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The Surprising Therapeutic Benefits of Xylitol

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Xylitol is a 5-carbon sugar that has 40% fewer calories and 75% fewer carbs than refined white sugar.  Xylitol is a mere 7 on the glycemic index (which measures the impact of food on our blood sugar levels), compared to sugar’s glycemic index of 100.  It has no bad aftertaste, and occurs naturally, not only in fruits and vegetables, but in our own bodies, where we make both xylitol and the enzymes to digest it, every day.  It has none of the undesirable effects of either sugar or the artificial sweeteners.

All of the above is great, and why I have recommended Xylitol as a sugar substitute, along with stevia, for some time.  However, as I continue to read and research, it appears that Xylitol has some unique and significant therapeutic benefits that recommend it to use.

  • Xylitol has only a negligible impact on blood sugar and insulin levels. This means that unlike sugar, there are no highs and lows: no roller coaster for either your energy or your mood, and no subsequent cravings for more sweets and carbohydrates.  No adrenal fatigue, no weight gain, no increase in cortisol levels.  In fact, xylitol can help keep you hormonally balanced through its insulin stabilization factors.  And as I learned in my training with endocrinologist Dr. Diana Schwarzbein, healthy insulin response is essential to healthy aging and healthy hormones, as well as effecting cholesterol levels, incidence of Type II Diabetes, high blood pressure, and much more.
  • Tooth & Gum Health Xylitol alkalinizes the mouth.  It not only reduces bacterial growth but actually inhibits and interferes with development of plaque, and bad bacterial strains such as strep.  The Journal of the American Dental Association said “Xylitol is an effective preventive agent against dental caries… Consumption of xylitol-containing chewing gum has been demonstrated to reduce caries in Finnish teenagers by 30-60%.  Studies conducted in Canada, Thailand, Polynesia and Belize have shown similar results…”  A study conducted at Harvard School of Dental Medicine concluded that “Xylitol can significantly decrease the incidence of dental caries.”  – which is why more and more dentists are recommending it, in toothpastes, gums and candies.  There is some indication that xylitol may work against biofilm, which would also be advantageous in the mouth. Sugar, of course, increases the acidity of the mouth and the body as a whole, as well as bacterial growth and the incidence of cavities.

Among young children whose mothers chewed xylitol gum, there was a 70% decrease in tooth decay, presumably because it inhibited bacteria that are normally passed back and forth with shared kisses, drinks, food, etc.  It looks as if, used consistently over time, Xylitol may even repair some damage from cavities.

  • Craving Reduction Xylitol slows stomach emptying time, promoting a feeling of fullness.  According to research, including xylitol around mealtime significantly decreases the number of calories needed to feel full.  Obviously, this can have great potential for weight management.
  • Ear Infections 8-10 grams of xylitol daily led to a 30% decrease in ear infections in young children.  This is attributed to its anti-microbial effects, particularly on strep and flu viruses.
  • Sinus Health Many people are discovering the benefits of using a Neti Pot for help with allergies, colds, and sinus infections.  Take advantage of xylitol’s anti-microbial properties by adding some to your neti therapy. Start with just 1/4 teaspoon: a little goes a long way. You can also add 1/4 teaspoon baking soda and 1/4 teaspoon sea salt.
  • Alkalinity Xylitol is alkalinizing to our systems, making us less hospitable to harmful bacteria, viruses, and fungi of all kinds.  Keeping the body alkaline makes it easier and more likely for you to stay healthy and balanced in every way.  Sugar, in contrast, creates an acidic environment, feeding destructive microbes and weakening the immune system.
  • Bone Health Animal studies suggest that regular consumption of xylitol can improve bone strength during aging, probably because of the increased consumption of calcium, as well as the alkalinizing effect.  The more acidic your system, the more the body will leech calcium from bones and teeth to re-balance itself.
  • Yeast/Candida Xylitol is the only sugar that does not feed yeast. In fact, it contributes to its destruction.  This means it is not only safe for those grappling with candida, it is actually beneficial.  This is not true of any of the other sugars or sugar alcohols, including sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, erythritol, as well as fructose, honey, maple syrup, agave, malt, molasses, coconut sugar, etc. (note: there is some early research suggesting that erythritol may have the same properties but it is not clear yet)
  • Safety Xylitol is safe.  It was approved as an additive by the FDA in 1963, and recognized as a safe sweetener in 1986.  Although some people experience some initial GI discomfort as they incorporate higher amounts, this is usually temporary.  My experience with clients is that this initial reaction indicates an existing imbalance in the GI tract which is important to be addressed on its own.  Once this is cleared, xylitol is well-tolerated and the client is healthier than before.
  • Practical Xylitol has a consistency, texture and flavor virtually identical to sugar, although it is just very slightly less sweet.  It is great for tea, cookies, candies, brownies, etc.  Because it does not feed yeast, it does not work for bread.

