Fructose malabsorption symptoms and how we learned all about it

A little history

I thought it would be important to outline the journey of how we learned of TQ’s fructose malabsorption. Fructose malabsorption is largely not talked about. I have a felling however, that we are going to see it rise in diagnosis as more information comes to light.

Fructose malabsorption peeks at age 9-11 in kids and it affects more girls than boys interestingly. It should also be noted that up to 70% of adults suffering with IBS (or irritable bowel syndrome) may have fructose intolerance. How many commercials do you see on the TV about digestive health? It really is more common than we realize. Fructose malabsorption symptoms include abdominal cramps, diarrhea, excessive gas and nausea. (Sorry, not pleasant to talk about :))

Stomach problems

Seems like TQ started with his stomach problems around age 5. He often complained his stomach hurt, he had no appetite, he was grumpy. I know what you’re thinking if you do the math… why did I wait so long to get this figured out. Coincidently, this was the age he started with ADHD medicine. The stimulant medicine he was prescribed causes all these symptoms as well. I worked with his Dr’s to find one that seemed to be less abrasive on his stomach.

A few years went by and although his symptoms didn’t really improve, they didn’t get worse and it was manageable. TQ really didn’t like being off his ADHD meds during school, he felt much more in control with them. However, I always took him off the ADHD medicine for summer break. The summer of his 4th grade year was no different. As a few months went by, we noticed that his focusing and hyperactivity really had improved, despite being off of his medicine.

As children with ADHD get older they learn to manage themselves, and their brains learn to reroute signals. He was taking some summer classes for fun, doing summer homework and did great. We thought maybe he didn’t need his medicine anymore! Wow! That was great! So, he started 5th grade without medicine…. ( I need to mention that this was not solely my decision- I was guided by TQ’s Drs)

Stomach problems increased at age 10

During the start if his 5th grade year we saw the rise of stomach symptoms and allergies. Poor guy, his stomach cramps got so severe he had to leave class a few times. He rarely ate lunch because he was so uncomfortable, it didn’t make sense. Well, that got me thinking….. If he was off of the stimulant medicine for 5 months, why is he still having stomach problems, surely the stimulant medicine has worked through his system by now.

I started with a call to the pediatrician, followed my his allergist. Seemingly out of the clear blue sky he developed some new food allergies that year so it seemed logical that maybe this was all a result of a more severe allergy. The allergist ran full panels of seasonal and food allergies as well as blood tests and we learned a bunch. He had new allergies to tree nuts and wheat.

Meanwhile, I started suspecting milk products (after keeping food journals), I researched to find a pediatric gastroenterologist. TQ was adopted from Korea and I thought there was a high percentage of the Asian population that was lactose intolerant. More food diaries, diets, scopes where they looked at his stomach and intestines while taking biopsies all came back clean. Later he was indeed diagnosed with lactose intolerance after completing the test for that (it involves performing a breath test in hour intervals after drinking a solution). The Dr gave me a high five and said good luck and eliminate milk products ( hehehe not exactly, but you understand).

The Tests

Seemed like a month went by on his new lactose free diet and his symptoms improved…. A little. At this point, I was getting very frustrated because I was expecting to see some more conclusive results. He still continued with the cramps and diarrhea almost daily. Drs said give it more time, his system needed to adjust- I didn’t buy it. If you remove offending foods for several months then the stomach cramps, bloating and ugliness should go away. That only meant that there was something else.

Google to the rescue. I read ferociously about all kinds of things – and on Google you can convince yourself you have all kinds of deathly diseases if your not careful -hehehe. However, fructose malabsorption came up a few times with the lactose intolerance symptoms, so I investigated that further. Holy smokes, it fit TQ to a tee! And not just because I wanted it to. Sadly, TQ’s favorite food is fruit! All fruit=fructose. He ate fruit for lunch when nothing else seemed appetizing he ate fruit for snacks, and dinner.His most favorites were apples, pears and mangoes – ugh! (very high fructose content)

The diagnosis revealed

I also learned the test for fructose malabsorption is nothing more than a breath test similar to testing for lactose intolerance. At that moment I called the gastrointerologist’s office and asked for the test. We conducted the test over that following weekend. The results came back with my son being the new poster child for fructose malabsorption. A score over 20 indicates fructose malabsorption and with a score of 117 he blew it out of the water.  The big mystery solved.

But, now what? ……. Our Dr. offered no help or resources other than seeing a nutritionist. The journey of living with fructose malabsorption began……..