Xylitol, a sugar alcohol, is known for its sweet flavor. Dentists like this natural sweetener, because its chemical composition prevents it from turning into acid in your mouth -- a leading cause of tooth decay. Small quantities of xylitol can naturally be found in fruits, vegetables, chewing gum, cough syrups and candy. According to the Yale-New Haven Hospital, the American Diabetes Association guidelines state that sugar alcohols such as xylitol are acceptable in moderate amounts. However, consuming large amounts of the sweetener can cause complications. Side effects are rare, but it is important to know risks before trying a new sweetener.
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If you consume more than 40 grams of xylitol sweetener a day, you may initially experience stomach discomfort and diarrhea, according to Consumer Guide to Dentistry. Sugar alcohols such as xylitol can have a laxative effect on your body when consumed in large amounts. Some other gastrointestinal problems that can occur after ingesting xylitol are nausea, gas, colic, increased bowel movements and bloating. Most of the time the diarrhea subsides once your digestive system adjusts to the sweetener, but if symptoms persist or worsen, discontinue xylitol use and contact a medical professional.
Elevated Blood Sugar
If you have diabetes, exercise caution when consuming products that contain xylitol, because this sweetener can have small effects on your blood sugar and insulin release. Consuming sugar alcohols such as xylitol can slightly elevate your blood sugar levels, especially if you have type 1 diabetes. The Consumer Guide to Dentistry suggests that you limit your daily consumption of xylitol to 70 grams or less if you have diabetes.
You may experience an allergic reaction to xylitol sweetener. Signs and symptoms of an allergic reaction include hives, skin rash, breathing difficulties, swelling of the mouth and hands, dizziness, vomiting, chest tightness and general weakness. In severe cases, an allergic reaction may lead to shock or death. If you experience an allergic reaction to xylitol, discontinue the sweetener and contact a medical professional immediately.
- Drugs.com: Xylitol
- UpToDate: Patient information: Type 1 diabetes mellitus and diet
- Consumer Guide to Dentistry: Xylitol Health Benefits and Potential Side Effects
- Myalgic Encephalomyelitis and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Foundation: Was it Something You Ate?
- Xylitol.org: FAQ's
- American Diabetes Association: Diabetes Care; Nutrition Recommendations and Interventions for Diabetes; John P. Bantle et al.