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  • Writer's pictureamyk73

The Effects of Fake Sugar

When artificial sweetener first came onto the scene in the 1970s it was aimed at helping people slim down. There was a growing concern for heart attacks and the belief was the culprit was over consumption of sugar. Over time I’d like to think we’ve evolved from this thinking and have better answers but artificial sweeteners have persisted and evolved too.

Instead of helping us slim down and reduce our heart attack risk, these numbers have also increased. Today, we not only see adults struggling with losing weight but children as well. The idea that over consumption of sugar is still the culprit is misguided. In addition to sugar there are many ingredients, including preservatives and chemicals, that are adding to the health concerns of the average American. We are a nation struggling under weight of poor diet and malnourishment.

We are literally starving ourselves into obesity. – Amy Kramer, Dragonspit Apothecary

Artificial sweeteners are chemical products and byproducts packaged and sold to us under labeling making us believe they are better for us. The amount of diet sodas sold and consumed in the United States is staggering. The number one sweetening agent used in these sodas, artificial sweetener. 48% of American adults drink at least one glass of soda every day

Since becoming a public health concern in the 1970s, we haven’t changed our our ways and the products we’re using have only created a bigger problem in our health, including weight and heart concerns.

A bit too sweet

Study after study shows artificial sweeteners are hundreds of times sweeter than regular sugar. The below table shows how many times sweeter than sugar the most popular artificial sweeteners are.

What happens when we consume these types of sweeteners is it rewires our brain to think it is consuming sugar. We get the high energy from sugar but our body is trying to process what it is being told is sugar but its really a chemical. This creates chaos in our cells as it can’t do what it normally does to sugar so the sweetener gets pushed off into fat cells as your body cannot process it. Over time this sitting sweetener either gets eliminated or manifests into problems within your body including unhealthy cells, tumors, and other undesirable effects.

Meanwhile your brain continues to act like it does on regular sugar trying to process these artificial sweeteners to function. Your brain actually needs glucose to operate which it gets naturally. Well, if it is only getting artificial sweetener then here too we can experience harm to our brain because it cannot process these chemicals either.

Well but I only use a more natural option

I’ve had many friends and clients tell me they only use Stevia or some other form of more natural artificial sweetener. Unfortunately, those are not healthier options. While it may not have a direct impact to your diabetes number it does continue to present the same cellular problem of any other artificial sweetener.

Long term there just is not an artificial sweetener that is worth it.

Understandably, we have all become afraid of sugar. To an extent that may be the only good that came out of the 1970s health scare. However, instead of promoting an improved diet, we saw people doing Jazzercise and drinking Diet Cokes. The message was clear, you could have your health and drink whatever you wanted.

Even if you are not a soda drinker, these artificial sweeteners sneak into other products as well. Most likely you’re encountering them in your protein shakes, gums, and other processed foods. It can unescapable to avoid as you browse the health food aisles looking for cleaner options.

The real problem is we have an addiction to sweet as a result of years using higher than normal sweeteners. We are trained to see certain words on our food labels that tell us something is healthier when it is actually not. Then we are battling within ourselves between our mind and body trying to figure out why we can’t lose any weight! It all just becomes a big vicious circle that leave us without answers or resolutions.

The path is not a straight line nor as sweet

Breaking up with sugar is hard but I believe it is harder to break up with artificial sweeteners. The idea they are safer, healthier and able to be used in anything like regular sugar has fooled us for a long time. Our brains are programmed to use something sweet or to crave sweet things to deal with life. Getting boundaries on all of this can be highly frustrating and challenging.

In most situations, this is a years long problem. Many of us have never lived at a time when these artificial sweeteners did not exist. There will be some form of sweetener or sugar in almost any product we buy that comes in a bag or package these days too. So in considering how to curtail and get rid of it from our diets is a very long and difficult path. We will literally fight within ourselves to rebuild the relationship between body and mind so they can work together too.

Healing from artificial sweeteners

When I work with someone who is realizing they need to make this break with artificial sweeteners we first start by looking at where it exists in their life. Often people are surprised to learn how much of it is lurking in their food that they are not even aware! We work together to become label readers and understanding all the aliases of sugar and artificial sweeteners. There are many and new ones come out all the time as manufacturers come up with new ways to sneak these into their products.

Once we have the sources identified, we then work to map out a path out of the sugar hell we’ve been living. I highly prefer not to do a cold turkey approach because it can leave the body and brain in shock. That creates further chaos that slows the ability to effectively detox and heal from this situation. Instead I prefer an individualized approach designed around the person’s lifestyle, values, goals and even their opinion.

If we don’t learn to listen to ourselves from the beginning when trying to heal from sweeteners, we will only find ourselves back deaf and buried under them. – Amy Kramer, Dragonspit Apothecary

Ultimately, we are looking to eliminate artificial sweeteners in our diet and we can get there with an approach that is right for us individually. There is quite a bit to unravel in this process, again keep in mind it is a years long problem that has persisted longer than the average marriage or job even. Healing from it has to be intentional and wrapped around the individual for this to be long lasting. In doing that we look at:

  • Stress and stressors and how you respond to stressful situations

  • Food cravings including timing for when these cravings occur

  • Energy levels throughout the day

  • How well you sleep

  • Cognitive function and clear headedness, brain fog

  • Resistance points, where you could realize challenge

The last one is key. Understanding where we are resistant to change is very insightful because if we ignore these barriers we will hit them hard in the healing process. We have to respect where we are today and not overlook the journey between points now and later. Too often we can head into changes determined and highly motivated only to deflate when things get hard. It is where dieting and highly ambitious goals without a plan fail.

Sugar and sweeteners are emotional investments

Clients I work with often think it is going to be harder to physically break up with sugar and artificial sweeteners than it is emotionally. Yet, sugar and sweeteners are emotional food. Cravings for sweets that we satisfy with either sugar or sweeteners is an emotional response occurring a physical message.

As part of detoxing from artificial sweeteners we are rewiring our brain’s response to sweets while also addressing emotional needs. It is common to have cravings and tendencies to eat sweets when we are emotionally drained as they provide that pick-me-up. Artificial sweeteners have been sold to us as that guilt free way to do achieve this. That is difficult to navigate when we live in high stress fight or flight mode continually.

In the journey of healing, I see clients who have experienced adrenal fatigue and burnout for so long they don’t even realize that is what is going on. It can take time to rebuild our health in this area so that is why it is essential we give ourselves grace in not only changing the artificial sweetener habit but in those times when it is literally all we know to do for ourselves.

Detoxing can help but only when it is combined with a framework built around emotional healing and opening the connection between mind, body and spirit so we can optimally function again. Otherwise, what happens is we detox and are left with bareness that leaves us feeling vulnerable. That can lead to a what’s next feeling that is fearful of the changes we are trying to apply.

I highly suggest not breaking up with sugar or artificial sweetener alone. It is important to work with someone who can help you define the path to break up with these things and rebuild our relationship internally.

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