I am working on a post all about sweeteners since there is so much confusion out there. In the meantime I just could not wait to share this story from Wildman, who, if you remember, is my buddy who came to Whistler with me to start teaching me how to video.
When I met Wildman he was a Splenda addict, and had apparently been so for many years. Like so many others Wildman gave up sugar for sucralose thinking he was doing himself a huge health favor. Ditch the sugar, cut the calories and lose the fat, as the story goes. Here’s what happened when he got tired of my shameless, “Down with Splenda!” rants in his direction:
“Last winter, in a lovely new home in the rainforest of Western Washington, I was in despair. I felt I was losing my mind, bit by bit. Alzheimer’s? Dementia? I hadn’t slept through the night regularly for a very long time, years, in fact. My brain was a murky fog that never really lifted. Work had become a struggle of coffee vs. exhaustion. Vacations and weekends were spent falling asleep. And worst of all, I checked out with the people I love. Let’s face it, being in survival mode made me cranky and prone to take things personally. Ugh.
I was stuck. I needed to change something. Anything.
About that time Carrie got on my case. “Sort yourself out, man. You’ve got to get your sleep under control. And get rid of the Splenda.” She started sending me articles about Splenda, which is sucralose – sugar that has been chlorinated to change the molecule so that it is indigestible and non-caloric. To avoid sugar, I had been buying gallon-sized boxes of the stuff at Costco and using that in coffee for years. I researched all things sucralose on the internet and found two diametrically opposed camps: sucralose is safe and great for diabetics, and every unicorn pooping rainbows uses it vs. sucralose is spawn of the Devil and creates neurotoxins in your body. What was the science? What was just marketing? What was uninformed woo woo? Hmm.
Carrie suggested I try xylitol and erythritol, which are sugar-alcohol sweeteners with little caloric content and few, if any, side-effects.
The next couple of weeks after I went cold-turkey on the Splenda were awful. I felt ill. I had headaches daily, grogginess, and lack of energy. I wanted to sleep all the time. I was popping “Vitamin-I” every day to dull the pain. (Outdoor nuts have a lot of nicknames for Ibuprofen, like “Vitamin-I”, “Ibebroken” and “Climber’s Candy.”)
These appeared to be withdrawal symptoms that started about three days after I stopped eating sucralose. I kept with it, and in the second week something amazing happened. The fog lifted. The headaches stopped. I could think clearly again. And, after years of insomnia, I slept through the night, every night. I kept using the xylitol and erythritol in my coffee and tea, and experienced none of the bad symptoms of the previous weeks. People started making comments like, “You are like a completely different person. You’re up and happy all the time now.”
So, let me be really clear on what I do and don’t know. This was not a scientific experiment with control subjects and good methodology, and this is not a public attack on sucralose. It is simply my personal experience that stopping sucralose made a dramatic and positive shift in how I slept, felt, and behaved. I won’t be going back to it. My relationships improved, my job performance improved, and I feel worlds better. I feel alive again.”
So there you have it. If you’re using Splenda – or sucralose by any other name (Sweet’n’Low, Equal…) – you might want to take a break for a month and see what happens. Just don’t replace it with anything on this list. In the meantime, while I get the sweetener post together, try xylitol, erythritol, or stevia.
Here’s to a safely sweetened Summer!