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 life!
Wren Stewart TidwellThis is such a great testament. Thanks for sharing! I love n=1 experiments. They are the best kind. Why does it matter how a food affects someone else, when what really matters is how it affects you? I’m going to share this for sure. I’m adamantly against artificial sweeteners and have been for over 15 years, ever since a young co-worker got a brain tumor because (at least I think so) she drank 5-6 diet cokes a day.
Cindy E.I was also addicted to splenda. I stopped last winter because I learned that maltodextrin, can cause leaky gut. It is used in a lot of products since it is a cheap filler. I now use white Stevie and find it is very sweet, even better than splenda or xylitol
PopcornI have similar story to tell about my husband and splenda.
In his case he was drinking splends sweetened cranberry juice, he was consuming a 20 ounce bottle daily with his lunch. We thought it was a better alternative than the sugared version. We were also using splends sweetened icecream and I used some splenda for part of the sugar in baked goods.
One day his heart started beating very rapidly and uncontrollably, his doctor diagnosed a-fib, prescribed medication and was talking about a pacemeker. My husband was intolerant of the heart medication so I started
researching a-fib and found links between the heart and splenda.
We stopped all splenda, he also increased his magnesium, and stopped excess calcium (to not interfere with magnesium).
The a fib stopped.
It’s been many many years and never another episode.
We will never use splenda/sucralose in any form in our household or when shopping.
Now a days one MUST read labels. How sad is that?
EllenWildman’s withdrawal symptoms coincided with mine, except I have also experienced stomach distress. I don’t care for stevia very much but I like it better in hot drinks that xylitol. I’m trying to avoid sucralose completely, but just realized that Optimum Nutrition Whey Protein Powder uses it as a sweetener. UGH! Is there a whey protein powder available that perhaps uses xylitol? OR, is there a rule of thumb / tip you could provide to make powdered egg whites more palatable in smoothies to use instead of the Whey protein powder?
Thanks so much for continuing to educate us on getting healthy!
carrieEllen – I would use egg white powder with extra sweetener of choice and some vanilla extract in place of the whey powder. Hope that helps!
Marilyn M LealShaklee has protein powder with Xylitol
EllenThanks Carrie! I was missing the vanilla extract! That will help.
Donna WI stopped it because the stuff gave me hot flashes!!
WildmanCarrie, I know we haven’t chatted in a while, but your large boot print on my bottom is still working. I’m not only still off Splenda, but off sugar, junk food, pasta, rice, bread, potato chips (a basic food group I still sadly miss), and I’ve lost 16 lbs and my energy is rising with every month. Thanks for kicking my ass. Thanks also for kicking other people’s ass with my email. You make a difference in the world. Love you. -E
AmandaDo you still use erythritol / stevia / xylitol? I quit sucralose and all sweeteners cold turkey to decrease my appetite that had gone astray after long-term sweetener use, and don’t want to trigger food cravings again.
BethThe link doesn’t work for “this list.”
email@example.comThank you so much for this article. I will definitely try not to use Splenda. I’ve mostly been using erythritol,stevia, and monk fruit, although a few recipes I’ve run across specifically call for Splenda. However, I would caution, for those who aren’t aware, that XYLITOL IS DEADLY TO DOGS. Even a small amount, and there’s no antidote. Dogs have died from even a small bit of peanut butter that has just a little bit of xylitol. So, if you have dogs (I don’t know about other types of pets), I would caution about having any xylitol in your house. I’ve taken all products with xylitol out of mine, even supplements. You never know when a dog will find a dropped bit of something on the floor and eat it.
S SquaredWe have given up Sucralose because of the bloating, gas, diarrhea, upset stomach and painful joints. I haven’t found any of the alcohol sugars to be any better. I think nature just didn’t intend for us to be eating so many sweets, hence, I’ll go back to regular sugar in moderation. Keeping it natural from now on. Sadly, Sucralose is found in many sports drinks, hydration drinks, weight loss products and anything considered low sugar, diabetic or low carb. It’s no wonder we have so many sick people.