The Trouble with Carbs

The Trouble with Carbs

The Trouble with CarbsBy Dr. Edward Barbarito

Americans love their carbs! From salty, snack foods to sweetened, baked goods to sugary sodas and sports drinks, increased carbohydrate intake has been a trend over the past several decades. A high-carbohydrate diet can elevate triglyceride levels, lower HDL (good) cholesterol, raising the risk of heart disease.

What’s the difference between eating complex carbs vs. simple carbs?

Another troubling dietary trend in recent years is the greater intake of simple carbohydrates as compared to complex carbohydrates. Complex carbohydrates include healthy whole grains, fruits, and vegetables. They usually have relatively high-fiber content and allow for slow, balanced digestion and metabolism.

On the other hand, simple carbohydrates are foods in which artificially added sugar and/or refined white flour are the principal ingredients. These foods often result in more rapid elevations in blood sugar and resulting spikes in insulin levels. It is these spikes in blood sugar and insulin levels that cause increased body fat and cardiovascular complications. But that’s not all. Excessive simple carbohydrate intake can also lead to many gastrointestinal complaints as well.

What types of gastrointestinal issues can be caused by carbohydrates?

Consider lactose intolerance. This common disorder is characterized by the inability to digest lactose, a carbohydrate component of milk and many other dairy foods. Treatment typically involves avoidance of all lactose-containing foods or the use of lactase-enzyme supplements with meals. But lactose isn’t the only common carbohydrate that can cause health issues.

Many other simple sugar culprits, called “monosaccharides,” can cause similar problems. Specifically, glucose, fructose, and galactose are simple sugars found in some fruits, dairy products, and junk foods. Like lactose, they, too, can cause rapid elevations in blood sugar and insulin levels, leading to excessive fat production.

Sucrose is another relatively simple carbohydrate, or “disaccharide,” composed of glucose and fructose. Similarly, isomaltose is a carbohydrate produced during the caramelization process of glucose. When ingested, both sucrose and isomaltose can lead to gastrointestinal symptoms in those of you who lack the sucrase and isomaltase enzymes.

This disorder is known as Sucrose Intolerance caused by Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency (CSID). The clinical picture for those of you with CSID is similar to that of individuals with lactose-intolerance: symptoms of diarrhea, gas, bloating, and abdominal pain.

The difficulty in diagnosing sufferers of CSID is that simple elimination diets for sucrose and isomaltose are not easily carried out. These sugars are often hidden in various foods and not just dairy products.

There are more effective ways to diagnose this genetic disorder, such as a breath test. If you have CSID, your doctor can help determine a treatment plan that is right for you.

Why is excessive carbohydrate intake problematic?

As mentioned earlier, we love carbohydrates — they are a cornerstone of the standard American diet. However, excessive carbohydrate intake can be problematic and cause a myriad of medical issues requiring medical intervention.

Your doctor may ask you to keep food diaries, perform a series of elimination diets, and perform an at-home breath test to help determine if you have CSID. You and your doctor can then discuss the best way to manage your CSID. Such simple measures may allow for the healthier intake of carbohydrates.


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Sucrose Intolerance May Be More Common Than You Think