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The One Ingredient To Avoid In Halloween Candy, A Gastroenterologist Explains

3 reasons your gut lining could be aggravated around Halloween:


Titanium dioxide

If you’ve never heard of titanium dioxide, it can be found in everything from salad dressings to coffee creamers1, and yes, in Halloween candy like chocolate and Skittles. As gastroenterologist Will Bulsiewicz, M.D., MSCI, tells mbg, titanium dioxide is really the ingredient to watch out for in candy–as it has been linked2 to damage to the microbiome and the gut barrier, and is even associated with inflammatory bowel disease and colorectal cancer.

“As of August 7, 2022, titanium dioxide is no longer allowed as a food additive in the European Union,” Bulsiewicz says, adding, “And you’ll find it in far more than Skittles–keep an eye out and review your kids’ Halloween candy stocks.” (By law, it needs to be listed on food labels.)


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Another gut disruptor in your favorite Halloween candy? Sugar, of course. And that includes refined sugars (i.e. high-fructose corn syrup) as well as some alternative sweeteners.

As board-certified internist Vincent M. Pedre, M.D explains, sugar can be the worst gut offender because it creates an imbalance in the microbiome. Studies have also shown a high sugar intake can be inflammatory and may feed “bad” bacteria3 in the gut.



Lastly, if your go-to candy includes milk chocolate, you might find that dairy is the culprit of some discomfort. You’re not alone: Dairy products give a lot of us stomach grief–about 65% of the population, in fact. With lactose intolerance, the body doesn’t have enough of the enzyme, lactase, needed to properly break down lactose, which can lead to gastrointestinal distress.


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What to do about it:

Of course, the best way to avoid any stomach upset this Halloween is to curb the candy intake. But there are a few other things you can do to support the integrity of your gut lining as you enjoy your favorite treats.

For one thing, taking a quality probiotic can help with everything from bloating to digestion. As functional medicine practitioner William Cole, IFMCP, DNM, D.C. previously wrote for mbg, along with eating probiotic-rich, fermented foods like sauerkraut, kefir, and kimchi, a good probiotic supplement will also give your gut “a much-needed boost of essential bacteria.”

You can also lean into more gut-supporting foods and lifestyle factors in addition to your probiotic regimen. Bulsiewicz, for example, previously recommended peanuts, broccoli sprouts, sourdough, and seaweed as four foods that can help fuel the good bacteria in your gut. And in terms of lifestyle factors, think things like limiting stress and getting sufficient movement4 for keeping your gut happy.

The takeaway.

If Halloween candy has your gut in shambles, titanium dioxide, sugar, and/or dairy could all be to blame. The good news is, when our guts have a break from these ingredients, and we feed the good bacteria in our gut instead, our stomachs are sure to thank us.


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