I know in the past few months I’ve fallen off the wagon a time or two. Since going off birth control, dealing with PMS cravings has been quite a challenge. I’ve managed to avoid the real sugar stuff, but I was not able to stay away from the artificial sweeteners. The carbsmart ice cream bars really saved me from going for the real thing. I’ve been doing a lot of cooking lately, which I find helps a great deal. For one, it’s quite relaxing and the act of cooking fresh delicious food steers my mind into a healthy direction. My favorite for this week are these super thick bone-in pork chops. I’m not the best cook, but these seem to come out tasty each time. I just put a little olive oil in a pan heated to medium and sprinkle a little of this stuff called Old World seasoning that I picked up at one of those shops filled with different types of seasonings. They take about 10 or 15 minutes to cook. I also made cooked carrots for the first time. I’ve been keeping my carbs low during the day, so I’ve been able to have some of the higher carb tasty veggies in the evening. I bought a bunch of carrots from the store that still have the leafy greens attached. I cut them up and put them in a pan with 4tbs of water and 2tbs of butter.
I’ve been doing the low carb low sugar thing for so long, I thought it would be ok for me to be a little more lenient on my diet. One of the things I miss having in large amounts are the sweeter fruits–watermelon, apples, pears, and especially grapes. I can eat a whole bag of grapes in one sitting. I love to freeze them too and eat them frozen. Since I can never seem to have these types of fruits in moderation (I always over indulge), I thought I might go on a little fruit fast for a few days. In my mind I was saying to myself, “I’ll be peeing so much, there’s no way I could get a UTI.” I think I knew deep down that I was probably wrong. I lasted about two days with my fruit fast. I ate apples, pears, and grapes. I think the grapes are what really killed me. After day one I felt some stress on my bladder, and I had eaten a lot of grapes that day. I kept on though, thinking maybe it was just my imagination. By day two I was not feeling too hot down there. I had sex with my husband in the evening. I knew before I did it that the grapes combined with a sex session, would probably give me a full blown UTI. To be honest, I got so wrapped up in the mood, I didn’t care.
The next day, it was starting to really hurt when I peed and not much was coming out. I took a few days worth of the antibiotics that my doctor gave me for flare ups, and it took care of the problem. I didn’t detect any yeast problems as a result of taking the antibiotics. Thank God! I’ve been off of them for several days now, I’ve been sticking to my diet, and I even had sex. Everything down there feels great. I guess there is no chance I’m ever going to go back on a high carb high sugar diet. It’s just not worth it. This is the second UTI I’ve had in two months. I went a whole year without having one, and the second I slack off on my routine of preventing them, I get one. It takes a great deal of will power to do low carb for life, but preventing UTIs is a great motivator.
I think one of the reasons I strayed from my diet was because I didn’t have anything I could eat in the house. I was hungry when I went to the grocery store and that made my cravings even worse. Lately I’ve been keeping the fridge stocked full of eggs, chicken, pork chops, and steaks. I also keep cheese and macadamia nuts handy. The macadamia nuts really seem to help when I get a craving for something I’m not supposed to have. They are so satisfying. It’s getting close to my period, and I always have strong cravings the week before I start. Last night I indulged in several handfuls of macadamia nuts. The best advice I can give to anyone who falls off the wagon and flat on their face, is get back on quickly!!
Stevia plant leaves have been used for centuries by native people in Brazil and Paraguay to sweeten beverages. It has also been used in Japan to sweeten since 1970. Stevia contains no sugar; the main ingredient is called Stevioside. Many people choose to use Stevia in the place of artificial sweeteners. It is calorie-free and has no impact on blood sugar. It is also much sweeter than table sugar–hundreds of times sweeter. The main reason I haven’t tried Stevia is because you can’t buy it in any of the local grocery stores in my area.
Through doing some research, surprisingly I’ve come across claims which say Stevia may not be safe. It’s natural, so one would assume it is safe. Then again, tobacco is natural and it isn’t safe. I stumbled across one site that said a group of European scientists in early 2006 conducted a study that showed when male rats were given high doses of Stevia for 22 months, their production of sperm was reduced severely. It also showed a decline in the weight of the seminal vesicles and an increase of cell proliferation in their testicles. It was stated that over time, this could likely cause infertility or other reproductive problems. Another study in female hamsters showed they had fewer and smaller offspring.
