Sneaky Sweetener Alert: Could This Sugar Worsen Your IBD?

Over 3 million adults in the U.S. suffer from some form of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), such as Crohn’s or ulcerative colitis. With IBD, chronic inflammation causes severe symptoms and increases the risk of colon cancer. The problem with IBD is that it greatly affects a person’s quality of life and often leads to confusion about what kind of dietary choices to make, as there is no one-size-fits-all solution. However, research at Weill Cornell Medicine has shown that high consumption of fructose can worsen IBD.

In the study, researchers fed mice with IBD high amounts of fructose and found that this made inflammation of the colon far worse, with notable effects on gut bacteria. Furthermore, they noted that the increasing incidence of IBD parallels higher levels of fructose consumption in the United States and other countries. This critical finding provides guidance on diet choices for IBD patients. It suggests that removing fructose from their diets could help calm inflammation and reduce symptoms.

Unfortunately, fructose is present in many foods and drinks that people consume daily. Common dietary sources of fructose include:

  • High fructose corn syrup in candy, sodas, sweetened juices, packaged baked goods, condiments, crackers, granola and nutrition bars, and nut butters
  • Fruits and vegetables like apples, grapes, watermelon, pears, plums, asparagus, sugar snap peas, artichokes, cauliflower, mushrooms, and zucchini
  • Sweeteners such as honey, maple and agave syrup
  • Chewing gum, which often contains fructose or sugar alcohols
  • Jams and marmalades made with fructose-rich fruits
  • Sweet wines like muscatel, port, and sherry

An alternative dietary option for IBD sufferers is the low FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo-Di-Monosaccharides and Polyols) diet, which essentially helps individuals avoid foods high in sugars like fructose, lactose, fructans, galactans, and polyols. In a clinical trial, 61% of IBS sufferers who followed a low FODMAP diet reported significant improvement in their quality of life.

If you or someone you know is struggling with IBD, consider exploring a low FODMAP diet and reducing fructose intake. This simple dietary change could significantly improve their quality of life and overall health. For more information on the FODMAP diet, visit IBS Diets.