Diet For Sorbitol Intolerance

Have you felt gastrointestinal discomfort, gas or diarrhea after eating some fruits, light products or gum? You may have a sorbitol intolerance. Read on to learn how to eat a low sorbitol diet.

What is sorbitol?

Sorbitol is a sugar alcohol found naturally in red algae and in the leaves and fruits of plants of the Rosaceae family such as:

  • Pears
  • Apples
  • Plums
  • Quinces
  • Peaches or apricots

It is also widely used in the food industry as a sweetener, thickener and humectant, being able to sweeten while providing few calories.

What is sorbitol intolerance?

What is sorbitol intolerance?

Sorbitol intolerance is caused by a deficiency of a specific intestinal transporter. However, even in people without this deficit, a healthy person can only absorb a limited amount of this sugar, approximately 20-25 grams, so if it exceeds this margin it can also cause symptoms.

There are two types of sorbitol intolerance:

  • Primary intolerance: it is produced by a deficiency of the sorbitol transporter enzyme, GLUT5. It is believed that there is a genetic factor and that therefore it develops throughout life.
  • Secondary intolerance: there is no genetic influence but it is produced as a consequence of an intestinal disease (gastroenteritis, inflammatory bowel disease, celiac disease, etc.) that damages the brush border of the intestinal mucosa temporarily or permanently.


Patients affected by this condition can present different symptoms ranging from mild to severe. The most common include:

  • Abdominal pain or cramping
  • Swelling
  • Bloating or bulging
  • Gases
  • Gurgling
  • Diarrhea with abundant gas.

What Foods Have Sorbitol?

If you are intolerant to sorbitol you will have to eat a diet low in foods containing sorbitol. The foods with the highest sorbitol content are:

Naturally (from highest to lowest amount)

  • Fresh fruits : pear, plum, peach, apricot, apple, grapes, strawberries, raspberries, blueberries.
  • Canned fruits : apple juice, canned strawberries, red currant nectar, elderberry juice, black currant nectar and canned raspberries.
  • Nuts : dried plums, peach dried apricots, apricot dried apricots, dried apple, dried dates and raisins.


gum and sorbitol intolerance

We can find it both in food products and in cosmetic or pharmaceutical products as an additive. Sorbitol as an additive may appear as “Sorbitol” (E420i) or “Sorbitol Syrup” (E420ii).

In food products it is present in jellies, jams, bakery and pastry products, frozen foods, chewing gum, light products or “sugar-free” products. Be careful with light products as abuse could trigger this type of intolerance.

In cosmetic products it is present in toothpastes, since it gives greater plasticity, sweet taste and better solubility. And for pharmaceutical application we can find them in topical creams and syrups.

How can sorbitol intolerance be diagnosed?

Currently the Exhaled Hydrogen Test can be considered as the best test for diagnosis. The inability of the body to absorb sorbitol causes it to be fermented by bacteria in the colon, producing a large amount of free hydrogen. This hydrogen is what is measured through exhaled air.

The patient must be fasting for at least 8 hours. In the last 24 hours, a residue-free diet should be followed (not fruit, vegetables or legumes), since they slow down intestinal transit. It is also important to avoid taking laxatives or antibiotics the days before.

If the result of the test is positive, the degree that exists and the symptoms that appear are evaluated in order to determine the diet.

Nutritional recommendations for sorbitol intolerance

  • If you suspect that you suffer from an intolerance, the first thing to do is to get tested and do not modify your diet on your own.
  • Always check the nutrition labeling of a food to make sure it does not contain sorbitol
  • If you suffer from severe sorbitol intolerance, before using cosmetic products or taking any medication, ask the specialist about its composition.
  • Limit those fruits that contain higher sorbitol content
  • Be careful if you usually consume products light and containing sorbitol chewing gums.

Are you worried about having this intolerance? If you’ve experienced its symptoms, see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis. If so, make sure you have these diet recommendations.

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