Less Reflux And Indigestion When Cutting Out Sweeteners

Dean Rouseberg Author: Dean Rouseberg Time for reading: ~4 minutes Last Updated: October 04, 2022
Less reflux and indigestion when cutting out sweeteners

Aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, the "fake" sugars used in many foods or beverages, interfere with gut microbiota, increasing the risk of digestive disorders, glucose intolerance, and metabolic disease.

Aspartame, sucralose, and saccharin, the "fake" sugars used in many foods or beverages, interfere with gut microbiota, increasing the risk of digestive disorders, glucose intolerance, and metabolic disease.

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Why it matters

Non-caloric synthetic sweeteners (aspartame, acesulfame K, saccharin,  sucralose  , etc.) are artificial sugars that have a high sweetening power without providing calories.  They are ubiquitous in so-called "light" products, foods or beverages.  So far, these sweeteners have not been proven to help with weight loss.  Regular consumption of sweeteners  increases the risk of insulin resistance  and can therefore promote type 2 diabetes. A large study of more than 60,000 women showed that consumption of lightly sweetened beverages  was associated with a   doubled risk of diabetes.

In addition, consumption of sweeteners has been associated in studies with increased symptoms of functional gastrointestinal disorders, says Dr. Cotinat, because gut microbiota can metabolize undigested sweeteners, leading to changes in habits.  In addition, she says, consumption of sweeteners can alter hormones capable of regulating intestinal transit.
Functional gastrointestinal disorders include irritable bowel syndrome, functional dyspepsia, functional constipation, diarrhea, and gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD).  These are recurring conditions that account for at least 30% of gastroenterology consultations.

Sweeteners promote functional gastrointestinal disorders

A study  evaluating gastrointestinal symptoms  in laboratory animals showed that rabbits fed 750 to 1000 mg/kg/day of sucralose developed gastrointestinal symptoms compared to animals that did not receive sucralose sweeteners.

In  a randomized controlled trial in humans , a diet without synthetic sweeteners significantly reduced the presence of gastrointestinal symptoms after 5 weeks: early satiety, heartburn or retrosternal pain, epigastric pain, abdominal pain, postprandial discomfort.  At the beginning of the study, more than 50% of the participants had at least one symptom. Epigastric pain (35%) and postprandial discomfort (20%) were the main symptoms that disappeared.  Thus, Dr. Cotinat says, eliminating noncaloric synthetic sweeteners from the diet can promote gastrointestinal motility and gastric emptying, which can improve epigastric pain and discomfort after eating or drinking.  In the same study, a diet with sweeteners increased diarrhea, constipation and postprandial discomfort.  These disadvantages are due in part to the impact of sweeteners on the microbiota, says Dr. Cotinat.

Sweeteners and the microbiota

Studying the effects of artificial sweeteners on lab mice and volunteers,  Israeli researchers report in  Nature  that these fake sugars disrupt the composition of gut flora as well as the ability to use glucose.  "  Artificial sweeteners have been introduced en masse into our diet with the idea of ​​reducing calorie intake and normalizing blood sugar levels without compromising our sweet tooth  ," the researchers wrote.  "  But our work suggests that they may have directly contributed to the strengthening of the epidemic they were supposed to fight  ."

Three popular sweeteners—aspartame,  sucralose  , and saccharin—were added to the water the mice ingested at acceptable daily doses determined by US health authorities based on the animals' weight.  Mice developed glucose intolerance unlike those given only water or sugar water.  The experiment was repeated on other mice at different doses of sweeteners with the same result.  Glucose intolerance occurs when the body responds less well to the effects of insulin to control blood sugar levels.  It precedes diabetes.

Because they believed that these disorders could be related to the gut flora, the researchers transplanted excrement from mice fed the sweeteners onto mice that had been cleared of their own bacteria thanks to antibiotic treatment.  These mice, in turn, are glucose intolerant.

What about people?

From dietary questionnaires ,  researchers  found in 380 people that those who consumed the most sweeteners had higher fasting blood sugar and glucose intolerance.  And this, regardless of their weight.  They also tested their hypothesis on 7 volunteers who were not used to consuming sweeteners.  After receiving the acceptable daily doses for 7 days, four of them showed high glucose levels as well as changes in the intestinal flora.

According to Dr. Eran Elinav of the Weizmann Institute in Israel, the origin of the research, certain bacteria can interact with the chemical compounds in sweeteners - which are not absorbed by the gut - by promoting inflammatory responses to sugar. such as glucose intolerance or diabetes.


Further evidence for the toxicity of sweeteners to the microbiota (PREMIUM)

A study published in the journal Molecules confirmed the toxicity of six sweeteners to the bacteria in the gut microbiota: aspartame (E951), sucralose (E955), saccharin (E954), neotame (E961), advantame (E969) and acesulfame K (E950). ). These six molecules are authorized by US and European health authorities.

Researchers at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Israel and Nanyang University in Singapore have modified the bioluminescent bacteria Escherichia coli to glow in the presence of toxic molecules. In doing so, they showed that sweeteners are toxic in this model bacteria, suggesting that they are also toxic to gut flora bacteria, of which Escherichia coli is a part. The sweetener that appears to be the most toxic to bacteria is saccharin (E954).

For Ariel Cushmaro, one of the authors of this study, "this is further evidence that the consumption of artificial sweeteners negatively affects intestinal microbial activity, which can cause a wide range of health problems." Indeed, gut microbiota imbalance has been linked to diabetes and obesity.

In practice (PREMIUM)

If you suffer from functional digestive disorders, there are proven solutions that provide lasting relief from reflux, solutions that avoid complications and long-term use of potentially dangerous medications. For example, people with gastroesophageal reflux are often prescribed acid-blocking medications; they improve quality of life, but says Dr. Cotinat, "they don't attack the cause of the reflux." Nutritional treatment consists of increasing protective foods and eliminating harmful ones, such as ultra-processed foods, sugary products and junk food.

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