I have a lot of folks in my practice who are eating clean, but they’re using artificial sweeteners or processed stevia to substitute for sugar. Many do so in conjunction with eating low-carb. Artificial sweeteners are not low carb or clean! These types of products can mess up your gut and cause various unpleasant symptoms. This is why a lot of people do not lose weight on low carb diets or ketogenic diets. They are disrupting their gut bacteria with chemicals!
THE PROBLEM WITH ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
There is evidence that artificial sweeteners disrupt your gut bacteria. If you have a habit of drinking diet soda and using sugar free gum and you’ve got chronic diarrhea, aches and pains in the gut, constipation, or any type of gut issue- chances are it’s the artificial sugars you’re consuming.
Stevia products have been heavily marketed to us as an amazing alternative to sugar. The truth is that unless you have the green stevia leaf, you are getting a chemical product. One of the brands of stevia sweetener, Truvia, is made of erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol. It’s also made with rebiana, which is a chemically altered extract from the stevia plant.
Many of the stevia sweeteners have natural flavors in the ingredients list. Companies don’t have to tell you what’s in a natural flavor. It’s considered a trade secret. There might be 80 to 100 chemical components to a natural flavor. The other interesting thing about natural flavors is that they can trick us into becoming addicted to something because the flavor can be so strong. It doesn’t compare to the true flavors of foods that are close to nature.
IT’S IN THE ADDITIVES
PureVia stevia sweetener is a combination of dextrose, cellulose powder, and natural flavors combined with the stevia. These products may have the label of stevia but they are not stevia in it’s unrefined closest to nature state. Dextrose is a product from corn. For people who have corn sensitivities, these sweeteners can definitely cause problems. Cellulose powder is not digestible by humans. You either need really good gut bugs to help you with that or you need to be taking a plant enzyme that helps break down cellulose.
Another thing to keep in mind about these products is that almost every single one of the artificial sweeteners have dextrose in them. This is dextrose derived from GMO corn. For example, Splenda is 95 percent dextrose and maltodextrin. Splenda is made by replacing hydrogen and oxygen groups on a sucrose molecule.This is extremely detrimental for the body because once it is ingested, the body doesn’t know what to do with it. It looks like a molecule of sugar, but it is completely twisted from the normal state. This confuses your gut. Our bodies do not recognize the modified molecules, and the gut becomes irritated and separates apart creating the process that leads to a leaky gut.
Agave syrup is another popular sweetener that has been hyped up to be a low-glycemic sugar alternative. While agave doesn’t effect the gut bacteria, it is molecularly similar to high fructose corn syrup. It’s going to raise your blood sugar. It doesn’t raise it as fast as high fructose corn syrup does, but it still causes blood sugar to go up.
Xylitol is a sugar alcohol. It comes from birch trees, but it can also be made from a plant fiber called xylene. It has been research to help with preventing cavities and balancing the bacteria in the mouth. Many dentists will tout xylitol as being an amazing mouthwash and being something that you want if you’re going to use mints or chew gum. However, in higher amounts, xylitol causes diarrhea much like it’s other sugar alcohol friend erythritol. Xylitol is also extremely toxic to dogs because it boosts insulin levels too high. While there has not been any connection to xylitol being toxic in humans, it is still concerning.
HOW ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS AFFECT US
So how do these artificial sugars and sweeteners mess with our bodies?
We need a good balance of two types of bacteria in our guts, firmicutes and bacteroidetes. When these are out of balance, we get an uninhibited appetite. We crave things. If you’re filling yourself with foods that are sweetened by artificial sugars, your body will begin to crave these foods like an addiction. It becomes a perpetual cycle of feeding the wrong bacteria, craving the wrong foods, and feeding the wrong bacteria again.
The other component with these artificial sweeteners is that they’re extremely sweet.
It just keeps that sweet tooth going. It’s almost like you need more to get the dopamine release in the brain that comes from eating sweets.You’re basically substituting sweet flavor for an artificial type of sweet. That’s will keep you back coming back for more and more. As humans, we have sweet cravings and habits. One of the best ways to navigate these habits is to eat things closest to their natural form.
Many people have a problem with being unable to lose weight. If you have these artificial sweeteners in your diet, it’s probably because your gut bugs are irritated and leptin is being altered.You’re blocking your body’s ability to to curb your appetite. If you’re using these artificial sweeteners it makes it even harder for you to be able to control your cravings when you’re eating one of these sweets. In the moment, you might eat more than you normally would or be craving things more than you normally would.
Your body knows what to do with cane sugar. You can have raw honey, dates, blackstrap molasses, unsulphured dried fruit, or even fruit juice. It is going to raise your blood sugar a little bit. However, in the long run, you’re not going to be damaging your gut and causing an addiction in terms of needing sweet food all the time. Artificial sweeteners are ruining your gut lining and your gut bacteria. They could also be blocking the probiotics that you’re supplementing.
If you are struggling with gut issues like chronic gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation, and perhaps you’re also trying to lose weight, drop the artificial sweeteners. They’ve been shown to alter the balance of good bacteria in your gut and will only make it harder to control your cravings. It is much better to limit your sweets altogether rather than using loads of artificial sweeteners. Surprisingly enough, many people find that when they switch from using artificial sweeteners back to real sugar, their sweet cravings will slow down. You’ll also notice the digestive system improve, which will have a domino effect to your overall well being.
If you liked this blog post, guess what? It’s a summary of my podcast on the very same topic! Click here to listen to my full podcast on artificial sweeteners.