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What is Disaccharide Intolerance?

Disaccharide Intolerance is an inherited metabolic disorder that mostly affects infants and young children and is characterised by a lack of the enzymes sucrase and isomaltase in the body. This enzyme combination (sucrase-isomaltase) helps in breaking down certain sugars (sucrose for example) and also assists with starch digestion. 

Normally found in the lining of the small intestine (also called the microvilli or brush border), a deficiency in these enzymes means nutrients that come from sucrose and starch can’t be absorbed by the body. 

Symptoms of Disaccharide Intolerance

This can cause a range of symptoms, including abdominal discomfort from swelling (also called distension) and diarrhoea. 

In severe cases, it has caused malnutrition in infants, which can be life-threatening. Symptoms will appear only after the ingestion of the particular disaccharides that aren’t tolerated in the body. 

Treatment of Disaccharide Intolerance

Once ingestion of the particular disaccharide is excluded from the diet, symptoms will typically disappear. Some studies have shown that when children with intolerances to sucrose and isomaltose mature, spontaneous recovery can sometimes occur however no such recovery has been observed for congenital lactose intolerance. 

A modification to the diet and a reduction in certain disaccharides types is often recommended by health professionals to help treat disaccharide intolerance. If you are concerned about disaccharide intolerance, please consult your doctor. 


Auricchio, S., et al: Isomaltose Intolerance Causing Decreased Ability to Utilize Dietary Starch, J Pediat 62:165-176 (Feb) 1963. 

Weijers, H.A., et al: Diarrhoea Caused by Deficiency of Sugar Splitting Enzymes: I. Acta Paediat 50:55-71 (Jan) 1961.

Sonntag, W.M., et al: Sucrose-Isomaltose Malabsorption in an Adult Woman, Gastroenterology 47:18-25 (July) 1964.

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