Stevia or sweetleaf is derived from the Stevia rebaudiana plant from South America. This sweetener is popular because it will not raise your blood sugar and does not contain calories like most traditional sweeteners on the market. In spite of these benefits there are a few side effects that you should be wary of if you will be using stevia regularly. What precautions should you take to avoid these side effects?
What Is Stevia?
1. Artificial Sweetener
Stevia is the extract from the stevia rebaudiana plant that is purified into rebaudioside A. This is generally considered safe by the FDA to be used as a sweetener in beverages and foods. When refined for food preparations, stevia acts as nonnutritive sweeteners that are ideal for those trying to lose weight. They do not assist in weight loss compared to other sweeteners, however, and there is a risk of mild side effects such as causing the individual to feel full or nauseous.
2. Not Approved Food Addictive
The FDA has not approved crude or whole-leaf stevia to be used as a food additive because there are some concerns regarding the potential for side effects. The FDA has notes that stevia may have a negative impact on the kidneys, reproductive, cardiovascular systems or blood sugar control.
3. Other Uses
Stevia is often used to treat heartburn, diabetes or high blood pressure, preventing pregnancy, increasing the muscle contractions in the heart to pump blood throughout the body and lowering uric acid levels.
Stevia Side Effects
1. Allergic Reaction
Stevia has been known to rarely cause anaphylaxis, but this is more common in those that already have an allergy to chrysanthemums, marigolds, ragweed or daisies. Those that develop an allergic reaction to stevia may see difficulty swallowing, shortness of breath, hives, dizziness, pale skin, wheezing or weakness. If you develop these symptoms after consuming stevia you should seek emergency medical treatment immediately to prevent potentially fatal complications.
2. Upset Stomach
Stevia sweeteners contain stevioside which may cause an upset stomach, nausea or bloating after being consumed. It may also decrease your appetite. These reactions are usually mild, but you should contact your doctor if these symptoms do not subside or if they become severe.
3. Metabolism Change
Experiments on animal test subjects showed that ingesting large doses of stevoside can cause interference in the way the body absorbs carbohydrates. This can limit your ability to convert food to energy.
4. Additional Side Effects
Other symptoms that infrequently occur when consuming Stevia products include numbness, dizziness and body aches. This dizziness can impact your ability to walk properly or stand without assistance. If these types of symptoms persist you should talk to your doctor to ensure that you do not require additional medical attention to address your medical difficulties.
1. Recommended Dosage
The recommended dose of stevia depends on several factors such as the user's age, health, as well as several other conditions. Up until no, there is no enough scientific evidence to determine an appropriate range of doses for stevia. Bear in mind that natural products are not always necessarily safe and dosages can be important. Follow relevant directions on product labels and consult your pharmacist or healthcare professional before using.
2. Pregnancy and Breastfeeding
There has not been a great deal of research performed to determine how Stevia may affect those that are pregnant or breastfeeding. In order to avoid potential complications those that are pregnant or breastfeeding should avoid using this product.
3. Allergic to Ragweed and Related Plants
Stevia has been known to cause an allergic reaction in people who are allergic to plants in the Compositae or Asteraceae family. This may include common plants such as daisies, chrysanthemums, ragweed or marigolds. Those that have such allergies should avoid using products that are known to contain Stevia sweeteners.
Some research has indicated that chemicals in the Stevia plant can drop blood sugar levels in a way that will limit the body’s ability to control the blood sugar level. However, other experiments have indicated that this is not the case. Those that have diabetes should carefully monitor their blood sugar while using Stevia products and report any changes or notable side effects to their doctor to determine if it is safe to continue using this product as a sweetener.
5. Lower Blood Pressure
Some evidence implies that regularly consuming Stevia or the chemicals in this product may help to lower your blood pressure, though this research is not conclusive. There is some concern that if people who already have low blood pressure consume large amounts of Stevia products it can cause their blood pressure to drop to a point which can be dangerous. If you have low blood pressure and have been considering using Stevia as an alternative for your regular sweeteners you should speak to your regular health care provider about this potential side effect to avoid any negative health concerns.
6. Medication Interactions
Lithium has been known to interact negatively with Stevia. Stevia acts as a diuretic which can prevent the body’s ability to rid itself of lithium, which may lead to dangerous side effects. If you are taking a product that contains lithium speak to your doctor about the safety of using lithium.
Diabetes medications may also interact negatively with Stevia as both are used to lower the body’s blood sugar. If the blood sugar drops too low it can be dangerous, so those with diabetes should monitor their condition closely while using Stevia.
Medications for high blood pressure are known to interact poorly with Stevia for similar reasons. Both of these products will lower the body’s blood pressure which can cause it to drop to an unsafe level. Those that are on medication to treat high blood pressure should not use Stevia.