What is sorbitol, and is it low FODMAP?

Image result for sorbitol products

Sorbitol is not only a high FODMAP, it can also be a bit of a sneaky FODMAP as it likes to hide in fruits and is used as an artificial sweetener in processed drinks, foods and medications.

This blog is going to discuss what sorbitol is, why it is high FODMAP and how to avoid it on a low-FODMAP diet.

What is sorbitol and why is it a problem?

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that belongs to the polyol FODMAP group. Commonly found in certain types of fruit and used as an artificial sweetener, only one-third of the polyols consumed are actually absorbed by our bodies and the level of absorption depends on the type of polyol and the individual. When sorbitol is poorly absorbed, our gut bacteria rapidly ferment it and this leads to Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) symptoms.

Sorbitol is also a natural laxative, as it draws water into the large intestine when it is poorly absorbed, which stimulates bowel movements. This is why packets of sugarless gum have a written warning saying that the product could have a laxative effect.

Where do you find sorbitol?

Sorbitol is commonly found in fruits like apples, apricots, avocado, blackberries, cherries, lychees, nectarines, peaches, pears, plums and prunes. Sorbitol is also manufactured and used as an artificial sweetener because it has approximately 60 per cent of the sweetness of sucrose (table sugar) so is often used in low-calorie (‘diet’) food products. Pay close attention to ‘sugar-free’ products such as diet drinks, ice cream, sugar-free candy, chewing gum, breath mints and jams made for people with diabetes. Sorbitol is also commonly used in cough drops, cough syrup and liquid painkillers so it’s important to check that medicines and supplements do not contain sorbitol.

Is sorbitol listed as anything else in food labels?

Sorbitol is commonly listed as a food additive number E420, so check processed food labels for this. Sorbitol can also be listed under the name glucitol.

Is sorbitol in toothpaste and mouthwash a problem?

Remember that sorbitol only becomes an issue when it is mal-absorbed in the small and large intestines, so it shouldn’t be a problem if you thoroughly rinse your mouth after brushing your teeth and using mouthwash. However, if you swallow toothpaste or mouthwash (which is not recommended), sorbitol may become an issue.

Final thoughts

Sorbitol is definitely a sneaky FODMAP. To avoid tummy troubles, it’s important to avoid high-FODMAP fruit and check all processed drinks, foods and medication labels for sorbitol, glucitol or E420.


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