By Michelle M Dillon, ND
Diet sodas, diet desserts, diet candy, low carb this and that. When dieting one may seek out these food products thinking they are actually good for you, or at least that they can't hurt. However - beware. When something is diet it simply means that the sugar is taken out and replaced by a chemical. I have done some investigating into artificial sweeteners like aspartame and Splenda and the affect they have on our bodies. I have also looked at some natural sweeteners like Stevia and Agave Nectar to determine whether or not these are safe. The bottom line result of my research: if you can not find it in nature, then you might as well steer clear of it as anything synthetic should be avoided!
Symptoms reported to the FDA as reactions to aspartame are as follows: headaches, dizziness, mood swings, vomiting or nausea, abdominal pain and cramps, change in vision, diarrhea, seizures or convulsions, memory loss, fatigue, rash, sleep problems, hives, change in heart rate, numbness and tingling, difficulty breathing, menstrual problems, and oral sensory changes. So, as you can see, there are a variety of very common complaints that could be caused by a chemical that is purposely placed in food to produce a sweet taste. This sweet deception is ridiculous, and is a main cause of a number of complaints.
As a Naturopathic Physician I strive to find the cause of many health ailments, many of which could be attributed to the artificial sweetener craze. After eliminating the chemicals, many health complaints go away. Imagine if treating the cause was not the motive, then with a complaint of a headache you would be placed on a pain killer, or if nausea was the issue perhaps another medication to mask the symptoms. It just doesn't make sense!
Splenda also known as 'sucralose' is another sweetener used by millions each year, it's side effects include: bloating, nausea, diarrhea, various skin irritations like rashes, hives, and swelling, breathing difficulties, like wheezing, runny nose, coughing, heart palpitations, itchy eyes, migraines, blurred vision, and emotional effects like anxiety and depression, mood swings, and sudden onset of anger. Apart from these there are also a number of physical effects of sucralose or Splenda such as: enlarged liver and kidneys, reduced growth rate, decreased fetal growth rate, extended pregnancy, and even decreased red blood cell count.
So are there healthier alternatives? Anything that is naturally found in nature would be the answer. For example Stevia, an herb used by natives in South America for centuries, would be a very healthy and fabulous alternative. This is simply a plant that is 300 times sweeter than sugar; it does not affect insulin levels, and is not inflammatory to the body. It is not man made and therefore a lot safer. Its God made and, of course, God knows what He is doing. :)
Agave nectar is another sweetener that is becoming popular. Again, it originates from a plant and is therefore a safer alternative to chemical sweeteners. (Keep in mind that overuse of any product, natural or not, is probably not good for you. Any sweetener should be used in moderation!) Most things that come without a label are a hundred times safer than what is not found in nature. If God wanted us to have aspartame or Splenda he would have made a Splenda tree or bush.
Bottom line: if it is not found as a whole in nature, don't consume it as the body was not designed to metabolize it! And before you make a trip to the pharmacy, eliminate all the artificial sweeteners, or any other chemicals you are consuming as there is a good chance that the chemical is causing the problem!
Michelle M. Dillon earned her doctorate of Naturopathic Medicine at Southwest College of Naturopathic Medicine in Tempe, Arizona. She specializes in women's health, using all natural alternatives to conditions like PCOS, infertility, and weight loss. A mom herself she understands the implications of what women put themselves through as mother's and how it plays a role in their health. She feels that her practice is God's calling for her life and feels blessed to be able to do so. Her private practice is in Charlotte, North Carolina where she lives with her husband and daughter. Visit her website at www.DrMichelleDillon.com for more information.