First discovered in mountain ash berries in 1872, sorbitol is a sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in many fruits and berries. It is produced artificially and used to sweeten processed foods. Sorbitol also appears on the ingredients list of health and beauty products and some pharmaceuticals. Although the sweetener was given the "generally recognized as safe" stamp of approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, sorbitol is not without side effects. Sensitive individuals may experience diarrhea and other gastrointestinal problems.
Stop chewing gum. Sorbitol and other sugar alcohols are often used to sweeten sugar-free gum. One stick of gum typically contains over a gram of sorbitol. If you like to have your mouth working on something, try a very low-calorie vegetable such as celery instead.
Steer clear of diabetic treats. Sorbitol doesn't cause the blood glucose spike associated with table sugar, so it is a common ingredient in cakes, cookies and other goodies made for diabetics. Processed foods aren't usually nutritious, so you aren't missing out on anything.
Read food labels carefully. If you see a "sugar-free" stamp on an item at the grocery store, there is a good chance it contains sorbitol. Scan the ingredients list carefully to make sure the food is free of sugar alcohols.
Talk to your doctor if you take medications. Sorbitol is used to sweeten pharmaceuticals and is an active ingredient in certain laxatives. Ask your physician to recommend drugs that are sorbitol-free.
Brush and swish with caution. Toothpaste and mouthwash may contain sorbitol to improve the taste. If you can't find an acceptable toothpaste at the store, simply brush with a little baking soda and water.
Adults and children may experience bloating, abdominal pain, gas and diarrhea if exposed to sorbitol. Talk to your doctor if you think you have sorbitol intolerance.