By Dr. Mercola
In early studies of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), it was shown to be most prevalent in countries such as the United Kingdom, the United States and those in northern Europe.
However, in more recent studies, Canada has suddenly shot to the top of the list as the country with the highest incidence.
In 1981, the incidence of IBD in Alberta, Canada was only 44 per 100,000; less than half that of Olmsted County in Minnesota.
By the year 2000, the incidence in Alberta had skyrocketed to 283 per 100,000; now 63 percent higher than that in Olmstead County in the US.
The question is, why?
Could Widespread Consumption of Splenda Explain Skyrocketing IBD Rates?
It's worth noting here that IBD is different from another condition that sounds very similar, namely inflammatory bowel syndrome, or IBS.
Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) is an autoimmune disease that can have very serious consequences, while IBS is a functional bowel disorder.
Many IBD patients wind up having extensive sections of their colon removed to address the problem when conventional therapies fail and this can result in devastating and life-threatening complications.
A paper published in the Canadian Journal of Gastroenterology theorizes that the increase in this troublesome disease may be related to the impairment of digestive proteases, caused by the inhibition of gut bacteria by dietary chemicals, such as saccharin and sucralose. Saccharin fails to provide an explanation for the rise of IBD, as Canada adopted stringent standards for the use of saccharin in 1977 -- but this is not the case for sucralose (Splenda).
"If not saccharin, then what caused the remarkable increase of IBD in Canada? ... [S]ucralose may be the culprit ... In 1991, Canada was the first country to approve the use of sucralose, and it was allowed to be used as a tabletop sweetener in breakfast cereals, beverages, desserts, toppings, fillings, chewing gum, breath mints, fruit spreads, salad dressings, confectionary, bakery products, processed fruits and vegetables, alcoholic beverages, puddings and table syrups."
The theory that Splenda may be a culprit in the rise of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) appears to be a reasonable one, echoing the results from a 2008 study published in the Journal of Toxicology and Environmental Health, which discovered that Splenda:
- Increases the pH level in your intestines, and
- Reduces the amount of good bacteria in your intestines by 50 percent!
In the featured paper, the author states that sucralose has a potent inhibitory effect on your gut bacteria and inactivates digestive protease. It also alters gut barrier function. All in all, this may help explain the pronounced increase in IBD in Canada since its introduction into the food supply.
Believe me, if you keep destroying up to half of your gut flora by regularly consuming Splenda, then poor health is virtually guaranteed! Making matters worse, most people are already deficient in healthy bacteria due to excessive consumption of highly processed foods, which is why a high quality probiotic supplement is a good idea for most people. If you add sucralose to an already unbalanced intestinal tract, health problems are very likely to ensue...
The Signs and Symptoms of Sucralose Toxicity
I have done a fair level of literature review on this as I invested several years with four other professionals to write the definitive work on Splenda , which was published by Putnam in 2006.
It's important to understand that despite its misleading slogan, Splenda (sucralose) is nothing like sugar. Rather it's a chlorinated artificial sweetener in line with aspartame and saccharin, and with detrimental health effects to match. In fact, while sucralose starts out as a sugar molecule, by the time the manufacturing process is completed, it more closely resembles DDT than sugar.
It could easily be likened to eating an insecticide...
Unfortunately, many fail to connect the dots between their symptoms and their use of Splenda, or other artificial sweeteners. I recommend reading through the first-hand accounts of my readers, at least one of whom say that Splenda is "worse than chemical warfare" based on the adverse effects she suffered before she figured out the cause. Just as with aspartame, many Splenda users complain of general malaise or "feeling under the weather," along with a variety of neurological changes, such as foggy-headedness, lack of concentration, and "bad mood."
Commonly reported symptoms (usually experienced within 24 hours after consuming Splenda) include:
|Eyes – bloodshot, itchy, swollen, or watery eyes and swelling of the eyelids||Joints – aches and pains||Nose – sneezing and runny or stuffy nose|
|Head – headaches, migraines, and swelling of the face, lips, throat, or tongue||Lungs – cough, tightness, shortness of breath, and wheezing||Skin – blistering, crusting, eruptions, hives, itchiness, redness, swelling, and oozing|
|Heart – fluttering or palpitations||Neurological – anxiety, depression, dizziness, and decreased ability to concentrate||Stomach – bloating, bloody diarrhea, diarrhea, gas, nausea, pain, and vomiting|
If you experience any of these symptoms and have just consumed Splenda, or consume it on a regular basis, I strongly recommend carefully avoiding any further exposure for a few days to a few weeks to see if the symptoms disappear. If they do, you may just have solved your own "health mystery." Likewise, if you have irritable bowel disease and consume any kind of Splenda product or other artificial sweetener, you'd be wise to avoid such items in order to improve your condition.
