Why I Stopped Using Stevia

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may recall that I used quite a bit of stevia back in the day. I used it in chocolate milkshakes, my morning tea, sugar-free desserts, and even my salad dressings. I basically used it all day, everyday.

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You may have noticed that I don’t use stevia in my recipes or daily routine anymore, so I thought I’d take a moment to share why.

First, let’s talk about why I tried stevia in the first place. I embarked on my first Candida Cleanse in 2011, following the protocol laid out in Natalia Rose’s book, Detox 4 Women. While following the program, I cut out nearly all sugar (even the natural sugar found in fruit) and satisfied my sweet tooth using stevia instead, because it is marketed as an all-natural, zero-calorie sweetener that isn’t supposed to impact your blood sugar or feed yeast overgrowth. (And killing off yeast overgrowth is the goal of a Candida cleanse.) I followed this protocol strictly for 30 days, and then stuck with the general guidelines for several months afterwards before incorporating more fruit, grains and cooked starches, and animal protein into my diet again. Even when I returned to a more “standard” diet, I continued to use stevia because it was such an easy way to sweeten things throughout the day. I carried a bottle in my purse at all times!

However, I started to notice a few things after using stevia for several months, even long after my diet returned to normal:

  1. I craved more sweetness. At first, it took a while for my taste buds to adjust to the flavor of stevia– I actually didn’t like it right away. But once my taste buds adjusted, I couldn’t get enough of it. I started using it in everything, and I noticed that the more I used stevia, the more I wanted it. At one point, just 2-3 drops of liquid stevia was enough to satisfy my sweet tooth in a mug of tea or over a salad, but as time went on I found myself adding much more than that to my drinks and meals to get the same satisfaction. In a way, it felt like the sweetener was skewing my taste buds and I needed everything to taste sweeter to enjoy it. I also found myself craving desserts all day long, and when once a small piece of dark chocolate would satisfy my evening sweet tooth, I soon needed to eat the whole bar to feel the same sense of satisfaction.
  2. I lost my period. The real tipping point for me was the fact that I lost my period while using this much stevia. Though some people could write off a missing period as a sign that the body is “detoxing,” it was a big red flag for me– particularly because I wanted to get pregnant in the near future and hadn’t had a period for nearly 6 months at that point. I was willing to do anything to regulate my cycle again, so I decided to give up stevia completely, to see what would happen. My period returned within 4 weeks, and I was overjoyed! I actually tried adding stevia back into my diet again, just to see if my cycle was affected (and because I was a total stevia addict) and my period disappeared for another 2 months… so that’s when I decided to give it up for good. Of course, I can’t say for sure that it wasn’t something else that caused my cycle to be out of whack, but because pregnancy was my priority at the time, I wasn’t willing to take chances. (On an anecdotal note, two of my close friends also had issues with their cycles and recently decided to give up stevia as an experiment, even though they didn’t use it frequently– and they both saw their periods return within a month.)
  3. My gut-instinct told me to stop using it. Most zero-calorie sweeteners, even natural ones, have always had a “too good to be true” feeling to me, and my gut instinct has always been to NOT use them. My mom is actually allergic to aspartame, so I’ve always steered clear of the mainstream artificial sweeteners to be on the safe side, but I’m not totally convinced that all zero-calorie sweeteners (even natural ones) don’t still contribute to excess insulin being released into the body. The body is programmed to release insulin when your mouth tastes “sweetness,” so if there is no sugar for the insulin to metabolize, I’d worry that it would remain in the blood stream and potentially lead to hypoglycemia, which comes with side effects of anxiety and hunger.

I also find it interesting that Elaine Gotschall, author of Breaking the Vicious Cycle, has deemed stevia “illegal” on the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD). She notes that stevia’s molecular structure resembles that of a steroid, and therefore it probably has physiological effects on mammals– it’s just hard to tell whether those effects are good or bad. And while stevia is marketed to have zero impact on blood sugar, my mother (who is Type 2 Diabetic) has found that stevia does, in fact, spike her blood sugar similarly to any other sweetener. So, I take all claims with a grain of salt!

It’s also worth noting that some cultures may have once considered stevia a form of birth control. I was advised by a mentor to stop using it before I wanted to get pregnant, which is what led me to even consider that it might be affecting my cycle in the first place. If it can affect my hormones to the point that it might be affecting my fertility, I don’t feel that it should have a regular place in my diet. (However, I do know several women who have gotten pregnant while using stevia liberally– so it definitely shouldn’t be considered a form of birth control, as it doesn’t affect everyone the same way.)

Clearly, what’s right for me might not be what’s right for anyone else, but I did want to address why I no longer use stevia in any more of my recipes, and why I don’t offer modifications using stevia. I do think using stevia leaves, from a fresh plant, might be a totally different story, since the sweetness wouldn’t be nearly as concentrated as using the commercial liquid drops and powders– which are processed to an extent. I can only speak to my experience with using the liquid drops, which as far as I can tell, are fairly concentrated.

