Sweet Selection: We Choose Xylitol

Why do people have a beef with Xylitol? Because they are thinking about it wrong. They are trying to think of it in terms of what’s good for you. I have news for you. People don’t eat sweets because it’s good for them.

If that was the case, they would have  an apple or a banana. Those are sweet, but they don’t choose an apple. They are looking for something they can bake, or a cookie. They are looking to fulfill an emotional response.

We need to stop comparing apples to apples and start looking at what is important. We are not comparing sweeteners to real sugar. The whole idea of finding a sweetener alternative is to emotionally satisfy you. What will satisfy that sweet tooth that comes out when you want to remember how your grandma gave you a cookie when you skinned your knee? So, what sweetener doesn’t send us into a negative tailspin of being unhealthy like sugar can do? I choose xylitol.

Xylitol is a high-grade sugar free sweetener derived from trees or plants- make sure you choose birch. Xylitol has the least change physiologically and actually has some medicinal properties. If you look at birch xylitol, I would rather have something that has some medicinal properties than organic cane sugar. This is your emotional decision. What do you need to know?

What to know:

Xylitol is processed.

Everything is processed. Most of the food you ate today was processed, organic or not. Heating up your food is a form of processing. Unless you go out to the field and pick some rice and eat it raw- it’s processed. Any sweetener you find is going to be processed somehow with heat or chemicals. All sweeteners are processed, with the exception of honey …. Well even that’s processed, through the bee’s butt!  (Ok, not really it’s butt…  but it IS processed through the bee and in the hive!)

There is a difference in the quality of the process. Most of the xylitol you see comes from corn. The reason most stuff sucks nowadays is not because it started that way, it’s what they did to make profit. It’s much easier to extract xylitol from corn than it is to extract it from birch. That’s why it’s more expensive to extract it from birch. Corn is easier to grow, it grows faster and corn crops are subsidized. I don’t agree with subsidies but if you wonder why it’s so much cheaper, that’s one reason. Corn is cheap and it’s even cheaper when its subsidized.

Make sure you know how your xylitol is made. It might cost more but you know, you get what you pay for! How much is your health worth?

It is toxic to dogs.

Are you a dog? It shouldn’t be a problem then. Dogs have totally different gastrointestinal systems. So, you can’t compare species to species that way. Grapes are also toxic to dogs and unless they are on your allergy list, they are fine for you. Xylitol is poisonous for dogs so just don’t give it to your dog and you should be fine.

It reduces ear infections

Due to its antibacterial qualities, xylitol can be effective at helping our body fight off nasty bugs. In a study of Finnish children in day care, chewing xylitol gum regularly reduced their chance of getting an ear infection by 40%. (1) That means fewer children were prescribed antibiotics!

If just adding xylitol gum did that imagine combining that with the whole Pathway To Wellness regimen could do.

Xylitol is good for your teeth.

Speaking of xylitol gum, it’s good for your teeth. A lot of research has been done on this and dentists are excited about the microbial balance that xylitol can create in the oral cavity. It is an amazing cleanser for your mouth. Xylitol keeps plaque and microorganisms  from sticking to your teeth. It promotes mineralization by increasing the salivary flow. Xylitol gets rid of gingivitis. With all the work it’s doing in your mouth, it also gets rid of bad breath. (2)

If you aren’t willing to swap out your sweetener, at the very least, chew some xylitol gum. You might swallow a small amount but it will do wonders for your oral health and reduction of cavities. Plus your breath won’t stink.

Your body doesn’t digest xylitol.

You may have heard some skeptics say, “but our body doesn’t absorb xylitol.” Ever heard of something called insoluble fiber? There’s insoluble fiber and soluble fiber. Both are beneficial. Just because something isn’t absorbed by the intestines does not mean it’s bad. Your body won’t absorb xylitol but that doesn’t mean you should avoid it. By not being absorbed, it can have a cleansing affect.

Some people get diarrhea.

Yup, some of you will get diarrhea. As alarming as that explosion out of your rear can be, it doesn’t mean xylitol is bad for you. I’ve seen it happen a lot in my clinical practice. Patients start taking xylitol and they get a little stomach distress. They get worried but after a while it stops.

This happened in a study where they were considering dental impacts between sucrose, fructose and xylitol. Xylitol had amazing results for lowering cavities, but it also showed something important about the gastrointestinal affects. There was a higher percentage of gastric distress in the first few weeks for the xylitol group than the sucrose group but after 140 day the incidents were the same. (3) The same percentage of incidents of gastric distress occurred in both groups.

More research on this needs to be done. There is a good chance they will find that the same microbial affects that are leading to dental success are working to clean out the G.I. The microbial aspects of what does happen with passing through is quite intense and as it passes through there are some great antifungal processes.

Xylitol is found naturally in foods.

Bananas, grapes, strawberries, lettuce, mushrooms, cauliflower and onions are some of the foods xylitol can be found in naturally. It could be extracted from these, but they are in such small amounts the cost would be too high. That is why you find it produced from a chemical process from birch and, unfortunately most of the time, corn.  (4)

Our bodies produce up to 15 grams of xylitol from other foods sources using established energy pathways. This means xylitol is not a strange artificial substance to our body but a normal part of everyday metabolism.

Xylitol is a great substitute for diabetics.

Xylitol has medicinal benefits as an alternative sweetener and is a good choice for diabetics. Honey has medicinal benefits but can raise blood sugar. Diabetics have to be careful with honey- with xylitol they don’t have the same worries. Diabetics, and all of us really, don’t want a spike in blood sugar. Xylitol has a much lower glycemic index compared to other sweeteners and as we talked about earlier doesn’t get absorbed by the body. Doesn’t that make more sense than as an alternative?

Average Glycemic Index:

  • Table Sugar: 65
  • Honey: 58
  • Maple Syrup: 54
  • Brown Rice Syrup: 35
  • Agave Syrup: 15
  • Xylitol: 12

Weight loss

If people ate food just because it was good for them – they wouldn’t eat sugar just for concerns about weight alone. When you eat sugar, you eat and eat and gain weight because of emotions. So, you are eating to fill an emotional hole not your pie hole. Xylitol has 40% less calories than sugar and has a net 0 for carbs. Therefore, it is a sweet choice as a sweetener alternative.

A Sweet Choice

So, if we look at the sweetener alternatives logically there is a sweeter choice. It’s obviously birch xylitol. We get the most satisfaction with the least change physiologically. It is an easy replacement for baking. Swap out the cup of sugar for a cup of xylitol, it won’t impact the flavor. Emotional satisfaction and microbial balance in one cookie!

Therefore, take the emotion out of this debate and consider the important aspects of an alternative sweetener. Like I said earlier, I’d rather have a birch xylitol that has no negative physiological effects and actually has some medicinal benefits. How about you?

Written By: Dr. Patrick Flynn

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References and Resources