Benefits of Stevia: Excellent for Diabetics
Using extracts of whole leaf stevia to control blood sugar works well for many diabetic patients and people who tend toward hyperglycemia (this is high blood sugar, not to be confused with hypoglycemia which is low blood sugar).
Stevia leaves help to nourish and balance the pancreas (the source of insulin activity), which, in turn, helps stabilize high blood sugar.
If you are concerned about possible negative side effects of stevia outweighing the benefits talk to a Doctor of Naturopathy and ask about using the stevia herb (as opposed to the powdered stevia sweeteners which are highly processed and refined).
I'm not a doctor, but from my research and personal experience, for people dealing with high blood sugar issues, I'd recommend using whole leaf stevia concentrate. Stevia leaves in their natural form (added to foods or brewed as a tea) are good too.
Whole leaf stevia concentrate is different than stevia sweeteners. It's a dark green, thick liquid prepared from boiling down the leaves at very high temperatures.
Whole leaf stevia concentrate is a medicinal preparation. It can be used in small amounts to flavor smoothies and baked goods too. It can be stirred into water, lemonade, tea or even coffee, but be aware that the flavor is very strong.
Stevia Side Effects: Low Blood Sugar and Low Blood Pressure
Stevia can fool the body with its "fake sweetness" on the tongue, making the body think it's about to process glucose, so the blood will be cleared of glucose in preparation for the new supply which isn't actually coming. It is a vasodilator, so it lowers blood pressure too.
For people who tend toward hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), or who already have low blood pressure this can be trouble.
Some report they are fine with stevia as long as it's part of something like a smoothie or a baked good, where some carbohydrates are being ingested along with the stevia, which provides the glucose the body is preparing for when that "sweetness" hits the tongue.
Many people use it daily in their coffee, or lemonade with no problems.
Stevia Side Effects - Allergy
Stevia is a part of the family of plants known as Asteraceae. There are over 1500 genera and approximately 23,000 species in the Asteraceae family, making it the second largest family of flowering plants. This group of plants includes not only stevia, but lettuces, dandelions, sunflowers, artichokes, thistles, and ragweed.
If you are allergic to ragweed, you may experience an allergic reaction to stevia. One reader reported that she got severe headaches the few times she used stevia. Others have reported dizziness, nausea, a burning in their throat.
Not everyone who is allergic to ragweed will be allergic to stevia, myself included. I'm allergic to ragweed but feel no ill effects from stevia, either in the natural leaf form, or in a liquid extract.
Do you have something to share about your own experience regarding the benefits of stevia, or have you experienced side effects? Join the reader conversation.