Many people are trying to avoid sugar these days – and it’s the right idea. Too much sugar can have negative effects on your overall health. It seems like a quick switch to stop loading spoonfuls of sugar in your morning coffee and, instead, to reach for an artificial sweetener. But did you know that artificial sweeteners may be ruining your gut health too?
Even small amounts of these artificial sweeteners, often found in sports drinks, can have a toxic effect on the “good” gut flora in your digestive system. Let’s dig into all you should know about artificial sweeteners and the negative effects they can have on the natural bacteria in your gut…
Why Use Artificial Sweeteners? The Dangers of Sugar
Artificial sweeteners are used as substitutes for sugar. Sugar, especially too much of it in its refined form, can have detrimental effects on your health. Doctors and scientists often recommend low sugar consumption, and with good reason. Increased sugar intake has been linked to the following health concerns:
- Blood sugar issues
- Cardiovascular issues
- Liver and kidney issues
- Dental issues1
What are Artificial Sweeteners – and What are They Made From?
Artificial sweeteners are used as a substitute for sugar in many of the foods and drinks you consume. They are used in everything from sports drinks to cereals, and in other sugary snacks. The most common Food & Drug Administration (FDA) approved sugar substitutes include:
- Acesulfame potassium2
How can Artificial Sweeteners Affect Your Gut Health?
Sugar substitutes can have some pretty harmful effects on your gut health. In one recent study, researchers discovered that the most common sugar substitutes caused gut flora to become toxic – even at very low levels.3
Scary, right? But the most alarming aspect of this is that people generally feel like they are making a healthier choice when they choose low-sugar foods and drinks. What they don’t realize is that there are other risks associated with these sugar substitutes – particularly for gut health. The flora that makes up the microbial community of your gut can affect your overall health in many other ways. So, you want to support the “good” flora and eliminate the “bad” gut bacteria.
Why is Gut Health So Important?
Well, a toxic environment in your digestive system can have real consequences. Your good gut bacteria can help your body:
- Deliver essential nutrients
- Digest food
- Destroy toxins
- Fight off harmful bacteria4
As you can see, your gut flora have a big job. You want to keep your gut health in optimal shape so that the good bacteria can perform their vital functions in your digestive tract.
So, if sugar is bad for you, and sugar substitutes are also bad, then what are your options? Read on to find out…
Healthy Sugar Substitutes
It can be tough for people with a major sweet tooth to curb their intake of sweet treats. However, as mentioned above, sugar and its substitutes can have negative effects on your gut bacteria and overall health. What else can you use?
You’ve got a couple of good options.
Stevia is gaining in popularity as a safe and healthy sugar substitute in many Western diets. This naturally-sourced sweetener, which contains zero calories, may benefit individuals who are trying to lose weight.5
Sugar alcohols can be found naturally in many fruits and vegetables. This kind of sweetener has fewer calories than sugar and does not affect glucose levels in the same way.6 They also carry less risk of affecting teeth like sugar and other sweeteners.7
Monk Fruit Sweetener
This is a non-sugar sweetener that surprisingly gets its sweet flavor from antioxidants known as mogrosides. It also has 250 times the sweetening strength of sucrose.8 So, you won’t have to use a lot to satisfy that sweet tooth.
As always, make sure you talk with your doctor about your food choices if you suffer from any condition that affects your diet.
Also remember, with stevia, sugar alcohols, and monk fruit sweetener – only small amounts here and there are recommended.
Make Healthy Choices for Your Gut Bacteria
Avoiding sugar can be challenging, and avoiding artificial sweeteners can be even more difficult. However, there is no amount of joy from food that is worth risking your overall health. You know that sugar can have detrimental effects your body – and now you know that many approved sugar substitutes can, too.
There are plenty of other healthy ways to sweeten drinks and foods by using natural ingredients, like stevia and honey. So, talk with your doctor about your options, and make the healthiest choices for your gut health.