Sucralose and sugar alcohols are not the same

What are Sugar Alcohols and How are They Different from Sucralose?

This post was written as a guest blog for You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Imagine seeing a listing for a “jumbo shrimp cocktail” on a menu for the first time. You might think it’s a huge drink made from shrimp based on the definition of each word. But anyone who has ever enjoyed this special appetizer of chilled shrimp and a horseradish-based sauce knows it’s not!

Similar confusion arises when people see the term “sugar alcohol” for the first time. Some think it’s a sweet alcoholic beverage but in fact it’s another sugar substitute.

Explaining the difference between two types of sugar substitutes – sugar alcohols and sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweeteners) – is what this blog is all about.

What is a Sugar Alcohol?

The best way to define a “sugar alcohol” is to tell you what it is not.

A sugar alcohol is not a sugar like sucrose or glucose and it is not alcohol like the type found in beer, wine and whiskey. Sugar alcohols include erythritol, lactitol, maltitol, sorbitol, xylitol, isomalt, and mannitol, and they are carbohydrates with a structure that partially resembles sugar and partially resembles alcohol. They are also known as polyols and occur naturally in many foods, including apples, watermelon and mushrooms.

Sugar alcohols, or polyols, taste sweet, but are not as sweet as sugar. They also have fewer calories per gram than sugar and are used in a variety of reduced-calorie and sugar-free foods. One of the best qualities of sugar alcohols is that they do not contribute to the formation of cavities so they are used in place of sugars in products like chewing gum, toothpaste and mouthwash.

How are Sugar Alcohols Different from Sucralose?

If you compare sugar alcohols to sucralose (SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener), you will find that there are many differences even though they are both classified as sugar substitutes. One difference between sucralose and sugar alcohols is that sucralose alone has no impact on blood glucose and insulin levels. Like other no-calorie tabletop sweeteners, the sucralose-based sweeteners you buy at the store contain small amounts of carbohydrate (less than 1 gram per serving) that provide needed volume and texture. These common food ingredients, which include maltodextrin and/or dextrose, add minimal carbohydrate and sugar per serving.

In contrast, sugar alcohols are considered a type of carbohydrate and sufficient intake could have an impact on blood glucose levels. Sugar alcohols also should be considered in carbohydrate counting. You can get good advice on sugar alcohols and how to factor them into the total carbohydrate content listed on food labels by reviewing Hope Warshaw’s blog Reading Nutrition Labels for Total Carbohydrate.

Another important distinction to note when comparing sucralose to sugar alcohols has to do with gastrointestinal disturbances. Research shows that sucralose has no side effects. Sugar alcohols are different. They have the potential to cause a laxative effect when consumed in excess and can be an unsuspected cause of cramps and gas for anyone consuming large amounts of products like sugar-free gum, candies or desserts made with polyols. That can be especially troublesome for children and people suffering from Irritable Bowel Syndrome.

To see the differences between sugar alcohols and SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener (sucralose), just use the handy chart below.


*Note: Other ingredients with which they are combined may have an effect.

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.

Are there side effects from artificial sweeteners?

Are There Artificial Sweeteners Side Effects?

This post was written as a guest blog for You can read the original post here.

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Many things in our lives are now easier thanks to the Internet. We can book our own flights for a vacation, check what the weather will be when we arrive and order new clothes before we leave. But finding good health advice online is not an easy task.

If you’ve ever tried to get an answer to a health question you’ve probably ended up more confused – or even frightened – about your condition, after scanning all of the possibilities. That is especially true when it comes to alleged (or suspected) side effects of artificial sweeteners (commonly known as “sugar substitutes” or what I call “low-calorie sweeteners”).

I have written about the myths associated with sucralose (the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweeteners) and other sugar substitutes before in individual blogs. For this blog, I thought it would be useful to pull together the most commonly asked questions so you have the answers you are seeking all in one place.

