Is it possible to have a sugar allergy?

Have you ever experienced stomach pain or fatigue after consuming something sweet? Same. But does this mean you have a sugar allergy or is something else going on? In many cases, feeling awful after eating sweets is merely a “sugar hangover” caused by consuming excessive amounts of sugar. This sugar overload can cause a blood sugar spike followed by a crash. While true sugar allergies are extremely rare, some individuals may be extremely sensitive to even minute amounts of sugar.

There are individuals who cannot tolerate a high sugar intake, explains Tanya Freirich, M.S., RDN, in an interview with SELF. Sugar’s ‘high’ and ‘low’ are frequently accompanied by headaches and other symptoms. However, this is not necessarily an allergy, which we will discuss shortly.

Are Artificial Sugars Healthy?

When discussing sugar intake, it is essential to differentiate between naturally occurring sugars and added sugars. Included in naturally occurring sugars are those that are inherent to the food and not added during processing, such as the sugar found in fruits, vegetables, and many dairy products. Added sugars, on the other hand, include honey, high-fructose corn syrup, and other sugars that were added during the manufacturing process.

Listen, sugar is delicious. And if you desire them, sugary foods can absolutely be part of a healthy, well-balanced diet. Whether they are naturally occurring or added, this holds true. But if you have questions about a pattern you’ve noticed post-sugar, it can be helpful to know that while our bodies can’t tell the difference between the sugar in a piece of fruit and the sugar in a candy bar, it is true that many foods with a lot of added sugar also lack certain other nutrients, such as fiber, that can help your body slow the breakdown and absorption of sugar in the bloodstream, resulting in a less drastic bing.

This may explain why you experience a greater sugar high after eating a large number of sweets than after eating a large quantity of fruit. Ready to continue reading about sugar? Let’s dive in.

sugar allergy

Why Do You Feel Unusual After Consuming Sugar?

According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, when sugar enters the body, it causes the blood glucose level to rise, prompting the pancreas to secrete insulin in order to move glucose from the bloodstream into the cells. A large insulin release can also cause a sugar crash, which may manifest as a headache, nausea, or gastrointestinal distress. The Everything Easy Pre-Diabetes Cookbook author Lauren Harris-Pincus, M.S., RDN, tells SELF.

Some people may experience this more severely than others, especially those who are susceptible to hyperglycemia, or high blood sugar, which occurs when excess glucose builds up in the bloodstream. This is typically a problem for those with diabetes or prediabetes, but it is possible to have these conditions without being aware of them, so it is important to be aware of the symptoms. Among the symptoms of high blood sugar are fatigue, an increase in thirst, frequent urination, headaches, and blurred vision.

How Sugar Allergy And Intolerance To Sugar Differs

Everyone has certain foods that cause undesirable symptoms, such as indigestion, painful bloating, and cramping. However, this does not necessarily indicate a true food or ingredient allergy. Although some individuals use the terms interchangeably, food allergy and food intolerance are distinct conditions.

A food allergy occurs when the immune system overreacts to a food protein, mistaking it for a dangerous substance. According to Food Allergy Research & Education (FARE), food allergy symptoms can range from mild to life-threatening and include the following:

  • Hives
  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Diarrhea
  • Sneezing
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Anaphylaxis (severe, life-threatening allergic reaction)

A food intolerance indicates that you have difficulty digesting the food in question. According to the Mayo Clinic, this causes digestive issues, although the symptoms are not as severe as those of a food allergy.

There are numerous reasons why you may be intolerant to a specific food. If you’re lactose intolerant, for example, your body lacks the enzyme lactase, which is required to digest the milk sugar lactose. The Mayo Clinic states that irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), as well as stress and anxiety, can also be underlying causes.

Food intolerance symptoms, according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, including

  • Intestinal gas
  • Bloating
  • Abdominal pain

Because symptoms can overlap (we’re looking at you, diarrhea and abdominal pain), it’s easy to confuse an intolerance with an allergy. However, a significant distinction is that food intolerances are not the result of an immune system disorder. In addition, people with food intolerances may be able to consume a small amount of the food without any problems (or they may be able to take something to aid digestion), whereas people with food allergies cannot typically consume any of the allergens.

sugar allergy

How To Determine If You Have a Sugar Allergy

While an intolerance to a specific type of sugar is fairly common, a true allergy to sugar is extremely rare. One case of fructose-induced anaphylaxis was reported in a letter to the editor published in 2018 in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology: Practice1.

Nevertheless, there have been sporadic reports of allergic reactions to sugar substitutes. As previously reported by SELF, stevia and the sugar alcohol erythritol can cause sensitivity reactions in some individuals, such as throat burning and coughing. Two infants developed anaphylaxis after being exposed to stevioside, an extract of the stevia plant, according to a 2007 Allergy study2.

“A sugar allergy is so rare that it is almost nonexistent,” says Freirich, “but it would be confirmed by antibodies.” If you suspect an allergic reaction to sugar or any other food, you should seek treatment immediately. Your primary care physician or allergist can then conduct allergy testing.

The Primary Sugars Implicated In Sugar Intolerance

Rather than being intolerant to all types of sugar, people are typically intolerant to specific types. Lactose intolerance, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products, is the most prevalent. “This is due to a lack of the enzyme lactase, which is required to break down lactose into glucose and galactose for digestion,” explains Harris-Pincus. (However, keep in mind that this is not the same as a milk allergy, which occurs when your immune system reacts to the proteins in milk.)

When insufficient lactase is present, intact lactose can cause gas, bloating, pain, and diarrhea. Harris-Pincus explains that these sugar intolerance symptoms can also occur with maltose (found primarily in malt and other grains) and sucrose (commonly known as table sugar), as they all require corresponding enzymes to be broken down.

What is the status of glucose intolerance? Glucose is a simple sugar and an essential source of carbohydrate-based energy for the body. Glucose is typically combined with another simple sugar to form sucrose or lactose in processed foods. Typically, when people refer to glucose intolerance, they are referring to a metabolic disorder that causes high blood glucose levels, such as prediabetes or type 2 diabetes.

sugar allergy

What To Do If You Experience Sugar-Related Symptoms?

Again, cases of a sugar-induced allergic reaction are extremely rare, but they do occur. If you experience an immediate reaction after eating something (your throat feels constricted, you have difficulty breathing, you develop a rash, etc.), you should visit your doctor or the emergency room. If not treated immediately, a severe allergic reaction could lead to anaphylaxis. It is prudent to err on the side of caution if you are uncertain whether you have this type of allergy or whether it is life-threatening.

In severe cases, epinephrine (a medication that can reverse anaphylaxis) and a steroid (such as cortisone) may be administered to reduce inflammation and bring the reaction under control, according to FARE. Even if it is unclear how severe your allergy is, it is safe to use epinephrine, as explained by FARE.

If your allergic reaction is less severe, an antihistamine may suffice. Then, your physician or allergist/immunologist may conduct skin-prick tests to determine if sugar is indeed the cause of the reaction. If you have been diagnosed with a severe sugar allergy, it is likely that you will need to carry an epinephrine auto-injector (such as an EpiPen) at all times.

But if you experience strange symptoms after consuming sugar that doesn’t necessarily indicate an allergic reaction, you should still consult a doctor to determine what’s going on. You might be experiencing symptoms of high blood sugar, or you might need to investigate a food intolerance.

  • Do you know about healthy and natural substitutes for sugar?

If you enjoyed this blog post, share it with your friends!


Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *