Health: A Natural Sweetener May Fight Viruses and Bacteria

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As winter approaches and people move indoors, natural methods to boost the immune system and reduce the risk of contracting flu, colds and other viruses are invaluable. Xylitol, a popular, natural sweetener extracted from birch trees and found in plums, strawberries, and raspberries, may offer some help in those regards.

Xylitol has significant immune modulation properties that haven’t been widely publicized. Xylitol is mainly only known for its use in the treatment of middle ear infections (otitis media) and for its help in preventing dental bacteria (which can be a marker for stroke and heart attack-related arterial plaque and inflammation).

In fact, research suggests that xylitol may have both anti-bacterial and anti-viral properties, an unusual and welcome combination found in a natural ingredient that might help cut down on harsh prescription drugs.

Xylitol is a sugar alcohol, a group that includes the artificial sweeteners glycerol, mannitol, and sorbitol, and is found in many over-the-counter consumer products such as sugar-free gums like Orbit and Spry, lozenges, syrups, nasal sprays, toothpastes, and mouthwashes. (Despite the name, sugar alcohols do not contain alcohol, or ethanol, found in alcoholic beverages.)

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