FYI: Sorbitol and GI Problems


Diagnosed with severe Ulcerative Pan Colitis in 2012 and severe Ulcerative Proctosigmoiditis in 2013. Also diagnosed with Sjogren’s. Currently drug free and in remission. Noticed my biggest improvement with the reduction of gluten in my diet.

Some more background info:

I am retired and have numerous hobbies. I moved to Florida with my retirement and absolutely love the year round sunshine!


Currently I am relatively symptom free (still have joint pain and fatigue but not sure if this is the colitis or my Sjogren’s) and in remission. I am drug free. I have given up most gluten and am going in for a food allergy/sensitivity testing soon. I have felt SO much better without gluten and am wondering what else might be affecting me.

Sorbitol and GI Problems

THIS IS AN FYI POST: Recently I have seen many posts where UC’ers complain about stomach cramping and pains. They are not currently in a flare. Some time ago I read a medical report on SORBITOL. I was unaware of Sorbitols side effects and eliminating it from my diet completely relieved the unexplained cramping and pains that I was having.

Please consider the following: (Just one of many articles on Sorbitols side effects)

Consuming sweets and chewing gum with sugar substitutes may help the weight-conscious slash calories, but excessive use of the sweetener sorbitol can cause severe bowel problems, including diarrhea, pain and extreme weight loss, German doctors said in an article published in the British Medical Journal.

In this week’s BMJ, Juergen Bauditz, MD, of the University of Berlin, and colleagues describe two patients with a sorbitol habit who had dramatic, unexplained weight loss until their excessive use of the sweetener was discovered.

Sugar-Free Sweeteners and Side Effects: Case Histories
One patient, a 21-year-old woman, had unexplained diarrhea and abdominal pain for eight months. She reported an unintended weight loss of 24 pounds, weighing in at about 90 pounds.

After she was asked about diet, she said she chewed sugar-free gum with sorbitol daily, taking in about 18 to 20 grams a day. One stick typically has 1.25 grams.

Once she eliminated sorbitol from her diet, the gastrointestinal problems stopped and she gained back more than 15 pounds.

The second patient, a 46-year-old man, had been hospitalized because of diarrhea and a weight loss of more than 48 pounds during the previous year. His blood work and other exams came back normal, but when asked about diet, he, too, reported excessive consumption of sorbitol. He chewed 20 sticks of sugar-free gum daily and also ate about 7 ounces of sweets daily, totaling about 30 grams of sorbitol.
When he cut out the sorbitol, he gained back 11 pounds within six months and his diarrhea problems disappeared.

The message for doctors, the authors conclude, is to inquire about dietary habits when a patient has unexplained weight loss.

Sugar-Free Sweeteners and Side Effects: A Food Scientist’s View
Reports of side effects such as abdominal pain and diarrhea with high amounts of sorbitol consumption are nothing new, says Roger Clemens, DrPH, a spokesman for the Institute of Food Technologists and professor of pharmacology and pharmaceutical sciences at the University of Southern California, Los Angeles.

“The laxative effect is very well documented,” Clemens tells WebMD. “It could be these individuals [in the case histories] were particularly sensitive.” And they did consume excessive amounts, he notes. “We would not expect the average consumer to consume upwards of 20 sticks of gum a day.”

“Sorbitol is not well absorbed,” Clemens says. As a result, excess water enters the gastrointestinal tract and diarrhea can occur. Those who rely on artificially sweetened products to help manage their diabetes or to reduce overall calories, he says, should use a variety of such products and consume them in moderation. Sorbitol is found in toothpastes as well as chewing gum and sweets.

What’s a ‘Safe’ Amount of Sorbitol?

The FDA requires a warning label on a product with sorbitol if the manufacturer thinks the consumption would exceed 50 grams a day, according to an FDA spokesperson.

But levels under 50 grams of sorbitol daily may cause problems for some people, says Patti Truant, a spokeswoman for the Center for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C. In 1999, the center petitioned the FDA to require a better label on sorbitol-containing products, noting that problems such as diarrhea can occur with as few as 10 grams a day of the sweetener.

Sorbitol is found in a wide range of products. I was chewing a lot of gum and using sugar free products that all had sorbitol in them.

Food for thought….

Medications / Supplements:

I follow a relatively low fiber, low gluten, low dairy diet. I take probiotics, l-glutamine, Astaxanthin, multivitamin, extra vitamin D and calcium daily. I also have a fruit smoothie daily. I have no problem with oatmeal and have it daily with my smoothie.
I am medication free at the moment and hope to stay that way. I had tried everything up to Humira without success. When we hit the point where Humira was the only remaining option…I opted out! Against my GI’s orders I went all natural and haven’t looked back.

written by Joyce

submitted in the colitis venting area

2 thoughts on “FYI: Sorbitol and GI Problems”

  1. I have had UC for over 30 years currently in remission. My daughterwho has crohns encouraged me to stop drinking sugar free drinks because of the artificial sweeteners. The difference has been amazing. Anyone with IBD should eliminate them from their diet.

  2. I have had recent flare with my UC and could contribute the gun I was chewing to the flare. Once I stopped chewing the sugar free gum, my symptoms went away in a week. Same thing has happened to me taking B12 injection.

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