If you’ve ever looked at the label of packaged food, you likely have seen the words ”sugar alcohols” and wondered if there was a difference between sugar alcohols and. sugar. Well, there is, and there isn’t.
While they naturally occur in some foods, sugar alcohols are typically commercially synthesized sweeteners in processed foods as a low-calorie alternative to sugar. While sugar alcohols may have fewer calories than sugar, they are highly processed and contain GMOs and other toxic chemicals that impact your gut health.
If you have Candida overgrowth or small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO), sugar alcohols could add fuel to the fire. Sugar alcohols feed opportunistic Candida and excess bacteria that colonize in the small intestine the same way as regular table sugar. The good news is that you can repair your gut with my new tool to promote optimal gut healing.
I’ll tell you what foods contain sugar alcohols, the types of sugar alcohols found in foods, if sugar alcohols are bad for you, and my secret weapon to heal your gut. First, let’s talk about sugar alcohols vs. sugar.
The Difference Between Sugar Alcohols vs. Sugar
Table sugar is one of the most commonly used refined sugars in the Standard American Diet. As a society, we consume far greater quantities of sugar than our ancestors. Refined sugars are sugars from a natural source, such as sugar cane. However, they have been processed so only sugar remains, such as table sugar or corn syrup.
In contrast, sugar alcohols, also known as polyols, are highly processed sweeteners commonly used as a low-calorie alternative to sugar. While sugar alcohols are chemically similar to sugars and alcohol, they do not contain any ethanol, the type of alcohol found in alcoholic beverages, or any sugar.1
Your body does not fully absorb sugar alcohols,2 and they could cause digestive issues such as gas, bloating, or diarrhea. Additionally, sugar alcohols can impact blood glucose levels the same way as regular sugar. They are carbohydrates and can raise blood sugar levels. If you’re a diabetic, it’s important to check the labels of “low-sugar” foods for sugar alcohols.
There are four common types of sugar alcohols: erythritol, xylitol, sorbitol, and maltitol. Let’s discuss each one and where they might be found.
Types of Sugar Alcohols
There are the four common sugar alcohols found in foods. Sugar alcohols are generally safe in healthy people at moderate levels. It’s important to remember that while they are considered safe, sugar alcohols found in packaged food are often commercially processed and could contain GMOs, artificial preservatives, and other toxic elements harmful to your gut health. Here are the different types of sugar alcohols found in foods.
Erythritol is one of the most popular zero-calorie sweeteners available. It tastes similar to regular sugar and is typically safe if you are not dealing with leaky gut, Candida overgrowth, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and do not consume them in large amounts.
Erythritol is highly regarded as less problematic than aspartame as a sweetener.3 However, there has been a large amount of controversy around erythritol based on a March 2023 study published in Nature Medicine. One study found that higher blood levels of erythritol were associated with a greater risk of heart disease.4 However, the data has been scrutinized because it only looked at levels in your blood, not the amount consumed. Also, the subjects used in the study were animals and not humans.5
Erythritol is a natural sweetener in grapes, peaches, pears, and watermelons. It can also be found in fermented foods such as beer, sake, soy sauce, and wine. If you have Candida overgrowth, you may be aware those foods feed the overgrowth and can worsen symptoms.
Another factor to consider is that the body does not fully absorb erythritol. Only about 10% of the erythritol is fermented in the colon, while the other 90% is removed in your urine.6
Xylitol is another popular sugar substitute found in chewing gum, mints, and other sweets. It’s commonly included in sugar-free ice cream, chocolate, baked goods, processed pancake syrups, cough syrups, and some gummy vitamins.
Research has yet to conclude whether xylitol is or is not safe. Xylitol is made from xylose, which is the natural form found in some fruits and vegetables, such as raspberries, mushrooms and cauliflower, and birch trees.
