I’ll never forget the first time I ate maltitol.
For those of you who don’t know what maltitol is, it’s a sugar alcohol, a sweetener. And though it’s technically a “natural” sweetener, let’s just say that the gastrointestinal effects are, um, not pleasant. Especially if you O.D. on it. Found in many sugar-free candies and protein bars, it’s fairly common. If you’ve ever felt bloated or gas-y after eating anything “sugar-free,” chances are it contained maltitol (or its friends xylitol or sobitol).
Like I said, overdoing maltitol is an experience you’ll never repeat. It’s embedded in your mind as a lesson that you will never EVER forget. It was in 2006 and Jade and I had just started dating and I was also prepping for my very first figure competition. Because I was dieting and couldn’t have the real thing, I thought, “Oh! Candy can be sugar-free?? AMAZING. I can eat this!” and I bought a bag of sugar-free peppermint patties from the grocery store.
I proceeded to inhale the entire bag. About an hour later, Jade and I were at HIS PARENT’S HOUSE and we all settled in to watch a movie. Jade and I were laying on a couch watching and all of a sudden my stomach started to become really upset, cramping. It started expanding and I became super bloated and OMGEEEEEEE … I HAVE TO FART RIGHT NOW! I was horrified. I had to keep going downstairs to their second bathroom and passing gas. It was disgusting and uncomfortable as hell, and omg whyyyy is this happening to me, at Jade’s parents house where everyone is concentrating on movie and I keep having to excuse myself??!
HA. #idie #killmenow
ANYWAY. That experience will forever be branded into my mind (and now yours too, lol!) as something that I never want to experience again. And so, as my sister-in-law Dr. Jillian says, “You have to respect the maltitol.” Um, yes.
All that to say that it’s Halloween week, and well, the desire to eat candy is high and so you might experience some digestive upset (even with regular candy) and so I asked Jillian, who is a best-selling author on digestive health and also the founder of Fix Your Digestion to provide some awesome (and not-so-common) strategy for how to approach this week to stay light, lean and not bloated.
And take it away, Jillian!
Jillian here, Jill’s sister-in-law at the helm of Fix Your Digestion.
Jill and I have done quite a bit together, but something I find very messed up is that we have not celebrated Halloween together, either by co-hosting a party, crashing one or the other’s party, or even going trick-or-treating together. Why is this messed up? Halloween is my very favorite holiday. Or maybe it’s just my favorite time of year: the smell of the air, the cool crispness of it, apple picking, seeing pumpkins everywhere, the smell of smoke in the air, sweaters and boots, getting cozy by the fire, and so forth.
Halloween IS fun, not just because it is an excuse for us to dress up in the way we secretly see ourselves and want others to see us, and not just because it’s an excuse to eat gobs of candy, but for the sheer playfulness of it. Nevermind the rich lore that created the “holiday” we understand it to be today…Halloween equals candy, yes?
This day, sadly, can also mean that there is a whole lot of digestive distress in our future. I remember last year the droves of people who came to me in the clinic after Halloween, clutching their stomachs and relaying to me tales of epic gas, bloating, grumbling, distension and belly pain. One woman wailed, “I’m so glad I was in a floaty dress so you couldn’t see that my stomach was busting through my tights – that is how swollen I got at the Halloween party! What do I do?!?”
She wore a witch costume, of course :)
And, she asked a GREAT question. What to do? The best solutions require a bit of preparation to lay down their foundation, and so I decided to write a pre-emptive post about how you can de-bloat from Halloween before it even gets here. ‘Cause let’s face it, guess what is one of the biggest culprits in the battle of the bloat? Sugar, the central feature of all Halloween items, including Jill’s favorite, candy corn….(PS – Gross! I’m a Reese’s pb cup girl, but in the pumpkin shape, if we are going to fall down the Halloween candy bin rabbit hole….)
1) Don’t combine multiple candies/snacks:
Rice crispie treats, caramel apples, a handful of Snicker’s minis and some candy corn all thrown in together will go about as well as a lead balloon passing through your digestive tract. If you are going to “take the sauce”, pick either a single candy to indulge in or a type – more fat-based or more sugar based, and stick to it. Multiple different ingredients, with lots of sugar/starch layered in, is a recipe for water retention, swollen knuckles, untimely gas and a distended belly. Pick your item and stick with that.
2) Chug water and have some enzymes on hand:
One of my professors once said, “dilution is the solution”, and friends, I am here to tell you that this is absolutely the case when it comes to dietary indiscretion. Water will not only help dilute some of the sugar you are uploading into your body, it will help clear out the inflammatory response that will ensue from said consumption. Inflammation is the major avenue through which we hold water after we eat or drink something that we are sensitive to or that is inherently problematic. Extra points if you find a good quality digestive enzyme (my OTC faves are DigestGold, Enzymadica and Jarrow) that contains protease, amylase and lipase at a minimum. Bean-o only contains one very specific, narrow-acting enzyme and is simply not going to be enough, my dears. Maybe give it to the trick-or-treaters who show up at your door…as a trick.
3) Kick dyes to the curb:
OK, what I’m really talking about here with the most urgency is blue and red dyes. These guys are not OK. Known endocrine disruptors, allergy-provoking and immune stimulators (read: inflammation), these guys will make you hold water like a sponge. I know this will come as a blow to those who love Airheads (such as myself) but read those labels and avoid dyes to decrease water retention and bloat.
4) Make your own Halloween treats:
Did anyone else’s mother make them throw away handmade Halloween goodies, all the while mumbling something about “razors in the apples?” Mine did and I sure was sad to see all of those chocolate chip cookies and cat-shaped black and orange rice crispie treats get dumped into the trash. That’s why, this year, you are going to make you OWN halloween treats (and don’t give them away to stranger’s kids … I doubt mothers have gotten any less crazy since my day). I suggest Jill’s Pumpkin loaf, but used as a pancake batter with cute pumpkin-shaped cookie cutters to shape the pancake into a seasonally appropriate, delicious treat.
5) Avoid sugar free candies:
When JillFit first started, we used to do a lot of physique coaching and create a lot of meal plans. We did rely on sugar alcohols to help with cravings and make life bearable for those who were on a crazy-ass diet getting ready for a bikini competition. Hence, our philosophy to “respect the maltitol” was born. Sugar-free candies, like those made for diabetics, often contain the sugar alcohol maltitol. I’m here to tell you, guys, that maltitol will not respect you. Just a few pieces will have you expanding like a hot air balloon and looking for the nearest bathroom to fart your brains out. If you are ever bored or in need of a good laugh, go on Amazon and search “sugar free gummy bears” and read the reviews. You have been warned, my pretty.
Every day, I hear from dozens of women about how chronic, excess gas, bloating and swelling is basically the bane of their existence. They’ve cleaned up their diets, yet their first sip of water makes them look 5 months pregnant. They know farting is not normal, but they can’t seem to stop or they clear out a room. There is nothing as embarrassing and frustrating as this, and there seem to be few ready answers. Crazy restrictive diets, cleanses and loads of supplements really aren’t the answer at all.