Known Side Effects of Stevia

Mid section of a woman with stomach pain sitting in bed
Close-up of a woman with hands on her stomach. (Image: Wavebreakmedia Ltd/Lightwavemedia/Getty Images)

Stevia is a sweetener that is naturally low in calories and does not raise your blood sugar level when consumed. Also known as sweetleaf, stevia is made from the Stevia rebaudiana plant, a native of South America. Despite its touted benefits, however, there are reports of possible side-effects that may occur from ingesting stevia, and if you have any concerns or worries, you should speak with a medical professional before including stevia in your diet.

Allergic Reactions

In some cases, stevia can cause a severe allergic reaction called anaphylaxis, but this is a relatively rare occurrence. According to the New Health Guide website, however, those with pre-existing allergies to chrysanthemums, marigolds, ragweed or daisies are at greater risk of a stevia reaction. Symptoms of an allergic reaction include dizziness, hives, shortness of breath, wheezing, general weakness or having a hard time swallowing shortly after consuming stevia. If any of these symptoms present themselves, seek emergency medical attention immediately.

Reactions in the Digestive System

Because of its low calorie content, stevia is often used as a natural sugar substitute for those who are looking to lose weight. According to the New Health Guide, however, consuming highly refined stevia can lead to feelings of nausea and a misleading sensation of fullness in some people. Stevia contains steviosides, which may irritate your stomach and cause other problems for the digestive system, including, bloating and a decreased appetite. If you experience these symptoms only mildly, stop taking stevia, and speak with a doctor if the symptoms do not stop shortly.

Possible Drug Interactions

In some cases, stevia can lead to an adverse reaction if it is consumed with certain medications. Ingesting stevia and lithium is not recommended as stevia can cause your body to retain higher amounts of the drug. As well, stevia is not recommended if you are taking medication to treat diabetes. Some studies suggest that diabetes medication and stevia, when taken together, can cause hypoglycemia, a drop in blood sugar levels. In a similar way, research suggests stevia may cause a drop in blood pressure for people taking blood pressure medication. If you're taking any of these medications, check with your health care provider before using stevia.

Other Side-Effects

In some rare cases, stevia consumption can lead to aching and sore muscles or a feeling of numbness and dizziness when standing up or moving. If you experience any of these symptoms, stop taking stevia immediately, and if the side-effects are prolonged or pronounced, seek emergency medical treatment straight away. As well, stevia consumption is not recommended for women who are breastfeeding, as the sweetener is not currently approved for infant consumption.

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