If you love sweet things but are worried about the calories, you should know about stevia or
sweetleaf. This is extracted from the Stevia rebaudiana plant and is used as a sweetener. Though there are many artificial sweeteners in the market, most people prefer stevia as it does not have any calories in it and thus keeps you fit. It also maintains your normal blood sugar level unlike the other artificial sweeteners and thus is a healthier option. But you must not go overboard using stevia and this could cause many side effects. Let us know look at the side-effects of using this extract in excess and the precautionary steps you will need to take.
What Is Stevia?
Stevia is extracted from Stevia rebaudiana and is then refined and made into rebaudioside A. This is then used as an additive in food and beverages and generally has no nonnutritive properties. It is a good substitute for sugar as it has the same sweet taste but no added calories. But you must also use it with caution as it can have a negative effect on some people and make them feel nauseous. It does not add to your weight but it also doesn’t assist in losing weight, unlike some other artificial sweeteners that help you lose calories.
No FDA approval
The FDA has not yet certified the usage of stevia in its raw form as they believe it could have some potential side effects. Crude stevia is believed to affect the cardiovascular system, kidneys, reproductive system as well as the blood sugar levels. Thus, it should always be consumed in its refined form only.
Refined stevia has a number of health benefits when eaten in moderation and helps cure diabetes, heartburn, high blood pressure and also prevents pregnancy. It also increases the muscle contractions of the heart so that it can pump more blood throughout the body at a faster rate.
Stevia Side Effects
Stevia can cause some allergic reactions in sensitive people but this is very rarely seen. It generally causes anaphylaxis in people who are allergic to ragweed, daisies, chrysanthemums and marigolds. Symptoms can include hives, pale skin, difficulty in swallowing, shortness of breath, weakness and wheezing. Always consult a doctor if you have any sort of allergy as he will advise you whether it is safe for you to have stevia or not.
When you use stevia as an additive, use it in moderation as it contains stevioside that can lead to nausea, bloating and an upset stomach. If these symptoms last for long, you should consult a doctor regarding the same.
Stevia in excess can interfere with the body’s internal functioning as the stevioside can affect the way carbohydrates are absorbed by the body. Thus your body is unable to properly convert the food into energy for your regular functioning.
Other side effects
Excess of stevia can also lead to body aches, dizziness and numbness that can take a toll on the body. Stevia can make you dizzy to such an extent that, not only are you unable to focus but you are also not able to see or walk properly for a while. This can affect your daily functioning. You should get a medical practitioner’s help if these problems continue with usage.
You should always eat anything in moderation and the same goes for stevia. Even though it is a natural product, it should be consumed in moderation and must always be diluted with water. There is no ascertained level of stevia that is necessary in a day so consult your doctor about how much should you consume on a daily basis and stick to that dosage. Going overboard could create many of the side effects listed above.
Pregnancy and breastfeeding
Studies have not yet been able to show any effects of this extract on pregnant and lactating women, but it is best to avoid using this as it may interfere with your normal functioning. It is better to be safe and use some other artificial sweetener or sugar when you are pregnant to avoid any complications.
Allergic to daisies
Generally stevia is bad for people who are allergic to plants belonging to the Asteraceae or Compositae family. This includes plants like ragweed, marigolds, daisies and chrysanthemums. These allergic reactions can be quite severe and thus is best to avoid using stevia as an additive.
There has been a lot of debate about the effect of stevia on your body’s blood sugar. Though research shows that it lowers the blood sugar, some feel that it limits the body’s capacity to keep this level under control and maintain normal levels. Generally, it can be used in moderation but if you are suffering from conditions like diabetes, it is best avoid using this product.
Drop in blood pressure
For those who are already suffering from low blood pressure, consuming stevia could be dangerous. This reduces your blood sugar to a point where it becomes quite life threatening and thus you should avoid consuming it. If you have low blood pressure, ask your doctor whether it is safe for you to consume stevia and how much your daily dosage should be.
If you consume stevia in collaboration with a product that contains lithium it could have a damaging effect. This is because stevia prevents the body from getting rid of lithium and thus it stays lodged in the body and can harm you. You should also not use stevia with diabetes medicines as they could both reduce your blood sugar to a dangerous level. This is also true for those who are on medication to treat high blood pressure. Generally you should refrain from using stevia when you have either low or high blood pressure unless your doctor advises you to do so.