Why I Kicked Stevia to the Curb

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It was September 6th 2013 that I decided to bite the bullet and leap into Donna Gates’ Body Ecology Diet (BED). The Body Ecology Diet is an anti candida diet that focuses on low sugar (sour fruits like lemons, limes, black currants, and cranberries only) high probiotic, and properly food combined foods. Being that I have quite the sweet tooth I took Donna’s advice and tried using stevia to sweeten my tea. To my surprise (because in the past I had not enjoyed stevia in most cases) I quite enjoyed the flavor as a sweet alternative and began using it multiple times a day. I used stevia EVERY morning in tea, and I used quite a bit, then again in the midday hours in my green smoothie and yet again later in the day in some more tea. Many of you know me as a raw dessert chef and the fact that I was not eating any sugars with a glycemic load gave me the perfect opportunity to create some zero glycemic desserts and recipes. More recipes were quickly added to the list of how I used stevia including raw cheesecake, chocolate confections, young coconut yogurt, dressings, soups – anywhere that stevia could add a nice flavor enhancement. What an awesome concept – zero glycemic and yet it still hit the spot for my sweet tooth! To good to be true? Now I feel confident in saying YES it was and is TOO GOOD TO BE TRUE!

It’s been nearly two and a half months since I began using stevia, multiple times a day, on a daily basis. A couple of things came up that I at the time, I made no correlation to my stevia use. Now, I am nearly certain they were side effects OF using stevia. These “stevia toxicity symptoms” included my menstrual cycle being thrown way off since I started using stevia on a regular basis, waking up a few different occasions with a severe headache that lasted throughout the day, occasional experiences of feeling slightly dizzy, nauseous, and just out of it. At the time I attributed these experience to candida detox.

Just last week I started reading Ramiel Nagels Book “Cure Tooth Decay”. In this book there is a section where he is talking about acceptable and unacceptable sweeteners. Stevia is under the no-no category. From his book: “There are many sweeteners made from extracting components of the stevia leaf and they are dangerous. Be careful that you don’t mistakenly buy a stevia extract or overly processed product. These extracts of stevia will likely cause significant imbalances to your glandular system.”

*Glandular system aka Endocrine system – from Karen R. Hurds Blog: the endocrine system is composed of all glands that produce hormones. This includes the pancreas, adrenal glands, thyroid, ovaries, testes, pineal gland—not to mention the pituitary. – See more at: http://bit.ly/1aFauXa

After doing some quick investigation online about stevia’s affect on your endocrine and glandular system I found more articles and studies supporting Ramiel Nagels statements. Some of this supporting documentation included; stevia causing hormonal changes and imbalances, hyperthyroidism, adrenal fatigue, headaches, dizziness, infertility and more – at that I knew, from the symptoms I had been experiencing, that these findings were true and I had to stop. You will find many people contending studies showing infertility being caused by stevia (these studies have been tested on rodents) floating around the web, but my personal experience is that stevia use absolutely threw my female cycle way off, I feel like I’ve been my own unintended lab test.

From Karen R. Hurds blog “…Brazilian pharmacological journal in 1988 which indicated the detrimental effects of stevia on fertility in mice. Anecdotal evidence in the human population is beginning to be reported that also testifies to infertility issues, not only in females, but in males. – See more at: http://bit.ly/1gK8R2T

The day I dropped stevia use altogether is when the BAD of stevia hit ME like a ton of BRICKS. Although I had just discovered all of this new information and saw the parallels with my symptoms, I was not at all expecting to experience major stevia WITHDRAWAL! The day I stopped, feelings of sadness and fatigue started washing over me, while the following day I felt pure substance imposed depression, a feeling I had never experienced before, but I knew it was not OF ME. It felt like what I imagine people feel when they go cold turkey off of an antidepressant drug. I’m sure this was a “stevia detox” symptom. And, I am sure after looking through many articles that my abnormal menstrual cycles, headaches and dizzy spells were also stevia induced.

