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What are Sugar Alcohols?

What are Sugar Alcohols?

Have you ever gone overboard on some sugar-free sweets that have sent you rushing straight to the bathroom? Maybe you’ve seen the all too common warning statement on a label that says “excess consumption may cause laxative effect”, not taken it very seriously, but then realised they WERE NOT JOKING.


If you’ve experienced that good ol' feeling of wanting to 💩 your pants after eating a ‘sugar free’ snack, then chances are that sugar alcohols could be the culprits of those not so sweet tummy upsets. But exactly what the heck are sugar alcohols? 

Sugar Alcohols


Sugar alcohols also known as ‘polyols’ are popular because they can be used as a sugar replacement for food and drinks. You can find them in some chewing gum, sugar-free lollies, protein bars and a range of processed foods under names like maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, lactitol, and mannitol. Sugar alcohols are a popular alternative to traditional sugar since they can help reduce the energy density of a product (aka- lower it’s overall caloric value), can be more dental friendly compared to traditional sugar, and are less likely to cause spikes and crashes in blood sugar following consumption.


However, not all sugar alcohols are easily digested. Some sugar alcohols like Xylitol are larger in their molecular size and when consumed are unable to be broken down easily compared to traditional sugar.

As a result, when these undigested sugars enter the colon, they attract water via a process called osmosis which can result in that not so sweet laxative-type effect 💩. In other words, having these sugars in your gut can attract a massive amount of water to your stomach and intestines. When the body needs to clean out the digestive system in a hurry, it pours water into the digestive system. The watery material makes a run for the colon, and from there out of the body. And that, ladies and gents, is how diarrhea is made.


It is also common that once in the colon, the sugar alcohol molecules are fermented upon by bacteria and can lead to the creation of gasses (hello bloating, flatulence, cramps and abdominal discomfort!). 

However, it is important to note that not everyone experiences these not so fun side effects when consuming foods and drinks containing sugar alcohols. These resulting side effects depend upon the amount ingested and one’s sensitivity to fermentable carbohydrates.

Your gut lovin’, no sugar alcohol solution
(*cue FUNDAY Natural Sweets!)

Let’s face it, life’s too short to restrict yourself to only a few sugar-free gummy bears to avoid that nasty laxative effect. If you’re a lover of lollies like us, we can probably all agree that eating more than a handful (or heck, the whole bag of gummy bears!) sounds like the sweeter deal.

For all you sweet tooths who want to enjoy lollies without the sugar high and without the nasty side effects of sugar-free lollies containing sugar alcohols - we got you! FUNDAY sweets are made from real food ingredients rich in prebiotic fibre, which provide a natural sweetness and they are sweetened with a touch of stevia leaf. Our lollies are made from only naturally-derived fruits and veggies - there's nothing artificial to see here!

You can sit back and enjoy a packet of sour peach hearts or raspberry frogs to satisfy your sweet tooth cravings WITHOUT having to worry about any nasty laxative effects - be kind to yourself and your gut folks!

Written by Daena Ryan

Dietitian & Nutritionist

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