Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a condition that affects the autonomic nervous system, which controls involuntary bodily functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and digestion. People with POTS often experience symptoms like dizziness, fatigue, and a racing heart when they stand up.
There are a number of things that can trigger POTS symptoms, including dehydration, heat, and physical exertion. Some people with POTS also find that artificial sweeteners can worsen their symptoms.
What are artificial sweeteners?
Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes that are often used in diet foods and drinks. They are typically made from chemicals that are sweet but have no calories. Some common artificial sweeteners include aspartame, saccharin, and sucralose.
How do artificial sweeteners affect POTS?
The exact mechanism by which artificial sweeteners affect POTS is not fully understood. However, some research suggests that they may interfere with the body's ability to regulate blood pressure. This can lead to symptoms like dizziness, lightheadedness, and fainting.
“Artificial sweeteners may promote harmful gut organisms like Proteobacteria, and contribute to gut inflammation, glucose intolerance, and breakdown of the GI intestinal barrier that result in a leaky gut,” says this study from 2021 Leaky gut refers to damage that can happen to your intestinal lining where holes or cracks in the barrier allow toxins into the bloodstream. Those toxins can lead to inflammation and changes in the natural gut bacteria.
In addition, artificial sweeteners can also cause the body to release insulin, a hormone that helps to regulate blood sugar levels. This can lead to a drop in blood sugar, which can also trigger POTS symptoms.
What can people with POTS do to avoid artificial sweeteners?
The best way to avoid artificial sweeteners is to read food labels carefully. Artificial sweeteners are often listed under the names "sugar substitute," "sweetener," or "artificial sweetener."
People with POTS should also be aware that artificial sweeteners can be found in a variety of foods and drinks, including:
- Diet soda
- Sugar-free gum
- Sugar-free candy
- Sugar-free ice cream
- Sugar-free drinks
- Electrolyte sticks
If you have POTS and are concerned about the effects of artificial sweeteners, talk to your doctor. They can help you create a diet plan that is safe and effective for you.
Artificial Sweeteners and Electrolytes
Be especially careful when considering an oral rehydration salt or other electrolytes. If you’ve found that your body is reacting to artificial sweeteners, you may want to consider discontinuing use of your popular brand of electrolyte as many contain artificial sweeteners.
Keep in mind that some sugar is necessary in the proper absorption of electrolytes into your bloodstream through the sodium glucose cotransport system. It’s okay if your electrolyte has some sugar in it, but with oral rehydration salts (ORS) they are important to the way you absorb sodium and water. This happens in a natural system everyone has to absorb needed nutrients. Learn more about that here.
Looking at the label of your electrolyte will tell you if it contains artificial sweeteners. Names like:
Keep in mind that NormaLyte’s PURE formula contains no artificial sweetener. It was made in partnership with Dysautonomia International after polling people with dysautonomia to see what they needed out of an electrolyte. It is a safe and effective way to manage your POTS symptoms under the direction of a physician.
If you have POTS, it is important to be aware of the potential effects of artificial sweeteners. If you find that they trigger your symptoms, it is best to avoid them. There are many other ways to sweeten your food and drinks without artificial sweeteners.
If you have any questions, please feel free to leave a comment below.