I had an interesting experience on Saturday which became sort of a miniature case study that really highlighted for me just how big of an effect diet can have on a person.
Basically, Saturday was a Very Bad Day. I spent the day with a stomach ache feeling angry and moody with a ridiculously, insanely short fuse. I don’t even want to say “hair trigger.” It’s more like the trigger was already pulled, and just stayed that way for hours. I had absolutely no ability to cope with anything at all.
With what little bit of brains I still had working for me I tried to figure out what could have caused it, but it wasn’t until the end of the day that I actually made some progress. Turns out – it was probably (I am fairly certain, anyway) something I drank. A few days before I had grabbed a “zero” version of a drink I like to have sometimes just to see if I’d like it, under the idea that lowering my sugar intake is usually a good thing. On Saturday I tried it, and since I am not a guzzler I nursed it over the course of several hours. Towards the end of the day I took a rather large glug and noticed that my stomach immediately started cramping up. Hmm… could there be a connection?
The answer is yes, there is definitely a connection – artificial sweeteners. Before Saturday all I really knew about artificial sweeteners is that I think aspartame is icky, but I had no particular opinion on other sweeteners, like sucralose. However, the only major thing that was different on Saturday was what I was drinking, so I decided to hit the internet for answer. What I found was definitely enlightening.
As it turns out, sucralose is known to have side effects that include gastrointestinal problems, anxiety, anger, depression, and mood swings. EXACTLY the sort of things that I had been experiencing.
This was when it really hit me – things we ingest can indeed have significant effects on our emotions and behaviors. Right now gluten and casein are sort of the autism boogymen. A google search for “autism diet” will bring up a huge pile of links talking about going gluten and casein free. However, it is now clear to me that it is very very important to look at ALL the food a person eats – and everything they drink – for potential causes of problems – not just wheat and dairy. Given how frequently sucralose is used as a replacement for sugar, it is definitely valuable to look into what you (or your child) is eating, and check to see if it has sucralose in it. If emotional or behavioral problems are present, I would recommend eliminating sucralose as a potential trigger.
I will say, it was personally a relief to figure out that my trigger was entirely chemical in nature, and something relatively easily avoided. I am also glad that I was home alone at the time. If I had been drinking that while out in public or otherwise around people, the results may have been very bad indeed. I also intend to avoid ALL artificial sweeteners from now on. I know it was probably only the sucralose that gave me problems, but why risk it?