Keeping it Real

About thirty years ago, I developed gut problems. I mean real blaster ones, it was like a damn fire hose at times. You could get a Covid anal swab by taping it to a broom and holding it ten metres behind me. I could have developed a career as a one man slurry spreader. So, being a microbiologist dealing mainly with gut issues I set about trying to work out what caused it. No, it did not occur to me to ask a medic. That rarely occurs to me. The rare interactions I’ve had with them suggest they aren’t really taught much any more.

I cut out lactose. Lactose intolerance seems common. You’d be surprised how hard it is to avoid that. You know those ready-roasted and lovely browned chicken pieces and ready roasted chickens? They are coated in lactose. Caramelised lactose gives them the brown colour without the sweetness you’d get from sucrose or glucose. Anyway, I managed to cut out lactose. It made no difference at all, so I don’t have lactose intolerance.

I’ve tried cutting out wheat many times. Again,it didn’t help much, but it did help a bit. I have concluded that I do not have wheat allergy but might not do well with wheat overload. Pizza with garlic bread is just too much wheat. It won’t kill me but it’s pretty uncomfortable. But that still wasn’t it. Incidentally, you can now get gluten free garlic bread that’s really good. Ordinary gluten free bread was awful, it fell to bits when you tried to butter it but the garlic bread version is good.

I went entirely caffeine-free for a few years. Made no difference, but when I went back to caffeine it hit like cocaine! I’m now fully caffeinated again. There were other experiments but none of them made a difference.

The big clue came when I tried cutting out sugar. That made it a hell of a lot worse. I could see nothing protective in sugar so what was it? Lack of sugar? Some kind of bizarre anti-diabetes? Ah, of course. What was I replacing sugar with? Artificial sweeteners, at that time it was mostly aspartame.

So I went back to real sugar and avoided all artificial sweteners. That helped a lot. This led me to the idea that the artificial sweeteners were not the benign replacements we were told. Subsequent experiments (on me, of course) showed that aspartame, particularly, caused the high pressure blowouts. I have avoided all artificial sweeteners but especially aspartame since then.

Now, we are talking about the 1990s. You could not convince anyone that artificial sweeteners were anything but a Good Thing. They had been safety tested, right? Gut bacteria ignored them, right? They provided sweetness without calories and did nothing else at all. I could not convince anyone that I had vastly improved my dodgy guts by simply avoiding artificial sweeteners.

So, against that background, I could not interest any funding body in paying me to research this. There seemed no problem to research. One man’s experience is not going to cut it as a fund-worthy hypothesis and yeah, that’s true. I was, after all, asking for a lot of money to research something that as far as I could prove, only applied to me.

I was also working with pigs at the time. A very expensive animal for food research but one which has an omnivore diet and a gut very close to humans. We actually produced research that proved that frozen chips are a better dietary option than fresh ones. Yes, we proved that chips are good for you!

So it would have been a good case. Is it ethical to feed artificial sweeteners to animals? Well they are approved to be fed to humans so there’s no ethical case to answer there. The experiment would have been massively expensive though. I could have done the gut microbiology but I’d have needed a lot of veterinary time for blood sample taking and also had to pay blood testing labs. Perhaps if I had thought of doing it in mice I might have had more luck. But then I have never worked with mice other than poisoning the little hairy bastards when they get into the house every winter.

The experiment never happened. I consoled myself with the knowledge that my gut issues were mainly down to aspartame, possibly to a lesser extent other artificial sweeteners, and maybe an overload of wheat gluten intake. I can control those things so I am able to fix myself. Which, if I am honest, was my original motivation.

Now it seems the issue is finally being taken seriously. A study has demonstrated a very significant effect on gut bacteria caused by artificial sweeteners. I don’t know if I would call the changes dangerous, but they are certainly unpleasant. They don’t seem likely to kill you but you’d really rather not have them.

You are far better off limiting your sugar intake than replacing it with synthetics. Too much sugar is bad for you, that’s true. Replacing it with synthetics is likely to be worse.

It’s nice to see, after all this time, I was right. Even if I never did get to do the research myself.

36 thoughts on “Keeping it Real

  1. It’s nice to see that I was also right in giving up artificial sweeteners. I researched the matter for a blog post many years ago and I didn’t like what I discovered. Well, actually, although it’s lovely to be right, it’s not all right, as most people probably thought I was a crank by suggesting that artificials might be bad for you and carried on regardless.

    Like a local minister, who I saw in the supermarket with a trolley chock full of bottles of fizzy aspartame. I felt embarrassed about it, so I left a comment on his blog. I don’t remember him replying. He probably thought I was a stalker as well as a mad conspiracy theorist.

