Is It a Sugar Allergy or Sucrose (Sugar) Intolerance?

Is It a Sugar Allergy or Sucrose (Sugar) Intolerance?

Both sugar allergy and Sucrose (sugar) Intolerance are rare. But they have clear differences. Here’s how to spot them.

allergy vs. intolerance

Sugar. Friend or foe? All sugars or just some? Allergy or intolerance?

While rare, someone can have an allergy to sugar, usually when the sugar is combined with a protein. Also rare, someone can have a Sugar Intolerance (sometimes called a food sensitivity), which is actually more common than a sugar allergy.

“True sugar allergies are extremely rare,” says registered dietitian (RD) Cynthia Sass, “Health” magazine contributing nutrition editor. Most people who experience unwanted symptoms after eating sugar are experiencing a Sugar Intolerance, she notes.

Neither one turns into the other. And neither one is pleasant to have, but both can be managed.

It’s important to get an accurate diagnosis to best help your child. Doctors can perform various tests, including simple breath tests, to identify a Sugar Intolerance. Different types of tests are available for diagnosing a food allergy.

A sugar allergy is referred to as, well, a “sugar allergy.” A Sugar Intolerance, on the other hand, has the medical name Congenital Sucrase-Isomaltase Deficiency (CSID). It’s also referred to as Sucrose Intolerance (sucrose is table sugar).

Many people who think they are allergic to a food may actually be intolerant of it. A few intestinal and stomach symptoms are common to both conditions, but the similarities end there.

Sugar Allergy

What is happening? Your digestive system can break down and absorb sugary food, but your immune system recognizes it as foreign and mounts an allergic reaction. And this can happen fast – in a minute – well before the food has been fully digested.

Why it is happening? With most allergies to foods – common allergens include peanuts and tree nuts, shellfish and other fish, eggs, cow’s milk, soy, and wheat – the immune system, which normally fights infections, is triggered by a protein that is in the offending food.

What are the symptoms? A common food allergy reaction can include rashes and hives, stuffy or runny nose, stomach cramps and nausea, or vomiting. Symptoms of an extreme allergic reaction, called “anaphylaxis,” include shortness of breath or being unable to breathe properly, swelling of the lips, tongue, or throat, and can be life-threatening.

Sugar Intolerance

What is happening? Your system can’t digest a food that has certain sugars in it, so your stomach and intestines essentially rebel after eating it.

Why it is happening? If a child develops a bad reaction after eating something with sugar, it’s the digestive system that gets angry about having the unwanted food intruder — not the immune system. Plus, a protein isn’t what causes this misery; it’s the types of sugar (sucrose and maltose) and starch (chains of sugar) in the food.

What are the symptoms? Sucrose intolerance symptoms include watery diarrhea, a lot of gas, bloating, and stomach pain.

For babies and toddlers, fussiness and irritability are common symptoms, as is severe diaper rash because they have constant, acidic diarrhea.

Sucrose Intolerance may be more common than you think.