Have you ever heard stories about sugar-free gummy bears and diarrhea? Or maybe you have even experienced volcanic diarrhea for yourself after eating some…?
Is it just a coincidence that people get diarrhea after eating or is there some truth to this potential wive's tale?
Some say that the growling noise your stomach makes after eating a handful of these delicious little bears are their spirits growling inside you. However, this claim doesn't seem to hold much truth, as you can imagine.... And we just made that up.
Why They Cause Volcanic Diarrhea
No, it has nothing to do with gummy bear spirits or anything like that. It actually has to do with something called Lycasin, which the famous Haribo company (popular candy company that makes gummy bears) uses as a sugar substitute.
What is Lycasin?
It is a trademarked name for what is called maltitol, which is a sugar alcohol that is often found in sugar-free candies, gum and so on.
The Problem With It
Maltitol isn't quite as sweet as sugar, but it is very sweet and is much lower in calories.
While maltitol has been shown to be relatively safe, it definitely doesn't produce comfortable results when consumed in too high amounts. It goes through the digestive system pretty much untouched because the body does not really know what to do with this foreign and strange looking substance, and this is what causes the problems.
However, this is also the reason substances like this are used as sweeteners for diabetics.... Because the digestion takes longer and isn't as much, which means they won't suddenly spike blood sugar levels.
One small scale study tested the effects of 69.5g of maltitol on two health individuals. Both were given this dose orally on an empty stomach and within 3.5 hours both were suffering from diarrhea.
Another larger study took groups of volunteers and gave them different amounts of maltitol for 3 days in a row. Groups that consumed 50 or 60 g of this substance had diarrhea at a rate of 30%
Both of these studies are mentioned on the Toxicology Data Network's website.
Other Sugar Alcohols You Might Want to Avoid
But besides maltitol there are also a bunch of other sugar alcohols that can potentially have the same negative side effects, some of which include…
You may want to avoid these sugar alcohols unless you are severely constipated and looking for the relief of diarrhea.
Sugar alcohols are not all bad though. In fact, some are found naturally in fruits and vegetables. But some are made synthetically and some might be better avoiding.
Diarrhea Seems to Pretty Much Be a Guarantee... If You Read Reviews About It
You can find a fair amount of reviews on Amazon for these sugar-free treats. And you may get a good laugh out of them if you aren't struggling from diarrhea yourself at the moment.
Some rather humorous comments that have been left from customers include things like…
"Were these bears forged in the fires of hell?"
"gastrointestinal trauma is insufficient to keep me from consuming this sweet little bastards"
"About 30 minutes into eating these bears, my thinking went from, "Oh these are just farts, I can hold them," to "Oh dear God not here." I have been a Christian my whole life and this is the test. If there is a God, please help me leave this plane with my dignity intact."
"I ate half of a 6 oz bag I picked up at CVS. They changed the color of the bag. I didn't know. I spent 24 hours in the fetal position on my bathroom floor repeating "please God, why?" I still don't have an answer."
"Bought these after reading the reviews and decided to prank my cousin. It worked like a charm, after eating handfuls he was on the toilet for days. He continued to eat them not knowing they were the cause of his explosive diarrhea. Only when he finished the bag did I decide to reveal my secret."
Based on the reviews it may seem that just about everyone who consumes these candies is bound to get diarrhea. However, there are some people that can enjoy the delicious sweetness without such side effects much better than others.
It's All About Moderation
It all depends on how much you eat.
If you eat sugar-free gummy bears for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, then you more than likely are going to be experiencing explosive diarrhea pretty much continuously throughout the day. But if you just have a small amount of bears here and there, you could very well go about unscathed.
As a rule of thumb some people say that you shouldn't have more than 15 of these gummy bears at a time, but this is just a very general statement. It depends on many things, such as the rest of your diet, how big of a person you are and so on.
Conclusion - To Eat or Not To Eat?
Sugar-free gummy bears like this are becoming more difficult to find, largely because the negative side effects are becoming more and more well known. However it is still possible to buy some. And if you do, just be sure to start off slowly and see how much your body can take. Don't go down the whole bag all at once. You might really regret it and you might have to buy new toilet afterwards.
But on a positive not, on the Cargill foods index sugar alcohols like that found in sugar-free sweeteners is listed as something that can promote growth of good bacteria in the gut, which can improve overall health. This is different from non-nutritive "zero calorie" sweeteners like Splenda and even stevia, which can hurt the balance of gut bacteria.
Sugar-free sweeteners also don't rot your teeth!