Dispelling the Myths about Artificial Sweeteners Side Effects

Q: Do artificial sweeteners, like SPLENDA® Sweeteners, cause weight gain?

A: No. Artificial sweeteners can help decrease caloric intake when they are used in place of sugar, so they can help you lose weight when part of an energy-balanced diet with regular physical activity.

Learn more about misinformation regarding weight gain and low-calorie sweeteners. Also, read about how low calorie sweeteners can support yourweight loss efforts.

Q: Will using SPLENDA® Sweetener Products or other sugar substitutes make me crave sweets?

A: No. Research shows food cravings are not the same for everyone and not triggered by the same foods. Since sucralose, the sweetening ingredient in SPLENDA® Sweeteners, is 600 times sweeter than sugar, some people believe it will trigger cravings for them if they like sweets. But studies on people who are regular users of SPLENDA® Products and other artificial sweeteners show that these products can be an aid to weight management. Read more in my blog about sweet cravings and satisfying our desire for sweet taste with fewer calories.

Q: Can no- and low-calorie sweeteners like SPLENDA® Sweeteners make me have an increased appetite?

A: No. It is normal to want more of a food that tastes good to us, but if we pay attention to our hunger and satiety signals we can avoid overeating. Low calorie sweeteners have been shown to be a useful tool in weight management by helping people feel more satisfied with their food and beverage choices.

Learn more from my blog about the appetite myth, and about signs of hunger vs. appetite.

Q: Do artificial sweeteners, like sucralose, cause digestive problems?

A: No. Data from over 100 studies show sucralose has no side effects. Changes in our stomach sounds and bowel habits can be triggered by many healthy foods we eat and are a sign of normal digestion at work.

Read more about sucralose and digestive health.

Q: Can sugar substitutes cause diabetes?

A: No. People who have diabetes are advised to reduce their sugar and carbohydrate intake by using sugar substitutes (such as SPLENDA® Sweetener Products). Sucralose is not a carbohydrate so it does not affect our blood glucose levels or insulin requirements.

Learn more of the “sweet truth” about artificial sweeteners and diabetes.

Now that you have all the answers to your questions about side effects and artificial sweeteners you can get back to planning your next vacation via the Internet!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.


Caffeine is consumed in many forms around the world yet questions remain about its health benefits

The World’s Most Popular Drug: Caffeine


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

Have you had your first cup of coffee yet today? If so then you’ve ingested about 100 mg of caffeine. If you’re on your second or third cup of coffee, you’re close to the recommended upper limit for daily caffeine consumption. For many that leads to a love-hate relationship with all things caffeine. People love the way they feel when they have and hate the way they feel when they don’t.

But is caffeine really that bad for us?

Caffeine has been in our diets since the first cup of tea was sipped in China in 10th century BC. Since then, the history of the world can be traced to the distribution of caffeine-rich tea from Asia, coffee beans from Africa and cocoa from South America. Today caffeine is the most widely used drug in the world.

To help you deal with your caffeine habit, I’ve prepared a Q/A to report on the latest research.

Are there any health benefits to caffeine?

Yes, caffeine is an antioxidant and helps fight the free radicals found in the body that attack healthy cells and cause disease. The anti-inflammatory effects of caffeine also improve immune function and caffeine can help with allergic reactions by its anti-histamine action.

Does caffeine increase the risk for heart disease?

No, several large studies found no link between caffeine and elevated cholesterol levels or increased risk for cardiovascular disease. Caffeine does cause a temporary rise in blood pressure in those who are sensitive to it, but more research is need to determine if it increases the risk for stroke in people who have hypertension.

Can caffeine cause osteoporosis?

No, not if there is adequate calcium in the diet. Consuming more than 700 mg a day may increase calcium losses in urine, but adding one ounce of milk to a cup of coffee will replace these losses.

Is caffeine a diuretic?

Yes, caffeine will increase the need to urinate, but it does not lead to excessive fluid losses. The amount excreted is not greater than the amount of fluid contained in the caffeine-containing beverage consumed.

