Sugar Alcohol Problems

Here’s a short story for you. As you know by an earlier tale, I’m diabetic, coming up on 12 years in September. It’s not always easy to know what to do if you’re a diabetic, and I have to admit that I’m not the best diabetic in the world.

I have a sweet tooth, and these cravings are hard to overcome. There are times when I don’t even know I’ve left the house to get something sweet until I’ve started eating it. That may sound crazy to some, but it’s the truth. Every once in awhile I get my mind just before I leave the house, and look to call someone to talk to, which usually helps me get past the craving. That’s the thing about a craving; if you can get past the time period when it’s really strong, then you won’t succumb to it.

However, sometimes you try to do something that’s not going to supposedly hurt you as much; I say it that way because things like pasta and bread are actually worse for diabetics that pure sugar, contrary to the beliefs of people who aren’t diabetic. With sugar, I get a big bounce, then it goes away relatively fast. With pasta, bread and the like, it’s considered a complex carbohydrate, and it stays with you for a much longer time. I can eat some dessert every single day and have it not affect me all that much, but one serving of paste every day for even three days drastically shoots my glucose numbers.

Anyway, here’s the story. About seven years ago, I was at the casino playing something (this was in the days before I was playing poker), and before leaving, I decided to stop by the dessert counter. They have some of the best desserts in the world there, and my eyes happened upon these giant peanut butter cups. Lo and behold they were also sugar free; I was in my glory! So, I bought 3 of them, as my wife wasn’t with me, and I knew I would be just fine because there was no sugar in them. I felt so confident that I ate all three of them on the drive home; just under 40 minutes.

Pretty much within the first ten minutes of being home, I was in the bathroom, and let me just say that it wasn’t a pleasant experience. I kept visiting the bathroom for the rest of the night and into the next day; it was painful to say the least. Thing is, as I thought about it, I realized that there were other times when I’d had something that said sugar free on it, and my stomach didn’t react quite properly with it, and I had no idea why.

As serendipity happens, my wife and I were going to a diabetic nutrition class that Monday, two days away, and I resolved to ask them about it. I did, and they told me that most people who make sugar free items add what’s known as “sugar alcohols” to them.

Sugar alcohols are carbohydrates themselves, and they come from plants, which manufacture them naturally. They’re supposed to be like sugar in taste, although they have different degrees of sweetness, and they’re not completely absorbed by the body. This means the blood sugar impact is less and they provide fewer calories per gram. Sugar alcohols also don’t promote tooth decay.

Sounds good, right? Well, the problem is that they aren’t totally absorbed in the body, and for some people, actually many people, they can ferment in the intestines and cause bloating, gas, or diarrhea. Some people aren’t affected at all; folks like me,… well, you get the drift.

How do you know if something has a sugar alcohol in it? Check the ingredients, and if you see anything ending in “ol”, it’s a sugar alcohol. The strange thing to me is that they put this stuff in a lot of things specifically for diabetics, almost like someone didn’t read this information beforehand. By the way, it’s not only diabetics who are affected by this, so if you’ve eaten something you know is supposed to be sugar free and have problems, you probably can’t handle sugar alcohols. And, if you’re lactose intolerant, you probably will have problems with sugar alcohols, and vice versa.

And there you go; a non-marketing post for once, but still part of my mission of diabetes education. I hope you stuck around for the teaching part.


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34 comments on “Sugar Alcohol Problems

  • I enjoyed this post. It doesn’t surprise me that some “sugar free” items have an unsavory substitute. The best bet is to eat things that are as close to their natural state as possibl. I heard someone on TV say if the food doesn’t have a mother or didn’t come from seed … well, you get the drift.

    • Yes I do, Paula, and thanks for the comment. At least people are working on substitutes, even if all the choices haven’t been good ones.

  • John @ Wollongong Web Design says:

    It doesn’t sound crazy that you are creating a diversion to avoid sweets, in fact it is very strong of you to that. Few people have the strength to do those kinds of things.

    • Thanks John. Thing is, I wish I didn’t have to try to rely on other people to manage myself, but sometimes, that’s just how it goes. But I’m going to try to be stronger mentally.

