Is it possible for people to recover from acquired sucrose intolerance? Yes, it’s possible for adults to live productive lives with sucrose intolerance and even fully recover. I am on the journey of recovery. Here is a journal of my progress.
Sucrose Intolerance – The Diagnosis
I was diagnosed with sucrose intolerance in October of 2021 from a free at-home hydrogen breath. Click here to read about my years of digestive issues such as bloating, fatigue, and stomach pain, how I was diagnosed with adult sucrose intolerance (SI), and the initial diet I used to start healing.
Before the diagnosis, I had tried elimination diets, the low FODMAP diet for Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), allergy testing, reducing lactose, and even considered surgery to have my gall bladder removed.
None of these helped and I only got worse.
Once I received the correct diagnosis, I started a strict low-sucrose and low-starch diet in October and started taking the digestive enzyme Sucraid in December of 2021.
The Gut Healing Journey
From January to April of 2022, I continued with the diet and Sucraid. I could not tolerate much of artificial sweeteners and ate almost no starches at all because of my inability to digest them. For example, I tried eating one tiny baby potato and had symptoms for several days.
By May, I was able to add back a few foods in small amounts. I was able to tolerate eating one serving of low carb bread products per day, like low carb tortillas or a low carb hamburger bun.
By September, I introduced a 1/4 cup mixed nuts or 2 ounces of red or sweet potato and was able to eat larger servings of fruits with the use of Fructaid. My stamina was improving. I was not napping as much and had more energy for work and family.
I found this helpful podcast about the Sucrose Intolerance and CSID diagnosis: Let’s Gut Real – Easy to Digest Nutrition Science.
In November, I trialed half a regular doughnut, with Sucraid, and ate it successfully without symptoms. This was a huge breakthrough moment!
I also added a few more starches like 1-2 tablespoons of beans, 1/4 cup butternut or other winter squashes, and edamame. I found I could tolerate these foods if I limited myself to one serving per day.
I also had my first full vegetarian meal in November, which felt like a great accomplishment. The meal was 1/2 cup edamame, 2 cups cooked cabbage and mushrooms, 60 grams of avocado, and a few slices of delicata squash. I enjoyed this fully and had no symptoms from it.
Before the SI diagnosis, I was eating whole food, plant-based and loved how the vegan way of eating made me feel. I’ve written a 3 day plant-based meal plan for people who want to get started with this healthy path to nutrition.
As I continue to make progress, I trust and believe that eventually I will be fully healed.
First for Women Article about Sucrose Intolerance (Tiredness Cure)
My story of recovery was featured in First for Women magazine in October, 2022. Because the article is no longer in print, I am sharing it below.
As told to Cynthia McVey
Sara Borgstede, 49, suffered from extreme fatigue and GI woes for years. Then she took an at-home test and discovered the culprit – and the natural strategies that turned her life around
“It doesn’t make sense,” Sara Borgstede said, watching her husband prepare dinner because she didn’t have the energy to get off the couch. “I haven’t been able to live my life for so long, and I’m just getting worse. I have to go back the doctor and keep pushing for an answer. I know there’s one out there.
From Bad to Worse
“In 2018, I developed severe heartburn – more painful than I’d ever experienced,” Sara recalls. “My doctor gave me a prescription and over-the-counter medication, but they didn’t help. Worse, I also started to develop bloat and abdominal pain. I then had an upper-GI scope done, which didn’t show anything unusual. The best the doctor could do was tell me to change my diet to see if eliminating trigger foods would help.
Over the next 18 months, I worked with a dietician and tried an elimination diet, low-FODMAP diet that cut out carbohydrates (which are supposed to be more difficult to digest), another that was aimed at reducing heartburn, and so many more. Nothing worked.
By the second year, I also started to become fatigued. Blood work showed several nutritional deficiencies, but still no answer for all the other GI symptoms. I started napped several times a day, usually after I ate. Last summer and fall, I was barely able to function. I couldn’t run my business, so our income suffered. My husband is a pastor with a busy schedule, but he had to juggle the responsibilities I couldn’t at home. He drove the kids places, pitched in around the house and cooked more. We lived with the house a little more messy than usual and did a lot of eating off paper plates.
I was so fortunate the doctor didn’t tell me it was all in my head, but I felt dismissed anyway because all the tests came back “normal” and she told me, “I don’t know what to do with you.”
I saw a functional medicine doctor, a surgeon and an allergist. Finally, I went back to the GI specialist who ran one more test, in which I blew into three test tubes at home and mailed them to a lab.