Is the amount of caffeine in a cup of coffee always the same?

No, the amount can differ widely from cup to cup brewed from the same brand and among different brands. Even decaffeinated coffee contains some caffeine.

Are there any groups that should limit their intake of caffeine?

Yes, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists pregnant women should have no more than 200 mg of caffeine per day, or the amount of caffeine in about 12 ounces of coffee. Women who drink larger amounts than that appear to have an increased risk of miscarriage compared to moderate drinkers and non-drinkers.

Is caffeine safe for children?

Yes, in moderation. Studies suggest that children can consume up to 300 mg of caffeine a day, although some children may be more sensitive than others its stimulant effects. The introduction of energy drinks containing caffeine has made it easier for children to get more than they should.

Are coffee and tea the main sources of caffeine in the diet?

Yes, but other sources include cola beverages, chocolate, energy drinks, over-the-counter pain relievers, cold medicines, and some “diet” pills.

Is caffeine addictive?

Maybe, depending on how you define addictive. Caffeine stimulates the central nervous system and can cause mild physical dependence if used regularly. If you stop consuming it you may experience withdrawal symptoms including headache, anxiety, fatigue, and difficulty concentrating. It does not, however, interfere with your physical, social or economic well-being the way additive drugs do.

When did you first experience the effects of caffeine?

Learn what foods can cause diarrhea due to food allergy or intolerance.

Is Your Diarrhea a Sign of a Food Allergy?


This blog was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated in July 2013, but you can read the original post here.

If you experience occasional diarrhea, it could be caused by a food allergy or food intolerance. Most people connect food poisoning with diarrhea, but that is not always the case.

A true food allergy is an abnormal response to a food triggered by the immune system. Research shows that around 3 to 4 percent of people have food allergies. The first sign of symptoms may be within minutes of coming into contact with the problem food – meaning you may have simply touched it, not consumed it – or several hours later.

If you have a true food allergy will cause a reaction every time the food is consumed. The diagnosis may require a combination of lab tests, physical exam, thorough diet history and a controlled food challenge.

These eight foods account for 90 per cent of all food allergic reactions.

  1. Milk – not the same as lactose intolerance, includes milk casein and whey
  2. Eggs – includes both the white and yolk
  3. Peanut – is a legume, not a true nut
  4. Tree nuts – includes but not limited to walnut, almond, hazelnut, coconut, cashew, pistachio, Brazil nuts
  5. Finfish – such as salmon, tuna, halibut
  6. Shellfish – such as shrimp, crabs, lobster
  7. Soy –includes soy milk, flour, oil, and soybeans
  8. Wheat – not the same as gluten, which is a protein found in wheat, rye, barley

The most common symptoms of a food allergy are:

  • Gastrointestinal: Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea
  • Skin: Rash, itchiness, swelling
  • Respiratory: Congestion, runny nose, sneezing, coughing, wheezing
  • Other: Anaphylaxis, a swelling of the throat and difficulty breathing that can be fatal

Food intolerances can also result in diarrhea. They are triggered by the inability to completely break down or digest a food. Small amounts of a suspect food may be tolerated without difficulty, while larger amounts will bring on symptoms. It may take some trial and error testing to determine if you have a food intolerance.

Common food intolerances:

  • Sugars: lactose in milk, fructose in fruit, honey and high fructose corn syrup
  • Gluten: protein found in wheat, rye, barley and some other grains
  • Preservatives: sulfites commonly used in wine and dried fruit, monosodium glutamate (MSG) a flavor enhancer

The same types of symptoms can occur with a food intolerance as those experienced with a food allergy. The key is to figure out which food(s) are responsible for your symptoms and how much, if any, you can tolerate if you’re unwilling to give up the food.

