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Microbiome Toxins: The Impact of Artificial Sweeteners on Gut Health
Millions of people use artificial sweeteners every day – often on the advice of doctors suggesting them as a healthy way to lose weight and lower blood glucose. The sugary chemicals have been around for nearly a hundred years, and they’re considered “safe” … but they may not be safe for the beneficial bacteria living in your gut.
There are six artificial sweeteners that are FDA-approved for use in the U.S., including the top three you’ve almost certainly heard of:
- Aspartame (sold as Equal and NutraSweet),
- Saccharin (Sweet’N Low),
- Sucralose (Splenda),
- Acesulfame potassium (Ace-K),
As it turns out, studies show that these super-sweet tasting chemicals may have a very bitter effect on your microbiome – the trillions of bacteria that live in your digestive tract.
Surprise Sources of Artificial Sweeteners
When you add a pack of Splenda or Sweet ’N Low to your coffee or drink a diet soda, you know for certain that you’re ingesting an artificial sweetener – after all, you put it there! But it’s not always that obvious in other foods or drinks you may consume, because these ingredients show up in more places than most people realize.
For example, have you seen foods labeled as “low-sugar,” “sugar-free,” or “50% less sugar”? These are the exact culprits that could be filled with artificial sweeteners – usually saccharin or sucralose. These “low sugar” labels can be found on many surprising foods like:
- fruit juices
- canned fruits (so naturally sweet they shouldn’t need the boost!)
- whole wheat bread
- instant oatmeal
- yogurt and yogurt drinks
- flavored coffees
Chemical sweeteners can even be found in unexpected products like vitamins, toothpaste, and mouthwash.
So even if you think you never use artificial sweetener, you might need to think again.
A small pilot study found that measurable levels of sucralose turned up in the urine of people who believed they hadn’t ingested any artificial sweeteners. And the small amounts you might ingest from these unexpected sources could bring on major disruptions in your gut bacteria.
Sweeteners Shift the Balance
Your gut houses two main bacteria families: bacteroidetes and firmicutes. Most of the bacteria you know by name – including probiotics (good bacteria) and pathogens (bad bacteria) – fall under these two big umbrellas, and each family has its share of beneficial and harmful microbes. In a healthy gut, the two families coexist in good balance.
But add artificial sweeteners to the mix and that balance gets disturbed, bringing on some big health impacts, like glucose intolerance and weight gain (the exact opposite effects you’d expect!).
That’s because the two bacteria families don't work the same way. They produce different enzymes and impact different genes and hormones, which leads to differences in the way food gets converted into energy and the way fat gets stored (read more on that here).
On top of that, artificial sweeteners may tip the balance toward pro-inflammatory bacteria, which can lead to a whole host of unwanted health conditions.
4 Steps to Avoid the Artificial Sweetener Effect
A key way artificial sweeteners knock your microbiome out of whack is through their bacteriostatic effect. That means artificial sweeteners can stop certain bacteria (like the good guys!) from reproducing, so their populations can’t grow and thrive. But these artificial ingredients don’t have that same impact on every type of bacteria, so others (like the bad guys!) have the opportunity to keep multiplying.
Luckily, there’s a simple four-step strategy to stop the cascade of trouble brought on by artificial sweeteners:.
1) Stop intentionally using artificial sweeteners intentionally (no more in your coffee!)
2) Carefully read ingredient labels to make sure you don’t ingest them unintentionally
3) Use healthful natural sweeteners such as stevia, agave, and honey
4) Restore a healthy balance of bacteria in your microbiome with the beneficial spore-form probiotics in Just Thrive.
The Sweet Spot is in the Spores
The four spore-form probiotics in Just Thrive help repopulate your gut with beneficial bacteria, and create a healthy environment so other strains of probiotics can repopulate as well. On top of that, these amazing strains can undo some of the actions kicked off by those artificial sweeteners.
Bacillus subtilis helps lower blood sugar levels, along with increasing healthy HDL cholesterol, and helps restore healthy fat metabolism.
Bacillus clausii helps promote healthy balance in the gut and supports optimal immune function.
Bacillus coagulans reduces insulin resistance, which can help keep blood sugar at healthy levels.
Bacillus indicus HU36 reduces oxidative stress brought on my microbiome imbalance by producing highly absorbable antioxidants including beta-carotene, lycopene, lutein, zeaxanthin, astaxanthin, and CoQ10.
Erase the negative impact of artificial sweeteners with Just Thrive and reboot your microbiome today.