Does sugarless candy give you gas?

Sugarless candy, also known as sugar-free candy, has become increasingly popular in recent years as more people look to reduce their sugar intake. Sugarless candy is made with non-nutritive sweeteners such as xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol instead of sugar. While sugarless candy provides the sweet taste without the calories and carbohydrates, some people report experiencing digestive side effects like gas and bloating after eating it. In this article, we’ll take an in-depth look at whether sugarless candy really causes gas and examine the evidence behind this common claim.

What is Sugarless Candy?

Sugarless candy, as the name implies, contains little to no sugar. Traditional candy is loaded with sugar (sucrose), which provides the characteristic sweet flavor but also packs a hefty calorie punch. Sugarless versions replace sugar with non-nutritive sweeteners, which provide a sweet taste without all the calories.

Here are some of the most commonly used sugar substitutes in sugarless candies:

– Xylitol – A sugar alcohol derived from birch trees and other natural sources. It has about 40% fewer calories than sugar and does not impact blood sugar or insulin levels.

– Erythritol – Another sugar alcohol that occurs naturally in fruits like pears and melons. It has 60-80% of the sweetness of sugar with 5% of the calories.

– Sorbitol – A sugar alcohol with about 60% of the sweetness of sugar and one-third of the calories. It’s found naturally in some fruits and vegetables.

– Aspartame – An artificial sweetener that is 200 times sweeter than sugar yet contains minimal calories. Brand names include Equal and NutraSweet.

– Sucralose – An artificial sweetener made from sugar but is 600 times sweeter. Common brand name is Splenda.

Other sweeteners like acesulfame potassium (Ace-K), saccharin, neotame, and stevia are also commonly used. The specific combination of sweeteners can vary widely among sugarless candy products.

Why Sugarless Candy?

There are several reasons why sugarless versions have become so popular:

– **Lower in calories** – Since they are made with non-nutritive sweeteners, sugarless candies are much lower in calories and carbs than their sugar-laden counterparts. This makes them appealing for weight control or diabetes management. A serving of regular candy may contain hundreds of calories, while the same amount of sugarless candy may have fewer than ten calories.

– **Does not affect blood sugar** – For people with diabetes, excess sugar can cause dangerous spikes and dips in blood glucose levels. Sugarless candy does not impact blood sugar in the same way, making it safer for diabetes.

– **Dental health benefits** – Bacteria in the mouth feed on sugar and produce acids that erode tooth enamel. Sugarless candies do not provide this fuel source and are thus less harmful to teeth. They may even actively promote better dental health if they contain tooth-friendly ingredients like xylitol or erythritol.

– **Suitable for low-carb, keto, or low-glycemic diets** – Sugarless candies can fit into popular diets like keto and low-carb that require limiting sugars and carbs. The minimal calories and carbs allow dieters to still enjoy a sweet treat.

Thanks to these benefits, sugarless candies have carved out a distinct niche in the candy aisle. Major candy brands now produce sugar-free versions to appeal to the growing market.

Do Sugarless Candies Cause Gas?

Now that we’ve covered the basics of sugarless candy, let’s dig into the million dollar question: can eating them really cause gas, bloating, and other digestive distress?

There is legitimate reason to suspect that sugarless candy may lead to increased gas and abdominal discomfort in some people. This stems from the digestive effects of sugar alcohols like xylitol, sorbitol, and erythritol which are commonly used sweeteners.

While sugar alcohols are considered “natural” sweeteners, our bodies do not completely absorb them, so a portion reaches the large intestine. The bacteria living in the large intestine have a field day fermenting these undigested sugar alcohols, producing hydrogen, methane, and other gases as byproducts. These accumulated intestinal gases can lead to bloating, flatulence, rumbling stomach, and loose stools when consumed in excess.

Sorbitol and xylitol in particular are implicated most often. Studies confirm that consuming 50 grams or more of sorbitol can cause significant gastrointestinal distress, while 25 grams of xylitol is enough to result in diarrhea and flatulence in many people. The threshold tends to be lower for children. Products sweetened with a blend of sugar alcohols appear less likely to cause problems compared to ones containing a single sugar alcohol.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting sugar alcohol intake from candy and other sources to no more than 20-50 grams per day for school-aged children and about 10 grams per day for toddlers. This reduces the likelihood of unwanted gastrointestinal side effects. Adults can typically tolerate higher amounts as long as consumption increases gradually.

Individual Factors Influencing Gas

However, there are a couple important caveats. Not everyone will necessarily experience gas or GI issues after eating sugarless candy. Individual tolerance levels vary based on:

– **Dose consumed** – Consuming a whole bag of sugarless candy at once is more likely to cause problems than eating a few pieces slowly over a day. The amount of sugar alcohols eaten matters.