You can find more information from The Food Allergy & Anaphylaxis Network (FAAN)

Research shows side effects from using surcalose

Is SPLENDA® Brand Sweetener Bad for You? Top Myths about Sucralose Side Effects

I have been compensated for my time by McNeil Nutritionals, LLC, the maker of SPLENDA® Sweetener Products. All statements and opinions are my own. I have pledged to Blog With Integrity, asserting that the trust of my readers and the blogging community is vitally important to me.

Can a freshly roasted turkey make you sneeze? If you had asked a friend of mine a few years ago you would have heard a resounding “Yes!” He then would have offered as evidence that he always started to sneeze the minute he sat down for his family’s Thanksgiving dinner.

The problem with his “evidence” was that it was anecdotal. That means it was a personal account of something that happened to him that was not based on research and was not necessarily true. In this case, his sneezing had nothing to do with the turkey. As he later learned, he had an allergy to sunflowers and his sneezing was triggered by the floral centerpiece that graced their dining room table every Thanksgiving!

Unfortunately, there is a lot of other anecdotal, or self-reported, information out there that gets passed off as evidence of a problem when scientific research indicates the “problem” is not, in fact, a real one. Many symptoms, like sneezing, are so common, almost anything can be the cause. But when the wrong connection is made between something and a personal response, it can set in motion a myth, like my friend’s mistaken turkey-and-sneezing connection.

Low-calorie sweeteners is a topic that has been particularly subject to misinformation that has led to myths. This is worrisome, because some people still ask: “Is sucralose bad for you?”, and “Are there sucralose side effects?”, even though the total body of evidence shows they are safe and without side effects. Since these myths are nothing to sneeze at, I’d like to set the record straight here!

Top Side Effect Myths Related to Sucralose

1.Gastrointestinal Discomfort and Bloating

If you eat and drink a varied diet you may occasionally experience gas, bloating and changes in your bowel habits. That’s normal digestion at work. Even if you eat the same thing every day, changes in your emotions can impact how well you digest your food. Given the high-stress lives many people lead today, it’s important to remember that, before blaming something you’ve eaten for your stomach rumblings.

The good news is sucralose has not been found to cause digestive problems (see Fact vs Fiction: Sucralose Dangers and Side Effects). Data from over 100 studies show sucralose has no side effects, but that news may not have reached all of us who are trying to eat wisely. Instead, we tend to hear more alarming news about studies whose results contradict the available research. For example, some of the digestive health myths about sucralose stem from a small study in rats done in 2009 that was actually found to be unreliable by experts.

2. Allergies or Allergic Reactions

One of the most common allergy-related myths associated with SPLENDA® Sweetener Products has to do with corn allergies, since dextrose and maltodextrin are used as bulking ingredients in SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener Packets and Granulated. People with a diagnosed allergy to corn should be able to use SPLENDA® Sweetener Products without any problem. It is the protein in certain foods that usually triggers allergic reactions, and all of the corn-derived ingredients in SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener Products come from the starch fraction of corn. Since it is highly purified it should not contain any appreciable amount of protein. If there is concern, a good option is the SPLENDA® No Calorie Sweetener, Minis, which do not contain any corn-derived ingredients.

As for other allergies or food intolerances, anyone who has a medical condition making it necessary to avoid certain ingredients in the food supply must be vigilant about reading labels. Fortunately all of the ingredients in SPLENDA® Sweetener Products are ones that research does not associate with allergic response, and they are all listed on the packaging. You can also call the SPLENDA® Consumer Care Center at 1-800-777-5363, or visit for more information.

3. Headaches

If you do an Internet search for “causes of headaches” you’ll get nearly 30 million hits! Counting them all would give anyone a headache, but I’m sure there are people scanning those lists eager to find the cause for their misery. Yet with so many possibilities, it’s easy to jump to the wrong conclusion, especially when anecdotal information is involved (see point #1 above).

