Last Updated on May 26, 2020
Xylitol is not necessarily good for candida but it is a great sugar substitute that won’t aggravate a current infection and can help alleviate any sugar cravings that you may have while following an anti-candida protocol.
Xylitol, a type of polyol, is a sugar alcohol. It tastes slightly less sweet than normal sugar but also has less calories and a much lower glycemic index (glucose is 100, xylitol is 8). Xylitol is found naturally in plums, strawberries, raspberries, cauliflower, and spinach. However, it is metabolized differently than regular glucose or fructose sugar.
Xylitol produces a “cooling” effect in the mouth, which makes it a great substitute for gum or candies. Therefore, those with diabetes or insulin resistance or those avoiding sugar on an anti-candida diet could still fulfill their sweet tooth by consuming a xylitol flavored treat every once in a while.
In addition to being used as a low-glycemic sugar substitute, xylitol has additional health benefits. For example, xylitol has an anti-microbial effect on bacteria like Streptococcus pneumonia and can be used to prevent ear infections (otitis media) in children, as found in a study by Tapiainen. For ear infections, xylitol can be administered as a nasal spray or by chewing gum, with chewing gum being the preferred method since chewing and swallowing helps massage the eustachian tubes, which helps with lymph flow.
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Xylitol is also commonly recommended to help with dental cavities or caries. This has been demonstrated in hundreds of studies, including but not limited to those by Scheinin, Isokangas, Kandelman, Alanen, and Mäkinen. Since oral bacteria do not metabolize xylitol, they do not create the same cavity-producing metabolites as they would from sugar so replacing sugary foods with xylitol helps to prevent cavities and tooth decay. In addition, a study by Mäkinen found that chewing xylitol-containing gum has even been found to help with teeth re-mineralization.
Xylitol has other, though less common, uses as well. According to Gracey, Rowland, and Livesey, xylitol can have a prebiotic effect since it is a low-digestible carbohydrate. This means that xylitol is fermented in the colon to make short chain fatty acids (SCFA), which promote good gut flora. Of greater benefit, SCFA can help decrease the risk for colon cancer. Also, a study by Shafer found that xylitol can increase satiety by slowing gastric emptying so it may be helpful to use for those individuals who are trying to lose weight. In addition, when chewed as a gum, xylitol can help people with xerostomia, a symptom of chronic dry mouth due to decreased saliva production, common in those with Sjogren’s syndrome.
Xylitol is available in many forms. It can be used as a nasal spray to help with allergies, sinusitis, and ear infections. Xylitol is also used in foods to help lower the sugar content, which is great for those with candida or diabetes. Additionally, it is found in chewable gummies, toothpaste, powder, lozenge, or syrup.
As for dosing, health benefits have been seen in those using as little as 8g a day. For ear infection prevention in young children, 8-10 grams of xylitol in divided doses after meals works best. For cavity prevention, 7-20 grams in divided doses throughout the day, usually as gum, can help. Gums like Epic or Spry have 1.06g and 0.72g xylitol per piece of xylitol respectively whereas brands like Trident only have 0.17g of xylitol per piece. In other words, you’d have to chew six times the number of Trident pieces to get the same amount of xylitol found in one piece of Epic gum.
There are no known interactions of xylitol with medications. However, in higher dosing (>20g), xylitol can cause loose stools, diarrhea, gas, and/or bloating so those with these symptoms from other conditions, such as IBS or IBD, may want to avoid xylitol altogether.
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There is evidence that shows that xylitol can kill Lactobacillus acidophilus which are good bacteria apart from bad bacteria. It thus seems possible that consumption of xylitol can lead to dysbiosis which is something that anyone with candida would want to stay clear from considering the already existing dysbiosis that follows candida infection. It may be better to avoid xylitol when on a candida diet.