– **Sensitivity** – Some people are naturally more sensitive to sugar alcohols based on the types of intestinal bacteria they have. If your microbiome is less efficient at handling them, you’ll get more gas.

– **Frequency of consumption** – Regular exposure to sugar alcohols allows the gut bacteria to adapt somewhat and improves tolerance. Occasional sugarless candy consumption bothers first-timers more.

So sugarless candy is not guaranteed to make everyone gassy, but it certainly has the potential to. Consuming it in moderation and paying attention to individual reactions is advised. If you experience GI distress after eating sugarless candy, take that as a sign to cut back.

Reviews of Gas from Popular Sugarless Candies

Looking at reviews from people who’ve actually tried common sugarless candy products provides more real-world insights into the likelihood of gas and bloating. Here’s a run down of reports on some top-selling sugarless candy brands:

Sugarless Gummy Bears

– Haribo Sugar Free Gummy Bears – These notoriously deliver painful gas and diarrhea, likely due to containing both xylitol and sorbitol. Multiple reviews mention their laxative effect.

– Albanese Sugar Free – Also contain sorbitol and xylitol, but tend to cause slightly less gastrointestinal issues compared to Haribo since the sorbitol content is lower. Still, gas and diarrhea are not uncommon.

– SmartSweets – Made with allulose and soluble corn fiber instead of sugar alcohols. Significantly fewer complaints of gas, bloating, or diarrhea. One of the “safer” sugarless gummies.

Sugarless Chocolates

– Russell Stover Sugar Free – Numerous consumer grievances citing gas pains, bloating, and diarrhea, especially after several pieces are eaten. A prime culprit is the sorbitol in the filling.

– Hershey’s Sugar Free – Also sweetened with sorbitol, but less per serving compared to Russell Stover, so somewhat fewer GI complaints. Still, some bloating feedback.

– Lily’s Sweets Stevia-Sweetened – Uses stevia instead of sugar alcohols, resulting in minimal digestive issues reported. One of the better tolerated sugarless chocolate options.

Sugarless Mints/Candies

– Tic Tac Mints – Despite having no sugar, contain high sorbitol levels that commonly lead to gas pains and diarrhea when overconsumed. Beware of eating too many at once!

– Ice Chips Candy – Unique sweetener blend including erythritol, sucralose, and sugar alcohols makes it unlikely to cause GI issues for most people. Very few gas or bloating complaints.

– Peppermints – Sorbitol is sometimes added to make them sugarless. This may elicit mild flatulence if you eat a whole pack. Otherwise, pure peppermints are a safe bet with no sugar alcohols.

Tips to Prevent Gas from Sugarless Candy

If you want to keep enjoying your favorite sugarless candies without discomfort, here are some helpful tips to avoid or reduce gas:

– Consume in moderation – Stick to suggested serving sizes or less to keep sugar alcohol content in check.

– Drink plenty of water – Helps dilute sugar alcohols and flatulence-causing compounds in the gut.

– Slow down eating – Gobbling down sugarless candy can overwhelm your system’s tolerance threshold quicker.

– Avoid excessive physical activity – Intense exercise can worsen intestinal gas and cramping after eating problematic foods.

– Try digestive enzyme supplements – Can help break down sugars, thereby reducing gastrointestinal side effects.

– Switch products – Choose sugarless candies sweetened with stevia or allulose instead of sugar alcohols like sorbitol and xylitol.

– Allow time to adapt – Your gut bacteria may adjust to sugar alcohols over time if exposure increases gradually.

Being mindful of serving sizes, hydration, and product ingredients can go a long way towards delighting your taste buds without upsetting your tummy. Nonetheless, some amount of individual variation in tolerance persists. Pay attention to your own body’s signals and adjust your sugarless candy intake accordingly.


In summary, sugarless candies do frequently cause extra gas, bloating, diarrhea and other digestive discomfort due their sugar alcohol sweeteners. However, the degree of problems varies based on the specific sugar alcohol used, individual tolerance, serving sizes, and frequency of consumption. Xylitol and sorbitol in particular tend to generate more gastrointestinal distress, while products made with stevia or allulose are much less likely to cause issues. Consuming sugarless candy in moderation and drinking plenty of fluids can help minimize unwanted symptoms. Still, some people are more sensitive than others and may need to avoid sugar alcohols completely to prevent unpleasant side effects. If you experience significant GI upset after eating sugarless candies, take heed and consider cutting back or opting for lower-risk alternatives. With judicious consumption and attentiveness to your body’s signals, you can still satisfy your sweet tooth without suffering the stomach pains and flatulence.

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