Because of my personal experience I do not feel the need to read any further studies to know whether stevia is safe to use (at least refined stevia. I was using an all organic stevia extract with nothing added. The whole leaves may be safe  as they have been used for a long time by the native peoples of Paraguay “The Guarani Indians have been using stevia as long as we have record of their activities, which is for a few centuries. These Indians called the stevia plant “kaa he-he” which is a native term for “sweet herb.” They would use it to sweeten a tea-like beverage called bitter mate, or would simply chew the leaves for the sweet taste. By the 1800’s, use of stevia had spread from the Guarani Indians throughout Paraguay and even into the neighboring countries of Brazil and Argentina”. – See more at: http://bit.ly/1gK8R2T. I would be interested in seeing further studies on the whole leaf plant, but I will not be doing that testing on myself.)

I cannot be behind stevia, and am convinced that it has a major effect on our hormones, and is definitely not safe for anyone with a history of anxiety, or depression. In my humble opinion if it can affect us in such a way, it should not be used as a food substance. I do have a couple of recipes out there using stevia as the sweetener, as I do have recipes using xylitol (which I am also no longer using) and I have not decided whether I will leave them or remove them from the internet. If one does decide to use stevia as in those recipes, I would use it for very special occasions only, and not by any means on a regular basis. At this point I am feeling that any sweetener that has been altered, is not a sweetener I personally want to use (like Lo-Han, Erythritol, Agave, although I will use grade B Maple Syrup).

What is the alternative then for people who want or need to get off of any sweeteners with a glycemic load? Perhaps I will no longer be the best person to ask, or perhaps I will be the inspiration that many need to take the leap their bodies and hearts are really asking for. Without telling anyone what THEY  should do, I will tell you what I have decided. I am coming to that there is no “cheating life”, no “cutting corners” in any area, and definitely not in our dietary choices. There is always a reaction to every action. My body has asked me for years to cut out ALL addictive substances, and although I cut out white sugar and most refined sweeteners a long time ago I still found myself relying on sweets to fill some sort of an inner void. I cannot keep using crutches and habits of using foods to stabilize my emotions, or using food to bring a sense of comfort. If I am avoiding sugars in order to heal my body then I also need to allow my heart, mind and emotion body the opportunity to live without sugar as well. There is as much of an emotional addiction as there has been a physical one. The emotional side of it may actually have the deeper rooted hold. As above – so below. If there is candida that are thriving on sugars in my body, then it is likely there is an old emotional patterning that is feeding off of my addiction to sweet whether white sugar or whole leaf stevia. This experience is my indication and invitation to go on not just a sugar fast but a sweet fast and come into sitting with the emptiness that that brings. It is uncomfortable to feel that space sometimes. I want something, but I don’t know what it is, well actually if I sit with it and do not cover it up, then I can listen and I truly do know what it is. However, what I am used to doing is feeling the emptiness and unfulfilled desire and interpreting that as an invitation to make a nice hot cocoa, or frothy sweet tea, or piece of chocolate, slice of pie, etc.

My answer for now as to what to use to replace sugar is  – nothing. Sit with the feeling, sit with your body, and when it comes to a special occasion use the most whole food and healing sweetener available ( I would say raw honey is on the top of the list for me). Then have a small piece if you are in the place to do that or if you are in an extended period of abstaining from all sugars (as am I currently), be okay with watching others enjoy those treats while knowing you are doing what is best for your body, heart and mind – there will always be another occasion and you will get to taste those sweet flavors again from a more balanced place. Focus on the beauty of the people, the colors and textures of the food, the festive and warm environment. Other things that I have been doing is for instance making my tea in the morning, blending in some hemp seeds along with a pinch of vanilla powder, and possibly some cinnamon or ginger or both. I have quite been enjoying the gentle flavors that remind me of the soft essence of sweet without the physical or emotional response. 

No more stevia, no more xylitol, just plain, but still rich and colorful reality – more reality, more ability to see into the deeper levels of what is what beneath my surface. More authenticity, and more authenticity in my relationship to food and to myself. This journey is a gift!

Please share with me your experience of anything I shared, or what you have experienced with stevia, going off all sugars, your fears around letting them go. Or anything you are inspired to share. Thank you for taking the time to hear me and walk this journey together.

In Love!