If you believe sucralose can cause headaches, relief is on the way. Scientists have conducted numerous studies to determine if sucralose causes side effects and concluded it does not. Research shows that sucralose has no side effects, and is not linked to any known triggers of headaches. Of course, other ingredients people may be sensitive to might be found in a food or drink sweetened with sucralose, so individuals should carefully evaluate everything in their diet when considering possible causes for headaches. It’s also important to remember that headaches are one of those common complaints that can be caused by non-dietary factors, like stress, worrying, and changes in our environment, which can be frustrating for those who suffer from headaches.

It’s good to know the best scientific evidence available tells us there are no side effects from sucralose, so if you hear rumors about them, don’t be misled by anecdotal information. Instead, check out the facts on (make sure you read the response, past the “example” provided) – and lay the myths to rest!

Robyn Flipse, MS, MA, RDN, “The Everyday RD,” is an author and nutrition consultant who has headed the nutrition services department in a large teaching hospital and maintained a private practice where she provided diet therapy to individuals and families. With more than 30 years of experience, Robyn is motivated by the opportunity to help people make the best eating decisions for their everyday diet. She believes that choosing what to eat should not be a daily battle and aims to separate the facts from the fiction so you can enjoy eating well.




To nourish the friendly bacteria in the gut we need to eat prebiotics

Prebiotics Feed Bacteria in the Gut

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.


I came across a statistic in an article about bacteria in the gut the other day that forced me to stop and read it again. Then on second reading I had to underline it to help make it sink in. The article said a healthy adult intestinal tract has over 100 trillion bacterial organisms residing in it. That’s enough to weigh between four to five pounds if we could harvest them from our guts and put them on a scale! Another way to look at it is that there are 10 times more bacterial cells in the intestinal tract than the number of cells in the rest of our bodies (10 trillion).

A growing body of scientific evidence shows that all those microbes can do us some good. But we’ve got to feed them.

Prebiotics are compounds found in the foods we eat that are needed by the friendly bacteria living within us. They provide us with no nutritional value and are indigestible by humans; prebiotics simply nourish bacteria. The advantage to us is that when those bacteria thrive (because they have enough prebiotics) they can, in turn, improve the health of their host – which is you and me.

Some of the ways the friendly bacteria in the gut can help us is by:

  • improving absorption of calcium and other minerals
  • producing vitamin K
  • strengthening the immune system
  • preventing the growth of harmful bacteria
  • digesting unused energy substrates (such as lactose and certain starches and fibers)
  • maintaining bowel regularity
  • absorbing water from the gut (prevents diarrhea)
  • reducing colorectal cancer risk

For those suffering from inflammatory bowel diseases, such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, there is also some evidence to suggest prebiotics may be beneficial.

Prebiotics are found naturally in many foods and food scientists can isolate them from non-edible plant materials, like stems and husks, so they can be incorporated into foods we do eat. These prebiotic additions to food are usually flavorless so we can’t detect them and designed to withstand heat so they can be cooked or heat-processed. Some are also being sold as supplements.

Inulin is the most abundant type of prebiotic found in foods we eat, including garlic, onions, leeks, asparagus, banana, and whole wheat flour. Chicory root has the most inulin, but since we eat little of that it is extracted and added to other foods.

Oligosaccharides are naturally found in soybeans and soy products such as tofu, soy milk and tempeh. They also can be synthesized from the milk sugar lactose.

Fructooligosaccharide is most abundant in Jerusalem artichoke and is foun in barely, wheat, jicama, and other fruits and vegetables.

It is important to note that prebiotics are quite different from the probiotics found in yogurts and other fermented foods. Probiotics are live bacteria that, when consumed, can benefit the host. I’ll come back to them another time.

Mature woman holding hot water bottle over her stomach

The FODMAP Diet and IBS

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


When I first saw the word FODMAP a few years ago I thought it was a misspelling of the word foodmap. Even with that misinterpretation, I had no idea what foodmap meant, either. Then I started to see a lot more mentions of FODMAP and realized it wasn’t a typo. There was a food story here and I was prepared to follow its trail to see where it took me, map or no map.

