Fit Food: Sugar Alcohols

fotolia_6552583_XSI want to start this week’s article with a personal anecdote. Last year around this time I was prepping for a show. My diet was very clean and I wasn’t having any treats at all. Yet each morning I would wake up with a flat stomach and by the end of the day I was so uncomfortably bloated that I looked three months pregnant. And to top it all off I was very constipated which just added to the discomfort. My coach and I couldn’t figure it out. Since we knew exactly what I was eating and the amounts there should be no reason why this was happening.

Then randomly one day I read an article about the sugar alcohols used as calorie free sweeteners in many foods, including sugar free gum. I don’t usually chew gum, but in the weeks preceding a show it can help quell a sweets craving or just keep your mouth busy and stop you from eating other things! And I suppose this time around I went a bit overboard with the gum – chewing two pieces at a time and going through half a pack to an entire pack a day! I immediately cut out the gum and started doing research on artificial sweeteners. Here is what I found.

Sugar alcohols are a type of carbohydrate. Examples are malitol, sorbitol, isomalt, and xylitol. Some are naturally occurring in plants and some are processed from sugars. They are used as a very low calorie or no calorie sweetener because they do not have as much of an impact on blood sugar as caloric sweeteners. These sugar alcohols are not fully digested by our bodies and it is here that we start to have problems. If you consume too many sugar alcohols they build up in the intestines and ferment; causing bloating, gas, constipation and/or diarrhea. Symptoms vary from person to person. Sugar alcohols are commonly used in soft drinks, sugar free gum, cookies and baked goods, and diabetic products like sugar free candy.92829418_XS

The good news here is that no other adverse effects have been found with long term ingestion of sugar alcohols. Too much can cause digestive upset, but that appears to be it. In my personal opinion anything that interferes with your bodies’ ability to absorb nutrients from the food you eat or causes you physical distress for an extended period of time can’t be good for you. For this reason I would advise to consume sugar alcohols in moderation if you do consume them at all.

As for me, I eliminated gum and my symptoms completely subsided within a few days. I do still have gum occasionally, but only one stick at a time!

Happy Lifting!

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