Don’t be fooled by clever marketing from the Big Food companies that promote this artificial sweetener as healthy… Some studies indicate this could be harming your gut health, which can indirectly cause weight gain, skin problems, autoimmune disorders, and more
by Cat Ebeling, RN, BSN
& Mike Geary, Certified Nutrition Specialist
co-authors of The Fat Burning Kitchen
You are growing your own ‘critter’ collection in your gut all the time.
In fact, right now, you are probably carrying around about several trillion of these critters. The hoards of bacteria that grow in your gut make up your own personal “microbiome”, and are of utmost importance to your health. In fact, the microbiome and its effect on our overall health is still not fully understood by scientists, but we are learning more about it every single day as new research emerges all the time linking gut health to skin problems, autoimmune disorders, brain function, fat metabolism, and more.
Your unique microbiome is essential not only for good digestion, but also your ability to synthesize vitamins, maintain good immune function, prevent cancer and fight inflammation.
Gut bacteria also heavily influence whether you are overweight, obese or slender, and whether or not you get type 2 diabetes.
While it used to be thought that the bacteria that lived in our gut had little to do with other biological functions in our bodies, scientists have been studying specific strains of these bacteria and the significant roles they play in many diseases, including mental illness. Gut bacteria have been found to communicate directly with the huge numbers of nerve endings in the digestive system and nervous system overall, which then communicates with the body as a whole, including your brain.
In an article from Medical News Today, it was reported that, “According to the American Psychological Association (APA), gut bacteria produce an array of neurochemicals that the brain uses for the regulation of physiological and mental processes, including memory, learning and mood. In fact, 95% of the body’s supply of serotonin is produced by gut bacteria, according to the APA.”
Another researcher and specialist in bacterial health is Dr. Perlmutter, a board certified neurologist, and fellow of the American College of Nutrition. He has published his own studies in several prestigious peer-reviewed journals, as well as being the author of two best-selling books–Grain Brain and Brain Maker: The Power of Gut Microbes to Heal and Protect Your Brain – for Life.
According to Dr. Perlmutter, every system in your body is interrelated in a way that ultimately creates either health or disease. This becomes extremely important because when gut microbiome is off-balance, the lining of the gut can become compromised, creating a ‘leaky’ gut and inflammation—leading to a variety of health issues—including Alzheimer’s, Multiple Sclerosis, and Parkinson’s.
Says Dr. Perlmutter, “Our food choices have a dramatic effect on the health viability and even the diversity of those gut bacteria.“
The healthy bacterial balance in our digestive systems can also change from good to bad from artificial sweeteners, most notably the newest zero-calorie sweetener, Splenda. Splenda, also known as sucralose, is one of the newest artificial, chemical sweeteners. Although Splenda has been advertised as being “made from sugar” implying that it is in some way “natural”, it in no way actually resembles sugar. In fact, it is actually closer chemically to a chlorinated pesticide!
In 1998, Splenda was approved by the FDA as a general-purpose sweetener.
While the FDA claimed that over 100 animal and human studies were done, but only TWO of them were actually done on humans. Many people have reported adverse reactions to Splenda and it’s not surprising. Although Splenda starts off with a sugar molecule, it is processed with chlorine, which converts it into an unnatural sugar molecule, not recognized by our bodies. And, a high percentage of sucralose is absorbed into the intestines.
Splenda (sucralose) has been shown, scientifically to kill off some of the important micro-organisms in your gut. The same healthy bacteria so vital to all healthy biological functions in the body.
Is it any wonder why so many people who consume sucralose are reporting adverse health conditions?
Recent studies from Canada show a correlation in huge increases in Inflammatory Bowel Disease incidence and the consumption of sucralose. Many IBD patients wind up having repeated surgeries to remove sections of their colon to address the ongoing inflammation which can result in result in devastating and life-threatening complications.
And, given the fact that Splenda kills off some of the most beneficial bacteria in the intestines, it’s no wonder people are being diagnosed with this debilitating disease. The Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology theorizes that the increase in IBD is related to an impairment of digestive enzymes, manufactured in our gut.
In a 2008 study on Splenda from the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, it was found that Splenda throws off the pH level in the intestines as well as killing off the beneficial bacteria, and adversely affecting a glycoprotein in the body that can have crucial health effects—particularly when taking certain medications such as cancer medication, treatments for AIDS or heart conditions.
James Turner, chairman of the national consumer education group Citizens for Health issued the following statement on this study:
“The report makes it clear that the artificial sweetener Splenda and its key component sucralose pose a threat to the people who consume the product. Hundreds of consumers have complained to us about side effects from using Splenda and this study … confirms that the chemicals in the little yellow package should carry a big red warning label.”
Given the above connections of gut bacteria and overall health issues, including brain health, you can certainly correctly assume that Splenda is going to be connected to quite a few serious health issues.
If you are experiencing any type of poor health—whether it is mental health issues, digestive issues, food allergies, or other more serious chronic health issues—it is definitely worth taking a look at your intake of artificial sweeteners, especially sucralose, and avoiding them!
