Sorbitol’s Laxative Effect Might Cause Abdominal Problems

| Dec 1, 1999

The laxative effect from sorbitol, a sugar substitute, is more than a discomfort, says the Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI). According to studies, sorbitol can lead to severe diarrhea, and the CSPI wants its label to say so.

Sorbitol appears in many kinds of products advertised as sugar-free foods, including sugar-free candy and pancake syrup.

Right now, a U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warning must appear on sorbitol-sweetened products, warning against excessive consumption of the product. The label must read: "Excessive consumption may have a laxative effect."

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol. Other sugar alcohols used as sugar replacers in foods are maltitol, manitol, Isomalt, xylitol and hydrogenated starch hydrolysate. According to Mike Jacobson, executive director for the CSPI, there should be warnings on foods that contain any of these products.

Children Face the Greatest Danger

The CSPI adds that children face the greatest danger from sorbitol. Because children are smaller, they could experience diarrhea or cramping from smaller amounts.

"Since even small amounts of sorbitol can cause gastrointestinal symptoms, it is important for the FDA to inform the public of these potential problems," says Dr. Jeffrey Hyams, of the digestive diseases and nutrition department at Connecticut Children's Medical Center. "I know of people who have undergone extensive medical testing for abdominal pain and diarrhea when the problem was simply that they were ingesting excessive amounts of sorbitol."

Sorbitol Not Dangerous

Sorbitol defended itself through the Calorie Control Council, a conglomeration of companies that manufacture low-calorie and reduced-fat products. Lyn Nabors, vice president of the Calorie Control Council, says that sorbitol occurs naturally in fruits and berries.

Jacobson adds, "I have never heard of anyone having gastrointestinal problems from fruit."

Nabors says that for the vast majority of consumers, sorbitol does not cause a problem.

"For a few, excessive consumption can lead to mild gastrointestinal discomfort-but no more than you would have with beans, cabbage, some dried fruits and certain other high-fiber foods," says Nabors.

Some More Sensitive Than Others

Nabors says that some people are more sensitive to sorbitol than others, and that any gastrointestinal effects go away once people adapt to the product. She contends that the CSPI's charge is not backed up by any published research.

Jacobson says he has never heard of people developing a tolerance to sugar alcohols. He wants to warn people with diabetes about sugar alcohols because if they experience gastrointestinal problems, they may not know what they have eaten to cause this. With knowledge, they will know and take it easy on portion sizes.

"We're not saying it is a poison," says Jacobson. "We're saying, if you are going to use sorbitol, start with small portions."

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Posted by Anonymous on 27 October 2007

I am amazed that Sorbitol is still on the market. For a whole year (1982-1983) I had very severe gastrointestinal pains. I went to hospital emergency several times during that year. I had numerous tests done with negative results. I heard a report from Dr. Dean Edell (ABC news) that Sorbitol when taken out of it's natural source and used as an food ingredient can cause this. I had been eating "BreathSavers." As soon as I stopped eating it, the pain stopped.

Posted by Anonymous on 6 November 2007

I've had 7-8 Wrigley's Iced Mints in 5 hours. I don't consider that an excessive consumption but they've given me severe cramps and diarrhoea. It was only after the symptoms started that i've searched for the reason and found this website. Is it safe? It's certainly causing my a great deal of discomfort.

Posted by Anonymous on 14 January 2008

good example of dishonesty and corporate abuse, and public entities working for them.

Posted by Anonymous on 29 January 2008

Extra chewing gum gets me. I use it so I don't chew the nicorette chewing gum that I am so addicted to. I have a pack of Extra a day and suffer with an extremely bloated belly. At least it's better than being addicted to other gum haha.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 March 2008

I have noticed I would fart a lot more a few hours after eating the sugar substitute, but no pain or diarrhea. If it bothers you, don't consume it. For people with diabetes, it is certainly better than consuming sugar. Why should it be taken off the market because a select few have ill effects? Should beef be taken off the market because it can cause high cholesterol? Alcohol and cigarettes consumption is certainly not good for you, but people use them. This is a major problem in this country, people want others to control them, and not take responsiblity for themselves... if it gives you discomfort, look for it on the label and DON'T USE IT.

