Polysorbate and IBS

Here is another food additive that may be causing you trouble. Have you ever eaten a meal and suffered from cramping and diarrhea soon afterward? Check the ingredients. You may find polysorbate listed. Polysorbate is an emulsifier, used to keep oils from separating in cake frosting, for example. You'll find it in cake mixes, Cool Whip, pancake mix, sometimes even prepackaged fish fillets or chicken nuggets.

I don't mean to alarm you, but polysorbate is also often found in cosmetics, again to keep the make-up from separating. That's right. The chemical used in your foundation may be making its way to your stomach via the pre-made cake you purchased for your son's birthday.


But that's the least of your troubles if you have a sensitivity to the substance, like I do. If I consume it, I know it. I'm sick for hours until it leaves my system.

The Center for Science in the Public Interest claims polysorbate is safe for consumption. I'm not so certain.

According to a Japanese food safety study (yes, I had to really work to find information), studies showed no carcinogenicity and no genotoxicity. However, the study has found that diarrhea was observed as a major symptom. (www.fsc.go.jp/english/evaluationreports/.../polysorbate_report.pdf)

The listings for polysorbate are with numbers such as 20, 60, 65 and 80. This has to do with the molecular structure and is too complicated to go into here. Not to mention I have difficulty understanding it myself. It has to do with hydrophilic vs. lipophilic proportions, all very scientific.

By the way, polysorbate is derived from fruits and berries; an artificial creation through food processing.

So how did I come to realize I was sensitive to this substance? Again, I discovered that every time I consumed food made from a specific type of pancake mix, I would have cramping and diarrhea. I had no problem with another type of pancake mix. Only a small amount of ingredients differed, one being...oh, you know. Yes. Polysorbate. The rest of the dissimilar ingredients were ordinary ones which I ate in other foods without incident.

I also discovered that whenever I ate a food that caused major gastronomical difficulties, the ingredient list always specified polysorbate. I now know to avoid this substance.


  1. I couldn't get the link to work, I mean it worked but there was no info on the page and then I couldn't get the rest in English.

  2. Hm. Odd. I'll look into it. Thanks!

  3. Okay...google evaluation report of food additives polysorbate. You'll find the information listed as a PDF file you can download. I don't know why the link doesn't work, but I'm no computer whiz. :)

  4. besides cake icing, it is used in most pickle products, most "bakery" items at your local grocery, some ice cream products,.....I check the labels and avoid it with a passion....unexpected cramping and sudden urge to defecate is not something to look forward to.

    1. I had no idea it could be found in pickle products...I don't buy a lot of that. VERY good to know. And thank you for your response. I think more people need to know how polysorbate can impact their health.


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