What are polyols?
Polyols are the ‘P’ in FODMAP.
And in case you’ve been following along, the ‘A’ just stands for ‘and’, so we’re moving right along to the ‘P’.
Polyols are a type of carbohydrate also known as sugar alcohols. There are natural ocurring sugar alcohols and then there are other sugar alcohols which are added to foods.
Like the other FODMAPS, polyols are poorly absorbed. Similar to lactose, polyols attract water as they move through the small intestine whether they are absorbed or not. For some, like those with IBS, this can lead to abdominal pain, bloating and diarrhea. Symptoms can depend on the amount consumed and if other FODMAPS are present either in the gut or in the meal just eaten.
Ever seen the warning on a product that says “Excess consumption can have a laxative effect” or something to that effect? It’s because that product contains some type of sugar alcohol.
Where are polyols found?
Sugar alcohols can be found naturally in some fruits and vegetables but are also added to certain food products to provide sweetness and lower calories. Sorbitol and mannitol tend to cause the most gut issues and are often used as laxatives.
Sorbitol is naturally found in fruits such as apples, avocado, cherries, peaches, pears, blackberries and prunes. It is also manufactured and used as an artificial sweetener in certain products. It is about 60% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose).
Mannitol is naturally found in fruits and vegetables such as watermelon, cauliflower, sweet potato and snow peas. It can also be manufactured from fructose which has been sourced from cornstarch and used as an atrificial sweetener. It is about 50-70% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose).
Maltitol is naturally found in small amounts in some fruits and vegetables. It is most often manufactured and derived from cornstarch. It is about 80% as sweet as table sugar and is used as an artificial sweetener.
Erythritol is naturally found in small amounts in some fermeneted foods but is mostly used as an artificial sweetener. It is 60-80% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose).
Xylitol is manufactured from corncobs and hardwood trees. It is used as an artifical sweetener and is sometimes listed as birch sugar. It has about the same amount of sweetness as table sugar (sucrose) but about 40% less calories.
Lactitol is manufactured and is another form of lactose. It is used as an artifical sweetener and is about 35-40% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose).
Isomalt is manufactured and contains both sorbitol and mannitol. It is often overlooked as a sugar alcohol due to it not ending in ‘ol’. It is about 45-65% as sweet as table sugar (sucrose).
Polyols are a type of carbohydrate which can be naturally found in some fruits or vegetables but it can also be manufactured to be used as artificial sweeteners. Sorbitol and mannitol tend to cause the most digestive distress and are often used as laxatives.
Polyols are considered high FODMAP and limiting polyols can help determine whether these foods are causing your symptoms.
This is where a low FODMAP diet may be right for you. This diet can help determine your sensitivity to disaccharides. Once you’ve figured out what you can tolerate, you’ll be able to add small servings of these foods back into your diet.
Contact me to determine if the low FODMAP diet is right for you.
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