Nutrition: Sugar Substitutes

Find the sweet spot.

By Eric Chen, WAC Nutritionist and Wellness Coach

Splenda, Equal, xylitol, and aspartame are a few of the most common sugar substitutes around. These “calorie free” sweeteners are extremely popular since they provide sugary flavor without the guilt of calories. From coffee to gum to protein bars, it’s not uncommon for an individual to consume some artificial sweetener at some point during the day. As these sugar replacements are general regarded as safe for regular consumption, we are now finding out a little more about the effects they can play our internal bacteria.

My favorite example of the effects of sugar substitutes is with gum, specifically gum made with xylitol, such as Trident or Extra. Xylitol is a type of sugar alcohol that has been recommended by dentists because it cannot be metabolized by oral bacteria. This in turn reduces the risk of tooth decay and cavity formations. This is great for oral bacteria, but what happens when we start ingesting these sugar alcohols regularly? We start to notice a shift in our gut flora because gut bacteria cannot metabolize sugar alcohols for fuel. Without our normal gut flora, issues such as IBS, Crohn’s disease, and ulcerative colitis can start flairing up, especially if we aren’t supporting our digestive tract with the right pre- and probiotics.

On the bright side, eliminating artificial sugars from the diet will lead to the original balance of gut flora within a few weeks. Make sure to be aware of overall sugar and sugar alcohol intake to optimize your health and digestion.

—Published February 14, 2018




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