For oral health, use xylitol mints or gum 3-5 times a day, and especially after meals and snacks.  Toothpaste with xylitol is great too, and is becoming more widely available.

As xylitol has become more popular and available there are, of course, more products from which to choose. Originally, xylitol was made from birch sugar, and this was considered the gold standard. Now, most xylitol is made from corn. However, I find that it is not necessary to use only xylitol from birch. What matters, as always, is the quality of the raw ingredients, and the quality of the manufacturing process. I offer one that is pure birch, and one that is pharmaceutical grade but has some corn source. Both test well and are tolerated well by my clients, almost without exception. And the good news is that it has actually gone down in price!  Some of the cheaper xylitol products are more problematic: they do not test well, and are more likely to cause problems in the gut. Be careful of products that add fillers and excipients, especially to packets.

Here’s one of my favorite recipes.  This is a healthy, low-glycemic, sugarless treat that everyone loves!  Make a bunch and keep some in the freezer.

Home-made Healthy “Chunkies”
Melt one bar of unsweetened chocolate and 2 T unsalted pastured butter or coconut oil in the top of a double boiler, and add xylitol to sweeten to taste. While the chocolate mixture is melting, keep stirring.  Cover a cookie sheet with parchment or waxed paper.  Once chocolate is fully melted and xylitol is dissolved, remove from heat and add 1 Tablespoon vanilla or other flavoring (orange, almond, cinnamon, etc). Mix in some raw nuts and a tiny bit of dried fruit.  You can put the pot in freezer or fridge for a short while to thicken a bit, or just let it cool.  Drop by teaspoon on covered cookie sheet. Refrigerate to set – yum!

I have Xylitol powder in bulk and packets and xylitol toothpaste available in my office.

p.s. Please note that xylitol is extremely toxic to dogs, so make sure to keep it – and anything made with it – away from your pup!

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48 Responses to “The Surprising Therapeutic Benefits of Xylitol”

  1. […] also known as birch sugar, has many therapeutic benefits. You can read more about it here. Please be aware that as xylitol has gotten more popular, many brands have appeared that are […]

  2. Monica says:

    How can you tell if the xylitol is made from birch and not corn husks?

  3. fransussman says:

    Unfortunately, there is no easy way to tell. I generally recommend you look on the package, find the toll-free number, and call the manufacturer. However, I can assure you that most commercial xylitol is now made from corn. That is why I recommend the xylitol mentioned in my article: because it is not.

  4. […] find recipes for many delicious indulgences, including brownies, chocolate cake, chia pudding, chocolate covered nuts, and more. (Can you tell I have a weakness for chocolate? Just make it 70% cocoa or more, or use […]

  5. […] always healthy and simple, mostly mine, always gluten-free, and usually sugar-free as well (I use xylitol, which tastes, looks and acts just like sugar, so it’s perfect for baking or any time).  And […]

  6. Deb says:

    Regarding the Chunkies: What size Chocolate bar? Some are small, some large. And, how much Coconut oil?
    Thanks! Sounds great. Can’t wait to try it.