This information is enough to convince some people to either stop using Stevia or to never start using it. For me, it’s not quite enough. I find it hard to believe Stevia is really this harmful, if the Japanese have been using it since the 70s with no report of problems. Also, these studies don’t specify exactly how much Stevia was given in relation to the body weight of the subject. No specific details of the study were given, so I can’t help but doubt its credibility. In addition, I also came across references to studies claiming Stevia is completely safe and even offers health benefits such as regulating blood sugar levels, lowering high blood pressure, improving digestion, and also calming an upset stomach. These studies showed Stevia has absolutely no effect the reproductive system, even when given in large doses (2,500 mg or 2.5 grams per kilogram of body weight).
Stevia is not approved by the FDA as a food additive, which is why I wasn’t able to find any prepackaged products with Stevia. The reason it isn’t approved is not because tests show it’s unsafe but because the toxicological information on Stevia is too inadequate to determine its safety. Basically, no one has done enough extensive research to prove one way or another. Part of this may be because no one wants to spend the big bucks to get it tested. Since Stevia is a natural product, it requires no patent to produce, and that gives less of a motive for companies to take Stevia under their wing because anyone could take a piece of the market. However, the FDA did approve Stevia to be marketed as a dietary supplement.
My take on it is that Stevia is probably safe in moderation–just like the artificial sweeteners. I’m sure the same people who think Stevia isn’t safe, also feel artificial sweeteners aren’t safe. I’m going to give Stevia a try. There are a couple of reasons why I would like to try Stevia. One being, I would like to have an alternative to artificial sweetener because artificial sweeteners cause me to experience gas, bloating, and headaches, when used regularly. Also, I have read that Stevia is a much better option for those prone to yeast infections because supposedly the yeast do feed off of the artificial sweeteners. I have severely cut back on my intake of artificial sweeteners and sugar alcohols since I did my 2 weeks without them. Some weeks I don’t even have any, and when I do it’s only once during the week. Overall, my vagina feels healthier. Last week I had my period. The little irritation I feel after my period was still there for a day or two but didn’t last nearly as long as it had in the past when I was using artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols daily. In the past, it would last an entire week after my period. I’m curious to see how things down there react to Stevia.
Today marks two weeks of having no artificial sweeteners or sugar alcohols in my diet. It really did get easier day after day. Although my little experiment was some what hindered by my few days on antibiotics, I still feel there are legitimate results to report. Below are the things I experienced.
- Better sleep at night.
- More energy during the day.
- Not hungry at all in between meal times.
- Less headaches.
- No cravings for sweet stuff after day 3.
- Better concentration.
- Slight weight loss.
- Less gas and bloating.
For the first two nights, I fell asleep really early, which is very unusual for me. By night three, I was back to my normal sleep routine but was able to wake up easier in the morning. During the day, I felt more energized and also didn’t feel hungry in between meals. Some mornings I wouldn’t even eat breakfast because I just wasn’t hungry. The first 3 days, I still craved something sweet, especially after a meal. After day three, the sweet cravings were completely gone. I even made it through Valentine’s Day without cravings. My mother in-law brought over several different types of sugar free chocolates. She knows I don’t eat sugar but didn’t know about my two week ban of artificial sweetener and sugar alcohols. Normally I would have been so excited to try new kinds of sugar free chocolate that I would eat a couple right away. Instead, I thanked her, and once she left, I put them away in the cabinet and forgot they were even there.