If you like culinary excursions, this is a journey worth knowing about.

What is FODMAP?

This string of letters is an acronym for the words Fermentable Oligosaccharides Disaccharides Monosaccharides And Polyols. They represent specific types of sugars and carbohydrates commonly found in foods.

Why are FODMAPs getting attention?

Some people have difficulty digesting or absorbing these substances, which can lead to gastrointestinal (GI) problems when they pass into the large intestines and are fermented by the bacteria normally found there. This fermentation can cause gas, bloating, cramping, diarrhea and other gastrointestinal distress.

Which sugars and carbohydrates are FODMAPs?

The oligosaccharides include carbohydrates classified as fructans and galactans. Fructans are found in a variety of vegetables, cereal grains including wheat and rye, and the soluble fiber called inulin. Galactans can be found in canned beans such as baked beans and kidney beans, plus dried beans, peas and lentils. The main disaccharide on the list is lactose. It is found primarily in milk products from cows, goats and sheep and is used as an additive in other foods.

Fructose is the main monosaccharide identified in FODMAPs. It is naturally found in honey and most fruits, especially dried and canned fruits and fruit juices where it is concentrated. It is also in the sweetener high fructose corn syrup.

Polyols are naturally occurring in many fruits and vegetables and are found in sugar substitutes such as sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, xylitol and isomalt.

Who might be a candidate for a low FODMAP diet?

People who have been diagnosed with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease are often recommended to use this diet to relieve their symptoms, along with anyone who has unresolved GI problems and suspects they may be sensitive to one or more FODMAPs. The first step is an elimination diet trial to see if your symptoms are triggered by FODMAPs, and if so, which ones. This involves removing all sources of FODMAP foods for one to two weeks to see if the symptoms disappear. If they do, the FODMAPs are gradually reintroduced, one category at a time, to see which ones are tolerated and which ones cause problems for you.

How strict must you be on a FODMAP diet?

After the elimination diet trial, you know which foods you don’t digest well. You may find you can tolerate certain ones in small quantities, but not several different ones in the same day. The goal is to have as varied a diet as possible without suffering from the side effects.

Where can you get help with a FODMAP diet?

It is very important to work with a FODMAPs trained registered dietitian who can develop a personalized food plan that insures all of your nutritional needs are being met once the offending foods are removed. This diet should not be attempted without professional advice since there is no simple list of foods high in FODMAPs, so you may continue to eat products containing them and have symptoms without realizing why.

For more news on digestive disorders be sure to read:

  • Prebiotics Feed Bacteria in the Gut
  • Constipation: How to Cure It
  • Is Diarrhea a Sign of a Food Allergy?
  • Which Foods and Fibers Can Prevent Constipation?
  • Latest Crash Diets: Going Gluten and Wheat Free
Woman on table having abdomen examined by physician

Crash Diets and Gallstone Attacks

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. This site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


If you want to reduce your weight, lowering your caloric intake is an option. If you want to reduce your risk of gallbladder attacks while losing weight, don’t lower your caloric level too far.

Crash diets have been proven to increase gallstone attacks.

Crash Diets and Gallstones

A new study from researchers in Sweden followed 6,640 people for one year who were losing weight on diets with different caloric levels. The “crash diet” included liquid meals providing 500 calories a day for six to 10 weeks. After that phase, those dieters gradually resumed eating solid food and followed a maintenance diet for nine months with an exercise regimen.

The other dieters followed a “low calorie diet” with between 1200 and 1500 calories a day for the first three months. It also included two liquid meals a day, then transitioned to a weight maintenance diet of all solid food for the next nine months.

As reported in the International Journal of Obesity, 48 people on the crash diet developed gallstones requiring hospital treatment while only 16 people in the low calorie group did.

One reason offered for this difference in gallstone attacks is that the people on the crash diet lost more weight. They had an average loss of 30 pounds at three months compared to 17 pounds for the low calorie group and an average loss of 24.5 pounds at the end of one year compared to 18 pounds for the others.

