Whats New With Xylitol: Is It Safe?

Whats New With Xylitol: Is It Safe?

I stumbled upon many different posts recently about xylitol. These posts always contain the same questions / comments:

  • Is it safe?
  • Xylitol gives me diarrhea!
  • Is it Bulletproof?
  • Will it spike my blood sugar?
  • Will it harm the bacteria in my digestive tract?
  • What should I use as the source of my xylitol?
  • Is it GMO?

In this blog article, I will answer all of these questions and more to help you decide if its occasional use is right for you!

So What is Xylitol?

Xylitol is a five-carbon sugar alcohol also known as a polyol. Your body produces xylitol on a daily basis (about five to ten grams) from the carbohydrate metabolism of the food you eat. 1 Your body also produces the enzymes xylose reductase and xylitol dehydrogenase to metabolize it properly. Dogs cannot metabolize xylitol properly and small amounts of it can be lethal. Keep it away from your pets! 2

Xylitol is considered to be as sweet as table sugar and has fewer calories. Xylitol is either sourced from corn or birch trees. 3 I prefer that it is sourced from birch trees because there is no chance of it to be produced from GMO corn. GMO free xylitol made from corn does exist, but because of possible cross contamination, I would avoid it.

Recommended brand of xylitol:

Positive Aspects of Xylitol’s Use

Optimal oral health

I recommend the use of xylitol containing toothpastes and mouthwashes for optimal oral health. Chewing xylitol containing gum on occasion can also be good for dental health. Europe has been using xylitol to prevent dental caries instead of fluoride with great results for years! Some bacteria are not able to metabolize it properly. Xylitol inhibits the opportunistic growth of Streptococcus mutans (one of the main causes of tooth decay) in the oral cavity. Xylitol inhibits the bacteria’s metabolism and limits its polysaccharide production (important for the formation of biofilm) therefore rendering it defenseless against your immune system. Plaque that is visible on teeth is a formation of biofilm. If you suffer from SIBO, I recommend that you use xylitol toothpaste or mouthwash only, rinse your mouth out thoroughly after every use, and try not to swallow any as much as possible. 4 5 6 7

Reducing ear infections

Studies have shown that increased intake reduces the chance of getting middle ear and sinus infections. Chewing xylitol gum has been shown to reduce S. pneumoniae and H. influenzae populations, which are known for causing upper respiratory infections and ear infections. 8

Fighting diabetes

Xylitol is as sweet as table sugar and has about 50% less calories. Xylitol also appears not to spike blood sugar, which makes it perfect for diabetics. 9

Possible bone remineralization

Studies of supplemental xylitol in animals have shown both increased tooth enamel remineralization and increased bone density. Because of this, xylitol might be useful in combating osteoporosis. 10

Negative Aspects of Xylitol’s Use

Diarrhea

The intake of large amounts of xylitol causes diarrhea. A huge intake of xylitol might overwhelm the body’s ability to break it down, causing irritation to the intestinal tract. This irritation is what causes the diarrhea. I recommend that children intake no more than fifty grams of xylitol a day and most adults should take in no more than 100 grams to prevent diarrhea. If you want to get technical, the scientific recommendation is 0.37 g of xylitol per kg of weight for males and 0.42 g of xylitol per kg of weight for females. 11

Studies have shown that the body will adapt over time and diarrhea will either lessen or cease if you choose to take larger amounts for a longer time. 12

Contribution to SIBO

Even though there are bacteria that are inhibited by xylitol, some bacteria are able to break it down and feast upon its fermentable goodness. This bacterial feast occurs in your intestines. Polyols including xylitol ferment in the gut and cause issues in people that are suffering from SIBO. The link between intake and SIBO explains why in some people, excessive intake creates gas, intestinal distension, and intestinal cramps.

Because of this fermentation, xylitol intake will not harm the bacterial flora in your intestines. It will on the other hand enhance it, even to the point where you might develop SIBO!

It is also possible that the intake of large amounts of xylitol over time can contribute to one developing SIBO if the conditions in their intestines are ripe. I suggest that if you are suffering from SIBO or if you have any of the listed side effects above when you ingest it, to stay away from all sugar alcohols until your condition improves. 13

To answer the final question, yes, it is considered Bulletproof! 14

4 Comments
  1. Thanks SO much for posting and hniokog the older posts with this one. I have been pretty much paleo (somewhat casual as you had stated) for the past 18 months. I have not lost weight, and in many ways I am suffering more from digestive issues than ever. So your comments about your own situation helps me to understand a) I’m not crazy and b) I’m not alone. I was just joking with my DH that since starting Paleo I am worse off than when I started that probably the chemicals I was ingesting before were keeping me from really feeling what was going on with my body. I haven’t given up, and I have visited my osteopath doc (who did the stool test but not the blood test) about three years ago. According to the test, I have yeast, IBS, leaky gut and a sensitivity to gliaden but not to dairy (although I’m lactose intolerant). He doesn’t feel I need to retake the test and is still going on the results of that in treating my issues as well as the severe almost debilitating anxiety that has now cropped up. I’m going to go back and re-visit Practical Paleo for Leaky Gut and be more diligent in following that protocol. Thanks again SO much for your honesty and timeliness in posting this. It sure has helped me not feel quite so hopeless.

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