Posted by Mitch Mitchell on Apr 20, 2009
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.