For those of you who do still want to use stevia, you can still find some of my older recipes here.

Reader Feedback: Have you tried stevia and if so, do you still enjoy using it? 

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Meet Megan Gilmore

Hi, I’m Megan. A former fast food junkie turned certified nutritionist consultant, trying to make healthy living as easy as possible. I believe in eating delicious whole foods on a regular basis to help naturally support the body’s detox organs— no juice fasting required. (Unless you want to!) If you make one of my healthy recipes, tag @detoxinista on Instagram or Facebook so I can see!

143 thoughts on “Why I Stopped Using Stevia

  1. Fernando

    I’ve been eating fudge with stevia. Haven’t had any problems so far, besides resisting the urge to eat the whole batch at once. I have had problems using energy drinks with artificial sweeteners though. It might be time to do a little experimenting. Try cutting it out and see if you notice a difference.

    Reply
  2. Barb

    I eat a lot of stevia since I don’t eat much sugar. I’ve also had the privilege of going to a specialized kinesiologist who is fantastic and can assess how certain foods affect my body. I first started using the dried white powder, but I eventually stopped cause my body didn’t like it. Not as pure. Now I use the more pure liquid from Sweetleaf and my body quite likes it. No effects at all, I’m hypo glycemic so I certainly know about blood sugar, and it doesn;t affect it at all. One thing I’ve learned from years of muscle testing, is that every body is different, and some people cannot tolerate things other people easily can. That doesn’t mean its bad for most other people. If your body has an allergic response or just doesn’t like something, then your body systems go wild and it can affect you adversely. I can’t eat mangos or chickpeas etc…whilst most other people can. I think stevia is fantastic and my body seems to love it.

    Reply
  3. Shayness

    Hmmm… I’m facing a dilemma here. I quite using Stevia 11 days ago. The same day I quit smoking. But for the past two weeks I have been CRAVING sugary foods non-stop. I am aware that smoking can have these effects on you but I’ve quit before and never in my life have I craved sugar to this degree. I find myself walking to the fridge every hour.

    Now, my question is this… Do you perhaps think that by quitting Stevia, my body is reacting in the same way it would when quitting sugar? Although your body does not respond to Stevia the same way it does to sugar, perhaps the brain is still effected in the same way. The moment food hits the tongue, digestion starts. So when Stevia hits the tongue signals are sent to the brain, the same reward signals that of sugar?

    I cannot handle the constant cravings and on the verge of getting myself another bottle of Stevia tomorrow 🙁

    Reply
    1. Megan Gilmore Post author

      If it were me, I’d eat some fresh fruit every time I had a sugar craving. Since I’ve increased my fruit intake, I rarely have cravings for desserts anymore.

      Reply
  4. Darren

    When it comes to Stevia, what I have found is that most people use it and say that they are using it because it is a “natural” sweetener, and they are most often using it in the powder form. However, Stevia is only “natural” if you are using it in leaf form. The powder form of Stevia goes through about 40 different processes to get it in to the powder form, so it is actually highly processed. I don’t think most people take this into consideration when thinking about the Stevia they are using.

    Reply
  5. susan

    I stopped using stevia. Even though I was purchasing one that said it was 100% stevia, I later discovered that this powdered form contained inulin that was NOT listed in the ingredients. I have ulcerative colitis and inulin caused a flare-up that was severe and violent daily diarrhea. Try going 14 times in just over an hour, all the while suffering severe cramping! It took me a year to finally figure out what was causing it. Now I use honey or sometimes maple syrup as a sweetener for my tea and porridge.

    Reply
  6. Jen

    Both my husband and I started using Stevia to sweeten our coffee in the morning last year. Within several months, I noticed my periods became terrible. Increased flow, terrible cramps and lots of days of breast tenderness. My period had never been that bad before. Also, my husband started to experience ED. We went on a vacation at the end of the year and then traveled to family over the holidays, so no Stevia for almost a month. Everything was better by the end of the month and I started finding articles on the potential side effects of Stevia and we completely stopped. My period was back to normal after the second month and the ED had completely resolved. I told a friend what happened to me as she had been going to the doctor for hormonal issues for months. She stopped the Stevia and her symptoms disappeared also.

    Reply
      1. Kasey

        I am so glad I stumbled across this article. I am trying to conceive my second child, and we have been trying for 4 months. This summer, I started using the Beach Body program with fidelity and stopped using Splenda because it wasn’t clean. I have been using Stevia since then. When I got off of my pills at the end of July, my cycles were absolutely crazy (and still are). I’ve been very worried because with my first child, it literally only took 1 month of really trying for me to conceive. I plan to stop Stevia immediately. I just wondered if you were able to conceive once you stopped using it. Thanks!

        Reply

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