Our diets are full of sugar, both in natural and processed forms. Cells in our bodies use sugar for energy, so suffering from an adverse reaction to sugar can cause serious complications.
You can find sugar naturally in milk, fruits, and vegetables. However, processed foods contain added sugar to make them sweeter. You’ll also find that products like ketchup, some medicines, and salad dressings contain sugar.
There are different forms of sugar. These include:
- Fructose: Sugar in fruits and honey
- Maltose: Primarily found in grains like malt. It’s formed by combining two glucose molecules.
- Glucose is an important energy source for the body and requires insulin.
- Xylose: Sugar from wood or straw. It has to undergo an enzymatic process to convert it to xylitol.
- Sucrose: A mixture of glucose and fructose
- Lactose: Milk sugar comprised of glucose and galactose
- Galactose: A sugar in dairy products
Sugar allergy vs sugar intolerance
There are two main reasons why you may suffer from symptoms after consuming sugar. That could be due to sugar allergy or sugar intolerance. When you’re allergic to sugar, your body forms IgE antibodies as soon as you consume sugar. During your second exposure to sugar, which could be days or weeks later, your body sends an alarm to your immune system.
When this happens, it reacts by binding the allergen to the already-formed IgE, which triggers an allergic reaction. On the other hand, food intolerance occurs when your body is sensitive to a food ingredient or lacks sufficient enzymes to break it down.
When you have sugar intolerance, you may be able to consume small bits of it and not have symptoms. Whereas sugar allergy causes symptoms no matter the amount of sugar, you consume. It’s also common to notice severe symptoms that occur a few minutes after consuming sugar when you’re allergic.
However, intolerance symptoms take longer to appear and aren’t life-threatening either. Sugar intolerance is only uncomfortable and can interfere with one’s quality of life. In rare cases, though, you’ll find that sugar allergy can cause life-threatening symptoms such as anaphylaxis.
Sugar allergy causes a reaction from your body’s immune system. But when you have sugar intolerance, it only affects your gastrointestinal tract causing your digestive symptoms. Sugar intolerance is also very common compared to sugar allergy.
Sugar intolerance symptoms
Symptoms of sugar intolerance can vary widely from one individual to the next. The severity also depends on the amount of sugar you’ve consumed. The more sugar consumed, the worse the symptoms. Some of these sugar intolerance symptoms include:
- Stomach pain
- Joint pain
Often intolerance symptoms last until you’ve passed the problematic food. So, these symptoms can last for a while.
Sugar allergy symptoms
When you’re allergic to sugar, you will experience these symptoms within a few minutes to a few hours of consuming sugar. These symptoms may include:
- Skin redness
- Clogged sinuses
- Stomach cramps
- Runny or stuffy stuffed nose
- Rashes or hives
- Nausea or vomiting
Even though rare, a severe sugar allergy symptom known as anaphylaxis may occur. It is life-threatening, and one needs to get immediate urgent care. Symptoms of anaphylaxis include:
- Tightening or constriction of airways
- Loss of consciousness
- A decrease in blood pressure
- Throat swelling making breathing impossible
- Fast heart rate
Anaphylaxis can be stopped by using epinephrine. But even after using this, you’ll need to visit the hospital for observation because allergy symptoms may reappear after a short while. If it’s your first time experiencing an allergic reaction, you must visit the doctor for better help and planning for future accidents.
Treatment for sugar allergy and sugar intolerance
The first way to deal with a sugar allergy or intolerance is by taking an Allergy and Intolerance Test. This test will help you know which sugar your body reacts to and whether you have an allergy or intolerance.
It’s more common to have a sugar intolerance than it is to have a sugar allergy. The most common sugar intolerance is lactose intolerance, affecting around 65% of the population. If you have sugar intolerance, you can change your diet by immensely reducing the amount of sugar you’re consuming or finding an alternative type of sugar you’re not intolerant to.
However, when it comes to sugar allergy, as soon as you know the type of sugar you’re allergic to, avoid it at all costs. Sugar allergy causes severe symptoms, and avoiding this reaction is the best thing you can do for yourself.
If you’re suffering from sugar intolerance, you don’t need to fear it becoming an allergy. These two are different conditions; one can’t turn to the other. Most people develop sugar intolerance as they age since it gets harder for the body to break down sugar.
How to manage sugar allergy and intolerance
Some people can react to processed or natural sugar. These are often present in products like:
- Fruits and their juices
- Nut butter and nut milk
- Condiments like ketchup
- Desserts and baked goods
- Breakfast cereals, granola bars, and protein bars
- Soft drinks and sweetened beverages
The only way to manage a sugar-free diet is by being careful when grocery shopping. Often, you’ll find hidden sugar in products you didn’t expect, like chips, pasta sauce, and salad dressings. You must also carefully read food labels because sugar can be mentioned in varying names.
Other sweetener names include:
- Ice syrup
- Corn sugar, cane syrup, brown sugar, beet sugar, or cane juice
- Corn syrup, or fructose
Once you know which type of sugar you’re allergic or intolerant to, you can try these other sugar substitutes:
It’s important to note that even though these may be good alternatives for sugar intolerance, it’s important to note that research shows that artificial sweeteners play a role in the development of glucose intolerance. They may not be a good choice; a sugar-free diet is your best option.
Sugar allergy is quite rare, and very few people suffer from it. However, most people suffer from sugar intolerance. It’s best to get an Allergy and Intolerance Test to know which reaction you have to sugar and move on to manage your diet. Removing all dairy products from your diet is wise if you have lactose intolerance. Eliminate sugar from your diet if you’re allergic to sugar or intolerant.