Is there such a things as stevia side effects? The “healthy” sugar alternative may not be as righteous as food marketers and advertisers have made it out to be…
Yes, stevia is a natural plant with leaves that are naturally sweet. However, the white powders and drops we buy in grocery stores and food products aren’t really stevia at all. They’re a highly refined extract that’s been super-processed with toxic chemicals, and stevia is no more natural than Aspartame, Splenda, or Equal. Stevia triggers side effects like GI upset, bacterial overgrowth, brain fog and malabsorption.
Sugar Epidemic: A Need for “Healthier” Alternatives Like Stevia
Everyone knows (too much) sugar is “bad” for us.
The maximum suggested dose of added sugar humans can tolerate is about 25 grams, but the average American consumes at least three times that EVERY DAY and three pounds EVERY WEEK (a stark contrast from the 10 pounds Americans consumed every YEAR in 1900).
Most of this sugar is NOT in the form of Hershey’s Candy Bars either. It’s hidden in packaged and processed foods, from deli meat and sausage to crackers, pastas, cereals, bars, protein powders, protein bars, nut-butters, sports drinks and yogurts.
Side effects from excess sugar consumption include:
- Spiked blood sugar levels
- Disrupted cortisol (stress hormones) and other hormones (Maduka et al, 2015)
- A quick burst of energy (followed by a crash)
- Brain fog (Meng et al, 2016)
- Addiction: sugar is 8 times more addicting than cocaine (Ahmed et al, 2013 )
- And inflammatory conditions like cancer and heart disease (O’Connor, 2017)
The solution? Sugar free alternatives, or artificial sweeteners! Like stevia!
After all, sugar-free alternatives are obviously the healthier alternative, right?
Not quite. Here’s the truth about artificial sweeteners AND stevia, plus 4 stevia side effects food advertisers won’t tell you about.
The Artificial Sweetener Solution: NOT
Over the past several years, as America has wised up to the negative side effects of sugar, so has the food industry’s response (and desperation) to continue to sell many of its sugar-containing products to its new health conscious consumers—consumers looking for “sugar free” and “low sugar” options.
In efforts to protect beloved food products (such as cereals, peanut butters, fruited yogurts, juices, pasta sauces, granola bars, protein bars, protein powders and sodas), the food industry has continued producing these foods by simply replacing sugar with artificial sweeteners.
Initially, the food industry began turning to sweeteners like aspartame (splenda), surculose (Equal), saccharin, and acesulfame as the base of these products, UNTIL Americans wised up again, and discovered that these synthesized artificial sweeteners were not healthy either (in fact, many of them are worse than sugar). (1, 2, 3)
Common side effects from eating artificial sweeteners include:
- Digestive Distress (Constipation, bloating, stomach pain)
- Heart Palpitations
- Blurred Vision
- Shortness of Breath
- Weight Gain or Weight Retention
- Spiked Cortisol Levels & Insulin
- And similar inflammatory conditions to sugar, like cancer, diabetes, and tumor formation
In short: No bueno. (No good).
The solution? Ditch the fake artificial sweeteners and turn to a “better solution” once more—like the “natural” stevia!
If fake Splenda and Equal are bad for us, obviously the natural forms of sugar, like stevia—without these side effects—are much better, right?
Not so fast.
Stevia side effects may not be worth it.
Stevia 101: Where it Comes From
In true form, stevia is an herb that comes from the leaves of the Stevia rebaudiana plant.
China is the largest source, accounting for 80-percent of the world’s supply, and its been used as a natural sweetener for centuries in other parts of the world like Paraguay, Brazil, Japan, and South America.
Stevia was introduced to grocery store shelves in America in the early 1990’s, and more consumers have moved towards “natural ingredients,” the demand for plant-based “healthier” sweeteners like Stevia have only increased.
In fact, stevia sales have grown so popular that stevia now accounts for approximately 25% (or 1 in 4) products that are artificially sweetened on sales, and is leading artificial sweetener of choice for low-calorie soft drinks, juices, and carbonated drinks. (Grand Market Research, 2016 )
Problems with Stevia
Unfortunately, however, the form most Americans now consume stevia in is NOT the same as the natural herb grown for centuries in other countries.
Due to the high-processing and manufacturing practice required to turn stevia into the white powder sold into your Truvia packet or mixed into your yogurt, includes only about 2-4% of actual true natural stevia leaf component (Stevia rebaudiana).
