Fructose intolerance on a fruit-based raw food diet?


It’s true, eating a low-fat fruit-based vegan diet does seem to be a magical remedy for many, many health issues including auto-immune diseases, high cholesterol, heart conditions, type 2 diabetes, asthma and eczema, as attested to by hundreds of people who have healed from chronic health conditions.

But what if you switch to fruit and you STILL suffer from irritable bowel syndrome-like symptoms like bloating, abdominal pain, distention, gas and reflux?  What if you still suffer from fatigue and poor concentration?

Could it be the fruit?

Switching to a fruit-based diet has given me huge benefits, including relief from asthma and eczema, reflux, constipation, bloating, PMS and period pain, chronic sinusitis, fatigue and extremely low immune function.

But even after months of consuming fruits and veggies, and small amounts of nuts and seeds, I’ve found I’m still having some minor problems, mainly to do with mild abdominal pain and loose stools, mild mucus and occasional breakouts.

In comparison to what I suffered in the past these complaints seem so miniscule, and they certainly don’t impede my excellent quality of life.  But they’re still annoying signs that my body isn’t functioning at it’s very highest level of health.

Since I’m in the business of discovering the keys to supreme health, and helping people achieve that, I’m also making it my business to leave no stone unturned with regards to my health.

watermelon juiceLately there’s been a lot of research coming out about fructose malabsorption (aka fructose intolerance) and so I decided to investigate whether I might be fructose sensitive.

Oh Nooo! – Not Fruit!!

I have to say that when I first heard about it, my initial reaction was “Not fruit!!!  I’m NOT cutting out fruit.” because that would leave me with little choice but to go back to eating rice, corn and meat for sustenance.

But since investigating I’ve discovered that cutting out fruit entirely is NOT necessary if you suffer from fructose intolerance.

But first let’s look at what Fructose malabsorption actually is and what causes it?

What is Fructose Intolerance?

Here’s some basic anatomy and physiology to begin with…

The small intestine has the job of absorbing the building blocks of food, and it’s in the small intestine that problems of fructose absorption start.

Basically, in healthy people, there are two pathways for fructose to be absorbed across the membranes of the small intestine.

One pathway is where it is freely absorbed and doesn’t require glucose for its transfer across the membrane.  So, in other words fructose is absorbed on its own with no relationship to glucose.  This is called the Glucose independent pathway.

The other pathway for absorption is through the presence of glucose, where glucose is needed to ‘piggyback’ the fructose across the intestine.

People with fructose malabsorption have simply lost the ability to absorb fructose freely across the intestine independent of glucose.

Why is Fructose intolerance bad news?

Screen Shot 2014-02-18 at 2.13.46 PMThe problem is, if fructose is not absorbed then it will pass through into the large intestine and will be a food source for bacteria, causing fermentation, bloating, wind and abdominal distention.

There can be a few reasons why people can begin to suffer with fructose malabsorption and all have to do with damage to the intestinal lining, through physical/emotional stress, prolonged or heavy use of antibiotics, gastroenteritis or travel (ie contracting Bali or Delhi ‘Belly’).

So what can you do if you suffer?

Proper food-combining made a huge difference to my digestion.  That is, making sure fruit is always eaten before anything cooked, and that fats are kept until the last meal of the day to ensure that fruits are not held back by fats and end up fermenting in the gut.

But even with proper food-combining it was clear that there were some fruits and veggies that I just couldn’t digest easily, and these, it turns out are generally foods which are high in FODMAPS…

FODMAP is an acronym, which stands for:






If you suffer from fructose intolerance you need to avoid high FODMAP foods.

These are all found in particular foods, which if avoided or severely limited can give you tremendous relief.

On a high-carb raw vegan diet, many of high FODMAP foods like honey, grains, dairy products and High fructose corn syrup (HFCS) are already eliminated, but there are still some fruits, veggies and legumes which will cause problems.

Here’s a list of high FODMAP foods recommended to avoid (I have highlighted the fruits and veggies that could be problematic on a vegan diet):

Honey, apples, pears, mango, watermelon, HFCS, onion, garlic, leek, shallots, spring onions (whites only), wheat, rye, barley, yoghurt (inulin), milk, icecream, custards, soft cheeses, legumes cherries, peaches, plums, cauliflower, snow peas and mushrooms.

If you are fructose intolerant then you need to experiment and listen to your body.

I seem to run into problems with pears (unless they’re super super ripe), watermelon, onion, leek, shallots, garlic, legumes, broccoli, cauliflower and mushrooms, so it is highly likely that I’m fructose intolerant.

When I consume watermelon and pears for instance I get extremely loose stools and some mild abdominal pain, but rarely get any bloating or gas anymore, since I stopped eating grains and dairy.

However, apples and mangos I seem to have no problem with.

I’m also very interested to find out if it’s possible to heal the lining of your small intestine so that you can begin to absorb fructose independently of glucose once more.  I figure that, since the rest of the body is able to heal, that the small intestine is no different.

I have noticed that the longer I stay on a close to 100% high carb, low fat raw vegan diet the less these symptoms seem to occur, even with FODMAP fruits.  For instance I can eat half a watermelon now and it doesn’t cause the severe pain and distention that it used to.  I still get some mild discomfort and loose stools with it, of course, so I’m obviously not completely healed yet.

My FODMAPS experiment

So I’m going to try a period (let’s say 30 days) without eating certain high FODMAP fruits and veggies and see if I can completely heal my small intestine.

The question I have now is…What the hell do I do with the four watermelons I have left from my recent shop?  Luckily the rest of my family love melons!

The great thing is that you don’t have to avoid fruit altogether if you have fructose intolerance.  You just need to be careful that the fruits you eat have an equal amount of glucose present as well so as to facilitate the transfer.