Some studies suggest that if you eat foods with xylose, you can experience digestive issues such as gas, bloating, and diarrhea.7 The same studies found that xylose may be stored in your liver and could lead to fatty liver disease.8
Other studies found potential benefits to xylitol, such as improving dental health and not impacting blood glucose levels. However, opinions vary on how safe xylitol is if you have diabetes because it is still a sugar alcohol.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) categorizes sorbitol as a safe sugar substitute. Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol often used in sugar-free gum and candy. It is also found in laxatives and rectal enema solutions.9 Sorbitol occurs naturally in apples, blackberries, and raspberries. It is about 50-70% as sweet as sugar, with about 2.6 calories per gram.
In addition to being naturally found in whole foods, sorbitol is commercially processed and found in sweetened baked goods, chocolates, frozen desserts, hard candies, chewing gum, and candy bars.
As with other sugar alcohols, your body slowly absorbs sorbitol, which may cause diarrhea, loose stool, stomach pain, gas, and bloating if consumed in large amounts.
Maltitol is one of the most common synthetic sugar alcohols found in baked goods, chocolate coatings, chewing gums, and hard candies. It can be naturally found in some fruits and vegetables. However, it’s made from starches such as potatoes and corn, which contains the sugar maltose.
It is about 50% to 70% as sweet as sugar, with about 2.1 calories per gram. Maltitol can cause digestive issues such as bloating and diarrhea in some people.
Are Sugar Alcohols Bad For you?
Just because sugar alcohols can be natural sweeteners doesn’t mean they are always good for you. While sugar alcohols may be a low-calorie alternative to sugar, they are still processed and artificial. They have benefits and drawbacks, and it’s essential to consider both when deciding whether or not to eat foods containing sugar alcohols.
I mentioned that some of the touted benefits of sugar alcohols include improving dental health, and they can be used for a low-sugar/low-carb diet. How much sugar alcohol is safe to consume hasn’t been determined. However, most studies suggest more than 30 to 40 grams daily could negatively impact your health.
Here are three ways sugar alcohols could negatively impact your health:
- Digestive problems – Sugar alcohols are notorious for triggering GI issues because gut bacteria ferment them. As I mentioned earlier, if you have SIBO or Candida overgrowth, this could add fuel to an already burning fire and create a favorable environment for bacteria to colonize in the small intestine or opportunistic Candida to overgrow, causing constipation, bloating, and diarrhea.
- Weight gain – Research suggests artificial sweeteners, especially erythritol, may not help you lose weight. Instead, they may have the opposite effect and cause you to gain weight if you overeat them. Artificial sweeteners also can increase belly fat if consumed in large amounts.10
- Blood sugar problems – Sugar alcohols have less impact on your blood glucose levels than table sugar or can sugar. Yet, they can still increase blood glucose levels. If you have type 1 or type 2 diabetes, you should avoid consuming foods with sugar alcohols.
If you have concerns about sugar alcohols, you can use natural sweeteners such as coconut sugar, maple syrup, dates, honey, and stevia.
Sugar Alcohols vs. Sugar: The Impact on Your Gut
In our hunter-gatherer days, a piece of fruit would be a welcome source of quick-release energy. Refined sugar, however, is a modern invention that our bodies did not evolve to have the capacity to deal with properly.
We also consume far more significant quantities of sugar than we are designed to handle. During an average day, your body doesn’t need all those quick, intense bursts of energy that sugar provides because, unlike our ancestors, we aren’t running away from animals trying to eat us.
Not only are added sugars such as sugar alcohols and artificial sweeteners unnecessary for proper body function, it’s actively detrimental to your overall well-being.
Sugar and artificial sweeteners impact your gut by increasing intestinal permeability. Excess sugar alters the gut microbiota and increases the risk of gut conditions such as leaky gut, Candida overgrowth, and SIBO, increasing your risk of developing autoimmune disease.11
The good news is that the power is in your control. That’s empowering! To reverse the damage caused by high sugar and sugar alcohol consumption, you start by healing your gut. I’m excited to share the newest tool to repair and detox your gut, Gut ImmunIG™.
Repair and Detox Your Gut
After months of research on the incredible power of ImmunoLin®, a cutting-edge immune protein composed of concentrated immunoglobulins found in bovine serum so ti is naturally dairy-free, I formulated Gut ImmunIG™ to facilitate optimal gut function and detox your digestive tract to promote a healthy inflammatory response.
