Sugar Allergy Guide | Allergy Test

If you have a sweet tooth, you know how much delight comes with consuming anything that contains the sweetness brought about by sugar. Even though uncommon, some people experience bad reactions upon consuming any foods that contain sugar, whether natural or added. Naturally, our bodies need sugar to turn it into energy to run other functions in the body.

Sugar is a common carbohydrate in a typical diet, and it comes in various forms like:

  • Glucose is the primary source of energy in the body.
  • Sucrose is a combination of glucose and fructose. It is mainly extracted from sugarcane and beets and is used as “table sugar.”
  • Fructose is a sugar found naturally in fruits, honey, and some vegetables.
  • Lactose is a sugar peasant in dairy products. It comprises galactose and glucose.
  • Galactose is a sugar present in dairy products.
  • Maltose occurs mainly in grains like malt.
  • Xylose comes from wood or straw.

Most of the time, lactose and fructose are the main culprits that cause sugar intolerance{1}. When suffering from a sugar allergy, it means that you’ll have reactions to all sugars. For example, you’ll still suffer from brown sugar allergy and coconut sugar allergy. So, steer clear of these sugars.

 

Can you be allergic to sugar?

Upon consumption of sugar, one feels a little bit of a “high” because sugar causes a spike in blood sugar, and later on, the blood spike will go down, leading to symptoms like a headache. If you’re allergic to sugar, it is most likely that consuming large amounts of sugar won’t be good for your body. There are different types of sugars. For example, there are naturally occurring sugars in vegetables and fruits while there’s added sugar like the one we use in preparing tea and desserts. That’s why you will most likely feel a “sugar high” after consuming a bunch of sweets, but you won’t get the same feeling after consuming fruits. Naturally occurring sugars come with fiber which takes time for the sugar to be digested, thus not causing any blood sugar spikes.

The most common reaction to sugar is intolerance. A sugar allergy is less common, even almost non-existent. Even though you may have a sugar allergy, it is even less common to get severe reactions from consuming sugar like anaphylaxis, even though it’s not unheard of {2}.

 

Difference between sugar allergy and sugar intolerance

For the most part, a sugar allergy isn’t as common as a sugar intolerance. It can be easy to confuse the two because they both occur after consuming food that contains sugar. But there are some common differences between the two that we will expand on below.

 

Sugar allergy

Suppose you have a sugar allergy the first time you consume anything that contains sugar. In that case, the body forms an antibody called immunoglobulin E (IgE). The second time you consume something with sugar, your immune system binds the allergen with the pre-formed IgE to create an allergic reaction. A food allergy occurs when your body mistakes the sugar for something invasive and dangerous to the body, like a virus. Due to this identity, the body produces histamines, leading to adverse reactions like shortness of breath. An allergic reaction can be severe at times, and you may need urgent medical help.

 

Symptoms of sugar allergy

Symptoms of sugar allergy vary from person to person in severity and symptoms. If you have a sugar allergy, the most common symptoms that you may experience include:

  • Stomach cramps
  • Vomiting
  • Hives
  • Stuffy or runny nose
  • Redness of the skin
  • Headaches

In rare cases an allergy could result in a severe sugar allergy symptom known as anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis comes quickly and can be fatal if left untreated. The symptoms of anaphylaxis include:

  • Swelling of the tongue, lips, and throat
  • Shortness of breath
  • Wheezing
  • A sudden drop in blood pressure
  • Dizziness, fainting, or loss of consciousness
  • Racing heart

If you ever experience anaphylaxis, it is necessary to call a doctor immediately and carry with you an Epinephrine pen and antihistamines. When you experience these severe reactions, you’ll need to visit a doctor immediately, even if you have used your EpiPen.

 

Sugar intolerance

Unlike an allergy to sugar, sugar intolerance doesn’t trigger the immune system but triggers the digestive tract. Sugar intolerance happens when your body can’t digest a specific type of sugar. A sugar intolerance occurs between a few minutes to a few hours after said sugar consumption. The severity of the symptoms varies from one person to the other. Sometimes sugar intolerance is caused by the lack of enzymes to digest the type of sugars you’ve consumed.

