Maltodextrin has become one of the most popular thickening agents on the market. It (along with many other toxic fillers), finds itself in everything from canned coconut milk, so-called ‘almond milk,’ yogurts, soups, creamer substitutes, sauces, salad dressings, protein bars/protein drinks, even cereals- basically anything and everything that is not produce or protein. Most people think nothing of it when they read it on a label- but for those struggling with digestive malfunctions it is very important to become aware of this ingredient.
What exactly is maltodextrin?
To get geeky, it’s a partially hydrolyzed polysaccharide- meaning, it’s a starch derived additive. It is usually (although not always) derived from corn, rice or potatoes. You take one of these very inexpensive starches, throw in some enzymes and acids, filter it, purify it and bam- Maltodextrin. (Hmmm…..sound to anyone like the same process in which corn syrup solids are made?) Some ‘superior’ forms of it are now being made from tapioca or cassava. However, most forms of it still have a higher glycemic index than sugar! Maltodextrin averages a 130 glycemic index in comparison to sugar at 65. It doesn’t take much to understand how much this can rock blood sugar. Maltodextrin is hydrolyzed to have a less than 20% sugar content verses corn syrup at 20% +. Still not that far off…..
Before we dive into how this filler can affect the GI, let’s explore any potential benefits of Maltodextrin.
Because it is considered a complex carbohydrate and is absorbed very quickly into the bloodstream, passing very quickly through GI tract (umm….diarrhea?), it does have something to offer performance athletes. If you are burning through fuel due to long durations of physical exercise, perhaps maltodextrin could benefit you- assuming your gut was in complete integrity. It also has very low osmolality (doesn’t absorb much water), so for athletes it promises energy in the absence of dehydration. Yes, athletes may indeed be getting a slight ‘high’ form maltodextrin in sports energy drinks- but at what cost? The potential crash from this ingredient is just as real as the crash from sugar. If you are not an athlete and not using this as a source for enhanced performance, the crash can be extreme. Not to mention that if it’s really not being used for anything, it’s being stored as fat…..just like plain sugar.
OK, so now onto the effects of such an ingredient on GI health. Digestive Warriors always need to know the properties and effects of these sneaky little ingredients as we are always on top of our game when it comes to what we put in our bodies. We remain aware of everything as our gut linings heal……we have no choice.
Dr. Cristine McDonald, PHD researcher in Cleveland’s Department of Pathobiology at the Lenser Research Institute has made some pretty bold statements on Maltodextrin. And she should- she’s studied it quite extensively in relation to gut health. She even comments in regards to the increase in IBD, stating “It’s happened too quickly to be a genetic change.” Needless to say, this is a person that believes that the modern day diet is full of potential ‘triggers’ contributing to inflammatory responses.
What Dr. McDonald has discovered is that maltodextrin alters intestinal bacteria, making it “stickier.” For cases of IBD and IBS where bacterium is already sticking more to the epithelial layer, this is not a good thing.
Furthermore, it actually INCREASES the amount of bacteria on the surface of the mucosal lining. This can be catastrophic for people working on decreasing their pathogenic load in the gut to heal! If this isn’t enough, maltodextrin also decreases antibacterial defenses, creating the perfect environment for gut infections to thrive.
Lastly- it promotes the survival of salmonella. Dr. McDonald proved this in a study, so this is no joke. Particularly for those with an already compromised digestive system. Oh dear….maltodextrin.
Clearly I am not a proponent for this ingredient.
For a ‘normal’ person with no gut issues- sure, go for it. For anyone suffering through digestive malfunctions, maltodextrin must be taken seriously. There are very popular protein drinks on the market that individuals are consuming when in need of bowel rest that contain this ingredient; yet many have made incredible strides in healing with these products. I strongly suggest monitoring your gut very closely if experimenting with a product that contains this ingredient- especially longterm. For some it may not be detrimental to their microbiome. For others, it could wreak havoc. I personally develop symptoms from even a small amount of maltodextrin.
ONLY YOU can know how this ingredient impacts you.
As always, do your own research. Seek your own education, be your own warrior for health. And don’t forget to read ingredients!
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In Battle Beside You,
Karen Mullins DOM