  7. fransussman says:

    Hi Deb, I’m notorious for not measuring things. It depends on how much you want to make. I usually just melt some chocolate, add the xylitol and coconut, and then mix in as much of the nuts and fruit as I need to, to “use up” the chocolate mix. I’d say start with maybe 4 oz of chocolate and a tablespoon of coconut oil. Use the kind that’s solid at room temp for this, not a liquid like MCT oil.

  8. […] Why are they so good? Apart from being mouth-wateringly delicious, the nutrition rocks! The nut flour contributes protein; both the nut flour and the coconut oil are healthy fats; buckwheat is gluten-free, high fiber and contains all the essential amino acids (did you know it was a fruit seed, not a grain?); and eggs are nutrition powerhouses. Xylitol, also known as birch sugar, has almost no impact on blood sugar, and many other surprising therapeutic benefits as well. Read more about xylitol here. […]

  9. Joseph l Sexton says:

    I GET MY XYLITOL FROM GLOBAL SWEETS WHO SWEAR IT IS MADE FROM USA BIRCH BARK, THOUGHTS.

  10. fransussman says:

    I’m not familiar with the company, but if it’s from birch, that’s what you want.

  11. […] use unsweetened cocoa powder, too) 5 oz unsweetened raw organic chocolate chunks, chopped 1 cup xylitol 1 cup So Delicious refrigerated coconut milk, unsweetened pinch of salt 5 egg yolks 1/2 teaspoon […]

  12. […] had to change it, since I must avoid gluten, and I try to minimize sugar.  Replacing sugar with xylitol is so simple. Xylitol is the same texture and (almost) the same sweetness as sugar, and can be […]

  13. […] Mints and Xylitol Fruit Gum: xylitol has so many therapeutic benefits, and it tastes good, too.  90 pieces each Mints $10 Gum $12  Buy […]

  14. chris c says:

    Hello,
    This argument about birch or corn is not accurate. Xylitol is in rasberries and even in your own body. It is a simple 5 carbon chain, so it does not matter where you extract it from. The idea that one source is better than the other is a wrong. It is either xylitol, or it is not. There is of course a purity issue, but this is not the xylitol itself. It is down to the manufacturer. You can get it from 98-99.9% pure, but xylitol is xylitol.

  15. fransussman says:

    You are correct, and I need to update this article. I have been recommending xylitol for many years, and the distinction used to be more accurate. Now it is more a question of the grade and the purity. Otoh, this definitely makes a difference. I have many clients who can not tolerate the cheap commercial stuff, but do fine with the better quality xylitol that I offer.

  16. […] or sea salt, xylitol, a pinch of baking soda. There are also sprays and inhalers that contain xylitol, which is an anti-microbial (and a healthy natural sweetener).  Start with just a pinch of xylitol […]

  17. Lee says:

    My naturopath suggested I put xylitol in my neti pot to help with my chronic sinus infections and it’s worked like a charm. Whenever I feel congested I rinse with it and I haven’t had a sinus infection in over a year. I’m going to try adding it to recipes instead of sugar now too!

  18. fransussman says:

    yes, it’s wonderfully effective. Try adding a pinch of baking soda as well. Thanks for sharing your success.

  19. Meredith says:

    Very informative article. I have been recently diagnosed with PCOS and have since started a sugar-free, low-GL diet. I use xylitol occasionaly as it was recommended in Patrick Holford’s Low-GL Diet Bible.

    In the Chocolate Chunkies, how much coconut oil and xylitol did you use? Thank you!

  20. fransussman says:

    Meredith, I am notorious for just throwing things in the pot and making it work. That’s why it says sweeten to taste. If I make them again soon, I will get you the exact proportions I use, but you can’t really go too wrong.

    Let me know if I can help in any way with your health journey. I have a lot of experience with PCOS.

