazing and the odd sweet treat shouldn’t have a detrimental effect on the majority of us. But, you may be one of the few who have a reaction after sugar consumption, like bloating, gas or even diarrhea.

Usually these reactions can be put down to an intolerance and, so far, no medical establishments have documented any cases of an actual sugar allergy. Professionals believe that sugar allergies are incredibly rare, but can happen—how do you decipher if you have an allergy or an intolerance?

Intolerance vs. Allergy–What’s the Difference?

A food allergy can affect many organs in the body, caused by the immune system having an adverse effect. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and can even be life threatening if medical help isn’t sought out in time. Some symptoms are; stomach pain and cramping, hives, sneezing, diarrhea trouble breathing and anaphylaxis.

Food intolerances are generally when your body is sensitive to a certain food, resulting in your gastrointestinal tract not being able to digest it properly. This can lead to the common symptoms of bloating, stomach ache and gas.

Symptoms are easily confused as can be similar, but the main difference is that an allergy comes from an immune system dysfunction. Also with food intolerances, you will be able to consume a small amount of the food and take something to aid digestion afterwards.

Is There Such a Thing as a Sugar Intolerance?

In most cases eating too much sugar results in us having the ‘’post sugar hangover’’, which can make our energy peak and then have that dramatic burn out. Just like after having too many alcoholic beverages, we can be left to feel lethargic and asking ourselves why we had so much! More sensitive people can be intolerant and yes, in extreme cases be allergic.

Intolerances are a lot more common than allergic reactions and are usually caused by our bodies lacking a certain enzyme necessary to break that food down. It can even be caused by another health condition like; IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Crohn’s Disease or even chronic stress.

What Sugars Cause an Intolerance or Allergy?

- Lactose. Being lactose intolerant means your body can not digest the lactose in certain products.

- Fructose. This is naturally found in food products such as; honey, fruit juices, fruit and veggies.

- Sucrose. Derived from sugar cane and beets, sucrose is known as table sugar.

- Sugar alcohols/sugar substitutes. Found in many low calorie and sugar free items, these can cause intolerances for certain people. They have been reported to cause allergies in severe cases.

How to Treat a Sugar Intolerance or Allergy

If you have severe symptoms after eating sugar, like tightness in the throat, a skin rash or you have trouble breathing, you must visit a medical professional immediately for treatment. If you’re not sure, it’s best to get yourself checked out, instead of waiting to see if symptoms progress into anaphylaxis.

If you notice you’re having symptoms of an intolerance after eating certain sugars, you can try cutting them out of your diet to see if things improve. Try keeping a food diary and start to narrow down the sugars you may suspect might be causing you problems. It can be harsh cutting everything out all at once, so cutting down bit by bit can be a lot more manageable and may help to pinpoint the culprit. Either way check in with your doctor, to rule out any other possible medical conditions.

Managing Your Sugar Intolerance

Being intolerant to certain sugars, may mean you’re at risk to other problems. Intolerance to glucose, could mean pre-diabetes and fructose intolerance could mean a higher risk of kidney failure. If you think you have a sugar intolerance, check in with your GP to find the cause and any other complications it could lead to.

Keep in mind that sugar is an energy source and if you have to eliminate a certain sugar from your body due to an intolerance, you need to find other sources to fuel your body. Remember sugars come in many forms including natural and manufactured and you’ll need to read labels closely to detect hidden forms of sugar. Sugars or sweeteners can be under these names;

- High fructose corn syrup

- Glucose cane syrup

- Cane juice or beet sugar

- Agave

- Molasses

- Honey or ice syrup

- Substitutes like; xylitol, stevia, saccharin and aspartame

If you suspect you have a sugar intolerance or sugar allergy, it’s best to consult your doctor before committing to any diet or treatment. Food allergies can be a sign of an underlying condition, or that you have a possible sensitivity in the GI tract.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.

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