    • Oh yeah, Olestra was something else. I never tasted it, but I did read about it, and they said that some people would suffer serious diarrhea, as that stuff would run right through your body. Nope, I wasn’t going there.

      The sugar free thing, though,… yup, it can be painful for a lot of people.

  • As I always say, you learn something new everyday. Thanks for sharing this. I learned something new about the food I eat. I don’t have diabetes but I do try to eat healthy.

    KushMoney´s last blog post..My First Time Building TV Site

    • Thanks Kush. That’s why I wrote this post, because I’m betting more people than not have problems with the sugar free stuff, at least from time to time. One doesn’t have to be diabetic to have problems with it.

      • Yeah, I am going to make my girlfriend read this post. After eating some foods she be in pain and sometimes have to use the restroom. (She not diabetic) Hopefully this will help her.

        KushMoney´s last blog post..My First Time Building TV Site

  • Great story Mitch. Often times I read your stuff via email subscription but neglect to visit and post a comment. I couldn’t resist on this one!

    The story is a good one Mitch, as I learned a few things about the day-to-day trials of a diabetic I didn’t know or realize happen.

    Keep up the good work. 🙂

    Colleen´s last blog post..Tri Cities Goal In Zoning | Promote Well-Being and Protect The Environment

    • Thanks Colleen. It’s always something, and I’m not even a “good” diabetic, I hate to say. But I’m always glad to bring something new to people’s attention.

  • I’ve never heard of sugar alcohol so this is something new to me, not surprising as I always learn something new fro reading your posts. My dad is a diabetic and he takes insulin to control it. Being Italian he loves his pasta, a hell of a lot more than sugar, and adjusts the amount of insulin he takes to compensate for those occasions that pasta is on the menu

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    • I’m on insulin also, Sire, but I still don’t react well to pasta these days, unfortunately. It just stays too long in the system; not that I’ve eliminated it totally from my diet.

      Glad to bring it to your attention; now you’ll know if he complains about stomach pains after eating something sugar free what it might be about.

      • Yep, not that he will tell me anything as he doesn’t want to bother me. A few years back he had a stroke during the night and rather than bother us he waited until the morning. Man, did we give it to him when we found out. Imagine, thinking that after all he has done for us that we would have been bothered by a phone call when he is in need of some sort of attention.

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      • That happened to a friend of mine’s father. He was having difficulties, so he acted like nothing was wrong and asked his wife to go to the store to pick something up for him. He passed away while she was gone of a stroke or heart attack; can’t exactly remember which. Didn’t want her to see him suffering at all; what troopers our old men were, eh?

        However, with this stuff, if he’s been eating sugar free stuff, you’ll notice the discomfort, or smell it eventually. 🙂

    • Thanks Rummuser. As I said, though, with these sugar alcohols, one doesn’t have to be diabetic to suffer; it’s just that diabetics might be suffering more by eating more sugar free items. In the end, we should always be checking the ingredients on things that bother us.

  • Jennifer Steuern says:

    My dad is diabetic and he also has an extremely sweet tooth. Luckily he doesn’t drink, so he doesn’t need to watch the alcohol content

    • Hi Jennifer. This isn’t about alcohol as in liquor, as I don’t drink myself (I’ve never had a drink in my life). It’s about ingredients in sugar free items and the possible discomfort they can cause.

  • What a pity Mitch!

    Let me tell you all the good things that you have missed.

    “We’ll drink a drink a drink
    To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
    The saviour of the human race
    For she invented medicinal compound
    Most efficacious in every case.

    Mr. Frears
    had sticky-out ears
    and it made him awful shy
    and so they gave him medicinal compound
    and now he’s learning how to fly.

    Brother Tony
    Was notably bony
    He would never eat his meals
    And so they gave him medicinal compound
    Now they move him round on wheels.

    We’ll drink a drink a drink
    To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
    The saviour of the human race
    For she invented medicinal compound
    Most efficacious in every case.

    Old Ebeneezer
    Thought he was Julius Caesar
    And so they put him in a Home
    where they gave him medicinal compound
    and now he’s Emperor of Rome.