Even though obesity is a risk factor for gallstones, losing weight too quickly just makes the problem worse.

What Causes Gallbladder Attacks?

The gallbladder’s function is to hold bile, a liquid made in the liver, and release it during digestion when needed to help breakdown fats. Bile contains water, bile salts, protein, bilirubin (a waste product), cholesterol and fat.

The most common type of gallstones is made from cholesterol. When there is too much cholesterol in the bile it can harden into small pebble-like substances – or stones.

During rapid weight loss the liver secrets extra cholesterol into the bile, and that can increase the risk of gallstone formation. It is also believed gallstones are formed when the gallbladder does not empty completely or often enough, which is the case when eating a very low fat diet.

Bile travels through ducts, or tubes, to get from the liver to the gallbladder to the intestines. If there are stones in a bile duct that block the flow of bile it can cause inflammation. That can lead to the fever, jaundice and the pain commonly associated with a gallstone attack.

Who Gets Gallstones?

In addition to being overweight and losing weight too quickly, simply having gallstones is a risk factor for developing more. Other contributing factors identified by the National Digestive Disease Information Clearing House include:

Female – Women are twice as like as men to develop gallstones

Family History – There is a possible genetic link to gallstone problems

Diet – The more cholesterol and fat in your diet, the greater your chances of making gallstones

Ethnicity – American Indians have a genetic predisposition for gallstones and Mexican-Americans men and women also have higher rates

Cholesterol-lowering drugs – Drugs that lower blood cholesterol levels may increase the amount of cholesterol in the bile

Gallstone attacks typically occur after eating a meal and can mimic signs of a heart attack, so getting a proper evaluation is critical.

If your pain is in your lower back, see my post about kidney stones to see if they are a problem for you.

Assorted dried fruit, nuts and seeds for a gluten free snack

Great Gluten Free Snacks in a Hurry

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Family Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, so the post has been reproduced here.


If you or someone in your family is on a gluten free diet, then you know how hard it is to find something to eat when you’re in a hurry and hungry. Even though there are more gluten free items in stores and on menus than ever before, they’re hard to spot when you really them.

At least that’s what I’m told by people who are trying to avoid gluten.

They say eating healthy meals and snacks is easy when they plan ahead, shop regularly and prepare or pack their food for the day, but that doesn’t always happen.

Sound familiar?

Of course, the rest of us can always grab something to eat on the go from a vending machine, at any checkout counter or the drive-up window of a quick service restaurant. But if you must steer clear of all wheat, barley, rye and oats, it’s another story.

The best way around this dilemma is to keep a supply of portable, non-perishable, single-serving gluten free snacks on hand wherever you spend a lot of time, like your job or the car. A trip to your local supermarket or specialty food store is the best way to stock up on your favorite gluten free products or by placing an order online.

It also helps to know what you can buy when you’re out and about and forgot to tote your own.

Fortunately, there are many gluten free foods as close as the neighborhood convenience store, chain drug store, or even the corner Starbucks – a great place to find KIND bars. Just reach for a piece of fresh fruit or single-serve fruit cup, some sliced or string cheese, or a raw vegetable and dip combo for gluten free munching.

There are also some national brands you can count on for gluten free options right alongside the other crunchy, crispy and chewy snacks on the shelves.

In honor of Celiac Awareness Month, I have 10 recommendations to help you with your search for gluten free snacks. Just be sure to check the ingredient list on all packaged foods before making your purchase since manufacturers can change their formulations at any time.

10 Grab & Go Gluten Free Snack Foods

KIND all natural whole nut and fruit bars that deliver the perfect combination of protein, carbs and heart healthy fats to keep you feeling fuller longer.

Blue Diamond single or mixed nuts sold raw, dry roasted, or seasoned for naturally gluten and wheat free munching.

