On My Soapbox - Addictions, Eating Disorders, Nutrition & Digestive Health

One of my readers, Maya, asked a really good question about artificial sweeteners and their relation to digestive health. Specifically, she was referring to artificial sweeteners in drinks, including diet colas.

Maya, I want to acknowledge you for noticing the link between what you are drinking and how it affects you. You had mentioned symptoms like bloating, abdominal distention – and masking your body’s needs around appetite and thirst. In my history, I have tended to avoid artificial sweeteners. I had heard that the airline industry would not let pilots consume artificial sweeteners because it adversely impacted their performance. There have been several articles written about artificial sweeteners like aspartame, NutraSweet and others.

Everything We Take Into Our Bodies & Minds Affects Our Health

My philosophy is that we have about as much understanding of the human body and digestive system as NASA has about space
In fact, food, food additives, beverages and all things we consume have the ability to affect our health either positively or negatively. There have been countless guidelines, diets and do’s and don’ts created to “help” us decide what is “good” for us and “bad” for us. My philosophy is that we have about as much understanding of the human body and digestive system as NASA has about space. There is good data, scientific evidence, explorations and discoveries, but no one really fully understands the full effect of our actions on the Earth or what lies out there in space.

For this reason, it is very important to understand how YOUR body responds to what you eat, drink, supplement and add to your foods. I am also a firm believer in educating ourselves about the addictive process and the body’s withdrawal from addictive substances. For example, craving foods tends to be related to either addiction or some type of malnutrition/faulty digestion (allergy, leaky gut, etc.).

Profits Drive Practices – And Information

We’re often not given the whole story…
Keep in mind that there is precious little information about this in the mainstream. And when you realize that the diet industry in the US alone is a $46 BILLION industry and the food manufacturing industry is so compartmentalized (bakery, beverage, etc.) that it’s difficult to get a good read on how profitable it is. Further, there are so many interests in getting us to believe one thing or another about food that we as consumers are often not given the whole story. The same can be said for the prescription drug industry, the advertising industry and many others.

Empowering Ourselves

For this reason, it’s more important than ever for addicts and those of us with or recovering from eating disorders to take an active role in deciding what we put into our bodies. Reading my post on the “second brain” found in the gut, which SURPRISE – is new information to many in the medical and psychological fields – may help shed some light on how little we know about the complexity of human bodies.

Keeping a food-mood or food-body-mind journal can be helpful to you in this process. No one book – and very few doctors – can tell you what foods are right for you. Most health professionals operate based on guidelines and previous education. They are not gods and cannot memorize everything they learned about the complexity of the human body (I’ve heard medical students talk about this many times). Our health is our responsibility and everyone else we go to for guidance (medical professionals, naturopaths, etc.) are there to help point us in directions that may be useful to us. We are as important a part of the medical team as they are.

Symptoms To Watch For

Time magazine’s June 6, 1983 cover story on StressWith your food-body-mind journal, you may want to write the foods you ate (including additives, beverages, etc.) and monitor how you feel during the day. This is not a journal for counting calories or feeling “good” or “bad” intellectually about the foods you ate. It is solely for you to identify how your mood and your body is impacted by foods you eat. Keep in mind that stress and your thoughts play a role in your health, so monitor what’s happening in your life as well. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) in the US attributes 80% of illnesses to be caused by stress.

In fact, TIME Magazine’s June 6, 1983 edition called stress “The Epidemic of the Eighties” – referring to it as our nation’s leading health problem!

Things to watch for below, interestingly, are symptoms you often find in autoimmune disorders:
  • Tension or pain in your body
  • Congestion
  • Digestive pain
  • An overfull feeling
  • Diarrhea or constipation that day or the following few days
  • Headaches or migraines
  • PMS
  • Foggy thinking
  • Acid Reflux
  • Mood swings
  • Irritability
  • Lack of energy
  • Feeling “wound up”
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Addictions – Biochemical Reactions In the Body

I’ve heard from many people that those recovered from alcohol, cigarette and drug addictions tend to turn to binge eating and other eating disorders. Similarly, several of these addictions co-exist with eating disorders. The addictive process is complex, but one thing that is becoming clear is that it has adverse affects on the adrenals and thyroid, which are responsible for many important functions maintaining homeostasis (balance) in our bodies. Stopping the behavior does not mean that our bodies automatically go back into balance.