I also experienced significantly less headaches. I always have sinus problems so there’s no way I’d go two weeks without a single headache, but I didn’t get a headache daily like I normally do. Instead, I had one or two a week. In addition, my concentration was better. Typically I have serious problems concentrating for long periods of time. Usually I’m constantly getting up every hour or so to get a snack or find a piece of gum, so I’m thinking the increase in concentration is due to less distractions by food. I was what I would call an obsessive gum chewer. I used to be a smoker, and I believe chewing gum took the place of smoking. Without the sweet cravings, I don’t seem to have the urge to chew gum. I’ve lost about 4lbs over the past two weeks. I’m not eating as much, and I’m eating more vegetables. I’ve found it’s a lot easier to keep my daily carb count low when you eliminate artificially sweetened things. Many of the snacks I used to enjoy had about 5-10 carbs per serving. Finally, I’ve experienced less gas and bloating. Most people know that artificial sweeteners and most certainly sugar alcohols can cause gas and bloating. However, I wasn’t aware of the extent–mostly the bloating. Even though I’ve only lost 4lbs, my stomach looks like I lost more because all of the bloating is gone.
In conclusion, I can definately say I was addicted to artificial sweeteners/sugar alcohols, and I feel much healthier not having them in my diet. I wish I could say it fixed the irritation (by iritation I mean feeling like a yeast infection is coming on) I felt after my period, but I had to take antibiotics for a UTI. The irritation could have been from the antibiotics. I plan to stick with the ban on artificial sweeteners/sugar alcohols for as long as I can because I feel much better. I’m sure I won’t ban them for life, but they will definately not be a part of my diet on a daily basis like they were before. I’ll give you an update on my results after my next period. One more thing I wanted to mention was the amount of money I saved on groceries. My grocery bill was on average $20 cheaper a week without all the prepackaged snacks and ingredients to make my own artificially sweetened snacks.
Today marks day four of not having any artificial sweetener. It seems to become easier the longer I go. I feel good, and I’ve noticed some weight loss, even though I’m not trying to loose. I haven’t had a single headache since I made this change in my diet. I also find I don’t snack as much as I did when I was having artificial sweetener. Yesterday I was out of town doing some shopping at one of those stores where you buy things in bulk. I was getting a tiny bit hungry and I thought, “oh, I’ll just get a big box of those low carb chocolaty bars and snack on one of those on the way home”. Then I remembered they contain artificial sweetener. I was almost thankful because I know it would have been a miracle for me to make it the long drive home and only eat one of those delicious bars. The thought of snacking completely erased my mind after I realized I couldn’t buy them. I waited until dinner, when I was actually hungry, to eat. My meals so far have looked like this:
Breakfast – Wasn’t hungry, so I drank 2 large glasses of lemon water
Lunch – 8 chicken wings, side salad (lettuce, onions cucumbers) with Ranch dressing, a couple of pieces of beef jerky, tall glass of water, club soda
Dinner- Handful of cashews, big salad (lettuce, tomatoes, cauliflower, alfalfa, sunflower seeds, cheese, chopped hard boiled eggs) with Thousand Island dressing, 2 large glasses of water
Breakfast – 4 long stalks of celery, 2 large glasses of water, cup of coffee black
Lunch – 12 meatballs covered in cheese, club soda
Dinner – 12 chicken wings with Ranch dressing, 3 club sodas
Breakfast – Wasn’t Hungry, drank 1 club soda
Lunch – Large grilled shrimp and spinach salad salad with hot bacon dressing, 8 small pieces of beef jerky, 1 large glass of water, 1 small glass of water
Dinner- Big salad (lettuce, alfalfa, cheese, tomatoes, chopped hard boiled eggs, sunflower seeds) with Thousand Island dressing, cup of cashews, 1 club soda, small glass of water
I also wanted to add that in addition to the artificial sweeteners I listed in my last entry (aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose), I am also avoiding sugar alcohols, which can come in the following forms: sorbitol, mannitol, xylitol, erythritol, isomalt, lactitol, hydrogenated starch, hydrolysates, maltitol. They’re not exactly classified as artificial sweeteners, but they are said to have some effect on those prone to yeast infections and urinary tract infections. Sugar alcohols are different from artificial sweeteners because sugar alcohols are not calorie free and they contain carbohydrates. Therefor sugar alcohols can have some effect on blood sugar levels. I thought it would be wise to avoid those as well because many of the snacks I feel I have become addicted to contain sugar alcohols.