Sorbitol is a base component in many “diet” or low-calorie foods and drinks. Sorbitol is created by adding hydrogen to glucose. Although it is technically a natural sugar alcohol, it results in a laxative-type effect on your bowels and irritates your gastrointestinal system. While sugar-free foods are advertised as part of a healthy diet, resorting to diet foods can also cause its share of problems due to the negative effects of sorbitol.
Diet soda is made with sorbitol. Some people are not as sensitive to sorbitol as others are, but many people find themselves with a case of “the runs” after drinking diet soda. As with all foods and drinks, moderation is the key. Drinking less diet soda means ingesting less sorbitol, therefore protecting your bowels from the damage this sugar-alcohol creates.
The recommended dosage of liquid medications is usually less than what the average person would experience a sorbitol-reaction from. However, many liquid medications are consumed by children and therefore pose a higher risk of gastrointestinal damage. Liquid medications such as acetaminophen, cimetidine, furosemide, lithium, metoclopramide, dexamethasone, propranolol, amantadine, and theophylline all contain sorbitol. If you or your child experience diarrhea or stomach pains after taking any of these medications, they could very well be the result of sorbitol ingestion.
Most fruit juices you see sold on store shelves have added sorbitol to enhance the flavor. By stating that they are “sugar-free,” consumers are enticed to purchase what appears to be a healthy drink. In reality, the sorbitol that these juices contains wreaks more havoc on your digestive system than if the juice had natural added sugars. Particularly for young children, the effects of sorbitol from fruit juices can be noticeable.
References and ResourcesUniversity of Virginia: Low Fructose Diet (includes Sorbitol)
AsDrSears.com: Fruit Juices and Sorbitol