Q. I just ate a bar of sugarless dark chocolate. It was low carb and gluten free, so I assumed it would be a healthy treat.
I suffered severe stomach cramping, gas and diarrhea! What happened?
A. Sugarless candy is often sweetened with maltitol, mannitol, sorbitol or xylitol. These sweeteners are called sugar alcohols although they are neither sugar nor alcohol. They have fewer calories than table sugar and were originally derived from natural sources such as sweet potatoes, pineapples, birch bark or beets.
These compounds are not absorbed well, so they attract water into the lower digestive tract. This can result in cramping and diarrhea if too much is consumed.
You are not the only one to have experienced an unpleasant result from eating a bit too much sugarless chocolate. EBM noted: “Sugarfree candies and products usually carry a warning on the label that too much (it may state the amount) can have a laxative reaction. One must read labels, even on candy and gum!
“An elderly friend called and said she was “exploding” after eating half a bag of coffee nips — sugarfree! THIS WAS OVER 10 YEARS AGO, and is old info.”
We have occasionally suggested sugarfree gum or candy to people who are troubled with constipation. It makes a great deal of sense to approach the dosing cautiously, as it may well vary from one person to another.