An Answer At Last
“When the doctor called, she said, “You’ve tested positive for sucrose intolerance.” She explained this comes from a lack of enzyme sucrase isomaltase that lets us digest sucrose. With the enzyme, sucrose isn’t absorbed in the small intestine and goes on to the colon, where it causes bloat, gas and my other symptoms.
I didn’t understand much about it, but I was thankful for a diagnosis. I went back to the doctor with a list of 30 question, joined Facebook groups and learned as much as I could.
There was no clear answer as to what caused the condition, but it seems it’s acquired. It’s possible it was the result of small intestine bacterial overgrowth (SIBO) that was caused by taking strong heartburn medications. I bought the book, “Fiber Fueled”, by Will Bulsiewicz, M.D. He says it used to be thought sucrose intolerance was rare, but it’s not – one out of every four or five patients he tests has it.
Soon, I had read enough to find a strict diet that helps alleviate symptoms. Everyone’s enzyme activity is different, so each person has to trial different amounts of sucrose and starch to see what they can tolerate.
I now eat a low-sucrose, low-starch diet. I eat unlimited meat and eggs, fruits low in sucrose and few processed foods because they’re usually high in sucrose.
The diet helped me feel a little better, but it was hard to stick to and so different from how I was eating previously. I’m maintaining a 100-pound weight loss and had been eating primarily vegan.
Next, my doctor prescribed an enzyme, Sucraid, which aids sucrose digestion, so I take it when I eat. It’s expensive, but it’s covered by my insurance and the company has a patient-assistance program, so I only pay $5 a month.
“I’ve also added some over the counter enzymes, like Digest Gold, to help with digestion of starches, which can be a problem for me, and they are everywhere, even in spices, vitamins, beans, and pasta.
Within a few months, I started to feel more like myself. I was regaining energy and able to work and tackle some of the old chores.
Now, I have more energy than I’ve had in two years, and my gut feels much better. I’m back to driving, doing Tae Kwon Do, working and taking care of my family. My blood work is normal, and while I still nap sometimes, it’s when I want to – not because I can’t do anything but sleep!
One-Minute Quiz: Sugar Sensitivity Test at Home
Is a sneaky sugar sensitivity draining your energy?
The 4-4-4 challenge can help determine if you’re suffering from a draining sucrose intolerance, says John Damianos, M.D., of Yale School of Medicine.
The easy how-to:
- Stir 4 Tbs. of sugar into 4 oz. of water.
- Drink the mix on an empty stomach.
- Monitor for 4 hours. If you experience bloat, loose stools or abdominal discomfort, further testing by your doctor can confirm the diagnosis.
NOTE: This test is not appropriate for babies, young children or people with diabetes.
The Mineral That Cuts Cravings by 150%
“Supplementing with chromium is extremely effective at quashing sugar cravings,” says Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D., author of Radical Longevity. The mineral enhances sensitivity to the blood sugar-balancing horomone insulin, which also regulates appetite.
And in an eight-week study in the Journal of Psychiatric Practice, cravings for sweets and starches dropped more than twice as much in people who took chromium daily than they did in those who didn’t supplement. A separate study found that chromium controlled appetite so effectively, people who took it ate 374 fewer calories per day. To get the perks, Gittleman advises taking 400 mcg of chromium per daily.
Sucrose Intolerance Causing Epidemic of Female Fatigue
Sucrose intolerance affects up to 90% more women that experts thought. It occurs due to deficits in sucrose, an enzyme that digests sucrose, says Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., author of 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 damaged 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 be taken.
Cutting back on sucrose is key, says Ann Louise Gittleman, Ph.D. She 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 will 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 Floraster Daily Probiotic).
And Lauren Denville, NMD, of Nature Cure Family Health, in Tucson, suggests taking a broad-spectrum enzyme, like Integrative Therapeutics Similase (Walmart.com), daily.
Are you or someone you love dealing with Sucrose Intolerance or other digestive issues? You are not alone. Share in the comments below.
Sara, you are the most incredible person I have ever seen. God gave you an amazing gift, your ability to completely overhall your body, be a phenomenal mom, all while helping others to be the best version of themselves. I get exhausted just reading about your incredible journey. I am vegetarian, and your recipes are out of this world. I am so grateful for your posts on food intolerance. I have been bloated and overweight for 50 yrs and have tried everything, like you. Fortunately, God led me to your posts, and I found I am lactose intolerant. Great…a real diagnosis! It’s only been a few days, but I’m feeling better already.
I pray that you’ll continue to stay healthy and happy. Happy Holidays to you and yours.