Several studies around different ways of eating have shown that we can use eating plans to bring our bodies back into health. I continue to listen to my own body-mind signals for guidance.

How Eating Affects Health

I am providing some links for information on artificial sweeteners so that you can see alternative information from what the manufacturers and advertisers put out. The challenge will be deciding what to do to wean yourself from an addictive substance. For me, it was abstaining from things like sugar, wheat and other foods that were addictive for my body that ended my constant cravings. I no longer graze around the kitchen and can actually have delicious, healthy meals that keep my body and mind even and at peace.

How Changing My Eating Affected My Health & Wellness

At the same time, I was eating things I had never had before – there are so many delicious, healthy foods like arugula, endive, escarole, kabocha squash, buckwheat kasha, millet and quinoa – I never would have had these wonderful foods in my diet without learning to eat in a way that repaired my body. This way of eating created even moods – so I am no longer depressed – I find that I am at peace during the day and sleep better at night.

Other symptoms (that people use over the counter drugs for) that went away are: congestion, cold hands & feet, red face/rosacea, dry skin, overfull feeling, gas, bloating/edema (I no longer have big indents in my skin from my socks for hours), foggy thinking, sensitivity to lights, and the list goes on. All of this allowed me to feel 10 years younger – just from the way I was eating! I really don’t need to see proof written anywhere to validate my experience (how I feel is proof enough!), but I am a naturally curious type who loves to research, so I’ve searched high and low – and talked to hundreds of people, doctors, natural health professionals, etc., to find out the connections.

Education, Awareness & Practice

The sad thing is that this information is not easily found. The good news is that once we learn to understand that our bodies and minds – our intuition – play a large role in our overall health, we can make better decisions about EVERYTHING we put into our bodies. And EVERYTHING we put into our minds (what we watch, who we spend time with, our thoughts, etc.). If our goal is to be happy and feel good – above all other goals – we will begin to match the goal with actions, thoughts and stillness – that are aligned with these results. This isn’t to say it’s easy – often we are fighting past conditioning, belief systems and a pervasive seduction for negativity that seems to exist around us. The good news is that with more practice, you awaken to what works best for you. And once you know what that is, you can’t un-know it. This is what gives you the ability to sustain your recovery.

Back to Artificial Sweeteners

One of the doctors in this article says the following about the absurdity of artificial sweeteners as diet foods:

“There is absolutely no reason to take this product. It is NOT A DIET PRODUCT!!! The Congressional record said, “It makes you crave carbohydrates and will make you FAT”. Dr. Roberts stated that when he got patients off aspartame, their average weight loss was 19 pounds per person. The formaldehyde stores in the fat cells, particularly in the hips and thighs.” (WORLD ENVIRONMENTAL CONFERENCE and the MULTIPLE SCLEROSIS FOUNDATION F.D.A. ISSUING FOR COLLUSION WITH MONSANTO Article written by Nancy Markle (11/20/1997)).

In the same article, the person addressing the conference described these symptoms as related to use of aspartame:

During a lecture I said ‘If you are using aspartame (NutraSweet, Equal, Spoonful, etc.) and you suffer from fibromyalgia symptoms, spasms, shooting pains, numbness in your legs, cramps, vertigo, dizziness, headaches, tinnitus, joint pain, depression, anxiety attacks, slurred speech, blurred vision, or memory loss — you probably have aspartame DISEASE!’ People were jumping up during the lecture saying, ‘I’ve got this, is it reversible?