Believe me, if you keep destroying up to half of your gut flora by regularly consuming Splenda, then poor health is virtually guaranteed!
Making matters worse, most people are already deficient in healthy bacteria due to excessive consumption of highly processed foods, which is why a high quality probiotic supplement is a good idea for most people, or a variety of fermented foods rich in probiotics. If you add sucralose to an already unbalanced intestinal tract, health problems will definitely ensue…
Some of the other commonly reported symptoms, usually experienced within 24 hours after consuming Splenda, according to the website, truthaboutsplenda.com include:
- Gastrointestinal problems, bloating, gas, diarrhea, vomiting
- Blurred vision, red itchy eyes
- Headaches, and Migraines
- Allergic reactions, rashes, hives
- Seizures, heart palpitations
- Blood sugar increases, decreased sensitivity to insulin
- Anxiety, depression, dizziness
- Weight gain
- Joint aches
- Stuffy nose or sneezing
And long term use of Splenda in animals showed these serious health problems arise:
- Decreased red blood cells, anemia
- Male infertility
- Brain lesions
- Enlarged and calcified kidneys
- Spontaneous abortions
- Higher death rate
While the typical Standard American Diet actually encourages the growth of certain harmful bacteria and yeast organisms, coupled with consumption of Splenda, which kills off the body’s beneficial bacteria, the path to disease and serious, and possibly deadly, health consequences seems likely. Not to mention our overuse of antibiotics, which of course, can wipe out large portions of your gut bacteria, good and bad, leaving plenty of room for dangerous pathogens to take up residence, creating even more havoc to your physical and mental health.
A healthy diet low in processed flours, grains, sugars, and vegetable oils (essentially a “Paleo Diet”), can encourage the presence of good gut bacteria however, along with consuming plenty of REAL food such as fresh, raw, organic vegetables, berries, nuts, and other sources of healthy fats.
And one of the newer research findings in 2014, shows that exercise is also beneficial to gut bacteria diversity and culture.
So ditch the Splenda and ALL artificial sweeteners—they do way more harm than any good!
And follow these tips to regain that healthy balance and keep those critters in your gut happy.
1. Eat plenty of vegetables and small amounts of fruit
This is the key fuel for a healthy balanced microbiome, which feeds on certain types of vegetable fibers. Fruit is good too, but be careful, fruit can be high in sugar too, which can cause an overgrowth of unhealthy yeasts in the gut. Most root vegetables are also great for gut health by feeding the good bacteria.
2. Enjoy your fermented foods
Kimchi, Tempeh, miso, sauerkraut (the kind that you buy cold, these have live probiotics), kombucha, raw apple cider vinegar, plain yogurt and kefir are all great. Even wine and dark chocolate are fermented and good for you in smaller doses. Read Mike’s article The Truth about Yogurt for tips to make sure you’re getting yogurt that actually has live probiotics and health benefits, and to avoid the problems with many yogurt brands.
3. Avoid gluten, flours made from grains, and sugars
These foods encourage the growth of pathogenic bacteria and yeasts which can overtake the healthy flora in your gut.
4.Take a broad spectrum probiotics supplement
It never hurts to supplement with a high quality probiotic that contains a wide variety of bacterial strains and large numbers of bacteria. This will help your overall health and choke out the unhealthy bacteria and yeasts that may be growing in your gut.
Also, collagen sources such as gelatin, bone broth and chicken feet broth are important foods to incorporate into your daily or weekly nutrition as the collagen helps heal leaky gut and is also very helpful for your joints too!
5. Use antibiotics VERY sparingly and only when absolutely necessary
This class of drugs is incorrectly prescribed way too often, when they are usually not needed. If you keep your immune system strong through proper vitamin D3 levels, proper probiotic balance in your gut, enough restful sleep, and stress reduction, you can usually prevent yourself from getting sick in the first place. Read Mike’s article with 7 tips to never get sick here.
And speaking of antibiotics, remember that commercially raised cattle, pork and dairy are fed antibiotics to encourage growth, and this is something you end up consuming, so chooose healthier pasture-raised meats which generally use much less antibiotics than grain-fed confinement meats.
6. Use a water filter on your tap water and shower head
Chlorine in water supplies is a major antibacterial compound, and you are exposed not only from drinking it, but you also soak it up through your skin from showering.
7. Get rid of antibacterial soaps and hand cleaners
Triclosan, which is the main ingredient in antibacterial soaps and cleaners, is one of the main causes of antibiotic resistance, and contributes to allergies, asthma and eczema. Using soap and water, and the friction from rubbing your hands together gets rid of germs, without antibiotic resistance.
The performance and well-being of your critters in your digestive system, your brain and your overall health are intricately tied together. Avoid artificial sweeteners as much as you can (choose natural STEVIA instead which is simply a natural herb), and remember when you eat, you are eating for several trillion of your friends in your gut! Feed those critters what they need, and avoid the stuff that kills them, and your healthy body will thank you!