    Johnny Hammer
    Had a terrible stammer
    He could hardly say a word
    And so they gave him medicinal compound
    Now he’s seen (but never heard)!

    We’ll drink a drink a drink
    To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
    The saviour of the human race
    For she invented medicinal compound
    Most efficacious in every case.

    Auntie Millie
    Ran willy-nilly
    When her legs, they did recede
    And so they rubbed on medicinal compound
    And now they call her Millipede.

    Jennifer Eccles
    had terrible freckles
    and the boys all called her names
    but she changed with medicinal compound
    and now he joins in all their games.

    We’ll drink a drink a drink
    To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
    The saviour of the human race
    For she invented medicinal compound
    Most efficacious in every case.

    Lily the Pink, she
    Turned to drink, she
    Filled up with paraffin inside
    and despite her medicinal compound
    Sadly Picca-Lily died.

    Up to Heaven
    Her soul ascended
    All the church bells they did ring
    She took with her medicinal compound
    Hark the herald angels sing.

    Oooooooooooooooo Weeeeeeeeeeeeeeee’ll drink a drink a drink
    To Lily the Pink the Pink the Pink
    The saviour of the human race
    For she invented medicinal compound
    Most efficacious in every case”

    • Funny stuff, Rummuser. However, I’ll take always being in control over the possibility of drinking too much then doing something stupid. My family, on both sides actually, has addiction issues. Oh, not drugs per se, but almost anything else. We have two alcoholics in the family, and folks, like my mother and I, get addicted (cravings) to certain things here and there. Oftentimes, it’s so much better not to start something than to have to try to figure out how to stop.

  • Wow. That’s pretty low. I always figured that the most important part of the “sugar free” label was to let diabetics know. How can you sell something called “sugar alcohol” that has effects just like sugar as “sugar-free”?

    • Hi Erica,

      The thing is most people don’t know those are sugar alcohols. The term “alcohol” isn’t liquor related, just to get that out of the way. But it’s a byproduct they get from some plants, and thus the terminology. So, they’re legitimate sweeteners, just some people can’t process it because it’s not absorbed into the body.

      It won’t raise glucose, like sugar can, but it can give you stomach problems, something sugar won’t do (unless you eat too much, that is).

  • Gry dla Dzieci says:

    You could try getting into bb/fitness. Once you become obsessed with exercises and perfect diet it’s easier to avoid sweets.

    • Hi Gry. Actually, I’ve done that, but one doesn’t just become “obsessed” with fitness. Back in 2006, I went on a big time exercise regimen for 3 months. I worked out daily and ate smaller meals. I dropped 15 pounds, but I craved dessert almost every single day. It finally ended when I went on the road for a consulting assignment; not enough time to work out, and I just succumbed to the cravings.

  • Mitch, it seems that we share the common things here, where I’m also one of the diabetics as well since 5 years ago…

    For my daily diet, I mostly keep it plain and healthy, as I don’t want to intake excessive sugar!

    • Good luck to you, Wil. I don’t find it as easy, but I do try to be good, at least until the weekend. But sometimes, I just lose it. 🙂

  • Mariah Mirza says:

    Hi there. This is all about taste. I completely agree with you regarding “lcohol Problems | I’m Just Sharing”, but I think you are in the thin line of thinling. Don’t you? Maybe you can try lactose free chocolate

    • Hi Mariah. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard of lactose free chocolate, but I’d still have to see what it was sweetened with to see if it might hurt me or not.

  • I actualy stopped craving sweets and fastfoods once I started eating well. Sure it wasn’t right away, but after 3-4 months of oats and veggies I just never felt like eating chocolate or gummy bears.

    • Hi Sushi. I actually stopped eating all sweets and desserts for 3 months once, just to see if I could wean myself away from it. And I craved and craved and figured I’d given it my best shot and came back to them. That one is a strong pull for me, especially chocolate, which, at another time, I gave up for six months, just to see if it could be done.

    • If you notice you have any problems after ingesting anything with these items in them, you might want to switch to eating or drinking something else.

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