Splenda: this allegedly “safe” sweetener changed my whole outlook on what I thought was healthy.
It was the summer of 2009 and I was training for my second fitness competition.
This time, I was trying a carb-cycling diet to get really lean: three days of eating less than 60 grams of carbs and then one day of loading with 130 grams of carbs.
My sweet cravings were insane.
I used to have a major sweet tooth—I still love my sweets now, but back then my whole life revolved around them.
So, in order to satisfy my cravings I started adding Splenda to everything: oatmeal, yogurt with berries, smoothies, baked goods…
At the time, I was also suffering from some major joint aches and pains, especially in my left hip and down to my knee. I thought it was just from the extreme training I was doing for the show and from being a runner. All runners get hip and knee pain. It’s normal, right?
After weeks of pain and trying everything from chiropractic adjustments to acupuncture, massage to foam rolling, I was at my wit’s end. I was even spending the last 10 minutes of each expensive session with my personal trainer on assisted stretching. Nothing was working.
Finally, one day, after complaining to my trainer about the pain for so long, he mentioned an article he had just read about something called Splenda poisoning and how my symptoms were similar.
I Googled it right away and found I had been unknowingly poisoning myself.
Turns out there were hundreds of other athletes, runners, and everyday people out there posting on blogs and other sites about how they had been experiencing the same thing as me. So, I immediately stopped using Splenda and within a matter of days, my pain was completely gone.
I researched this issue more and found that Splenda was processed with chlorine (yeah, the same chemical as pool cleaner) and my symptoms were similar to that of chlorine poisoning.
This made me question everything I thought I knew about “healthy food.”
What is it, really?
Healthy food is real, natural food from the earth—not something manufactured to be fat free or low calorie.
It also made me question what other chemicals I was being exposed to that could be contributing to health issues I was experiencing, like my worsening allergies and struggle with weight.
A recent article in The New York Times points out that we’re exposed to hundreds of toxins on a daily basis, most of which are completely invisible.
“Scientists have identified more than 200 industrial chemicals from pesticides, flame retardants, jet fuel, and neurotoxins like lead in the blood or breast milk of Americans, and in people all over the planet. These have been linked to issues like cancer, genital deformities, lower sperm count, and obesity.”
Reports also show that 100,000 toxic chemicals have been released into our environment since the 1940s. Could you imagine taking on 100,000 new tasks without any extra pay or hours in the day? That’s basically what we have asked our livers to do in terms of detoxifying and eliminating all of these chemicals that we are being exposed to.
We have all been personally affected by these toxins on some level. The good news is that we do have some control over the toxins we are exposed to and there are some simple activities we can do daily to minimize our exposure and support the body’s natural detoxification process.
To minimize our toxin exposure we can:
>> Choose to avoid processed and artificial foods containing synthetic compounds and additives.
>> Eat local, fresh, and organic fruits, vegetables, and meat products.
>> Swap out plastic food and drink containers for glass or stainless steel.
>> Stock our homes with non-toxic and environmentally friendly cleaning supplies.
>> Pay attention to the ingredients in personal care products and aim for more natural ones.
To boost our bodies’ natural detoxification processes we can:
>> Eat foods high in detoxification nutrients such as beets, grapefruit, lemon, and dandelions greens.
>> Drink at least half of our body weight in ounces of water to flush toxins out.
>> Exercise daily and sweat to move and eliminate toxic build-up.
>> Consume ample amount of protein, which, I’d argue, is a necessary nutrient for the detoxification process.
Striving for a healthy life is about striking a balance.
In this day and age, it is impossible to completely avoid contact with chemicals. What’s important is creating awareness about our exposure to them and taking reasonable actions to reduce our exposure and support our bodies’ natural balance in order to achieve our ideal health and weight.
Author: Jenn Malecha
Image: Sonny Abesamis/Flickr
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren
Copy Editor: Leah Sugerman
Social Editor: Sara Kärpänen