Blog: A Sickly Sweet Situation

My friend Suzi recently launched her website orgfork.com.au, and I was very honoured when she asked me to write an article on being fructose intolerant. It’s become a huge part of my life but I HATE those people that constantly talk about being gluten-free/organic/I-quit-sugar crap!

So what you read below is ALL I will EVER say about the topic haha. But I guess in a way, by talking about it more people will understand how difficult it is having an intolerance and how awesomeeeeee it would be to just eat whatever you want! Anyway I’ve written a couple more articles for OrkFork which I’ll post soon. So without further ado here’s my article 🙂

Love you all ❤
xx

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I don’t have an eating disorder, but I’ll come right out and say it… I think about food 24/7.
From the moment I wake up, it begins.
Is there time to cook breakfast? What will I buy for lunch? Am I going out for dinner? Then I look in the fridge, then the cupboard, and back to the fridge again.
Shit, I think. I’m going to be sick if I eat any of this.


Being a fructose malabsorber is an absolute, 100% joke.


In our civilized Western country, we are lucky enough to suffer from a tyranny of choices. We actually have the privilege of being indecisive, whether it’s tossing up what shoes to buy, or more serious decisions such as what career to pursue. Likewise, we’re also bombarded with meal options every single day. McDonald’s, pizza, sushi, Subway. Our culture is a melting pot of different cultures and cuisines. But if you are fructose intolerant like me, forget about Italian. Forget about Chinese. Forget about pancakes, ice-cream or any type of dessert. And forget that you ever knew what it felt like to bite into a juicy red apple.

I first discovered that my body couldn’t absorb fructose seven months ago. Previously, doctors had conducted vague tests on me assuming I was gluten intolerant. But every morning I would still be curled up in bed, not wanting to move a muscle, fearing that if I did, my stomach would rip in two. I knew it was serious when I started taking days off work. But everything changed when I made an appointment with a dietician. After reading the food diary I’d been keeping, he instantly knew fructose was the cause. He said anything can trigger an intolerance, from pregnancy to moving countries. In my case, it was a single, stressful and traumatic event. It’s funny how your body reacts in ways you can’t comprehend. But unlike the overnight formation, once you are intolerant, you will be that way forever. For my own sanity, I forked out $400 to get tested over 2 months just to be sure. The news wasn’t sinking in.

I’m really not one to bitch and moan about things, because honestly, I have it pretty good. Great friends, supportive family, awesome job. But it’s surprising how being unable to eat most foods can really take a toll on your mental state. It’s almost unfair, like the world is playing one big trick on you. You have enough money to go to nice restaurants, but you can’t eat a single thing on the menu. You have a birthday, and you can’t even eat the cake! There is a lack of awareness within our community, and a serious lack of options for people like me. Gluten and lactose intolerance have become buzzwords, but a lot of people still think fructose is just fruit.

Now for the educational part. (Try explaining this to your Greek grandma who considers lasagne an entree).

Fructose is a naturally occurring sugar. It’s in everything, even though some foods contain amounts that are next to nothing. So while I can stomach a few grapes, I can’t have raisins or wine as the fructose content goes up dramatically in the fermentation process. I can have tomatoes, but not tomato sauce, as the state of the food also creates changes in the levels of sugar.
In some ways, it would be easier to look out for common allergens such as nuts or shellfish, because they’re listed ingredients, and more visible to the eye. Fructose isn’t actually an ingredient in food. It just exists as a chemical compound. Companies don’t list what’s inside broccoli, or honey, or garlic, or blackberries, so I just have to remember than they contain high levels of fructose. If you look on the bright side, you have a fun little memory game before every meal! It’s also found in base ingredients which most people consume without even realising. For instance, I can’t have soup because it’s made with stock, which contains onion.

Fructose is also a compound of wheat, which gets frustrating when restaurants suggest gluten-free meals. For the record, gluten and wheat are two different things! And wheat isn’t just in bread. It’s found in “extras” such as mayonnaise and terriyaki sauce. So fructose-free meals are usually very plain. On top of that, sorbitol intolerance often goes hand-in-hand with fructose intolerance, and if you looked at the ingredients of toothpaste, chewing gum and diet soda, you’d see it’s a main ingredient. I know, a joke, right?

I’m still no expert on the issue, even though I’ve read so much information on the topic, but now I am slowly learning what works for me. Like in every other facet of life, every body is different, and being intolerant to certain foods is no exception. The word “intolerance” signifies a degree of tolerance, so while some fructose malabsorbers can handle a bit of avocado in their sushi roll, or the accidental pistachio mixed into their bag of nuts, others will eat the same amount and suffer for days. That’s why the fructose-free FODMAPs diet is so easy for me to follow – simply because the consequential pain is just not worth it.

There are definitely worse things in life than being fructose intolerant. But it’s something that takes a lot of getting used to, and I don’t think I’m quite there yet. Hopefully my experience can give a little insight into what people with intolerances go through on a daily basis. “Intolerance” shouldn’t be viewed as an excuse to follow the latest fad diet, and it isn’t fair for people to use the word just because they are picky eaters. So next time you’re biting into a juicy red apple, remember those who would give anything to do that again!

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