What too much sugar can do to your digestive system

What too much sugar can do to your digestive system

Do you know what too much sugar can do to your digestive system? It is that time of year. As the weather warms up, we tend to evaluate our health and diet. It probably is not new to you that a diet high in sugar is detrimental to your health. Heart disease, diabetes, high cholesterol and elevated blood pressure can all be linked to a high sugar diet. But did you know that sugar can play havoc on your digestive system?

Do you think of sugar as the white granules you put in your coffee or tea? Or maybe you think of sweets or candy? Sugar is actually more complex than that.
Sugar comes in many forms depending on its source and degree of processing. There’s raw sugar, brown sugar, fruit sugar, corn sugar, milk sugar and beet sugar. There are also sugar alcohols and natural sugars found in varying fruits, vegetables, dairy and grains. Finally, there are refined sugars – the table variety – usually found in the form of crystals, syrups or powders.

How much sugar should you be eating?

Too much sugar intake is typical in the Western diet. High sugar consumption has been linked to many chronic diseases, including obesity, Type II Diabetes, cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, fatty liver disease and more.

The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends a maximum amount of added sugar for males around 9 teaspoons or 37.5 grams per day and for females around 6 teaspoons or 25 grams per day.

Here is what too much sugar can do to your digestive system:

sugar and your digestive system


Although absorbing water is the main job of the large intestine, sugar can draw water into the large intestine or at least prevent it from being absorbed properly. This can lead to bloating or a feeling of heaviness in the gut.


Studies have shown a link between diarrhea and the poor digestion of certain sugars. People with celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, and chronic diarrhea produce an abnormally high amount of mucus in the intestines, which hinders digestion prevent the absorption of these starches and disaccharides.


Excess sugar that cannot be broken down and absorbed by the body will be left to sit in the bowels, where it ferments. This sugar moves more slowly through the large intestine, feeding bad bacteria and yeast, and causing a build-up of gas. This gas can cause cramping, spasms and pain.

Sugar Intolerance

Lactose is the sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance occurs when your body does not produce the enzyme required to break down lactose, resulting in gas, bloating and other digestive discomforts. In a similar way, high fructose corn syrup can inhibit digestion because the body cannot break it down either. The fructose stays in the intestines, causing gastrointestinal bloating and discomfort.

Liver Damage

Digestion is stimulated by the liver. Fructose can only be processed by the liver. All the fructose ingested is sent to the liver at once, overloading it and causing potential damage, which in turn impairs digestion.

Metabolic Dysfunction

Fructose fails to stimulate insulin, which in turn fails to suppress the ‘hunger hormone’ ghrelin. As a result, the satiety hormone leptin is not stimulated either, which causes you to eat more.
This leads to weight gain, abdominal obesity, decreased HDL and increased LDL, elevated blood sugar, elevated triglycerides and high blood pressure.

Do you suffer from gas, bloating, diarrhea? We can help.
At Ocean Family Gastroenterology, our digestive health experts have the experience and the tools to diagnose the cause of your digestive discomfort and we will provide personalized care to get you on a path to feeling better. To schedule a consultation, contact us HERE.