Can Stevia Upset Your Stomach?

Fresh stevia leaves
Stevia leaves growing in a garden. (Image: Katharina Rau/iStock/Getty Images)

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has not yet approved "whole-leaf" or "crude" stevia as a sweetener in foods, according to information on the administration's website. However, certain "refined stevia preparations" such as rebaudioside A can be marketed as stevia by food manufacturers. The FDA indicates this type of stevia falls into the "generally recognized as safe" category. Occasional stomach upset is among the adverse effects of taking stevia.

History and Origin

Stevia originates in South America, and the Guarani Indians knew the plant as the "sweet herb" plant because of its intensely sweet properties, according to the book "The Stevia Story" by author Donna Gates. The sweetness of the plant lies in the leaves rather than the stem. Credit for the discovery of the stevia plant goes to botanist Dr. Moises Bertoni, who found the plant growing in Paraguay in 1887. Both Japan and Europe embraced stevia as a healthy alternative to refined white and brown sugars, in contrast the the United States' government reluctance to approve stevia as a sweetener.

Concerns

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration cautions against using unrefined stevia available on the Internet or in health-food stores because of its concerns that stevia can cause difficulty with maintaining steady blood sugar levels, may negatively impact your kidney or cardiovascular functions and has the potential to cause reproductive problems. Consuming the refined version of stevia, rebaudioside A, may cause you to only to experience some nausea or a bloated, full feeling in your abdomen.

Stomach Upset

Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center lists nausea and abdominal fullness among the reported adverse reactions in patients who consumed about 500 milligrams of "stevioside powder." If you find that your stomach hurts after using large amounts of stevia, reducing how much you consume or avoiding stevia completely will likely relieve your pain or feelings of nausea. Consult your doctor if your stomach continues to hurt after you stop or reduce your stevia intake, because stomach pain may indicate a more serious condition.

Strategies

If you want to continue to use stevia as an alternative to higher calorie refined sugars, try using the FDA approved sweetener rather than unrefined herbal supplements you can purchase in health food stores. Use stevia sparingly, and note whether your stomach hurts after lower levels of intake, or if your stomach only hurts if you consume large amounts of the product. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding, avoid using stevia products unless your doctor or midwife recommends it.

REFERENCES & RESOURCES
Comments
PARTNER & LICENSEE OF THE LIVESTRONG FOUNDATION

Copyright © 2018 Leaf Group Ltd. Use of this web site constitutes acceptance of the LIVESTRONG.COM Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Copyright Policy. The material appearing on LIVESTRONG.COM is for educational use only. It should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. LIVESTRONG is a registered trademark of the LIVESTRONG Foundation. The LIVESTRONG Foundation and LIVESTRONG.COM do not endorse any of the products or services that are advertised on the web site. Moreover, we do not select every advertiser or advertisement that appears on the web site-many of the advertisements are served by third party advertising companies.