Xylitol low calorie substitute

Xylitol is a lower-calorie sugar substitute with a low glycemic index. Some research suggests that it may also improve dental health, prevent ear infections, and possess antioxidant properties.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, which is a type of carbohydrate and does not actually contain alcohol. It occurs naturally in small amounts in fibrous fruits and vegetables, trees, corncobs, and even the human body.

Manufacturers use it as a sugar substitute because its sweetness is comparable with that of table sugar but with fewer calories.

It is also a common ingredient in many products, from sugar-free chewing gum to toothpaste. People also use it as a table-top sweetener and in baking.

This article looks at the uses and potential health benefits of xylitol. It also covers its side effects, drug interactions, dosage, and alternatives.

Uses

Xylitol sweetener on wooden spoons
A low-calorie alternative to sugar.

Xylitol has a similar level of sweetness to sugar but with a fraction of the calories. It is a popular ingredient in a variety of products, including sugar-free gum and toothpaste.

Manufacturers add it to a range of foods, including:

  • sugar-free candies, such as gum, mints, and gummies
  • jams and jellies
  • honey
  • nut butter, including peanut butter
  • yogurt

It is also an ingredient in some dental care products, including:

  • toothpaste
  • mouthwash
  • other fluoride products

Potential benefits

Xylitol has several potential health benefits, including:

Low glycemic index

It has a low glycemic index (GI). This means that consuming it does not cause spikes in blood glucose or insulin levels in the body. For this reason, xylitol is a good sugar substitute for people with diabetes.

Due to its low GI, it is also a weight loss-friendly sugar substitute.

Also, a 2015 study revealed that it had significant blood glucose-lowering effects in rats that ate high-fat diets.

Dental health

Xylitol is an ingredient in many dental hygiene products, including toothpaste and mouthwash. This is due to the fact that it is non-fermentable, which means that the bacteria in the mouth cannot convert it into the harmful acid that causes tooth decay.

The oral bacterium Streptococcus mutans is largely responsible for plaque, which is the sticky, white substance that can accumulate on the outside of a person’s teeth.

Plaque binds lactic acid against the surface of the tooth. This acid breaks down the enamel and leads to tooth decay.

While it is normal for people to have some plaque on their teeth, excess amounts can lead to tooth decay, cavities, and gum disease.

A 2017 systematic review suggests that xylitol reduces the amount of S. mutans bacteria in the mouth, which reduces the amount of plaque and may help prevent tooth decay.

A 2014 study examined it on Porphyromonas gingivalis, which is the bacterium responsible for gingivitis, or gum disease. If left untreated, excess amounts of P. gingivalis can move into the bloodstream and lead to systemic inflammation.

In the study, scientists grew samples of P. gingivalis in a laboratory and added them to human cell cultures pretreated with xylitol. They saw that xylitol increased the production of immune system proteins and inhibited the growth of the bacteria.

Ear infections

Xylitol may help prevent ear infections.
Xylitol may help prevent ear infections.

The bacteria that cause tooth plaque can also accumulate behind the eardrum and cause infections of the middle ear. Doctors call these infections acute otitis media (AOM).

A 2016 systematic review found moderate-quality evidence that chewing gum, lozenges, or syrup containing xylitol can reduce the occurrence of AOM from 30 to 22 percent among healthy children.

However, a 2014 study found xylitol syrup to be ineffective in reducing AOM in children at high risk of the infection.

These conflicting results indicate the need for more research regarding the use of xylitol as a preventive treatment for ear infections in children.

Antioxidant properties

According to the National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health, free radicals cause oxidative stress, which can lead to cell damage and may play a role in the development of several conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and cancer. Laboratory studies show that antioxidants neutralize free radicals and counteract oxidative stress.

A 2014 study revealed that xylitol may have antioxidant properties. Diabetic rats who ate xylitol produced higher amounts of glutathione. This is an antioxidant that counteracts the harmful effects of free radicals. It is important to note that human studies are needed to validate these findings.

Side effects and safety

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has approved xylitol as a food additive. It is generally safe, but like other sugar alcohols, it can cause digestive issues such as bloating and diarrhea in some people.

It is worth noting that this substance can be very toxic to dogs. It is vital to store products containing xylitol in a safe place that pets cannot reach. Anyone who thinks that their dog has consumed xylitol should call their veterinarian or the Animal Poison Control Center immediately.

Drug interactions

Currently, xylitol has no known interactions with prescription or over-the-counter medications. Always consult a doctor about potential interactions when starting new medications or supplements, however.

Dosage

The suitable dosage of xylitol can vary from person to person. A 2016 review found that adults can safely tolerate between 10 grams (g) and 30 g  per day, which they usually divide into several smaller doses. After the body adapts, adults can consume up to 70 g per day without side effects.

