The Pain of Artificial Sweeteners

Recently my husband and I read the “Bullet Proof Diet” by Dave Asprey. I was inspired to cut all artificial sweeteners out of my diet, as well as switch to grass fed butter. Boy, did my body, especially my back, thank me!


For many years (around 17) I have mostly eaten protein, veggies, and only certain carbohydrates. I have done my best to buy organic food when possible, which had the added benefit of no hormones, keeping my children from physically developing too early. Over the past 4-5 years several symptoms started alerting me that all was not right in my gastrointestinal tract. I was experiencing bloating, cramps, reflux/heartburn, extremes in bowel movements; just a lot of daily stomach discomfort. After years of mostly doing the Atkins diet (protein, fats, veggies, low complex carbohydrates, no simple carbohydrates), I was confused about what was going on in my stomach.

When I look back now, I can see where things started to change for me. About 5-6 years ago I noticed that I had become intolerant of sugar. When I used it in my hot tea or coffee I would get a strong headache within 3 sips. I tried Agave, but couldn’t stand the taste, and stevia powdered sweetener had such a bad aftertaste. So I turned to a new sweetener on the market derived from sugar – Splenda. I didn’t know that there had only been a very small amount of human testing, and all the rats that were tested showed up with cancer. All I knew was that I was able to sweeten my drinks without any awful headaches. I still cooked with unrefined sugar though. I also didn’t eat, for the most part, bread (no sandwiches of any kind), sweets, fried foods, chips – snack foods, dairy (I’m lactose intolerant), and pasta. Shortly after starting on Splenda, I began to not be able to lose weight and my body started hurting or aching, causing me to slow down in my exercising. I used to vigorously exercise at least 4 times per week, alternating weights with non-weight exercises.

Within a couple of years of changing my sweetener, I became unable to exercise without muscle cramps and pain beyond what is normal. My body, my back especially, became so inflamed that it steadily became impossible to exercise. It would take me days, sometimes a week, to recover from a fraction of the exercises I used to do. I was only about 37 when this degeneration began to happen. It started to become painful to do regular everyday things, such as dress, pick up things off the floor, sneeze, cough, put shoes on, etc. 

Around 2 years ago, I started having localized, specific “attacks” in the upper right side of my stomach area. This went on intermittently for the next 6-8 months. Finally, I had a strong enough attack where I threw up, so I made an appointment with a GI doctor. After putting a camera down my throat into my stomach, to rule out disease, reflux, etc., I went in for the radioactive dye test of my gall bladder. The tests showed that my gall bladder was functioning at around five percent, so I was a good candidate for its removal. So, I eagerly had it removed, hoping for pain-free function of my stomach. It took about six months before my stomach began to feel something like it did about six or so years ago, but I was still experiencing awful back pain.

In May of 2015, I decided to see a new Chiropractor and try to get my back pain under control. He was able to get my spine in alignment, but the pain in my sacroiliac joint (lowest part of back) persisted, as well as having light general aches and pains, and exercise still being painful. However, I was able to dress relatively pain-free, but bending down and sneezing/coughing still felt like a knife cutting me in half. So… This past October, after reading the “Bullet Proof Diet”, I took myself off of Splenda. On the third day of using xylitol, I so missed the texture of Splenda that I added a little less than a teaspoon to my hot tea that morning. I was using three teaspoons before I stopped it. Now, just that morning I had noted how smoothly I got dressed, that I had rolled over in bed mostly without pain, and hadn’t woken up with a headache (or gone to bed with one).

Well, I paid in pain over the next 24 hours for my little teaspoon of Splenda! I haven’t touched it since then! I’m very careful not to use anything with sucralose in it and aspartame is no better. Basically, we should all avoid artificial sweeteners like the plague. Here is an excellent article by Dr. Mercola on artificial sweeteners and their dangers.

For the past three and a half months I have been artificial sweetener free and am using honey with liquid stevia. I like how the honey thickens my drink and the liquid stevia gives that stronger sweet taste, without the bitter aftertaste that powdered stevia has. When I bake I use unrefined sugar or raw sugar, and limit the amount I eat. Recently I stepped on the scale, because I noticed that my pants were very loose by about 2-3 inches in the waist and thigh areas. Boy was I surprised to see I’d lost eight pounds!

My benefits of not using sucralose (or ANY artificial sweetener) are: loss of inflammation overall, lost weight, stomach bloating/gas/pain/indigestion gone and cravings for sweets gone. I have been able to start back exercising without the prolonged pain in recovery, so I’m very hopeful about being active again. Yay! I have hated feeling so incapacitated with pain at only 40 years of age! I hope this helps you. I know you will feel better being off of artificial sweeteners!

I have found liquid stevia in different sizes, various prices and even flavors on Amazon. I buy the SweetLeaf brand named Sweet Drops Sweetener, Stevia Clear in 4fl.oz. for about $15-$16 per bottle. It does not have that awful aftertaste like powered does and it goes a long way. I typically use about 6-8 drops. If you want to try xylitol make sure you get real birch xylitol and use it sparingly until your stomach gets used to it, since it can cause you to have the runs. Also, xylitol is deadly to animals. I buy local honey for its immune boosting properties, not to mention supporting my local small businesses.   

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