Posted by Anonymous on 14 April 2008

I ate ICE MINTS today and it gave me a severe case of diarrhoea. This is the first I've heard about the laxative effects of sorbitol and I certainly will be reading the labels from now on. I have a very sore stomach and have been housebound all day not being able to eat a thing for fear of not making it to the toilet on time. Very dangerous stuff. Also the warning on the label is so small and not noticeable enough to provide the consumer with an informed choice about the product they are buying.

Posted by Anonymous on 5 July 2008

People do not get used to it. I have been using sugar-free products for a long time (as I have weight issues and a sweet tooth). If a consume more than 2 breath mints for example I know I will suffer severly from stomach pains, gas and diarreah - but yes I keep going back because the alternative is regaining my weight.

Posted by Lynn on 1 August 2008

Sorbitol and sorbitan are not just in sugar-free products.Check your toothpaste,hair conditioner,whipped cream,non sugar-free chocolate&candy,prescription medication& anything else that goes on or in your body.You are being unknowingly overdosed every day.More people will start having serious problems with these laxatives due to overexposure.Mannitol &xylitol cause the same problems.Products containing these laxatives should be forced to have clear warning labels.It is hard to avoid exposure when more companies add it to every product.

Posted by Lynn on 12 August 2008

I just found a new one to add to the list:polysorbate.

Posted by Anonymous on 16 September 2008

I have been using sublingual vitamin B-12 for about 6 months. I have severe diarrhea, body rashes,nervousness,dizziness,nausea, all caused by the sorbitol in the vitamin. There is so much sorbitol in the vitamin that the tops of the tablet are white-looking. diabetics convert glucose into sorbitol via an enzyme called aldactase reductose. sorbitol also concentrates in the lens of the eye esp. in diabetics. I have since stopped the vitamin and have had much improvement in my symptoms.I stopped Friday, sept.12. i still have some residual symptoms but am much better. there should definitely be a warning on labels of anything containing sorbitol.

Posted by Pam on 16 September 2008

I was using vitamin B-12 sublingual form. I didn't realize they were coated with sorbitol. I have been suffering from severe diarrhea, dizziness,weakness, body rashes, backaches,all from the sorbitol. Sorbitol was the first ingredient listed on the label after the amount of B-12 in the tablet. This means that aside of the B-12, the most amount of any ingredient was the sorbitol. I have since stopped the vitamin as of sept.12. I am much better now,although i still have some residual symtoms. I also had been quite nervous as a result of the sorbitol. I am alot calmer now. Diabetics convert glucose into aorbitol via an enzyme called aldactose reductose. sorbitol concentrates in the lens of the eye esp. in diabetics. there definitely needs to be warnings on labels of everything containing sorbitol and it definitely should not be in children's products or anything the elderly may use. It is a dangerous substance. I was so bad with the diarrhea I couldn't leave my house,not even to get my mail from my mailbox!

Posted by Anonymous on 29 September 2008

I recently found out about the effects of sorbitol. I researched the positive and negative effects after watching an episode of "House" where he diagnosed diarrhea in a person to be linked to their chewing gum. They thought the diarrhea was from quitting smoking. I found the mints that I am addicted to, coincidentally from quitting smoking, were sorbitol based. I didn't have ill effects so I looked for other sugar free candies and mints that were of a higher sorbitol content then the mints I usually eat. I found a mint that was about 14 times the sorbitol content of my normal mint. I tried them and had horrible stomach cramps, and a lot of gas. I have found that if I consume more than 20g of sorbitol in a 24 hour period it will have ill effects on my body....under 20g and I am usually safe. I know now what to look for in candies and mints and, as stated prior, in MANY of today's foods and health products (toothpaste and mouthwash are extreemly high in sorbitol - it also has some "plaque fighting abilities" so I have read). On the up side, it will help you lose weight - as a diarrhetic it works well if you can stand the gas, bloating and cramps - I lost close to 15 lbs in a month and I haven't changed my diet or workout routine. I had been trying to get the weight off for years and couldn't do it, until I started my sorbitol "experiment". I have limited my intake to 15g a day and have actually been happy with the results....and I still have minty fresh breath!!

