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Xylitol and Intestinal Flora

Posted May 06 2009 1:33pm
Hi Ellie,

I was told by my acupuncturist that since Xylitol kills bacteria, it kills beneficial bacteria in the intestine as well. Is this true?

Thank you so much,


Hi Diane,

Xylitol has been used for over a hundred years, and during the 1940 it became generally used as table sugar during sugar shortages in Europe. The benefits of xylitol were actually noticed when people became healthier; children had fewer ear infections and dental disease reduced.
Most holistic doctors recommend xylitol for health. For dental health you are looking for a total of only about a teaspoon each day - after meals.

As for the actions of xylitol: only specific strains of mouth bacteria are affected by xylitol.
These are the "intruder," acid-producing, plaque producing bacteria, the ones that cause dental disease.

When you consume xylitol, these intruder bacteria (ones that normally use sugar and make damaging acids) readily absorb xylitol. The xylitol binds their proteins and they can no longer make acids to damage teeth. They no longer produce sticky threads that allow them to layer and form plaque.

Other strains of mouth bacteria are not affected by xylitol. They thrive and take the place of the harmful, acid-producing kind. These "xylitol-tolerant" bacteria do not form acids and do not form plaque. These protective bacteria coat teeth and protect them. In this way xylitol has acted as a pro-biotic to allow healthy mouth bacteria to grow in place of the acid-producing and damaging ones.

People with acid reflux symptoms often find similar changes as acid symptoms disappear.

I do not believe that there are long-term studies that address intestinal flora and xylitol use. Studies with high intake and children showed xylitol to be very well tolerated. I do know that 15 grams of xylitol is made naturally by the body each day.

I have been recommending xylitol for decades. Used in the quantities that I recommend I have noticed only positive health reports - even from people who previously had suffered g-i problems of varying kinds. One doctor has a clinic for very sick patients -treating patients with no cures. Xylitol is the first thing he adds to their diet.

If you are aware of the "eight health sugars" - or "glyconutrients" - you will know that xylose ( from which xylitol comes) is one of these sugars that supposedly helps cells communicate with each other. I am no expert in this field but over the past few years there is more discussion about this idea.

I will link you to a body builder website where xylitol is discussed in more detail. It appears that those who consume xylitol are better able to preserve muscle and break down fat - something of benefit to athletes.

I have no negative stories to report. The only negative ever has been that dogs should not consume quantities of xylitol. The reaction in dogs is different - just like many human foods.
I hope this helps and I would be interested for more discussion if you have more questions.

Thanks so much for your message,
This site is privately and personally sponsored, funded and supported by Dr. Ellie Phillips. There are no financial or personal ties to Johnson and Johnson or to Pfizer Corporation and the endorsement of their products is based on clinical observation, and independant ADA endorsement. To contact Dr. Ellie, email
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