bonn Apples, pears, and cherries are healthy, but they also contain a lot of fructose. It is precisely this that can spoil the enjoyment of some people. What helps if the fruit causes stomach pain or diarrhea?
At the beginning of the cherry season, many grandmothers’ warning voice echoes in their heads: “Don’t drink water with stone fruit, otherwise it will give you a stomach ache!”
Besides cherries, other fruits can also cause stomach aches. Why is that exactly? And is there anything we can do about it?
Cherries first: According to the Federal Center for Nutrition (BZfE), there are several explanations for stomach pain after snacking. Yeast fungi, which often settle on the skin of cherries, may be to blame.
If you eat large amounts of cherries, it can happen that the yeast fungi ferment the sugar into alcohol. Carbon dioxide is then produced as a decomposition product, causing flatulence. According to BZfE, water can increase the effect because it dilutes stomach acid and can no longer kill yeast fungi as successfully.
In Grandma’s time, there were probably more germs in drinking water
The second explanation is that cherries reach the intestines faster through water. The result: fermentation processes in the colon cause abdominal pain.
But: “It is much more likely that the warning is due to the poor quality of drinking water in earlier times,” says Harald Seitz of BZfE. Germs in the water can, even without cherries, cause flatulence and diarrhea.
A problem that should no longer occur given the good quality of drinking water today. Therefore, the advice of the BZfE is: wash the cherries well and do not chop too many at once.
Besides contaminated water, why does the fruit cause stomach aches and other digestive problems in some people, even in small amounts?
According to Astrid Donalies from the German Nutrition Society (DGE), this is due to so-called fructose malabsorption.
This means that some people simply cannot tolerate fructose. This intolerance is especially common in children, and also causes bothersome symptoms in some adults after eating fruit.
If fructose cannot be absorbed
“In fructose malabsorption, the fructose is not absorbed or completely absorbed in the small intestine,” says Donalies. Therefore, fructose can reach the large intestine in large quantities, where it is broken down by intestinal bacteria. This creates short-chain fatty acids and gases, and with them a feeling of fullness up to stomach pain and diarrhoea.
Astrid Donalies advises anyone who gets a stomach ache just from looking at an apple to keep a log of all meals with a registered dietitian. First of all, it is necessary to clarify which foods are causing the symptoms.
If fructose malabsorption is suspected, the so-called “hydrogen breath test” can also provide certainty. The doctor examines the air you breathe for hydrogen, which is produced as a breakdown product of fructose.
Stomach ache? Better consult an expert
However, the nutrition expert advises against self-diagnosis and self-treatment. Reason: If you completely abstain from fruit, you may have a vitamin C deficiency.
If an intolerance has been diagnosed, it is best to remove the respective fruit from the menu, depending on severity, and also the finished products. Because they are often sweetened with fructose and glucose syrup.
According to the DGE, you have to pay close attention to nuts, honey, soft drinks such as lemonade, ice cream and muesli bars. A full list can be found on the DGE website.
But Astrid Donalies has good news for those who suffer from stomach pain: because an intolerance can often be controlled or even eliminated with the help of a diet.
However, this only applies if you do not have a hereditary fructose intolerance. Those affected absorb the sugar, but cannot break it down due to an enzyme defect.
Danger! Hidden Fructose in Food
To control intolerance, you should initially avoid fructose altogether. According to the DGE, those affected should pay attention to names such as sugar substitute, starch syrup, apple/pearwort, artificial honey and sorbitol (E 420), mannitol (E 421), isomalt (E 953), maltitol (E 965) , lactitol (E 966) and Xylitol (E 967).
By the way: the promising phrase “sugar-free” only means that the product does not contain sugar for household use, that is, sucrose, warns the DGE. May still contain fructose.
Donalies also advise avoiding sucrose to begin with. Only those who initially avoid both fructose and table sugar and sweeteners can manage intolerance in this way.
According to the recommendation of the DGE, after a few weeks those affected can return to their normal diet. Assuming the complaints have subsided.
Fruits with less fructose content
According to Donalies, if you tend to have an intolerance, it’s best to use more digestible fruits that contain comparatively little fructose. These include avocado, banana, pineapple, strawberry and peach.
And the nutrition expert has another tip: If you eat fruit along with fat and protein, the food can be more digestible because the fructose is absorbed later.
Means: A fruit quark causes less stomach pain than an apple on an empty stomach. Basically, the nutritional recommendation of the DGE is: Consume three servings of vegetables and two servings of fruit per day.