WHAT IS XYLITOL?
Xylitol is considered a Sugar Alcohol, though it does not contain sugar or alcohol. It is a low-calorie sweetener that comes from Birch trees or corn cobs, and is naturally produced by our bodies. While looking and tasting just like sugar, it has a five carbon glucose unit making it different in structure than nearly all other sugars (which are made from a six carbon glucose unit). This is why it is beneficial for oral health.
WHY DOES THE CARBON STRUCTURE MATTER?
Bacteria and yeast prefer xylitol to other sugar sources, but due to it’s structure, these harmful microbes cannot digest the xylitol, therefore they slowly starve, cannot reproduce, and eventually die. If you kill the bacteria that cause most decay (S mutans), your risk of decay is reduced. Studies have demonstrated xylitol can reduce the cariogenic bacteria in our mouth, while acting as a beneficial prebiotic to the beneficial oral bacteria.
IS IT SAFE FOR HUMANS TO INGEST?
Yes! Our body makes it naturally. Our liver absorbs 1/3 of the xylitol we consume, and the remaining is broken down by our gut bacteria. It has a glycemic index of 7 (Refined white sugar is 85), so it doesn’t raise the blood glucose levels the same way sugar does. It also has 2.4 calories per gram, compared to sugar’s 4 calories per gram.
ARE THERE ANY SIDE EFFECTS?
While our bodies make the enzymes necessary to break down xylitol, if we ingest too much as once, there may not be enough enzymes available yet. This can lead to loose stools or mild abdominal cramping. If you begin adding xylitol slowly, your body will increase the enzymes available.
WHERE TO I GET XYLITOL?
While you can purchase a bag of 100% xylitol at a health food store to use in baking, it is also in many gums, mints, toothpastes, mouth rinses and candies. To get an adequate dose of xylitol, it should be one of the first three ingredients. Some brands that use xylitol include: Starbucks gum, Spry products, Ice Breakers Gum, Ice Chips candy, and others. Some chewable Probiotics use xylitol as well!
HOW MUCH XYLITOL DO I NEED TO CONSUMER TO IMPROVE MY ORAL HEALTH?
Five exposures throughout the day has shown to improve oral health. You can brush with a xylitol toothpaste morning and night, and have a mint/gum with each meal. That is one example of five exposures.
Because dogs and ferrets process xylitol differently than humans do, it is very toxic for them. Keep all xylitol products away from them!
ARE THERE OTHER BENEFITS OF XYLITOL?
Research has shown a reduction in upper respiratory infections when a xylitol nasal rinse is used. There is also some preliminary research that shows it may increase calcium absorption and improve bone density.