Gut ImmunIG™ is the perfect tool to revitalize your gut and restore optimal gut function. I have used the 4R method (remove, replace, reinoculate, and repair) with thousands of patients in my world-renowned clinic and witnessed amazing results. Here’s how Gut ImmunIG™ works with my 4R approach to healing your gut:
Gut ImmunIG™ and The Four R’s
The Four R’s are the first step in The Myers Way® protocol to heal your gut (Remove, Replace, Reinoculate, Repair). This critical process is essential in getting to the root of the underlying barriers to gut health and alleviating the debilitating symptoms they cause. Gut ImmunIG™ is a key tool for achieving and maintaining optimal gut health—for good!*
Remove With Gut ImmunIG™
Gut ImmunIG™ gets right to work—beginning the process by facilitating the removal of negative factors wreaking havoc upon the delicate balance of your gut’s microbiome.*
The Immunoglobulins in Gut ImmunIG™ work around the clock as a biotoxin binder to expel antigens and toxins—prohibiting them from crossing the gut barrier.*
Restore with Gut ImmunIG™
Once Gut ImmunIG™ has helped to expel biotoxins and irritants, your body will be able to more effectively aid in proper digestion, so you can begin to overcome the negative effects of poor diet, medications, chronic illness, and aging.
Gut ImmunIG™ is the perfect way to promote a balanced digestive process that absorbs and breaks down nutrients efficiently and enables greater muscle protein synthesis—so you can get back to the quality of life you deserve.
Reinoculate With Gut ImmunIG™
Next, it’s time to reinoculate by restoring your gut’s natural microbiome so that your body can experience the amazing benefits of optimal nutrient absorption, At this point, Gut ImmunIG™ has laid the foundation for an environment where newly introduced beneficial bacteria will thrive, helping your gut and body achieve optimal health.
Repair With Gut ImmunIG™
Finally, and most importantly, it’s time to provide your gut with the nutrients necessary to help the gut repair and maintain itself. Gut ImmunIG™ quickly and efficiently facilitates a stronger mucosal lining within the gut for peak gut barrier function. Your body can finally be able to maintain its intestinal homeostasis and reduce the risk of symptoms returning in the future.
You don’t have to live with digestive issues caused by eating too many foods containing sugar alcohol or sugar. Repairing your gut is the first step to optimal health, and Gut ImmunIG™ is a powerful tool to help restore the optimal function of your gut barrier.
The Final Word on Sugar Alcohols vs. Sugar
If you can tolerate sugar alcohols in moderation without gas, bloating, or abdominal pain, they are safe to eat and a great low-calorie alternative. If you have gut infections such as Candida overgrowth, SIBO, or a leaky gut, you should avoid eating foods containing sugar alcohol until you’ve repaired your gut. For optimal gut repair, try Gut ImmunIG™ and get on the path to optimal health!
- What You Should Know About Sugar Alcohols. Cleveland Clinic. 2023.
- What Are Sugar Alcohols?. Loraine Fick. Nourish by WebMD. 2022.
- Aspartame and Cancer Risk. American Cancer Society. 2023.
- Erythritol and cardiovascular events. National Institutes of Health. 2023.
- Debunking The Erythritol Study. Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA. American Council on Science and Health. 2023.
- Metabolism of erythritol in humans: Comparison with glucose and lactitol. Martin Hiele, Yvo Ghoos, Paul Rutgeerts, and Gaston Vantrappen. Cameridge University Press. 2007.
- Health benefits of xylitol. Asma Gasmi Benahmed, et al. Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology. 2020.
- Effects of Prolonged Ingestion of Xylose on Rats. The Journal of Nutrition. 1953.
- Sorbitol Solution - Uses, Side Effects, and More. Chuck Dinerstein, MD, MBA. WebMD. 2023.
- Gain weight by “going diet?” Artificial sweeteners and the neurobiology of sugar cravings. Qing Yang. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. 2010.
- The Link Between Sugar and Rheumatoid Arthritis. Michael W. Smith, MD. WebMD. 2020.