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Are artificial sweeteners safe for IBS?

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Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a "natural" artificial sweetener, and there is no such thing as an artificial sweetener that is proven safe for IBS. Virtually all artificial sweeteners (as well as other chemical additives and preservatives) can provoke gastrointestinal upsets in people with IBS, as by definition we have more sensitive guts. Saccharine, Equal and Nutrasweet (both aspartame), sorbitol and other sugar alcohols (xylitol, malitol), and Splenda (sucralose) are the most popular artificial sweeteners in the US. They can all cause digestive side effects ranging from gas and bloating to severe abdominal cramps and urgent diarrhea. In some cases, they can provoke these symptoms in people who don't even have IBS, so imagine what they can do to you. Sorbitol (and other sweeteners ending in "ol") are sugar alcohols, chemically extracted from fruits and vegetables but very poorly absorbed by the gut. It's this malabsorption that results in the low calorie count of sugar ... more
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