Whether dietary fructose intolerance causes symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is unclear. We examined the prevalence of fructose intolerance in IBS and long-term outcome of fructose-restricted diet.
Two hundred and nine patients with suspected IBS were retrospectively evaluated for organic illnesses. Patients with IBS (Rome II) and positive fructose breath test received instructions regarding fructose-restricted diet. One year later, their symptoms, compliance with, and effects of dietary modification on lifestyle were assessed using a structured interview.
Eighty patients (m/f=26/54) fulfilled Rome II criteria. Of 80 patients, 31 (38%) had positive breath test. Of 31 patients, 26 (84%) participated in follow-up (mean=13 mo) evaluation. Of 26 patients, 14 (53%) were compliant with diet; mean compliance=71%. In this group, pain, belching, bloating, fullness, indigestion, and diarrhea improved (P<0.02). Of 26 patients, 12 (46%) were noncompliant, and their symptoms were unchanged, except belching. The mean impact on lifestyle, compliant versus noncompliant groups was 2.93 versus 2.57 (P>0.05).
About one-third of patients with suspected IBS had fructose intolerance. When compliant, symptoms improved on fructose-restricted diet despite moderate impact on lifestyle; noncompliance was associated with persistent symptoms. Fructose intolerance is another jigsaw piece of the IBS puzzle that may respond to dietary modification.