More Information on Aspartame

This comes from Dr. Mercola’s website:

Aspartame is produced by G.D. Searle Company, founded in 1888 and located in Skokie, Illinois. Searle is now owned by others. It is about 200 times sweeter than the refined sugar that it is meant to replace, and it is known to erode intelligence and affect short-term memory. It is essentially a chemical weapon designed to impact populations en masse. It is an rDNA derivative made from two amino acids, L-phenylalanine, L-aspartic acid and methanol. Originally discovered during a search for an ulcer drug in 1966, it was “approved” by the FDA in 1974 as a “food additive”.

FDA Ignores Complaints of Neurological Symptoms

In 1989, the FDA received over 4,000 complaints from people who described adverse reactions. Because the FDA conveniently lists aspartane as a “food additive”, it removes the legal requirement for adverse effect reporting to any Federal agency and the necessity for safety monitoring processes. Research also indicates that aspartame, when combined with glutamine products (such as MSG, widely used in foods) increase the likelihood of brain damage occurring in children.[12]

Aspartame Affecting Airline Pilots

Some of the more interesting developments in 1989 surfaced in the Palm Beach Post on October 14th, where an article by Dr. H.J. Robert described several recent aircraft accidents involving confusion and aberrant pilot behavior caused by ingestion of products containing aspartame.[13] Soft drink makers were notified of this problem in 1991. It is interesting to note that after Samuel Skinner left Sidney & Austin, Searle’s law firm, he was appointed Secretary of Transportation. Hence, he was in charge of the FAA, just in time to head off complaints from pilots affected by aspartame. His wife was employed by Sidney & Austin. Later as George Bush’s Chief of Staff in 1991, during the Gulf War, he was in a position to head off all inquiries relative to asparatame, no matter where they were directed – to the FDA, FAA or Department of Defense. This constitutes criminal negligence and racketeering. George Bush, of course, was an ex-director of the Central Intelligence Agency.

Source: Mercola.com

A Word About Alternative Sweeteners

Consider checking out mercola.com for information on stevia and xylitol, both of which are considered better alternatives to artificial sweeteners. Stevia is what allowed me to still have sweet tastes. The funny thing is, I’ve started to love the natural sweet tastes of carrots, peas, butternut squash (try it with some cinnamon!) and onions. I rarely use stevia at all — and when I do, it’s only in drinks (a fresh squeezed lemon, 6 oz. water & a pinch of stevia or herbal tea with stevia). Eventually, when my inner body ecology is repaired, I’ll be adding fruit. Once you get used to natural sweet tastes, an appreciation for the subtle sweetness of fruits and vegetables develops. I encourage anyone interested in learning about “sweet” tastes to study Ayurvedics and the 6 tastes (Here’s an interesting article on the 6 tastes in New Life Journal).

My Thoughts & Questions For All Of Us

Given that I don’t have all the answers about sweeteners, here is my opinion. Naturally occurring sweets, like sugar, stevia, honey, etc., that have not been processed, are probably really meant to be good for us (following the everything in moderation principle), unless our bodies react adversely to them in some way. Over time, sweets have been processed using methods for which no one can fully predict how the properties are changed – and how that affects our bodies. They are then mixed with other chemicals and food ingredients that have been similarly processed. How does this affect our bodies?

How many years of experiments or waiting for final affects will it take for anyone to be sure? How many products, diets and guidelines will come out as approved and then be changed years later when we have more information? What do we do in the meantime if we have an addiction or just plain don’t feel well? Do we turn to drugs or empower ourselves to create truly radiant health?

More Info on Splenda from Alive Magazine: Not so natural after all!

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As a coach, writer and recovered former executive, I understand the challenges of creating a balanced, healthy lifestyle when over-scheduled. In my journey to radiant health, I created a whole health system of eating, exercise, renewal and recharging -- a roadmap toward health & vitality. I empower clients to create their own whole health systems, in their own unique ways. I have seen amazing results in working with my clients!