FODMAP-friendly fruits are: ripe bananas, blueberries, grapefruit, grapes, honeydew, cantaloupe, lemons, limes, passion fruit, raspberries, strawberries, tangelos, kiwi, and oranges.

Vegetables such as bok choy, bean sprouts, bell peppers, butter lettuce, carrots, celery, chives, corn, eggplant, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes (these would have to be cooked), and spinach are also fine if you’re fructose sensitive.

I shall give this new regimen a go for the next 30 days and report back on my experiment in due course!

Conclusion – While a raw vegan diet has been AMAZING for much of my healing, sometimes you need to do a bit of personal tweaking to get things right.  People have intolerances and allergies to all sorts of things.  Just because someone is allergic to mango doesn’t mean that they cannot follow a fruit-based diet.  There are PLENTY of other fruits available!

After more than two years following this lifestyle I finally feel like I’m getting closer to the optimal diet for me, and it’s so exciting!!  This is after YEARS of muddle around in a cloud not knowing what to do about my failing health…

Have you experienced any issues with consuming certain fruits and veggies?

Leave your comments below.  I’d love to hear from you…

Anthea Frances is an author, raw food health coach and host of the Raw Life Summit series.  Grab a copy of her free Balanced Raw Vegan Nutrition Checklist and start improving your health today!

  1. thanks so much for this!!! I have genetic malabsorption to fruit which makes eating raw very complicated and keeps me from losing weight. I am also hypertensive and so sometimes the grains and legumes will keep my blood pressure in the normal/ stable range.

  2. Hi BB,
    Thanks for your comment. I’m wondering if you’re drinking enough water, as this can be a cause of low blood pressure. I was a little confused by your concerns. It is possible that a low sodium diet is causing your blood pressure to drop. Have you tried consuming all your fruit meals with greens, for added fibre and minerals. People with blood sugar fluctuations find this helpful.

  3. I am so glad I found this, it is so great to know there are other people out there who can make a high carb low fat vegan diet work with fructose intollerence! I’m currently vegan, but didn’t think that the diet could be done for someone who avoids many fruits. My question is whether it is the quantity of fruit or the type of fruit that is making us feel discomfort? I would love to eat 10 bananas as a meal, but I’m scared I’ll be having too much fructose.
    Love Georgia xxx

  4. In my experience, Georgia, malabsorption happens when there is fermentation. And fermentation happens when something impedes the fast digestion of fruit sugars. So, for instance, consuming any fat with sweet fruit, or cooked starches like beans or grains before or with fruit. There are certain fruits like pears for instance that can cause me trouble, but I’ve discovered that as long as I eat them really ripe and juicy I don’t have a problem. Combining fruits with greens is ideal. Rather than jump into 10 bananas, just try having 5 bananas, making sure they’re really ripe (spotty) and seeing what happens. If you eat them early in the day before any other foods you shouldn’t have any problem.

  5. I have been running a vegan/grain free, legume free, sugar free cafe whilst I continue to work on my own diet. So many interesting stories with such a similar theme. Lately I have been experimenting with increasing alkaline foods in my diet over winter as this is the hardest time for raw & not much other than pears & apples about.
    Great to meet someone else consciously working on this .

  6. Hi Anthea, thank you for useful information. Will keep it in mind. Can you give a link to full list of FODMAP products and source of this information?

  7. I have read your post and I must say that you believe that Fructose Malabsorption is all about the Fructose. Fructans (FOS) Polyols (sugar alcohols) and Galactans (GOS) can be more of an issue if you are intolerant to them as well. I am unable to eat any fruit or vegetables without major issues with bloating, pain, constipation, foggy memory and tiredness. I can’t even eat one quarter of a grated precooked carrot without issues because the carrot has Fructans and celery has both Fructans and Polyols (sugar alcohols) in it. Fructans and Polyols are intolerated by everyone at sometime in their life but with people like me who don’t have the enzymes in their small intestine to break the foods can suffer severely. My diets was based around fresh fruit and vegetables until 3 years ago and I am trying to bring back veggies to my diet; however, I am still unable to tolerate any small amount. Fruit has been out of my diets for the past 35 years due to its affect on me. I maybe one of the few that has this condition in a bad way but please don’t make Fructose Malabsorption like it is a single issue and like a walk in the park if you just watch what you eat and the amount of it. If you have the intolerance to the rest of the FODMAPs, then there is very little left to eat and what there is left will only bring on new issues for people. The healthy vegetables that I want to eat will help with the acid build up that I get, will help lower the Cholesterol and will lessen the chances of getting kidney and more gall stones. Most people are not aware of this but I am now because I have it. I want to live a long life but my diet or lack of it rules my life now. FODMAPs will not help me but will kill me and this has been proved twice and recorded by my doctor and a specialist surgeon who did an Endoscopy on me. Thank you for reading this.

  8. Can you give an update on your experimental period? I have found a full relief of my “symptoms” by being on a low fodmap diet for the past year. But I, too, wonder if I can further heal my gut so that I can once again digest fructose normally.  The GAPS diet talks of being able to reverse gut damage after 1 or 2 yrs and I’m so hopeful that my condition can one day be reversed. 

  9. Hi Kim, Sure – great Idea. After being a fruit-based raw vegan diet now for 6 years I can say that my symptoms are completely resolved. I no longer have any issue with even fruits like watermelon in large amounts. I no longer get bloating, reflux or pain of any kind. My bowel movements are regular, usually a couple of times a day, and nicely formed. I believe that my gut has been fully healed now. I believe that the answer has been removing the toxic offenders from my diet (animal products, grains, processed foods, caffeine and alcohol) and emphasizing whole fruits and vegetables for their prebiotic benefits. Hope this helps. I guess I should do a video update! 🙂

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