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Sugar-free drinks: like the ex you thought was good for you but ended up breaking your heart.

Functional nutritionist Shelley Gawith gives the run down on why she recommends staying clear of 'sugar-free' drinks. 

Shelley Gawith

"I find it so frustrating that when you look at most supermarket or cafe fridges and there are usually only two options: do you go for the sickly sweet drink or do you instead choose the 'healthy' option and go for the sugar-free one? 

On one hand you want to cut down the sugar. But on the other hand you're drinking something that's essentially poison. It’s like playing a game of ‘Would You Rather’ with your health.

It infuriates me how artificially sweetened drinks are marketed as a healthy alternative. Clients come to me believing that these drinks are good for them but they are actually worse than a drink that is full of sugar! Don’t get me wrong- sugars are also bad news but at least your body knows how to process them. Artificial sweeteners on the other hand cannot be processed and can cause so many major problems with your health including: 

  • Bad gut bacteria (my fave topic!). This can wreck all sorts of havoc on your gut including metabolic disorders, weight gain, mental health, and leaky gut. Oh dear!
  • Trouble for our oral health. Artificial sweeteners are like tiny pH rebels, lowering the acidity in our mouths and creating a perfect breeding ground for bacteria that just love to produce acid. But wait, there's more! Our gut health is back in on the act too. Our oral health and gut health are like besties who are always gossiping about each other. When our oral health goes south, our gut bacteria get all riled up too. It's like a wild rollercoaster ride for our stomach acid, which ends up feeling queasy and gets all out of whack. Talk about a digestive drama!
  • Unleashing a ravenous monster that craves snacks like there's no tomorrow. Artificial sweeteners can stimulate increased cravings for sweet foods leading to weight gain (one of the main reasons people turn to non-sugary drinks in the first place!).
  • Create a health disaster where every metabolic disorder is invited. Type 2 diabetes, obesity and metabolic syndrome; they’re all here. This one is particularly frustrating as diabetics are often guided by other health professionals to the artificially sweetened drinks as a replacement for sugary ones; a vicious cycle.
  • Put extra pressure on your poor liver. Those sneaky artificial chemicals put it in overdrive, like a frantic traffic cop trying to process and detoxify all those uninvited guests. It's like a wild party in our bodies, and the liver is left to clean up the mess. No wonder it's waving high blood liver markers and inflammatory blood markers like caution flags!

Feeling overwhelmed? Imagine what your body feels taking this all in. The best way to avoid the heartache and still have fun is to stay away from them and to opt for healthier alternatives like water, herbal teas or drinks that are both free of sugar and of sweeteners (hello, Skinny Fizz!)."

Shelley Gawith is a Functional Nutritionist and international speaker. For more information or to make a booking (at her Wellington clinic or as a virtual consultation) see: https://shelleygawith.com/

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