Do Sugar Alcohols increase Lactose Intolerence?


Last year I reported on how ingesting sugar alcohols, which are artificial sweeteners sold in stores and found in many low-glucose processed foods (the ones that end in -ol, like sorbitol, Erythritol, mannitol, xylitol, etc.), can cause health problems. Many people have intolerance issues with indigestible sugars, including myself.

At the time I noted the ability to digest lactose would fall into the same category since for many people lactose is an indigestible sugar, at least to some degree. Now that I’ve avoided all sugar alcohols this year, I appear to be experiencing this link to lactose intolerance in action. I’m back to being able to eat dairy without worrying about major headaches.

At the worst point in my reactions to sugar alcohols I was having trouble with nearly all indigestible sugars, including a major increase in lactose intolerance. I never had the classic symptoms of lactose intolerance, but instead would get horrible headaches that would last for 48 hours and could not be treated with pain relievers. (I had the same reaction eating chocolate bars with Erythritol.)

At the beginning, regular Lactaid pills would help me avoid these headaches when I ate dairy. As the years went by Lactaids became insufficient.  A cup of ice cream would often leave me in terrible pain even with the standard lactose enzymes that once worked. I switched to more powerful pills from the health food store that included more enzymes and probiotics. These worked for a few more years, gradually working less and less as time went on. It got to where eating dairy, even with lactose digestion pills, had a 50% chance of causing me to be debilitated for half a week.

After removing all sugar alcohols this year, particularly the one to four little packets of Truvia I often consumed during a week in the past, I am back to eating diary with a single lactose enzyme pill and I have had no headaches. Other symptoms have also cleared. I have yet to try eating dairy without taking any enzymes, but maybe I’ll try that sometime when I can risk possibly losing a few days. That can be a test for later. All I know is I am not as intolerant as I was before I removed sugar alcohols from my diet.

At the same time that I was able to start eating dairy again, someone I know suddenly became lactose intolerant. What I’ll note about her case is her severe lactose intolerance started after she started increasing her artificial sweetener use due to a diabetes diagnosis. Coincidence? From my experience I don’t think so. While not a controlled scenario, this is definitely the kind of outcome I would have expected.

I’d like to see this scientifically investigated by researchers, hopefully without funding from the manufacturers of sugar alcohols. I think we would find that indigestible sugars increase reactions to all difficult to digest sugars in intolerant individuals, including lactose. Perhaps warnings should be mandatory on all products that contain sugar alcohols.

For more information on how indigestible sugars mess with people’s health, read my posts from last year:

Who has Heard of Fructose Malabsorption?

Sweet Pains: Headaches, Fatigue and Brain Fog




  1. Holly

    I am suddenly lactose severely intolerant After never having had a problem with dairy before. I’ve been eating a lot of Rebel keto ice cream, which contains Erythritol. I’m going to stop eating it and see if I can digest dairy again.

    • Al Bogdan

      Yes, cut that Erythritol and see how you do. Hope it helps!

      If you continue to have some symptoms, you might also try “A2 milk” to see if you can manage it fine. Some people become casein A1 intolerant instead of lactose intolerant, and it’s hard to tell the difference. If you can handle A2 milk, but not regular milk, that will let you know. There are a number of A2-only dairies, and there’s also a brand called “A2 Milk” that you can find in many chain grocery stores.

      Hope you feel better soon.

  2. Ashley

    Found this through Google because I started suspect a link between erythritol and lactose intolerance too! For me, the same ice-cream causes severe lactose intolerance ONLY after I eat something that contains erythritol a few hours before.

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