  21. Diana says:

    Hi Fran

    I am confused. You say in the article that xylitol made from corn is okay, but at the end of the article you write to beware of xylitol made from corn husks. Can you clarify for me?
    Thanks.

  22. […] if you’re dealing with any chronic illness, the only sweeteners you should use are stevia or xylitol. Erythritol is also looking very promising, as more research emerges. I don’t think […]

  23. Jenifer says:

    Actually, the question of xylitol from corn or birch is a non-issue according to this:http://karenshealthykitchen.com/The_Truth_About_Xylitol.html

    Relevant passage:

    The complex processes necessary to convert the hemicellulose first into xylan, then into D-xylose, and finally into xylitol actually change the chemical composition of the raw material so completely that the end product, which must also be filtered and refined, is of 99.5% or greater purity and has the same 5-carbon molecular structure as the xylitol that is found in nature. By the time this process is completed, there is nothing remaining that bears any resemblance to the original raw material, and all that is present are the pure xylitol crystals. As long as the final inspection, tests, and laboratory verification of the purity of the product are performed rigorously, the consumer can have complete confidence that there are no residual elements from the raw materials present in the final product.

  24. fransussman says:

    that may be, Jenifer, but I still find that some products are better than others and that some clients can tolerate certain xylitols, but not others. After all, no one is verifying “the purity of the product”, so how would we know? Personally and professionally, I depend on Autonomic Response Testing to check individual products for individual clients. And I consistently find differences.

  25. Grace says:

    You mention to check your article to get the brand of xylitol that you recommend but I don’t see any mention of it anywhere or any related article. Can you please let us know which brand that is, if possible? Thank you!

  26. fransussman says:

    Believe it or not, Grace, the company asked me to remove the link, as they only sell to practitioners. If you contact me by email, I can let you know what it is, but there are many good sources of xylitol available now.

  27. Tonya Miller says:

    Since I have very serious gut issues and my specialist recommended xylitol I’d like to know the brand you have found helpful for those sensitive clients of yours. I purchased a brand and have tried it today, but I’d like to know the alternative brand just in case. I need all the help I can get. I’m using my phone and I can’t see your email here but mine is included in sending this comment so please share it with me if you can.

    Thank you for the great info!

  28. fransussman says:

    I use Designs for Health, and find virtually all my clients do well with it. If you would like me to send you some, I’d be glad to!

  29. […] and then pour it over ice for an instant cool-down. If you want it sweetened, add stevia or xylitol. Store extra in the fridge for […]

  30. […] occurring compound found in many fruits and vegetables.  Xylitol has an impressive array of health benefits, and a taste close to sugar.  While it has calories (40% fewer than sugar) it has little impact on […]

  31. Mhikl Hess says:

    I have been using Xylitol for more than seven years. I found out about it after the worst year of my life for flues and severe colds. I was teaching in a windowless classroom and the air would often become acrid by the afternoon when our city had weather inversions.
    I had three temperatures during the winter which suggests I had flues, and five, if I remember correctly, severe colds. My students were constantly ill as well. I rarely have flues and only the occasional moderate winter cold.
    Since studying and then using Xylitol to spray into all my head orifices and on my eyebrows, my itchy eyebrows are no more, I have had neither a cold nor a flue in all this time, and my severe sinuses issues (suffered since childhood) have completely cleared up.
    The other addition I began using about 3-4 or more years ago, is Borax. I now use it in all my cooking (a pinch or two) and 1/8 tsp in a litre bottle of my homemade magnesium electrolyte water. I suspect, from my studies of Walter Last’s “Borax Conspiracy” (easily found on a google search), that this also helps with bone density.
    Google the topic and you will find that peek bone density is around age thirty, after which more bone is lost than is gained.
    Five or six months ago I had to visit the dentist for a sore tooth. I had to have a root canal. The new dentist looked at my facial X-ray and exclaimed, “You have extremely strong bones”. He kept repeating this throughout the examination. At my next appointment I asked him if he meant I had strong bones for my age, I was on the cusp of sixty-four. He replied, again emphatically, “No! for any age.”
    Whether it is the Xylitol, my care in not using sugar or high carbs, my use of Borax or the combination of all four changes to my diet, I will continue with my practices. No dentist has ever made mention of my bone strength before.
    After reading this article I am going to increase my Xylitol intake from about a TBSP per day in my electrolyte water and/or cooking to the recommended amount in this article.
    Namaste and care,
    mhikl

