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Not-so-splendid Splenda might trigger inflammatory symptoms in Crohn’s disease patients


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Photo: Stocksy/Jennifer Brister

Anyone who suffers from Crohn’s disease, a chronic inflammatory condition that effects an estimated 780,000 Americans, might want to put down the Splenda. According to new research, the popular artificial sweetener—also known as sucralose—could cause some serious problems with digestion for these folks.

In the study, published in the journal Inflammatory Bowel Diseases, researchers found Splenda didn’t have a substantial effect on mice without Crohn’s over a six-week period. But for the mice that did suffer from the disease that involves inflammation in the digestive tract, the sweetener led to the intestinal overgrowth of E. coli, as well as an increased amount of bacteria in the gut wall, resulting in not-so-fun gut inflammation.

“Our findings suggest that patients with Crohn’s disease should think carefully about consuming Splenda or similar products containing sucralose and maltodextrin.” —Dr. Alex Rodriguez-Palacios, lead study author

“Our findings suggest that patients with Crohn’s disease should think carefully about consuming Splenda or similar products containing sucralose and maltodextrin,” said lead study author Alex Rodriguez-Palacios, PhD, in a press release. “This study demonstrates that the sweetener induces changes in gut bacteria and gut wall immune cell reactivity, which could result in inflammation or disease flare-ups in susceptible people.”

To avoid unnecessary flare-ups, skip the artificial stuff and go for natural sweeteners that won’t disrupt your gut microbiota, like coconut sugar or stevia. Or better yet, skip the processed powders completely.

According to Michelle Cady, an integrative nutrition health coach, it’s best—no matter if you suffer from an inflammatory condition or not—to opt for IRL food (think: banana, berries, or dates) rather than their manufactured dupes to spike your meals with sweetness. “Since sugar feeds the bad bacteria in our digestive tracts, I always recommend natural alternatives,” she tells me. “The fiber is good for your gut and slows down the absorption of sugar into your system,” she tells me of using whole foods rather than added sugar to sweeten things up.

And, the diet shift is totally worth it, right? When you keep your gut happy and free of bad bacteria that can cause painful flare-ups, you’ll be happier—and healthier—too.

Here’s the real difference between bloating and inflammation. Or, check out the foods that might curb inflammation and prevent diseases of the gut.

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