What Causes Sugar Intolerance in Children?
Sucrose Intolerance, informally referred to as “Sugar Intolerance,” is a rare inherited condition.
Children with Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency (CSID) are born either missing or not having enough functioning of certain chemicals, specifically the enzymes sucrase and isomaltase, which are responsible for breaking down the sugars sucrose and maltose. These kids lack what they need to be able to easily digest foods that have these sugars.
But I Don’t Have CSID…
Even though CSID is an inherited, or genetic, disease, that doesn’t mean you have to have it in order to pass it on to your kids.
We each have two copies of every gene; each parent passes on one copy. Some genes are dominant and some are recessive. For example, you can inherit one gene for dark hair, which is a dominant trait, and one gene for light hair, which is a recessive trait. And you can end up with light-colored hair if each of your parents passes on that recessive gene. Otherwise, the dominant gene, as the words suggests, will determine the trait. In this example, that would be dark hair.
With Sugar (also known as sucrose) Intolerance, both parents each carry a gene for this disorder that is recessive and mutated, and your child has inherited both copies. A mutated gene is one that has been changed, in this case in a way that causes a medical condition. Since you, the parents, each has a dominant normal gene, you usually don’t show symptoms of Sucrose Intolerance. If you do show symptoms, it’s because you have a milder form of the disorder.
How High Are the Risks?
In genetic terms, the risk of two CSID-gene-carrying parents having a baby with Sucrose Intolerance is 25%, according to The National Organization for Rare Disorders. The same level of risk occurs with each pregnancy.
The prevalence of CSID is reported to be higher in certain populations, placing them at a higher risk of inheriting Sucrose Intolerance. This includes people from Greenland and those of Canadian Inuit descent. Approximately 5% of these people have inherited CSID. The prevalence of CSID is less than 1% (specifically, about 0.02%) among the rest of the population in North America.1 Men and women are affected equally.
But My Baby Just Seems Colicky
Although Sucrose Intolerance can go unnoticed among breastfed babies, once you introduce juices, formulas, and solid foods, infants can start having the very uncomfortable symptoms of CSID.
A baby with CSID may be especially irritable or colicky and might have diaper rash or extreme skin irritation in that area due to diarrhea.
Because the symptoms of CSID are similar to those of more common and better-known stomach conditions, children are often misdiagnosed. But without an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment, your child’s symptoms won’t let up.
Babies and children with Sucrose Intolerance may not gain enough weight and become undernourished, missing out on the vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients they need to grow.
If your child has chronic diarrhea, gas, bloating, constipation, stomach pain, or vomiting, see a specialist called a pediatric gastroenterologist, or GI doctor, for testing to get a correct diagnosis.
Then work closely with a registered dietitian (RD), who can help you manage your child’s weight and nutrition while keeping CSID symptoms under control.
- Nichols BL Jr, Adams B, Roach CM, Ma CX, Baker SS. Frequency of sucrase deficiency in mucosal biopsies. J Pediatr Gastroenterol Nutr. 2012;55(suppl 2):S28-30. doi: 10.1097/01.mpg.0000421405.42386.64