An array of sweetenersThere are sweeteners in almost every type of pre-prepared food these days. Even foods like tomato soup and soy sauces usually contain additional sweeteners. These additions might make the food taste better, but they can also play havoc on your stomach if your system is sensitive because of conditions such as Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS). If you suffer from any type of digestive problem, eating the wrong type of sweetener might make it worse. That’s why you need to know what’s in your food and which types of sweeteners are likely to result in negative consequences, so you can avoid them and choose options that work better for your system.

Some Facts on Sweeteners

Sweeteners are a contentious subject for a number of reasons. For starters, you have the artificial vs natural debate, the refined vs unrefined disagreement, and numerous arguments about the health benefits and consequences of each of these options. You can find proponents and evidence on every side of these arguments. And to make the situation even more confusing, it’s almost impossible to find foods that don’t contain these additives these days. The simple fact is that people like sweet food and this has resulted in a growing obesity problem, as well as an ever increasing number of sweeteners that are designed to address both this taste preference and this health concern.

The issues and debates involving these sugars are ongoing and probably won’t end any time soon. This can make it hard to know what you should do and eat to safeguard and improve your own health. But this doesn’t have to be as complicated as it seems. Generally speaking, no sweetener should be so common in your diet that it causes health problems. Your diet should be focused on natural foods that nourish and support your healing and health. But that isn’t always the case because some people don’t understand or know about the damage that these additives can inflict on your body. Some of the health problems associated with sweeteners are

  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Hypertension
  • Heart disease
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Digestive problems

These consequences can severely impact and cause long-term problems for your overall health. They can also exacerbate illnesses such as AFS, which is strongly linked to digestive issues and metabolic disorders.

About Artificial Sweeteners

When you’re considering the health benefits and problems associated with the sugar you eat, you must be aware of the issues surrounding artificial sweeteners. Many of these are still very new to the health scene, and are designed to deliver the same sweet taste without the extra sugar or calories. But evidence shows that they can be problematic for your health in other ways, and have been linked to a higher risk of diabetes, metabolic disorder, and heart disease. There is also some evidence that some artificial sugars may increase your risk of developing certain types of cancer, though this link is disputed in medical circles. Artificial sweeteners that have been approved for use by the FDA include

  • Sucralose
  • Saccharin
  • Aspartame
  • Acesulfame
  • Neotame

What is AFS?

AFS is a common disorder that occurs as a result of long-term stress. The human body is designed to deal with stress by activating the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response. This system activates the adrenal glands and other components that work together to protect the body from stress and prepare it to react. The NEM stress response isn’t designed to be active for long periods of time, it’s supposed to turn on and off as needed. But because stress in the modern world is chronic and ongoing, the system can become overworked and lead to adrenal fatigue. When the adrenal glands become fatigued, they struggle to keep up with the demand for hormones and cause problems with a variety of different systems in the body. This often results in a combination of troubling symptoms such as fatigue, hypoglycemia, digestive problems, brain fog, mood disorders, and weight gain.

One system that’s often severely affected by AFS is the bioenergetics circuit. Problems with this circuit can not only cause many of the symptoms associated with AFS, they can also markedly decrease your quality of life and your day-to-day comfort levels.

The Bioenergetics Circuit and AFS

A woman craving sweeteners like cake The bioenergetics circuit that is part of the NeuroEndoMetabolic system includes the pancreas, liver, immune system, interstitium, gut, and the microbiome. These organs and systems generally work together for three vital circuits: bioenergetics, detoxification, and inflammation. But when you have AFS, it can cause problems in the metabolic system before any other system in the body. In fact, metabolic problems can often act as an early warning system for more serious problems. The functions of the different organs tend to slow or become dysregulated with AFS. This can cause a variety of problems including a sluggish metabolism, fluctuating blood sugar levels, and ineffective and unpredictable detoxification and elimination.

