So, why do health care professionals, myself included, cringe when they hear of their patients consuming artificial sweeteners?
Plus, it’s not uncommon for people who consume artificial sweeteners to complain of lightheadedness, brain fog, diarrhea, abdominal pain, irregular bowel movements, intestinal gas, bloating, and fatigue.
Exactly how artificial sweeteners might contribute to these various health conditions isn’t entirely clear, but recent studies suggest that these sugar substitutes alter the make-up and function of our gut bacteria as well as the activity of our neurotransmitters.
Whether or not to consume artificial sweeteners is your choice. I choose to avoid them as much as I can because I’m not convinced they’re safe, they taste bad (to me), and I like real food.
Staying away from artificial sweeteners involves more than forgoing the yellow, blue and pink sweetener packets. You have to check ingredient labels for the following FDA-approved artificial sweeteners in the United States:
- Acesulfame potassium (also called acesulfame K or Ace-K)
- Aspartame (Equal)
- Saccharin (Sweet n’ Low)
- Sucralose (Splenda)
These ingredients hide in a variety of "sugar-free", "diet" and "light" foods and beverages, including soft drinks, yogurts, cereals, puddings, baked goods, candies, granola bars, and more.
For example, Dannon's Light & Fit Strawberry Yogurt, a popular choice among calorie-counters, includes both sucralose and acesulfame potassium.
To be on the safe side, I'd recommend limiting or avoiding artificial sweeteners and opting for small amounts of natural sugars instead. Check out this earlier post for tips on how to avoid too much added sugar while still satisfying your sweet tooth.