  32. fransussman says:

    wonderful to hear, and thanks for sharing. Yes, I often recommend borax to clients, and use it myself. Yay! As I always say: Healing is Possible.

  33. Jenifer says:

    How do you make the xylitol spray, Mhikl?
    Great sharings, you are inspiring me! so you spray into your ears as well, right?

  34. […] The Surprising Therapeutic Benefits of … – Xylitol is a 5-carbon sugar that has 40% fewer calories and 75% fewer carbs than refined white sugar. Xylitol is a mere 7 on the glycemic index (which … […]

  35. Michelle says:

    Fran, I want to thank you for your recommendation of Xylitol; after the initial canister you sent to me, I was able to locate a birch-derived product (Xyla) at Whole Foods, and I ADORE the stuff. Where I would not previously sweeten my coffee at all, I’m enjoying the option to do so, without ANY nasty aftertaste (like I detested in both Stevia and the Wheat-Free Market sweetener, erythritol + monkfruit). Quick question: have you tried to make a simple syrup with xylitol? I’ve seen some articles about it, both successes and failures. I’m most curious as to whether dissolving it changes its structure in a way that it CAN affect blood sugar (as how a raw potato is prebiotic/resistant starch, but once cooked, becomes starch). I’m no science major, so this may be a silly question, but I’d hate to negate the benefits of xylitol by altering it. Thanx in advance! ♥

  36. fransussman says:

    Hey Michelle, Xyla is great. So are stevia and monkfruit, if you can find them without the added excipients and other junk that are virtually always in packets. I use a liquid stevia that is wonderful for sweetening beverages and things like frosting for the Bulletproof cupcakes I made this weekend. I have not found monkfruit in a form I can use, but I love it, for instance, in SO Delicious No Sugar Added “ice cream”.

    As for xylitol, it does depend on how it is processed, but I can tell you that I’ve used it in baking and cooking for many years, am extremely sensitive, and have never had a problem, nor have thousands of clients.

  37. Jenifer Ransom says:

    Fran, in Norm Robillard’s book Fast Tract Digestion, written to help those with GERD and related illness, he advises against using xylitol and other sugar alcohols except for erythritol. Here’s what he says:

    “Sugar alcohols, also known as polyols, represent a group of non-carbohydrate sweeteners. Sugar alcohols include sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, lactitol, isomalt, erythritol, and maltitol. In general, sugar alcohols are poorly absorbed, so they don’t raise insulin levels much, but can be fermented by gut bacteria, potentially causing diarrhea, gas, bloating, reflux and other IBS symptoms. For this reason, most sugar alcohols should be avoided.”

    What is your take on this? Thanks.

    Jenifer

  38. fransussman says:

    Thanks Jenifer!
    From my perspective, if xylitol causes problems, it’s simply an indication that there are underlying issues in the gut that still need to be addressed. That’s not actually a problem with xylitol, but with the individual, and I would say thank you very much for pointing out that there are microbial issues that are still out of balance, and deal with that. If your gut is healthy, there is no problem with xylitol, and so many benefits.
    The other sugar alcohols, with the possible exception of erythritol, do not have the benefits of xylitol. Erythritol, otoh, is less likely to cause problems. I do not recommend any of the others, but I also don’t lump them all together.

  39. Jenifer Ransom says:

    Thanks Fran, I think you are correct. I’m going to post a link to your article and your reply to my question, at Robillard’s Facebook group.

