The People's Perspective on Medicine

Can Sugarless Gum Cause GI Problems?

Q. I have a nervous stomach. This results in frequent, unpredictable bouts of diarrhea. I have also been chewing sugarless gum daily for years.  

I just heard that sugarless gum can combat constipation. Does that mean it could also cause diarrhea? Could my chewing gum be contributing to my digestive problems?  

A. Sugarless gum and candy are sweetened with mannitol, sorbitol, malitol, maltitol or xylitol. These are natural compounds that taste sweet but are not completely absorbed from the digestive tract. The unabsorbed remnants can pull fluid into the colon, leading to cramps and diarrhea. Why not stop chewing gum for a week or two so you can see if that makes a difference? If it does, you may want to find a substitute for sugarless gum.  

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    About the Author
    Joe Graedon is a pharmacologist who has dedicated his career to making drug information understandable to consumers. His best-selling book, The People’s Pharmacy, was published in 1976 and led to a syndicated newspaper column, syndicated public radio show and web site. In 2006, Long Island University awarded him an honorary doctorate as “one of the country's leading drug experts for the consumer.” .
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    Problems with sugarless gum from Oct 12th’15 in the Buffalo News:
    Upon reading the writer who wrote chewing too much sugarless gum especially if they are a teenager (like that 14 year old in this case) brought back some memories in the 1990s for me. There was a sugar free product at that time called Velamints. Someone had some & offered me one. I liked these hard mints & the way that they dissolved in your mouth minty fresh that I would buy them regularly. Yes, sugar free. They were available in spearmint, peppermint, cinnamon, licorice & cocoa. Velamints had these available in gum as well. Some mints/candy have an aftertaste that can turn impacting your breath but not with the Velamints then for me. I loved that minty taste in my mouth & believed at the time that it was harmless.

    I found out that it does effect one’s bowels. I did not have any health issues or problems but everything should be done in moderation. In this case it was the ingredient in this product that can cause one’s bowels to be soft. I was not a minor at that time but thinking back to then & moving forward now, no matter how simple or safe one is to believe a product is, it’s always a good idea to be very careful.

    In my case then, I did not read the ingredients much less understand their impact or significance (it was a different era then). I’m glad that this writer took the initiative to bring up an important issue especially when it relates to a teenager who is still in an development stage of their life. Thank you so very much Peoples Pharmacy for keeping me informed by keeping your column in existence in the Buffalo News. I treasure & look forward to your column.
    I still love this product but do try to consume things in moderation.

    * Be nice, and don't over share. View comment policy^