The other big difference between sugar intolerance and sugar allergy is that a sugar intolerance can allow you to consume little amounts of sugar and still not get any severe reactions. The more sugar you consume, the more severe the intolerance symptoms. It doesn’t matter the amount of sugar you consume; you’ll still suffer the symptoms. The common sugar intolerance symptoms include:

  • Gas
  • Bloating
  • Diarrhea
  • Stomach cramps

 

Risk factors of sugar allergy

You can’t be allergic to all types of sugars. The most common sugar intolerance is lactose intolerance. People with lactose intolerance lack the enzymes needed to break down lactose (a sugar present in dairy products). Because of the lack of this enzyme, they tend to have GI symptoms. The groups of people most likely to suffer from lactose intolerance include:

  • Jewish
  • Italian
  • West African
  • East Asian
  • Greek
  • Arab

Besides ethnicity, suffering from some diseases also increases the chances of developing sugar allergies. These conditions include:

  1. Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
  2. Functional gastrointestinal disorders (FGD)
  3. Celiac disease

The above disorders make it hard for the body to digest certain sugars. Children suffering from FGD also find it hard to digest fructose and lactose. People with celiac disease find it hard to digest most carbohydrates, including sugar, because gluten damages their intestine lining.

 

How can a sugar allergy test help?

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Our Allergy Test Box Kit

If you have the symptoms matching the ones above every time you consume a sugary drink or food, you might want to have an allergy test. You can easily find an Allergy Test online to check for allergies, including a sugar allergy. You will then send your sample back to the lab, get your results in a week, and know which foods you need to keep away from.

Suppose you realize that a sugar allergy will make you eliminate more foods from your diet, especially since you may have other allergies. In that case, you will need to talk to your doctor or nutritionist so they can help you come up with a proper diet to ensure that all these food eliminations don’t result in a deficiency.

 

Foods to avoid if you have a sugar allergy

Anything that contains sugar, you should eliminate from your diet. Ensure you keep preparing sugar-free recipes. Other names used for sugar include:

  • Agave
  • Molasses
  • Cane juice
  • Honey
  • Ice syrup
  • Sugar, brown sugar, beet sugar, or glucose cane sugar

Sometimes sugar is an ingredient in food products that you wouldn’t expect it to have, like:

  • Ketchup
  • Barbecue sauce
  • Salad dressing
  • Pasta sauce
  • Some medicines

 

Sugar allergy alternatives

It can be a little hard to cut off sugar from your diet completely, so you can use sugar alternatives to sweeten meals like:

  • Stevia
  • Aspartame
  • Sucralose
  • Aspartame

If you suffer from lactose intolerance, you could still enjoy dairy products. Ensure they are lactose-free. Alternatively, you can buy lactase pills over the counter. These pills contain the lactase enzyme, which helps digest lactose in your body, preventing allergic reactions. You will also need to avoid any dairy products with lactose to avoid the symptoms.

 

Final thoughts on sugar allergy

Sugar allergy, even though uncommon, can cause a lot of discomfort. Suppose you still aren’t sure whether you’re suffering from a sugar allergy or intolerance. In that case, you could order an Allergy and Intolerance Test to find out for sure whether sugar is the cause of your uncomfortable symptoms or if there is a different trigger. If you’re suffering from a sugar allergy, you’ll need to cut off foods with sugar and use sugar substitutes that won’t bring about those annoying symptoms.

 

About the Author

Kate Young joined Healthy Stuff in 2021 as our Laboratory Manager, following 7 years in Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART) and In Vitro Fertilization (IVF) for the Oak Clinic Group in Japan. Coordinating a team of 6, her expertise in processing protocols and validations has allowed us to gain ISO 9001 accreditation status and work towards Good Lab Practice and further ISO. After completing her BSc Combined Science: Human and Environmental Biological Studies in 1995, she describes herself as having ’detailed research skills and a very innovative mindset.’ See Kates Healthy Stuff profile here.

 

References

  1. Latulippe, M. E., & Skoog, S. M. (2011). Fructose malabsorption and intolerance: effects of fructose with and without simultaneous glucose ingestion. Critical reviews in food science and nutrition, 51(7), 583-592. [https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/10408398.2011.566646]
  2. Jung CG, Yang EM, Lee JH, Kim SH, Park HS, Shin YS. Coca-Cola allergy identified as fructose-induced anaphylaxis. J Allergy Clin Immunol Pract. 2018;6:1787-9. doi:10.1016/j.jaip.2018.02.003. [https://www.aaaai.org/Allergist-Resources/Ask-the-Expert/Answers/Old-Ask-the-Experts/allergy-intolerance-sugar]