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Ask Dr. Gott 1/5

Sugarless gum can cause diarrhea

DEAR DR. GOTT: I am a long-time fan of your column. I admire the forthrightness and the humor with which you handle the questions posed by your readers.
    From time to time, you publish letters from readers complaining of diarrhea of unknown cause. I suffered for five months from such diarrhea, beginning in November 2003. My physician had me tested for various microbial causes but all were negative. He diagnosed IBS and had me take dicyclomine, but the drug did not help.
    I systematically removed various items from my diet, but nothing stood out as a cause of the diarrhea. Finally, I recalled that sorbitol and other sugar alcohols have a laxative effect. As these alcohols are used as sweetening agents in sugarless gum and other dietetic foods, I cut out sugarless gum. The next day, the diarrhea was gone.
    I had been chewing three sticks of sugarless gum a day. That amounts to 6 grams of sorbitol or other sugar alcohols a day. Needless to say, I no longer use this gum. I keep some around in case I become constipated.
    If I were a physician and a patient complained of chronic diarrhea, I would ask, "Do you chew sugarless gum or consume dietetic desserts?"
    DEAR READER: Your letter opens up a welcome and necessary topic: intestinal reactions to artificial sweeteners. Thank you for writing. To give you related information, I am sending you a copy of my Health Report "Constipation and Diarrhea."
    DEAR DR. GOTT: I have heard a lot said about Coca-Cola or Pepsi or what have you. It will rot your stomach, etc., if you drink it. Will one Coke a day hurt me? I have about five a week sometimes. So how much is too much?
    DEAR READER: A modest quantity of soda (up to a can a day) should not be detrimental to your health, providing you are not diabetic or overweight. I am not aware that these products "rot your stomach" when consumed in moderation.
    DEAR DR. GOTT: I'm a big fan of your no-flour, no-sugar diet. In following this diet, I have been eating oatmeal for breakfast. I add dried blueberries, cherries and cranberries to the oatmeal. I have read that these fruits are very good for you. Will I get the same benefit from dried fruit as from fresh fruit?
    DEAR READER: Yep. The benefits are the same.
    Because of your interest in specific aspects of my no-flour, no-sugar diet, I recommend you read my book "Dr. Gott's No Flour, No Sugar Diet" (Quill Driver, 2006). It is available at most bookstores or online at www.amazon.com. I've also written a cookbook to be coupled with the diet book. It will be available in January.

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