  40. fransussman says:

    excellent! thank you very much, Jenifer, and I’m glad you found my response helpful.

  41. […] snacks after dinner. Instead, sip herbal tea. Want it sweet? Add stevia or xylitol. Don’t load your digestive system in the 3 hours before […]

  42. […] 7. Making Dessert? If you’re doing the food prep, use my favorite horizontal shift: subbing xylitol for sugar. Xylitol won’t raise blood sugar, tastes exactly like sugar (unlike stevia or other substitutes), is anti-microbial and can be subbed one to one in virtually any recipe using sugar. Learn more about xylitol here. […]

  43. Barbara says:

    Fran, you list as one of the many benefits of xylitol:

    “Craving Reduction Xylitol slows stomach emptying time, promoting a feeling of fullness. According to research, including xylitol around mealtime significantly decreases the number of calories needed to feel full. Obviously, this can have great potential for weight management.”

    Consumption of sugar alcohols, while providing many benefits, can also have unintended negative consequences.

    I started using xylitol only for its dental benefits, per the protocol recommended by Ellie Philips DDS (1/4 tsp [1 gram] held in mouth for at least 4 minutes, 6-10 times per day immediately after consuming foods/beverages).

    Problem is, I ended up consuming way more than 10 grams per day. The documented dental benefit comes NOT from swallowing / digesting xylitol but from its contact with saliva / oral tissues. Because it’s too easy to over consume, I have found that I am digestively sensitive to xylitol. Over +2 years time, it was one of several factors in my developing chronic digestive problems: IBS and SIBO (Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth).

    https://digestivehealthinstitute.org/2012/10/30/sweets-and-sweeteners-trick-or-treat/

    I am not saying eating xylitol is blanketly bad, but people need to understand the possible digestive consequences, which can become chronic and very difficult to reverse, before suddenly starting to use large amounts of sugar alcohols in the diet. Yes, our own bodies manufacture a small amount of xylitol and some foods contain small amounts of it, but suddenly adding large amounts can be a recipe for digestive disaster.

    One of the problems with IBS/SIBO is gastroparesis (delayed stomach emptying contributing to early satiety and feeling bloated). It’s not too much of a stretch to see that if one already has gastroparesis, eating xylitol is not recommended. And it’s possible that eating too much xylitol could even contribute to the development of gastroparesis in sensitive people.

    Xylitol (and erythritol) are much digestively safer to use than all of the other polyols, but many people are still way more sensitive than they realise and have to be very careful about their consumption.

    I still use 1 gram of xylitol or erythritol, swished as a mouthwash after eating, but try very hard to swish and spit rather than swallowing. And I don’t use polyols as dietary sweeteners.

    I also use xylitol as part of a saline nasal rinse, as it is effective for cleaning the nasal cavity to prevent sinus problems. I have never had ear problems, but xylitol is well documented as being effective against chronic ear infections as well.

  44. fransussman says:

    I see it somewhat differently, Barbara. While anything in excess can be an issue, 10 grams is not a lot, and many people tolerate that or more without issues, and with significant benefit. It is simply illuminating the fact that there are underlying GI issues that need to be addressed. Of course, if that’s the case, you should stop using it, identify and address those issues, and then try again.
    I too recommend it as part of a rinse, and have written about its use in ear infections.

  45. Thanks for the writeup.
    I am more interested in where I can get good Xylitol. Pharma grade.

    Please advice.

    Also pertaining to testing…. what kind of lab and testing is done to validate a xylitol batch?

    Walter

  46. fransussman says:

    Hi Walter and thanks for your interest. You can get pharmaceutical grade xylitol by clicking on the Supplements button on my site, in the upper right, and searching for xylitol, or use this direct link: https://sussmanholistic.ehealthpro.com/products/xylitol-500g-granules

    All Designs for Health products are voluntarily resourced and manufactured to the highest standards.

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