    It’s even worse now with taxes on sugary drinks. For a start, they are discriminatory against people who want to live naturally (even if the sugar is highly refined) and also, people will be ingesting record amounts of the rubbish now, as popular brands were reformulated with the synthetic garbage to reduce the prices.

    From memory, a very large proportion of complaints received by the FDA in the USA were against aspartame. Dozens of diseases and conditions were thought to have resulted from the nasty stuff.

    If you ask me, a lot of this is to do with keeping the people undernourished and docile. We need sugars and fats, yet they have been turned into enemies, armed and dangerous, whose sole purpose is to assault your body with everything from bad teeth to heart disease. No wonder there are so many progressive leftists when the brains of the poor deluded souls don’t get enough sugars and fats to enable them to think properly.

    Liked by 3 people

    • I have the feeling it’s all about money. Butter was demonised when the products like ‘I can’t believe anyone thinks this shit is butter’ started appearing. Sugar was demonised when the artificial sweeteners appeared. It’s all about shutting down the competition. So it makes people sick, who cares? It makes us money.

      I’ve never abandoned butter. It really can’t be beaten. I’ve tried some of the alternative ‘milks’ and don’t like them. Yet we are told they are ‘good for us’. That’s not the aim of the producers. Their aim is to make money. That’s it.

      It’s also the primary motivation of the pharmaceutical industry. Never imagine they do what they do for health. They do it for money.

      Liked by 3 people

  2. Back in the day, jam and marmalade home production was literally topped off by pouring the hot jam into a recycled jam jar, putting a disc of wax paper on top and a piece of cloth tied to keep the flies and dust out. That stuff didn’t need refrigeration. Nowadays with the reduced sugar content it’s a different beast.

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s a phenomenon called ‘water availability’. There can be loads of water in jam but bacteria can’t get to it because it’s locked up dissolving all that sugar. Take the sugar content down and there’s water available for bacteria to grow so it will go bad a lot faster.

      Moulds can absorb water from the air so they grow on the surface of the jam. As they break the sugars they make water available to bacteria. However, jam making temperatures mean the stuff is damn near sterilised before it goes in the jar so all you need is a lid and it lasts for years. As soon as you take the lid off you have a limited time to use it.

      With modern reduced-sugar jams, that time is a lot less than it used to be. The sugar wasn’t in there to make you fat. It was in there as a preservative.

      I’ve had this same argument when frying things. I don’t add oil or fat to make the food more oily or fatty. I add it to stop the food stickiing to the pan. The original purposes of cooking methods seem to have vanished within my lifetime.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. I read somewhere a long time ago that aspartame isn’t very good for you, although no reason was give. And since sugar was definitely making me feel ill, I have more or less given up anything sweet although I do occasionally indulge and then suffer the consequences of nightmares and a thick head until lunch time. This along with countless other allergies which I think could be due to streptomycin after I was hopefully cured of Tuberculosis. But I never have quite believed that it is possible to cure TB so I just make sure to eat sensibly.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Too much sugar is definitely bad. I have a bad habit of overdosing on chocolate so I try not to have too much available. I know it’s going to give me the squits but well… it’s chocolate.
      I find that as I grow older I’d rather have pork scratchings than a Mars bar though. I don’t know if that’s just changing tastes with age or whether my metabolism is trying to tell me something.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. A type 2 diabetic but very fussy about sweeteners. Saccharin leaves a bitter, unpleasant aftertaste and aspartame has been known to be iffy for years. The one I settled on from the beginning is sucralose. At least this is made from sugar. I would ask you Leggy, what do you make of this one?

    I’ve known for years that too much sweetener causes explosive shits (for example, I don’t know what sweetener they use but some diabetic biscuits my daughter used to get me had a warning on the pack). I find that I can have as much sucralose sweetener as required but don’t get the slightest hint of shitting myself.

    So for years I’ve been buying Splenda, very expensive at £3.60 for a pack of 300, until recently when I found out that Aldi do their own version – pack of 300 for 55p! Also do the granulated version for the same price.

    Also what about Stevia? I hear that can cause kidney damage. Mind you, the Metformin I’m on will do that nicely all by itself.

    Liked by 1 person

      • It has several chlorine atoms. I wouldn’t worry too much about it being investigated as an insecticide – so are nicotine and caffeine.

        What’s death for the goose is sometimes a bit of fun for the gander 😉

        Liked by 4 people

    • Nothing is completely safe. Although if you are using tiny amounts to replace sugar the risk should be low.