Posted by Anonymous on 23 January 2009

Thortons Toffee has Sorbitol in it, And
at the time I did'nt know about Sorbitol, I was really sick for two days. I lost a days work because of it.
I'll never eat that poison again.

Posted by Anonymous on 15 February 2009

I notice the effects of even a small amount of sugar alcohol and try to avoid it altogether. The last time I accidentally consumed sorbitol it was from a box of blueberry flavored Kellogg's Frosted Mini Wheats. I've since noticed other Kellogg's products, like Special K bars that contain sorbitol. Kellogg's puts no warning of any kind on these products and doesn't even have a line for "sugar alcohols" in its nutritional information charts. When I complained to them; their PR rep told me that because the sorbitol was used for texture rather than taste, it wasn't necessary to list it as a separate item (it was buried in the ingredients list). This seems like a flimsy excuse to me. So, Kelloggs is saying "If you don't want our products to make you sick, check for any of the 10 or 15 names commonly used for sugar alcohols in our barely legible ingredients lists." It's probably easier to just avoid Kellogg's products whenever possible.

Posted by Anonymous on 14 March 2009

Selling a product with Sorbitol, with no warning should be illegal. I had such severe side effects that I could not eat during the day, which affected my job as a sales person and my personal life. I am a small person and still lost 25 pounds. I was literally wasting away. The hungrier I was, the more gum I chewed.
I spent many hours at the doctor and with hospital testing, spending thousands of dollars looking for a medical reason for my intestinal disorder. Within 24 hours of discontinuing gum with Sorbitol, I was fine. This is an outrage!

Posted by Anonymous on 14 March 2009


Posted by Anonymous on 19 March 2009

Like many of the previous postings, I,too, have spent thousands of dollars on medical testing and for three rounds of extremely expensive antibiotics designed to treat infectious diarrhea known commonly to international travelers...all to no avail!! Eight days ago I made the connection between sorbitol and my symptoms. I stopped ingesting sorbitol all together (where I can recognize it as an ingredient) and my gastrointestinal problems are nearly 100% gone immediately. I am now interested in learning ingredient names that mask the presence of this poison. My relief is so intense that I'm practically pinching myself after years and years of "mystery" illness.

Posted by Anonymous on 1 May 2009

I recently ate 3 "mini" Sugar-Free Peppermint Patties, which is considered one serving (probably comparable to one regular size). Within 2 hours, I was bent over with such exreme abdominal pain and gas that I could not stand. I thought I had pancreatitis or something. This went on from 10:30PM until 3AM with NO let up. I was in a fetal position. I decided to google the ingredients this morning as this was the only new thing in my diet I had eaten. I am a small female and eat a whole foods diet (oatmeal, fruits, and vegetables) so this is the only thing that was different. Wow, was I surprised to see that these sugar alcohols are DANGEROUS. These small warnings are not sufficient. Mine said (After going back to look) "May cause a laxative effect... HA That would have been great! How about excruciating pain worse than labor and I've had 2 kids! :)STAY AWAY from this junk!

Posted by Anonymous on 18 May 2009

i want to know the maximum quantity of sorbitol 70% that could easily be tolerated by the infant of 6 month

Posted by Anonymous on 29 May 2009

it's so so ironic, because i use breathsavers mints to cure nausea, and then i found out it was the mints that were causing the nausea! unbelieveable. ive been consuming mints all week to tame the nausea but all that came of it was more nausea and dizziness. i feel scammed. take it off the market!

Posted by Anonymous on 10 June 2009

My sister recently purchased Edy's frozen fruit juice bars which advertised "sweetened with Spenda". Since I am diabetic, everyone tends to purchase items "sweetened with spenda" After eating one bar, I had diarrhea for two days. When I examined the label, sorbitol was listed as the # 3 ingredient and "sucralose" Splenda was listed last.
Is this false advertising?
Another comment: Is the ingredient sorbitol and the ingredient phenylalanine one in the same?
I recently purchased Trident gum and only used it on Sunday morning just before church service. Sunday after Sunday I had to leave service due to severe diarrhea and cramps. I completely changed my diet and routine on Sunday mornings.Nothing helped. Then I remembered the small piece of gum I chewed every Sunday morning. The first ingredient in Trident is sorbitol.

