LOOKS AND LABELS ARE DECEIVING
One of the things I realize more and more as I learn, read and research, is that information is not always what it seems…or there is another side to the story. This has been brought to light most specifically with a myriad of documentaries in the past several years around food and our health. Marion Nestle has published books to bring the real information forward that influences our food system.
While they mean well, often times with synthetically produced and processed food products, the data might be skewed to achieve sales, since the food market exceeds $900 billion each year. After a product has been on the market for years, some small studies rise to evaluate the true impact of such products and anecdotal evidence begins to mount in such a way that it simply can’t be ignored.
One such food like substance is aspartame (and other artificial sweeteners). This has been approved by the FDA, but the more recent data has most definitely convinced me to eliminate this from our diet. Everyone has to do their own research and make decisions that are best for them, and I encourage you to do just that. For me, if there is a chance I can feel better and possibly eliminate some health issues by cutting this from our diet, than by all means, it makes sense to me to karate chop it from our grocery list.
Some products that you find with artificial sweeteners include: diet soda, yogurt, juices, low calorie snacks, candies, desserts, chewing gum, cereals, other processed foods and medications. While some issues are surfacing through research, it is unclear whether or not these are the “root cause” of a problem. However, the data suggests that they can definitely play a role in effecting existing conditions in our body. Janet Star Hull wrote a book chronicling her journey of the impact aspartame had on her body called “Sweet Poison.” Here is a list of possible side effects that may be experienced from artificial sweeteners such as aspartame and saccharin.
- upset stomach
- learning and emotional functioning
- weight gain
- loss of concentration
- aggravated diabetic symptom
- may increase risk for metabolic syndrome
- may contribute to symptoms of fibromyalgia
- may increase symptoms of neurological disorders
- may have an effect on brain function
Additional resources, descriptions and information can be found on www.draxe.com and www.nutritionyoucanlivewith.com. As I navigate my way to feeling great everyday and resolving my own health hurdles, time and time again – I just simply realize – EATING REAL FRESH ORGANIC FOOD IS BEST and having treats now and then provides balance…something like the old 90/10 rule.
SO WHAT DOES ASPARTAME DO?
“Aspartame is digested and broken down into compounds that have an effect on our body. the specific areas that these can impact are the brain and gut. The artificial sweetener is broken down into phenylalanine (50%), aspartic acid (40%) and methanol (10%) during metabolism in the body. The excess of phenylalanine blocks the transport of important amino acids to the brain contributing to reduced levels of dopamine and serotonin.”2.
Dopamine and serotonin play an important role in how we feel everyday, so reducing these could wreck havoc. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter in our body and is often associated with being the “reward” center of the brain. It is also responsible for sending signals related to movement and memory. It’s functions are many, but it also plays a role in cognition and attention. Serotonin is most notable recognized for its role in sleep. It too is a neurotransmitter and helps regulate mood, digestion, memory, as well as other important functions of the body. If you ask me, making choices that might keep these chemicals balanced and happy is a MUST in my book. It is unclear what the actual cause/effect relationship is, but we do know aspartame can have some effect as an exitotoxin that impacts dopamine and serotonin.
“While there is little evidence that food borne excitotoxins are the cause of these disorders, there is growing evidence that they can aggravate these conditions and that they may even precipitate them in sensitive individuals. Certainly the scientific evidence is far too strong to ignore the possibility that excitotoxic food additives may cause such conditions to appear sooner and to a more serious degree.”1
GETTING TO THE GUT OF THE ISSUE
“All disease begins in the gut.” – Hippocrates
“Research shows the 90% of disease can be traced back to the gut.” – Joshua Rosenthal
Everyday that passes, more and more information is being uncovered that demonstrates how important our microbiome is to our overall health. There are literally millions of microbes or gut bacteria in our microbiome. While each person is unique and different, there may be some findings that cause us to take pause and evaluate if we are making the best choices for our gut health. Not only does our gut help us by digesting our food, they (bacteria) can also be potentially harmful due to the change of their composition when the gut ecosystem undergoes abnormal changes in the light of the use of antibiotics, illness, stress, aging, bad dietary habits, and lifestyle. Dysbiosis of the gut bacteria communities can cause many chronic diseases, such as inflammatory bowel disease, obesity, cancer, and autism.”4. While more work needs to be done for specific and definitive findings, research is coming out that suggests aspartame and other artificial sweeteners may have a negative effect.
