Fructose Malabsorption and Symptoms of Irritable Bowel Syndrome: Guidelines for Effective Dietary Management


      Dietary fructose induces abdominal symptoms in patients with fructose malabsorption, but there are no published guidelines on its dietary management. The objective was to retrospectively evaluate a potentially successful diet therapy in patients with irritable bowel syndrome and fructose malabsorption. Tables detailing the content of fructose and fructans in foods were constructed. A dietary strategy comprising avoidance of foods containing substantial free fructose and short-chain fructans, limitation of the total dietary fructose load, encouragement of foods in which glucose was balanced with fructose, and co-ingestion of free glucose to balance excess free fructose was devised. Sixty-two consecutively referred patients with irritable bowel syndrome and fructose malabsorption on breath hydrogen testing underwent dietary instruction. Dietary adherence and effect on abdominal symptoms were evaluated via telephone interview 2 to 40 months (median 14 months) later. Response to the diet was defined as improvement of all symptoms by at least 5 points on a −10- to 10-point scale. Forty-eight patients (77%) adhered to the diet always or frequently. Forty-six (74%) of all patients responded positively in all abdominal symptoms. Positive response overall was significantly better in those adherent than nonadherent (85% vs 36%; P<0.01), as was improvement in individual symptoms (P<0.01 for all symptoms). This comprehensive fructose malabsorption dietary therapy achieves a high level of sustained adherence and good symptomatic response.
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      S. J. Shepherd is an accredited practicing dietitian and P. R. Gibson is a professor and director of Medicine, Department of Gastroenterology and Monash University Department of Medicine, Box Hill Hospital, Box Hill, Victoria, Australia.