Quaker rice cakes made from white or brown rice for a snack that can be sweet, salty or savory.

Indiana Popcorn FIT bagged popcorn for a whole grain snack from non-GMO corn.

Frito Lay white, yellow and blue tortilla chips in different shapes suitable for dipping.

Kettle brand potato chips that are baked, reduced fat or fried in more than 15 flavors.

General Mills Rice and Corn Chex cereal you can eat right from the box or add to a custom trail mix.

Sun Maid raisins and other dried fruit that deliver natural sweetness with no added sugar.

Welch’s chewy fruit snacks and fruit ‘n yogurt snacks for a fat free fortified snack.

Dove chocolate bars and novelties (just don’t leave them in the car in hot weather!)

Confused about who should be on a gluten free diet and why? Read my Q&A on gluten free eating here.

Healthy Seeds You Can Eat

This post was originally written during my 2 1/2 year tenure as a blogger for Health Goes Strong. The site was deactivated on July 1, 2013, but you can read the post here.


Seeds aren’t just good food for birds, there are many health benefits of seeds for people, too! They are high in many essential minerals and vitamins, a source of polyunsaturated fatty acids, provide protein and fiber, and are low in sodium. Those who are allergic to tree nuts can use edible seeds to add crunch to their trail mix and texture to baked goods. They can also enjoy seed butters in place of nut butters. Adding more healthy seeds to your diet is as easy as sprinkling them on your next bowl of salad, cereal or stir fry.


Pumpkin Seeds: Healthy Seeds You Can Eat

They’re the highest in protein with 8.5 grams per ounce. Save them when carving your next Jack-O-Lantern to roast in the oven and sprinkle over some pumpkin soup.


Flax Seeds: Healthy Seeds You Can Eat

One of the richest plant sources of ALA Omega-3 fatty acids, plus you get the benefits of both soluble and insoluble fiber. You can find them ready-to-eat in KIND brand Vanilla Blueberry Clusters with Flax Seeds and Cinnamon Oat Clusters with Flax Seeds.


Watermelon Seeds: Healthy Seeds You Can Eat

Swallowing them won’t make a watermelon grow in your belly, but will provide you with a good source of protein, so go ahead and add them your fruit smoothie right along with the sweet and juicy fruit.


Caraway Seeds: Healthy Seeds You Can Eat

One of the highest in fiber with 11 grams per ounce, so be sure to select your rye bread with caraway seeds and sprinkle them on roasted potatoes for their savory flavor. sauerkraut


Anise Seeds: Healthy Seeds You Can Eat

Loved for their licorice flavor, they’re widely used in candies, confections and alcoholic beverages. One tablespoon has 14% of the Daily Value for iron, or 2.48 mg.


Poppy Seeds: Healthy Seeds You Can Eat

A little bit goes a long way with 13% of the Daily Value of calcium in every tablespoon, along with some iron, copper, potassium and magnesium. Their crunch can be found on breads and rolls, in noodle dishes, and fillings for pastry.


Sesame Seeds: Healthy Seeds You Can Eat

One of the edible seeds with the highest monounsaturated fatty acid content at 5.5 grams per ounce and many phytonutrients with antioxidant properties. Their nutty flavor is best appreciated when made into tahini and used on falafel.


Chia Seeds: Healthy Seeds You Can Eat

Similar to flax seeds, but they don’t have to be ground in order for us to absorb their nutrients. Eating them whole allows them to absorb water and swell to ten times their weight, providing a sense of fullness.


Sunflower Seeds: Healthy Seeds You Can Eat

Not just for baseball players, you’ll find plenty of sesame seeds in Somersault snacks and can harvest them from your sunflowers to roast and hull for your own sunflower butter.


Fennel Seeds: Healthy Seeds You Can Eat

Every tablespoon provides 1 gram of fiber while also being a source of natural anti-flatulence compounds. They have a licorice scent and taste and are used in cooking everything from Italian sausage to Indian curry.