Sugar may help you poop. Who knew?


When you think of sugar, what do you think of the source? Sugar cane?

It’s a common perception, especially for those who aren’t closely involved in agriculture. Yet the reality is that over 60 percent of sugar in the U.S. comes from sugar beets. I wrote an article about how sugar is made. Oftentimes people paint sugar out to be so insanely bad for you. Is it really though?

After speaking at a sugar industry event in Minnesota/North Dakota (sugar beet country) with American Crystal, a registered dietitian in the audience asked an interesting question: What is a good way to advertise or promote the fact that it’s OK to eat sugar from time to time? Sugar gets a bad rap sometimes, but there has to be something good about it in moderation, right?

One woman in the audience said that sugar is a source of carbohydrates, which are essential. But her question was a good one especially because barely anyone would ever really want to promote a high-sugar, high-calorie diet. Everything in moderation is generally a good way to go.

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For my part, I don’t consume a lot of sugar. I’ve lost almost 20 pounds on WW International (formerly Weight Watchers) over the past several months and understand that sugary foods are more points and clearly not as good for you as something like a fruit or veggie. But every so often, experts agree that your body just needs a “cheat day” or be shocked once in a while.

It happened to me this week. After a long week of stress, travel, sleep disruption, and other negative factors, my body was just off a bit. It’s perfectly normal for people to go through periods of constipation or diarrhea or whatnot, especially if they have IBS or other common GI problems.

After reading up on it, I discovered something interesting: Sugar may help you poop.

According to Harvard Medical School, “Sugars stimulate the gut to put out water and electrolytes, which loosen bowel movements. If you ingest a lot of sugar, you may develop diarrhea. One of the biggest offenders is fructose, which is found naturally in fruits (such as peaches, pears, cherries, and apples) or added to foods and drinks, such as applesauce, soda, and juice beverages.

“Seventy-five percent of people who ingest more than 40 to 80 grams of fructose per day will get diarrhea,” says gastroenterologist Dr. Norton Greenberger, a Harvard Medical School professor.

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According to the Canadian Society of Intestinal Research, “Foods with lots of sugar may worsen diarrhea, such as regular pop, candy, large quantities of juice, and chocolate milk.”

Basically, fructose is a type of sugar that is poorly absorbed in some people. This means that some of it ends up in the colon, where it pulls in water by osmosis, stimulating a bowel movement.

The topic is complex and there are many factors that can cause bowel changes that affect people differently, but I put it to the test. After a gigantic sugary sweet cocktail, a cookie, and chocolate ice cream, I got my wish: that “halleluiah” moment. Sugar was the only change I made to my diet. Give it a try for yourself the next time you need *ahem* “assistance” in the constipation arena and thank me later, ha.

Of course, there are many other ways to offer relief here and no one is going to run around yelling, “Eat more sugar, it’s so good for you!” Ha. But if it’s a temporary stimulation fix, it just might do some good after all.


Michelle Miller, the Farm Babe, is a farmer, public speaker and writer who has worked for years with row crops, beef cattle, and sheep. She believes education is key in bridging the gap between farmers and consumers.

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