You’ve heard it before: Sugar is bad for you. But “The Daily Show” host Trevor Noah says he’s allergic to the sweet stuff. “I’m addicted to sugar, and allergic to it,” The Daily Show host says in a new interview with Us Weekly. “My skin turns red and puffy.”
It sounds extreme but experts say you can actually be allergic or, more commonly, intolerant to sugar. “Sugar as a substance has a real impact on people, psychologically and physically,” says New York City registered dietitian Jessica Cording.
You can be allergic to a certain type of sugar
However, people are usually intolerant to certain types of sugars, like fructose, sucrose, or lactose, rather than all sugars, says certified dietitian-nutritionist Lisa Moskovitz, R.D., CEO of NY Nutrition Group. People with an actual sugar allergy may have immediate reactions like cramping, diarrhea, skin rash, or an itchy mouth, Moskovitz says, while those with an intolerance may just have gastrointestinal symptoms or fatigue.
There could be an underlying issue
“If someone describes a sugar intolerance, it’s most likely an underlying issue that is being exacerbated by consuming foods with sugar,” says registered dietitian nutritionist Beth Warren, founder of Beth Warren Nutrition and author of Living a Real Life With Real Food. Instead, the problem may be a microbial imbalance in the gut with an overgrowth of yeast. Since yeast feeds on sugars, it could exacerbate the problem, causing symptoms like skin rashes and puffiness, she says.
There is a lot of food that you need to avoid if you have a sugar allergy
Unfortunately, it’s not just a matter of avoiding sweets: Natural sugars, like those found in fruits, can also cause problems for people with a sugar intolerance, provided they’re allergic to all sugars. “Any sugar, whether natural or added, will prompt the same issue,” Warren says.
If you notice that you’re having symptoms after eating sugar, Cording recommends cutting out added sugars, as well as white bread, white flour, energy drinks, fruit, and fruit juices. “Some people do well cutting out alcohol as well,” she says. She also encourages eating a lot of protein and making sure to have non-starchy vegetables, while avoiding potatoes and corn (the starches in them convert to sugar in your body).
Figure out what your body reacts to
Of course, you may not need to go that extreme with your diet. Registered dietitian-nutritionist Karen Ansel, coauthor of The Calendar Diet: A Month by Month Guide to Losing Weight, says that it’s a good idea to try to narrow down what type of sugar you think you’re allergic or intolerant to. She recommends keeping a food diet and recording what causes flare-ups. “It’s entirely possible that lactose may bother you but that other types of sugars are not a problem, or that too many sweets are causing you to break out,” she says. Ultimately, it’s really a matter of figuring out what your body reacts to and how badly.
If you suspect that you have a sugar allergy or intolerance, it’s a good idea to see your doctor to be sure. “Any time you’re having these kinds of symptoms, it’s really important to check in with your doctor to makes sure there’s no underlying condition,” Cording says.