Studies in children have used doses of up to 45 g daily. Some research suggests that consuming around 5–6 g  per day may help reduce plaque-causing bacteria in the mouth.

However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry says that more research is necessary before recommending xylitol to improve dental health in children.

Alternatives to xylitol

Syrup or nectar in a glass bowl
Agave nectar is an alternative sweetener

Manufacturers use a range of low-calorie artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes to sweeten foods and beverages. Many of these substitutes are also available as table-top sweeteners, and some people use them in baking.

Some substitutes are significantly sweeter than table sugar. However, its sweetness is very similar to that of table sugar.

Other artificial sweeteners and sugar substitutes include:

Sorbitol

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol with a similar molecular structure to xylitol. Sorbitol does not spike blood glucose levels, so it is a good sugar substitute for people who have diabetes.

Like xylitol, bacteria cannot break down sorbitol into the acids that cause tooth decay.

Erythritol

Erythritol is another sugar alcohol. Similarly to xylitol, erythritol also inhibits the growth of S. mutans.

A 2016 review found that high concentrations of erythritol are more effective at reducing oral plaque than both xylitol and sorbitol. However, xylitol is more effective than erythritol at lower concentrations.

Stevia

Stevia is a natural sweetener that manufacturers extract from the stevia plant. Stevia extract is available in granular and liquid forms. Purified leaf extract is 250–300 times sweeter than sugar.

Like xylitol, stevia can sometimes cause diarrhea and other digestive issues.

Agave nectar

Agave nectar is a syrup that manufacturers extract from the agave plant and use as a sugar substitute in some drinks and foods.

However, agave nectar mainly contains fructose, which bacteria in the mouth can break down into the acids that cause tooth decay.

Summary

Xylitol is a reduced-calorie sugar substitute similar in sweetness to table sugar. It also has a low GI, which makes it an attractive alternative to sugar for people wishing to lose weight and those with diabetes.

Some research also suggests that this compound has antibacterial properties that can help prevent tooth decay, gum disease, and ear infections. However, further research into the potential health benefits of xylitol is needed.

Natural colon cleansing

This post explores the concept of natural colon cleansing. A colon cleanse is a popular alternative remedy that some people claim removes waste and toxins from the colon. However, there is little scientific evidence to support the use of natural colon cleansing routines, except for those that doctors prescribe.

Most of what researchers know about safe colon cleansing comes from studies that aim to find ways to improve the colonoscopy procedure rather than to boost energy levels or treat intestinal problems.

People may refer to colon cleansing methods by different names, including:

  • bowel cleanses
  • detoxes
  • flushes
  • juice diets

Most colon cleansing products supposedly help detox the colon or remove harmful substances, such as mucus and dry stool. Some people also use colon cleanses to help relieve constipation.

In this article, we discuss some popular colon cleansing methods and the science behind them. We also consider their potential benefits and risks.

Water

Woman drinking water as part of natural colon cleanseDrinking water regularly can naturally cleanse the colon.

Using water is one of the easiest and safest natural colon cleansing available, and the easiest way to cleanse the colon naturally. Water moistens stool and gives it bulk, facilitating its passage through the colon.

A person who is dehydrated will have fewer bowel movements because their body is trying to retain water. It will reabsorb water from the bowel, which results in the stool becoming dry, hard, and difficult to pass.

Everyone’s daily hydration needs are different, but it is vital to drink plenty of water throughout the day.

Other beverages, including caffeinated ones, contribute toward a person’s daily water intake, but plain water is the best option as it does not contain any calories.

In a 2013 study, researchers in Jordan found that drinking more than four cups of water daily decreased the risk of colorectal cancer, but the results were not statistically significant.

The same study identified constipation as a significant risk factor for colorectal cancer. Drinking at least eight glasses of water a day can help prevent constipation, and it offers many other health benefits too.

Fruit and vegetable juice

Raw fruit and vegetable juices contain many elements that may help cleanse the colon, including fiber, phytochemicals (beneficial plant chemicals), and natural sugars that act as laxatives, such as sorbitol and fructose.

Proponents of juice cleanses recommend the following types of juice:

  • apple, including the peel
  • prune
  • pear
  • banana
  • kiwi
  • grape
  • plum
  • persimmon
  • lemon

Some colon cleanse plans recommend consuming only fluids for a few days at a time to help cleanse the colon and digestive tract.

Most health authorities recommend against juice cleanses. Raw fruit juices can contain compounds that are hard on the kidneys and liver. Without any treatment to kill harmful bacteria and viruses, these juices can also make people ill. They may pose significant dangers for those with medical conditions, such as diabetes.

It is best to consume fruit and vegetable juices in the form of smoothies to keep all the fiber, water, and nutrients intact.