I believe it's important to identify the culprit, as the long-term damage of Splenda consumption is largely unknown. Still, it would probably be a fair guess that long-term exposure is not going to be beneficial to your health—especially if you're having symptoms of toxicity! It's a sad reality that very few appropriate studies have been performed on Splenda. The vast majority of the studies that formed the basis for its approval in the US were done on animals, and they actually found plenty of problems even though they were ultimately dismissed, including:
- Brain lesions
- Decreased red blood cell count and anemia
- Enlarged and calcified kidneys
- Increased mortality
- Male infertility
- Spontaneous abortions in rabbits
Diet Soda May Also Raise Your Stroke Risk
Another recent study, featured by Dr. Sanjay Gupta, reported that diet soda consumption was linked to higher rates of strokes, heart attacks and other lethal vascular events. (The study did not specify any particular artificial sweetener involved, but diet sodas typically use either aspartame or sucralose, sometimes both, and both have similar health hazards.)
The researchers concluded that:
"This study suggests that diet soda is not an optimal substitute for sugar-sweetened beverages, and may be associated with a greater risk of stroke, myocardial infarction, or vascular death than regular soda."
While more research will likely be needed to confirm this potential link, there's plenty of evidence showing that artificial sweeteners such as sucralose and aspartame can be dangerous to your health.
Ready to Kick the Artificial Sweetener Habit?
If you're using an artificial sweetener, it's probably because you're trying to avoid the calories while still craving that sweet taste. Sweet cravings are very common, and quite understandable when you realize that sugar is as addictive as some hard-core street drugs. Unfortunately, switching to artificial sweeteners will neither reduce these cravings nor increase your satiety. On the contrary, you're likely making matters worse.
Your body tends to crave sugary foods when it's lacking proper fuel. Sugar is very quick fuel and can give your body a boost when it's running low. However, using artificial sweeteners will not trick your body into thinking it has had its fill; rather it wants more sweets because it didn't get the energy boost that normally goes along with the sweet taste. In fact, this is part of why artificial sweeteners are associated with increased weight gain rather than weight loss. You're simply confusing your body.
The most powerful solution to help curb your cravings is to eat a wholesome diet of real food, and by 'real food' I mean fresh, whole (preferably organic, as it's more nutrient-dense) foods that have been minimally processed, if at all. Once your body has the fuel it needs to keep going, it doesn't need to "remind" you, in the form of sugar cravings, that it needs an energy boost.
To learn what a "healthful diet" really is, I invite you to review my nutrition plan, which is divided into three steps: beginners, intermediary and advanced, so that you can progress at your own pace.
Earlier this summer, nutrition- and fitness expert Ori Hofmekler also shared a fascinating benefit of caffeine that can be helpful here. If you like coffee, drinking organic black coffee (without sugar or milk) can help eliminate sugar cravings because the caffeine is an opioid receptor antagonist. Sugar binds to the same opioid receptors as cocaine and other addictive substances, but when an opioid receptor antagonist already occupies that receptor, it prohibits you from becoming addicted to something else. Therefore, caffeine may attenuate the addictive impact of sugar. There are a few caveats to using this strategy however, including:
- Only drink organic coffee (as it's one of the most pesticide-heavy crops there are)
- Drink it black, sans sugar/artificial sweeteners or milk
- Only drink coffee in the morning, prior to exercise
- Limit your consumption to one or two cups
Guidelines for Addressing Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Since I began this discussion with Splenda's potential impact on inflammatory bowel diseases, I want to address a few of the most important lifestyle factors involved. Now, those with IBD need to strictly limit or eliminate their sugar consumption, but I firmly believe that switching to an artificial sweetener is an unwise move for all the reasons discussed above. While sugar will promote inflammation by increasing your insulin levels, artificial sweeteners will destroy your gut flora and further damage your intestines, and more...
If you have IBD and battle sugar cravings, I urge you to carefully review my 'quitting' recommendations just covered, and address your diet to put an end to those cravings. The following strategies are also important if you're struggling with IBD:
- Take a high quality animal-based omega-3 fat supplement. If you're already taking a plant-based omega-3 such as flax, know that it will not work as your body needs the omega-3 fat DHA to have a serious impact on this disease, not the omega-3 ALA found in flax.
- Avoid all types of sugars, particularly fructose, as these will increase inflammation by increasing your insulin levels.
- Also avoid grains until your symptoms are under control. Many with inflammatory bowel disease have gluten sensitivities. Additionally, the grains tend to increase insulin levels, promoting inflammation.
- Optimize your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D appears to be nearly as effective as animal-based omega-3 fats.
- Get plenty of beneficial bacteria (probiotics) in your diet, as this will help to heal your intestinal tract. You can do this by regularly consuming traditionally fermented foods, or taking a high quality probiotic supplement.