Sorbitol intolerance

Digestive complaints are repeatedly triggered by sorbitol intolerance (sorbitol intolerance, sorbitol malabsorption). In this intolerance, the absorption of the sugar alcohol sorbitol in the small intestines is disturbed, which leads to the associated complaints. For people with a sorbitol intolerance the right diet can become a real challenge.

What is sorbitol?

Sorbitol is the sugar alcohol of fructose. Due to its sweet taste, it is frequently used as a substitute for sugar or for many diet products. Since sorbitol has only about half as many calories as our conventional household sugar and additionally is good for the teeth, it is often considered as a healthier alternative. However, sorbitol has a laxative effect, which is why there must also be a corresponding warning on products sweetened with sorbitol. However, you should be particularly careful when you suffer from a sorbitol intolerance.

In the case of such a sorbitol intolerance, the small intestines is unable to utilize the sorbitol absorbed through food. Therefore, it continues to enter the large intestines where it is decomposed by bacteria. This fermentation process releases gases, which has a negative impact on digestion. The result is abdominal pain, bloating, headaches, fatigue, diarrhea, etc. Since these symptoms are nonspecific at first and occur in many intolerances, sorbitol intolerance is diagnosed with the help of an H2 breath test.

Sorbitol intolerance is the rule, not the exception

From this point of view, sorbitol intolerance is actually not a disease, but rather the normal case. Surely you remember that our parents taught us not to eat too many cherries at once and to drink water afterwards. Otherwise, you may experience severe abdominal pain. The reason for this is the sorbitol contained in cherries, which in higher amounts can affect our digestion. So too many cherries have a laxative effect on everyone. Even a dose of 20 to 50g can lead to unpleasant consequences. However, those who suffer from a sorbitol intolerance tolerate even much less. You should be careful to consume only a very small amount of sorbitol, if any at all.

Sorbitol intolerance and fructose intolerance

Often a fructose intolerance is also accompanied by a sorbitol intolerance. Since sorbitol is very similar to fructose and both have the same transport and metabolic pathway, in this case the more sorbitol is ingested, the more the body is burdened. In the case of hereditary fructose intolerance sorbitol must be completely avoided, since the body metabolizes sorbitol to fructose and also in the case of fructose malabsorption sorbitol is usually at least as critical as fructose.

According to assumptions, an increased absorption of sorbitol can even aggravate fructose intolerance. Unfortunately, this connection is sometimes disregarded in books and guides. Even fructose-free products are still produced with sorbitol by some producers, since the significance of sorbitol for fructose intolerance is left out.

It is extremely important that people with fructose intolerance eat a sorbitol-free diet. All products from Frusano are suitable as alternative products for intolerant persons, since they have an extremely low sorbitol content or are sorbitol-free!

Sorbitol in the food industry

Sorbitol is naturally contained in many fruits. Among them, especially stone fruits such as cherries, plums, peaches, etc. as well as in dried fruit. The food industry also produces sorbitol artificially from glucose with the aid of enzymes. In addition to being a sugar substitute, sorbitol is also popularly used as a humectant for baked goods.
People with sorbitol intolerance should avoid the following foods:

  • Fruits: apricots, plums,peaches, cherries, dried fruit
  • Vegetables: ready-made vegetable mixtures, flatulent vegetables (e.g., white cabbage, legumes)
  • Sugar and calorie reduced sweets and diet products: ice cream, sweet pastries, cakes, cookies, chocolate
  • Beverages: sugar-free light drinks, juice from types of fruit containing sorbitol
  • Certain medications
  • Ready-made bakery products: e. g. even bread, since sorbitol is frequently used as a humectant. Here, sorbitol is often called “E 420” in the list of ingredients. Sorbitol does not have to be declared in the case of bread sold freely from a bakery! Here you need to ask.
  • Most chewing gum - even chewing gum that advertises a different sweetener like xylitol. You can get pure xylitol chewing gum in our store.

Tips for dealing with sorbitol intolerance

Since sorbitol intolerance cannot be cured, those affected have no choice but to adapt their living conditions to the intolerance. For people who also suffer from fructose intolerance, this means avoiding sorbitol completely. Even those who are not affected by fructose intolerance should completely eliminate sorbitol from their diet for a few weeks to allow their digestive tract to recover.
After that, the intake of sorbitol can be slowly increased again. Here it varies from person to person how much sorbitol the sorbitol intolerance allows. There are a few things you can do in everyday life to manage your sorbitol intolerance.

For example, cook your own food instead of eating ready-made products and packaged baked goods. This way you keep control over the ingredients of your meals. If you resort to a ready-made product, read the ingredients carefully. Artificially produced sorbitol is a food additive and has the number E 420. To relieve your digestive tract otherwise, avoid foods that cause gas such as onions, old cheese or products containing yeast. Finally, when you begin to slowly test again how much sorbitol you can tolerate, be careful not to eat foods containing sorbitol on an empty stomach. Because that puts all the more strain on the intestines.

A low-sorbitol diet can help to limit the negative consequences of sorbitol intolerance. The following foods are usually well tolerated despite sorbitol intolerance:

  • Fruit: citrus fruits, watermelons, kiwi, grapefruit, raspberries, rhubarb, blackberries, sea buckthorn
  • Vegetables: eggplant, spinach, radishes, broccoli, peas, fennel, kale, olives, asparagus
  • Beverages: water, tea, coffee
  • Sweets: nut spreads, marmalades/jellies made from sorbitol-free fruit, chocolates without fillings
  • Dairy products: milk, cream, buttermilk, natural yogurt, curd, cheese
  • Wheat, rice, pasta
  • Unprocessed meat and fish products

All products from Frusano are suitable as alternative products for intolerant persons, since they have an extremely low sorbitol content or are sorbitol-free

Further reading:

Symptoms of sorbitol intolerance

Diagnosing sorbitol intolerance

Therapy for sorbitol intolerance