Fiber

Natural colon cleansing found in fiber adds bulk to stool, which reduces the time it spends sitting in the colon and increases the number of bowel movements that a person has. Many natural, whole foods are rich in fiber, including:

  • nuts
  • beans
  • seeds
  • berries
  • whole grains and cereals

People who find it difficult to get enough fiber through their diet can try taking fiber supplements. Popular fiber supplements include:

  • psyllium (Metamucil)
  • polycarbophil tablets (FiberCon)
  • methylcellulose

Fermented foods aid natural colon cleansing

Baked tempeh on tray
Tempeh is a fermented food that may benefit gut health.

Fermented foods often contain high levels of probiotics, which are beneficial bacteria that contribute to gut health.

These bacteria help the bowels move stool out of the colon regularly and reduce the risk of gas, bloating, constipation, and infection.

Common fermented foods that contain probiotics include:

  • yogurt and Greek yogurt
  • apple cider vinegar
  • kefir
  • skyr
  • kimchi
  • sauerkraut
  • pickles
  • miso
  • tempeh
  • kombucha
  • beer and cider
  • some types of cheese

Research suggests that probiotics may help prevent and possibly treat colon cancer, but researchers agree that more studies are necessary to understand these effects. A healthy gut biome offers numerous other benefits for overall health and immune function.

Resistant starches

Some foods contain resistant starches, which are types of sugar that are difficult for the body to break down. These starches remain mostly undigested and become bulk in the stool.

The more bulk there is in the stool, the sooner the bowel is stimulated into action, possibly helping cleanse the colon.

Foods high in resistant starches include:

  • potatoes, sweet potatoes, and yams
  • sugar beets
  • sugar cane
  • sweet corn
  • green bananas
  • beer and cider
  • vegetable stems, tubers, and roots
  • rice
  • buckwheat and millet
  • al dente pasta
  • white bread
  • cornflakes and muesli

Unlike other starches, digesting resistant starches produces compounds that research shows may help:

  • prevent colon cancer
  • improve macronutrient regulation
  • alter hormone levels, potentially improving mental and physical health
  • prevent or control diabetes
  • prevent or control obesity

Lemon juice

Regularly drinking lemon juice can have a positive effect on digestive health and help natural colon cleansing. It seems that people experience the most benefit when they drink it on an empty stomach, which allows the compounds in the lemon to interact more easily with the gut mucosa.

Having a clean colon is crucial for certain screening tests, such as colonoscopies. Most people receiving colonoscopies have to consume a colon cleansing preparation the night before the procedure.

In a 2015 study on colonoscopies, one group of participants received a preparation of ascorbic acid, or vitamin C, in addition to the standard fluid mixture of polyethylene glycol (PEG). The participants who took vitamin C had better bowel preparation than those in the other groups.

Lemon juice is very high in vitamin C so it may be an effective natural colon cleanser.

Herbal teas

Some herbal teas used in natural colon cleansing may be beneficial for digestive health.

Australian research from 2014 found an association between herbal tea consumption and a lower risk of colon cancer.

Other natural teas, such as ginger or lemon tea, may also help digestion.

Possible benefits of colon cleanses

Senior couple smiling outdoors jogging.
People who support colon cleanses claim they can improve energy levels, though there is no scientific evidence to prove this.

There are currently no proven benefits of colon cleanses, natural or otherwise. However, people who promote colon cleanses claim that they provide major health benefits, including:

  • increasing energy
  • removing toxins
  • improving liver function
  • boosting the immune system
  • aiding weight loss
  • relieving bloating, cramps, and gas
  • reducing the risk of colon cancer
  • improving mood

Safety and risks

Some of the potential risks of colon cleansing include:

  • weakness
  • irritability
  • electrolyte imbalance and dehydration
  • vomiting and nausea
  • abdominal cramps
  • dizziness and fainting
  • loss of healthful gut microflora and increased risk of infection
  • diarrhea
  • bowel ulcerations, which are open cuts and sores
  • bowel infection
  • kidney damage and failure

People with preexisting bowel conditions should avoid bowel cleansing methods unless a doctor performs or prescribes them.

The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) do not regulate natural colon cleanse products. The FDA have also taken legal action against companies who were using unproven medical claims to promote cleanse products, stating that they could reduce the risk of cancer or treat serious medical conditions.

The U.S. National Institutes of Health also point out several possible risks of cleanses, including:

  • diarrhea, which could lead to dehydration
  • bacterial infection from unpasteurized juice
  • lack of nutrients
  • headaches
  • weakness and fainting

People with kidney conditions should avoid drinking large quantities of juice because it can contain too much oxalate, which can cause kidney problems.

People with diabetes and other metabolic conditions should also avoid detoxes or extreme diets and instead follow a healthful, doctor-recommended diet.

Severely restricting calorie intake, which is often part of colon cleanses, can also be damaging to a person’s overall health. It rarely contributes to long-term weight loss or well-being.