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Sucrose Intolerance Is Causing an Epidemic of Female Fatigue, Doctors Say

Ease tiredness, bloat, and more naturally.

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Sucrose is natural sugar found in nuts, vegetables, and fruit. Some people are able to digest sucrose, while others may not. A condition called sucrose intolerance affects up to 900 percent more women than experts thought. It occurs due to deficits in sucrase, an enzyme that digests sucrose, says Will Bulsiewicz, MD, author of The Fiber Fueled Cookbook. “This causes the sugar to ferment in the intestines, triggering gas, bloat, diarrhea, and fatigue.“ Doctors once believed the condition was strictly congenital, but gut damage due to infection and illness can also cause it.

Complicating matters: Women with the condition can also be deficient in isomaltase, an enzyme that breaks down starch. This increases fermentation of starchy carbs in the gut, worsening symptoms. Doctors can ID sucrose intolerance with breath tests. While the prescription enzyme replacement sacrosidase (brand name Sucraid) can ease symptoms, insurance doesn’t always cover it. Luckily, the steps below can help.

Cutting back on sucrose is key.

Ann Louise Gittleman, PhD, advises avoiding all sugar and foods naturally high in sucrose, like apples, bananas, raisins, and sweet potatoes. Instead, enjoy lower-sucrose options, like blueberries, grapes, and avocado. (For more details, search ‘low sucrose diet’ at UWHealth.org.) Also smart: Cut back on starchy foods, and when you do indulge, chew thoroughly to up the production of saliva, which is high in a starch-digesting enzyme.

Supplements can help.

The probiotic yeast S. boulardii has been shown to aid in sucrose breakdown. Gittleman advises taking 500 mg. per day. Try: Florastor Daily Probiotic (Buy from Walgreens, $29.99). And Lauren Denville, NMD, of Nature Cure Family Health in Tucson, suggests taking a broad-spectrum enzyme, like Integrative Therapeutics Similase (Buy from Walmart, $48.75), daily.

A version of this article originally appeared in our print magazine, First for Women.

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