      Two things to consider about any sweetener – what happens when you cook with it, and although it’s shown your body can’t metabolise it, what will your gut bacteria (with a far wider range of metabolic activities) do with it? https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/sucralose-good-or-bad#baking

      Every reported effect depends on individual reactions. Some will get a bad reaction, some will be fine. If you’ve been using it for years with no ill effects, you’re probably in the ‘fine’ group 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I remember 2001 when one of our daughters got married. That was the day I stopped using sweetener in my coffee. I had suffered for months with a burning mouth and sore palate. The internet was quite primitive in those days but I had found a website with tons of people complaining about burning mouths and painful palates just like mine on the day before the wedding. Some people on that site were blaming sweeteners. So I stopped using them in my coffee to see if it was true. In my case it was. No question! As an alcoholic that has not had a drink since 1981, and a smoker for 50 years, and a vaper for nigh on 10 years, I have tasted many chemicals none of which have had that effect on my mouth. God knows what they do in the gut! I would guess my sweetener was Aspartame. Nice post – thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I hadn’t heard about the burning mouth and sore palate thing. In 2001 I would have blamed that on the whisky (my intake at that time was quite prodigious) but maybe it wasn’t the whisky at all.

      Unfortunately I’m now far too old to revisit that level of whisky drinking. I think I’d have a lot more to worry about than a sore palate if I did 😉

      Liked by 2 people

  6. Mine is a parallel comment but it came from t’interweb so it must be true. American peanut butter producers have allegedly started substituting for sugar with Xylitol, which, even in small quantities, is toxic to dogs. So check before you make Fido a peanut butter and jam sandwich!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I stick to sugar. Maybe all this sugar tax is to make people ill. By the amount of toilet paper that gets bought it seems that they have successfully done this.

    I have cut out gluten and now everything is easy.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I can get one hell of a migraine if I have too much artificial sweetener. The trouble is, I don’t know which one it is! There are so many around today that even when I have an inkling of what food or drink has caused it, the bottle/wrapper/container has long been thrown away, so identifying the culprit is almost impossible. And the effects are so unpleasant that to be honest I don’t particularly relish the idea of deliberately dosing myself up with something that might then put me in bed for the next 24 hours or so. As a result, I simply avoid anything that has any hint of “artificial sweetener” on the ingredient list. I can usually tell from the first taste anyway if something has enhanced sweetness – it’s a very different taste from simply “too much sugar” (which I also don’t particularly like) – and get away with it by not consuming all/any more of what contains it, but it would be nice to know exactly which one it is!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Further complicated by many things having more than one artificial sweetener in them. I’m fortunate in that I’m pretty sure I’ve never had a migraine – haven’t even had a headache in many years, now I come to think of it. Anything that affects me usually affects my guts. Not actually debilitating but it’s best not to stray too far from a toilet if the rumblings start!

      Liked by 1 person

  9. Am I the only person who finds that artificial sweeteners in drinks makes them thirsty? The last time I had a soft drink, in a Greek airport, the effect was so bad that I made a note in my travel diary “Drinks were a bit pricey so went to Duty Free & got 2x330ml cans of Sprite €1.30 each. I found it dried the mouth – probably artificial sweeteners (tin was all in Greek)”.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. “Ordinary gluten free bread was awful”. My sister bought me some ten years ago. It was ghastly. IN the mean time, Tesco (and probably many others) have sharpened up their act, they do gluten free bread. It’s just as nice as proper bread (and more filling). It’s very expensive (like > £2 a loaf IIRC) but it lasts for weeks in the fridge without drying out or going mouldy. I had one for a few months before it started getting a tiny bit of blue mould.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. This post is timely, for a long time i’ve found holding my urine increasingly difficult, my job means being outside in the cold for extended periods, and being an older chap i’d often need 2 or 3 pees in an hour with little hope of holding it back.
    Been using artificial sweetener on my morning weetabix and in my umpteen cups of tea every day for years, a month ago stopped with the sweeteners and use literally just a sprinkle of sugar instead.

    Worked over the weekend and yes it was really cold, no urgency to go the loo, no trouble holding it in, course this could be a fluke but something working for me.

    Also following advice here and elsewhere (not the state’s or msm’s advice) for several months now we’ve been taking a daily dose of Vitamins D3 C plus Zinc and Quercetin, because neither of us have any intention of taking part in the state’s current medical experiments and want our own immune systems to be up to the mark, whether this combo is having any effects on my ageing waterworks i know not, but both of us feel remarkably well.

    As for butter etc, never ever gave up butter, never will, life’s too short, maybe from a young age some of us had a healthy dose of scepticism instilled, questioning was encouraged at old fashioned grammar schools so maybe our masters and mistresses of old did us more good than we thought at the time.

    Liked by 1 person

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