Posted by Anonymous on 28 December 2009

Other common versions of sorbitol are potassium sorbate, sorbic acid, and sorbitan (frequently added to yeast). Here's my current list of ingredients to avoid due to my extreme intolerance for sorbitol and related chemicals (sorry it's so long):

Caramel color - produced from commercially availible, food-grade nutritive sweeteners consisting of fructose, dextrose (glucose), invert sugar, sucrose, malt syrup, molasses, and/or starch hydrolysates and fractions thereof. Corn starch hydrolysate, that is, corn syrup of high dextrose equivalent, is employed most frequently by the caramel color industry.

Corn syrup solids - may contain sorbitol-type byproducts (test)

E202: Potassium Sorbate

E200 - E209: Sorbate preservatives

Emulsifying wax: made from a wax material treated with a detergent (typically sodium dodecyl sulfate or polysorbates)

"Grain sweetened"

High-fructose corn syrup: may contain sorbitol as a byproduct

Hydrogenated glucose syrup (HGS) which is produced by hydrolyzing starch, and then hydrogenating the resulting syrup to produce sugar alcohols like maltitol and sorbitol, along with hydrogenated oligo- and polysaccharides

HYDROGENATED STARCH HYDROLYSATE (HSH): HSH are produced by the partial hydrolysis of corn, wheat or potato starch and subsequent hydrogenation of the hydrolysate at high temperature under pressure. The end product is an ingredient composed of sorbitol, maltitol and higher hydrogenated saccharides (maltitriitol and others). A portion of HSH may be enzymatically hydrolyzed in the body to sorbitol, maltitol and glucose... (

Hystar® 5875 which is 60 percent maltitol
Hystar® 33/75 (SPI Polyols' Hystar® 33/75)

Inulin: Some plants store carbohydrates in the form of inulin as an alternative, or in addition, to starch. Inulins are polymers consisting of fructose units that typically have a terminal glucose. Inulins have a sweet taste and are present in many vegetables and fruits, including onions, leeks, garlic, bananas, asparagus, chicory, and Jerusalem artichokes.

Isomalt (half sorbitol)


Litesse® polydextrose is a polysaccharide composed of randomly cross-linked glucose units with all types of glycosidic bonds, containing minor amounts of sorbitol and acid

Lycasin® 80/55 which is 55 percent maltitol

MALTISWEET: SPI Polyols' MaltiSweet ™ 3145 which is approximately 65 percent maltitol


Maltitol Syrup

Maltodextrins (CrystaLean®, Lorelite, Lycadex®, MALTRIN®,

Paselli®D-LITE, Paselli®EXCEL, Paselli®SA2, STAR-DRI®) Four calorie/gram gel or powder derived from carbohydrate sources such as corn, potato, wheat and tapioca. Used as fat replacer, texture modifier or bulking agent. Applications include baked goods, dairy products, salad dressings, spreads, sauces, frostings, fillings, processed meat, frozen desserts, extruded products and beverages


Modified food starches (esp. corn; also wheat, potato, etc.) - may contain sorbitol-type byproducts (test)

Monosaccharide alcohols, which are acyclic polyols that contain three or more hydroxyl groups. They can be formed by converting the ketone or aldehyde groups of the monosaccharides to hydroxyl groups. Examples of monosaccharide alcohols include but are not limited to glycerine, mannitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, maltitol, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates

MILLITHIX 925: dibenzylidene sorbitol, a cyclic polyether sold under the trade mark MILLITHIX 925 by Millikin Chemical Company

Polydextrose (Litesse®, Sta-LiteTM) Reduced-calorie (one calorie/gram) fat replacer and bulking agent. Water-soluble polymer of dextrose containing minor amounts of sorbitol and citric acid. Approved for use in a variety of products including baked goods, chewing gums, confections, salad dressings, frozen dairy desserts, gelatins and puddings

Polydextrose is made by combining dextrose (corn sugar) with sorbitol

polyoxyethylene sorbitan fatty acid ester, such as polysorbate 20 or polysorbate 80


polysaccharides include cellulose, maltin, maltose, starch, modified starch, dextran, and fructose