Some issues and symptoms associated with the dysregulation of these systems can include

  • Sugar cravings
  • Food sensitivities
  • Inexplicable weight gain
  • Paradoxical reactions
  • Intolerance or hypersensitivity to medications or supplements
  • Severe constipation or diarrhea
  • Gastric shutdown

Because AFS is so strongly associated with digestive problems, it’s important that you do what you can to safeguard your metabolic health. This will lessen your symptoms, decrease your stress levels, and make your life much more pleasant. One of the easiest ways to do that is to become aware of the types of sugars that you’re eating and what they could be doing to your digestive system.

Sugars to Avoid

sweeteners that you should avoid like cookiesThere are a number of sweeteners that you should avoid if you have AFS. These aren’t necessarily the options that have the most chemicals or calories. Instead, they’re the ones that are known to cause uncomfortable digestive problems. Because these sweeteners are very low in calories, you might think that they’re a good option if you’re trying to lose weight. However, they’re only low in calories because they’re so difficult to digest. And because they’re so hard to digest, eating them often results in digestive symptoms such as gas or diarrhea. In fact, they’re often added to laxatives to take advantage of these side effects. This is not what you want if you have AFS as it will not only worsen your digestive symptoms, it will also add to your body’s stress levels and exacerbate your adrenal fatigue.

The sweeteners to avoid are

  • Xylitol
  • Sorbitol
  • Lactitol
  • Maltitol
  • Mannitol

Sweeteners That Might Cause Problems

Everyone is different and that means that their digestive tolerances are different as well. A food or sugar that annoys your system will have no effect at all on someone else’s system. This is particularly true if you have AFS, which often causes unusual reactions to foods. That’s why it will take you time and experimentation before you can determine your personal tolerances. The following sugars may present a problem for your digestion, or they could pass through without any issues:

  • Lactose
  • Fructose, which includes honey, high-fructose corn syrup, and agave nectar
  • Sucralose, which includes the very popular option Splenda
  • Erythritol, often found as Truvia

Lactose is a naturally occurring sugar that’s found in dairy products, but you can also find it as an additive in a number of different products. Many people can consume dairy products without digestive concerns. However, if you’re lactose intolerant or have become that way because of food sensitivities associated with AFS, then you should avoid products that contain this sweetener.

The Best Sweeteners for your Digestion

A number of sweeteners are digested quickly and easily by the body. This doesn’t necessarily make them healthy, most of them are associated with diabetes and other serious health concerns, but they’re fairly neutral in terms of the digestive system. No matter what anyone tells you, the body needs a certain amount of sugar to function. This is particularly true when it comes to glucose, which your body and brain need to function. This doesn’t mean that you should eat only simple sugars, your body can break down more complex foods into the glucose it needs, but it does mean that the body is designed to digest these sugars easily and without any trouble. So if you like some sweetness with your food, these options are the least likely to exacerbate any digestive symptoms that you suffer from as a result of AFS.

These easily digestible sugars are

  • Glucose
  • Stevia
  • Monk fruit extract, known as luo han guo
  • Maltose, found in brown rice syrup

Final Thoughts

Natural healthy sweeteners you can use to satisfy your sweet toothSugar and other types of sweeteners are a major problem in today’s society. Not only do they contribute to the obesity problem and make certain disorders such as AFS worse, they can also cause a number of digestive problems. These types of problems can be very uncomfortable and markedly decrease your quality of life. However, it isn’t as easy as completely eliminating these sugars to eliminate your symptoms. The human body is highly individual, which is why following someone else’s diet plan doesn’t usually work. It’s your lifestyle and your body and you need to eat according to what’s right for your needs and preferences. That’s why learning more about sweeteners, including which are more likely to cause uncomfortable digestive symptoms, can be so helpful in your pursuit of a better diet and a better life.

© Copyright 2019 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

The truth is that some sweeteners are very bad for your gut health while others may have some positive benefits. Choosing the right sweeteners can be pivotal in helping you maintain or improve your overall health, so educate yourself on this issue and choose wisely.