What a food reaction feels like with fructose malabsorption

Two weekends ago, my plans looked like this: home alone both Friday and Saturday, with my parents visiting for lunch on Sunday. So when I had a chocolate craving on Friday, I thought if it makes me sick, at least I’ll be home alone when it hits. So I indulged and treated myself to a package of (2) Justin’s Organic peanut butter cups, rationalizing that Monday was my birthday, and a girl has to treat herself sometimes.

So I’m enjoying my lazy Saturday morning when my mom calls to ask if they could come a day early. “Sure,” I tell her, “It’s actually more convenient for me, since I have nothing to do today anyway.” I picked a safe restaurant, we enjoyed our meals, and then, just as we were getting up from the table…I felt a twinge. A slight rumble that could either turn out to be nothing other than a normal digestive response, or the beginning of a rather ugly afternoon.

Well, the feeling passed and we went across the street to a little market to peruse the veggies and crafts for sale there; and then the plan was to check out a little herb store on the next block that I had never been to. I assumed it was attached to this building that is home to a few artist studios, a ceramics center and a couple of hippy stores; so we went in the backside of that building, figuring we’d find it along the way. This was when the rumbling started again, accompanied by a little stomach cramping. Crap. This was gonna get ugly.

My mom had struck up a conversation with the proprietor of one of the stores, so I pretended to enjoy browsing the shop, thinking, omg please hurry up! and casually mentioning to my step-dad, “My stomach is acting up, I think we’re going to have to head home soon.” Once my mom was free and both parents knew my situation, both of them were like, “I saw a bathroom right around the corner.” No, no, no! What they failed to understand was that once this stomachache really got going, it could last all afternoon. Home was the only place I wanted to be.

Unfortunately, the stomachache is usually only the beginning of a fructose reaction. This is why it is so important for FructMals like me to avoid food triggers at all costs. And it totally explains why, for so long before my diagnosis, I didn’t feel “normal” more than a day or two out of every week.

Here is a brief overview of the symptoms I experience during a strong food reaction from fructose malabsorption:

  • Day 1 – Eat the food.
  • Day 2 – About 24 hours later, the rumbling and stomach cramping begins, followed by diarrhea. Although the diarrhea stops after awhile, my digestive tract will be out of sorts for the rest of the day.
  • Day 3 – My intestines are inflamed and painfully bloated, which gets worse every time I eat. Add in some foul smelling flatulence for a little extra fun.
  • Day 4 – Stomach issues have passed, but I have all day fatigue and moodiness, accompanied by sinus congestion and drainage. At the end of the day, a tension headache begins – these start at the base of my skull, radiating up to the back of my eyes; they usually last three days, often reaching migraine status.
  • Day 5 – Headache is in full force, and the fatigue and moodiness are still hanging on. Acne has begun to sprout along my jaw line.
  • Day 6 – Same as day 5.

This was a particularly severe reaction. Usually I get by with an abbreviated version of the above list, but don’t always know what caused it. This is where a food diary comes in handy. By using a food and symptom journal, I discovered that celery makes me nauseous, kale bloats me up like a balloon, and wheat gives me mouth sores and makes me hella crabby. Because food reactions don’t always happen immediately after eating, a journal helps to locate patterns. If you are having trouble isolating your trigger foods with fructose malabsorption, consider documenting what you eat and what symptoms you have each day. It was a huge help to me in the beginning.