Roquette's 70/100 which is 75 percent sorbitol
Roquette's 75/400


Sorbestrin** Low-calorie, heat stable, liquid fat substitute composed of fatty acid esters of sorbitol and sorbitol anhydrides. Has approximately 1.5 calories per gram and is suitable for use in all vegetable oil applications including fried foods, salad dressing, mayonnaise and baked goods

Sorbeth compounds (emulsifiers, surfactants)



sorbitan sesquioleate

sorbitan trioleate (Span 85)


SORBO - sorbitol solution

SPI Polyols' Sorbo 70% and A-625 which contain 70 percent sorbitol

STABILITE: SPI Polyols also markets Liquid HSH (Stabilite® ) and a powdered HSH (Stabilite® SD)

STARCH, MODIFIED: may include sorbitol as a byproduct

Sugar alcohol - refers to any polyol such as sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, galactitol, erythritol, inositol, ribitol, dulcitol, adonitol, arabitol, dithioerythritol, dithiothreitol, glycerol, isomalt, and hydrogenated starch hydrolysates. Sugar alcohols contain hydroxyl groups, and are obtained by reduction of various monosaccharides. For example, sorbitol is obtained by reduction of glucose, and mannitol is obtained from mannose


Tween 85 (polyoxyethylene sorbitan trioleate)

Posted by Anonymous on 17 April 2010

All week I've been having SEVERE cramps and diarrhea. I thought I had a stomach bug. I searched online and (thankfully) realized it was all due to breath savers. I can't believe I spent a week of my life in so much pain!!! It was the WORST diarrhea and stomach pain I have ever had!!! We need better warnings on these so people don't have to suffer like I have!!!

Posted by Anonymous on 22 June 2011

I just had some of the most severe stomach pains and diarrhea after eating wigleys extramints,only just found out about sorbitol from this site,never again.

Posted by Anonymous on 15 July 2012

I do not have diabetes, but do have trouble with hypoglycemia. The sorbitol remarks, for me, have been an understatement. I have given birth to 5 children and each delivery was worse than the one before due to a combination of positioning of the baby and size (not mine, the baby's). My reaction to sorbitol is just a HAIR short of the labor pains I experienced during transition--horrible; I would have gone to the ER if I could have called someone in the middle of the night without guilt about the person needing to work in the morning! I balked at an ambulance, not knowing what my particular insurance would cover. All the "itols" cause problems for me. There should NOT be any in ANY children's product!!

Posted by Anonymous on 7 October 2012

"Jacobson adds, "I have never heard of anyone having gastrointestinal problems from fruit."

Both of my kids get diarrhea within 30 minutes of eating bananas, apples, or drinking fruit juice

Posted by Anonymous on 8 April 2013

After having few bouts with extreme gas and diahrrea, i finally realized the common theme was candy containing sorbitol. I started eating them because I was border-line diabetic. Now I am border-line solid an I am on the wrong side of the border. I will need to try something else for my sugar fix. These sugar-free candies should come with a warning. This is not fun.

Posted by Anonymous on 24 July 2013

My problem with sorbitol started when i quit smoking
Suddenly i could not eat any sugar free foods with sorbitol.
I would bloat up extreme gas and diarrhea within a hour.
plus i found one sugar free food that did not list sorbitol on the food container but does on there internet site.
If i eat any sorbitol i have to wear a adult diaper because its imposable to pass the gas with out passing liquid.
and i have to eat sugar free foods because i am a type 2 diabetic and don't want to go on insulin.

And they told me that i would feel better once i quit smoking lol lol

Posted by Anonymous on 20 June 2014

Eat 5 pears in a row and you will get the same effect...sorbitol is a naturally occurring compound, stop over reacting. As one blogger said, if you know it doesn't agree with you then don't buy things that contain it, or know your limit.

Posted by Anonymous on 30 June 2014

I am suffering from severe stomach pains. I have been chewing Trident gum. Thank you so much for the article and comments. At least now I know I am not dying

Posted by Anonymous on 24 September 2014

I tried my friends icebreaker s. had three. Bought a can never had worse GI diarreah and blood. Ban Sorbitol

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