I want to tell y’all a little story about a sugar – Xylitol.
Cool name. Sounds a little futuristic. In my mind, any name with X’s or Z’s sounds like something from a 1950’s scifi movie. Maybe an alien name.
First, to see the full image, click on the image that accompanies this blog post – it is the cover from a 1938 publication of Amazing Stories. Not only is that appropriate for the story of Xylitol, but it’s just a cool image.
Sounds alien. But it’s not. It’s natural, grown right here on Earth.
Xylitol is a naturally-occurring sugar substitute. It is found in nature in various fruits and vegetables, but is usually prepared for human consumption by extracting it from corn or other vegetable sources.
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Xylitol was discovered late in the 19th century.
Since then, it has been shown to have many benefits:
- Xylitol has about 1/3 fewer calories than table sugar (sucrose)
- Xylitol has about the same sweetness for taste as table sugar
- Xylitol has a low glycemic index – this makes it safer for diabetics
- Xylitol consumption reduces growth of yeast (Candida)
- Xylitol in the diet reduces dental caries
- Xylitol inhibits the growth of various species of bacteria
- Xylitol inhibits the attachment of various bacteria to the mucosal lining of our respiratory tract
- Xylitol increases neutrophil activity in experimental models (rats)
- Xylitol reduces sinusitis in experimental models (rabbits)
Most of these benefits have been demonstrated from human studies. The features #5-7 above are probably responsible for the reduction in ear infections in clinical trials!
Only those last couple – #8 & 9 – are from experimental animal studies. Those have not yet been studied in humans, but the findings are encouraging.
Bottom line: most bacteria and yeast (fungus) cannot easily metabolize Xylitol. They prefer a 6-carbon sugar like glucose (Xylitol is a 5-carbon sugar). Incorporation of Xylitol into the surface polysaccharides of our mucosal cells – lining our aero-digestive tract – prevents bacteria from adhering to the surface. If the bacteria cannot stick to the lining of your nose, or your throat, they cannot have their evil way with you. You win.
What HAS Been Studied in Humans?
Xylitol has been found to reduce the incidence of acute otitis media – ear infections – in children.
Now we’re getting to the interesting stuff, no?
In the 1970’s there were studies from Finland that showed significant reduced ear infections in children who chewed gum that was sweetened with Xylitol instead of sucrose or fructose. These results have been reproduced in multiple clinical trials in children.
So now you’re thinking, “Well, that doesn’t do me much good, my 1-year-old with the ear infections can’t chew gum.”
That thought occurred to Dr. Lon Jones, too.
He was treating otitis media in children, looking for ways to prevent it, to treat it, without surgery.
So he asked whether there were other ways to get Xylitol into children. His goal was to get Xylitol into children without changing their diets, but to get the Xylitol to the area it is needed to achieve the benefits listed above – namely, to reduce adherence of bacteria, to inhibit growth of bacteria and yeast – in the upper respiratory tract of children.
Dr. Jones settled on a simple solution: he added Xylitol to salt water and used it as a nasal spray in children. His clinical trials found a similar reduction in ear infections to those already seen for Xylitol-chewing gum.
So: Xylitol can reduce ear infections. Big up-side benefit.
What is the downside?
Xylitol in saline nose spray is a safe means of reducing ear infections, and reducing upper respiratory infections in general.
If this is so effective, must cost a lot, no?
No. Xylitol is cheap, cheap. The Xlear patented brand of Xylitol nasal spray can be found online for less than $10. This brand has the optimal concentration of Xylitol to help prevent ear infections and sinus infections, based on medical studies. (Most other sprays that list Xylitol on their ingredients contain only the minimal concentration to be able to meet legal requirements to list it as an ingredient. Scammy.)
If this is so effective, why haven’t I heard about it before?
Perhaps it’s because there are no big pharmaceutical companies behind the product. No advertising.
I’m not a conspiracy-theorist. It is just a simple fact that a generic, inexpensive product like Xylitol cannot make a company a lot of money. As a result, there are no big advertising campaigns behind Xylitol.
So, what are you waiting for?
If YOUR child has recurrent or chronic ear infections, frequent URI’s, rhinitis, or sinusitis, why not give Xylitol a try?
- I have no financial arrangements with any sources of healthcare products that contain Xylitol.
- After reviewing the medical literature and all available data, I DO use Xlear Xylitol products for myself and my family, and recommend them for my clinic patients.
- After using Xlear products, and reading Dr. Jones’ books, I made an effort to meet him (and his wonderful wife, Jerry). For complete transparency, I consider them friends.
- This site is an Amazon affiliate, and will make some pennies from any purchase through the Amazon Store link. Yes, pennies :))