The other 96-98%? An artificially synthesized sugar-like product, similar to the sugar and artificial sweeteners we’ve been trying to avoid.
Stevia is NOT Natural
Even though the FDA technically calls stevia NATURAL on any food label, it’s important to REALIZE that the FDA’s own definition of the word “natural” does not include the way a food is processed.
In other words, “natural,” means nothing at all:
FDA Natural Definition:
The FDA has considered the term “natural” to mean that nothing artificial or synthetic (including all color additives regardless of source) has been included in, or has been added to, a food that would not normally be expected to be in that food. However, this policy was not intended to address food production methods, such as the use of pesticides, nor did it explicitly address food processing or manufacturing methods, such as thermal technologies, pasteurization, or irradiation. The FDA also did not consider whether the term “natural” should describe any nutritional or other health benefit.
The bottom line: Most stevia we eat in America is not the real (pure) thing. Not only is it highly heated and processed in its own refining process, but most products on shelves contain stevia MIXED with other “natural” ingredients and artificial chemicals or sweeteners.
The results? These 4 stevia side effects…
4 Stevia Side Effects Food Advertisers Don’t Tell You
- Stevia Kills Healthy Gut Bacteria
A 2014 study found that stevia may have a negative effect on probiotic bacteria. Researchers tested six different strains of Lactobacillus reuteri, a probiotic bacteria naturally found in human gut flora and 90-95% of every probiotic dietary supplement on the shelves. Both stevioside and rebaudioside were found to inhibit the growth of all 6 strains tested. (Deinina et al, 2014).
Why this matters? Two reasons: (1.) You may be wasting your money on your probiotics — especially if you’re taking a lactic acid bacteria version; and (2.) By trying to be “healthier,” you’re actually killing off gut bacteria that actually makes you healthier.
- Stevia Causes Bloating, Farting & Upset Stomach
Since it is 100-250 times sweeter than glucose, the FDA has approved stevia additives like Truvia and Stevia In The Raw, to include other additives that can trigger these side effects, including cause farting, upset stomach, and gastrointestinal problems in some people. Due to its GI side effects, stevia may also be an underlying trigger cause of longer-term GI disturbances, like SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
- Stevia Causes Inflammation & Leaky Gut
You do your best to be “health conscious” by eating veggies, drinking water and avoiding processed foods like boxed crackers and chips…except if you eat stevia. And although a little dirt never hurt, when we regularly consume inflammatory processed foods, like stevia, our body can only take so much. Intestinal permeability or “leaky gut” happens when we consume foods and additives our body doesn’t recognize as “food.” (Lerner & Matthias, 2015 ) These foods can’t be fully digested and over time, irritate our gut lining as if we were to continually scratch a scab. Eventually, undigested food particles leak into our blood stream, triggering side effects—GI upset, constipation and bloating, blood sugar imbalances, and inflammatory conditions as our body attacks itself—like autoimmune disease, acne, allergies heart disease and cancer.
- Stevia Can Trigger Weight Retention & a “Slow Metabolism”
Whereas the pure version of stevia leaf—Stevia Rebaudiana Bertoni—has shown positive benefits for promoting healthy gut bacteria and metabolism (Areli et al 2017 ), most synthesized processed stevia is mixed with other artificial sweeteners that not only trigger gut bacterial overgrowth, but also promote metabolic and blood sugar disturbances (Suez et al, 2014 ), weight gain (Canadian Medical Association Journal, 2017 ), and post-diet re-weight gain (Thaiss et al, 2016 )
The Big Bottom Line
MOST stevia is not the real thing and does NOT do a body good.
Can’t figure out what’s triggering your gut symptoms, stubborn metabolism or other inflammatory conditions (from allergies to skin breakouts)?
It may be stevia…
Real stevia is NOT sold in most stores, and it is an herb you can either grow online or find here.
To make your own stevia see my recipe below!
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1 cup filtered water
- Wash leaves in clean filtered water.
- Discard stems.
- Once your leaves are dry, grind them in a food processor or coffee grinder to make pure stevia.
For Liquid Stevia: Dissolve 1/4 cup pure homegrown stevia powder with 1 cup hot filtered water. Stir and leave out at room temperature for 24 hours. After 24 hours strain the stevia out of the liquid and store the liquid stevia in the refrigerator.