Sorbitol intolerance

Sorbitol intolerance

Sorbitol intolerance is a disorder linked to maldigestion and relative malabsorption of this organic compound.


What is Sorbitol?

Sorbitol or glucitol is a glucose alditol , i.e. a sugar reduced to a polyol (a glucose molecule with added electrons).

In nature, sorbitol is present in fruit and in particular in rowan , from which it takes its name; in the food sector, it is frequently used as a multipurpose additive and is characterized by:

  • Sweetening power 40% lower than sucrose
  • Calorific value 36% lower than sucrose
  • Excellent thickening power and good preservative

In addition to having a considerable conservation potential, sorbitol is useful in the “dietary” sweetening of confectionary products (sweets, chewing gum, etc.) and pharmaceuticals, as it constitutes a molecule that is only PARTIALLY digestible and absorbable .
NB. Sorbitol is an osmotic molecule which favors intestinal fermentation, therefore, excessive consumption can easily cause collateral intestinal reactions such as bloating , abdominal tension and diarrhea .



Intolerances are adverse reactions to foods or to the nutrients that characterize them; in general they are NOT immune-mediated and to trigger the specific symptomatology they require a significant contribution of active principle (characteristic that leaves room for subjectivity). NB. The time interval necessary for the onset of the first symptoms from the moment of ingestion to the appearance of TYPICALLY GASTRO-INTESTINAL symptoms varies from a few minutes to several hours.

Sorbitol intolerance is a disorder that mainly affects the consumption range of packaged and pharmaceutical products; in fact, as previously specified, sorbitol is a widely used sweetener – preservative; therefore the possibility that this polyol generates adverse reactions compromises in a more or less decisive way the sale of products containing it (depending on the diffusion of the ailment).
To define with certainty the presence of a specific intolerance to sorbitol it is possible to perform a clinical test: the H2 breath-test , or hydrogen detection test in the breath. The principle of this detection is simple: following the administration of an aqueous solution of sorbitol, the concentrations of H2 are detectedin the breath in different time steps. If the amount of hydrogen withdrawn is significant late, it can be deduced that the ingested molecule has NOT undergone intestinal digestion and absorption ( small intestine ) and has remained available for the fermentation of the bacterial flora ( large intestine ) which, during its metabolic processes, determines the release of H2 . This hydrogen is then absorbed and dissolved in the blood which transports it and diffuses it into the lungs for elimination.
NB. The EARLY positivity to the H2 breath-test(ie in the first temporal steps) is a clear indicator of contamination of the small intestine by the colonic bacterial flora; moreover, both the sorbitol intolerance test and the fructose and lactose intolerance tests are indicative for verifying the presence of global malabsorption , with or without specific intolerance towards the administered molecule.



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