“In humans, as well as mice, the ability to digest and extract energy from our food is determined not only by our genes but also by the activity of the trillions of microbes that dwell within our digestive tract; collectively, these bacteria are known as the gut microbiome. The Israeli study suggests that artificial sweeteners enhance the populations of gut bacteria that are more efficient at pulling energy from our food and turning that energy into fat. In other words, artificial sweeteners may favor the growth of bacteria that make more calories available to us, calories that can then find their way to our hips, thighs and midriffs, says Peter Turnbaugh of the University of California, San Francisco, an expert on the interplay of bacteria and metabolism.” 3
So, not only can artificial sweeteners such as aspartame disrupt the balance in our gut, they can also trigger a reaction that can lead to excess weight gain. YUCK!
STEPS TO ELIMINATE ASPARTAME AND ARTIFICIAL SWEETENERS
- Stop drinking diet soda and juice
- Begin to read labels, especially condiments and other unassuming foods that say “diet,” “low-calorie” or “sugar free”
- Choose whole, natural, organic foods that are minimally processed without added ingredients including aspartame
- Increase your water intake
- Cut back on sweet treats….aspartame as well as excess sugar are not good for our health
- Drink Bulletproof coffee instead of coffee or coffee drinks laden with sugar, coffee syrups and artificial sweeteners
- Substitute natural sweeteners for artificial sweeteners such as honey, maple syrup, monk fruit, agave nectar, stevia, dates, vanilla, or cinnamon for a different flavor. Even real organic sugar in moderation is better than artificial options.
Just choose real food. If you truly have an aspartame addiction, like any other addiction, you may go through real withdrawal symptoms as you eliminate this from your diet. Hang in there, the reward of feeling better is worth it. If you are concerned about any symptoms or have questions, be sure to check with your doctor.
While I strive to substantially reduce the total amount of sugar in my diet, sometimes a treat is in order. I always strive to find balance and make the best choices when I do want a treat. As Americans, we consume a gross amount of sugar…it is hidden in everything. Artificial sweetener IS NOT the way to cut sugar. Making different choices for a balanced diet is the best way, such increasing your intake of organic fruits and vegetable, nuts & seeds, ancient grains, clean protein sources, etc…. Check out Dr. Hyman’s Pegan Food Pyramid and his book, “Food, What the Heck Should I Eat?” for ideas and guidance. It is one of my favorite references.
Be the CEO of your health and wellness
Everything you choose to put in your mouth either helps or harms……choose real whole food!
1. Blaylock, Russell L., 1994. “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills,” Health Press, Santa Fe, New Mexico, c1994.
2. Rycerz, K., Jaworska-Adamu JE., 2013. “Effects of aspartame metabolites on astrocytes and neurons,” Folia Neuropathol. 2013;51(1):10-7.
3. Rupple-Shell, Ellen., 2015. “Artificial Sweeteners May Change Our Gut Bacteria In Dangerous Ways,” Scientific American. 2015, 0401.
4. Yu-Jie Zhang, Sha Li, Ren-You Gan, Tong Zhou, Dong-Ping Xu, Hua-Bin Li, 2015. “Impacts of Gut Bacteria on Human Health and Diseases,” Int J Mol Sci. 2015 Apr; 16(4): 7493–7519. Published online 2015 Apr 2. doi: 10.3390/ijms16047493 PMCID: PMC4425030