Restless Legs Syndrome
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Sucralose - now (fairly) sure it is causing RLS

Hi, some time ago I posted on here asking if anyone had experienced RLS with Sucralose. No-one else seemed to have a problem with it, and at the time I thought it was antihistamines that were causing my issues, but I am now pretty sure it is Sucralose after all.

Sucralose (Splenda) is my artificial sweetener of choice because it has no bitterness and you can cook with it as it isn't denatured by heat, but recently I've been unwillingly eating more of it as it seems to be replacing Aspartame in drinks. This seems to be related to the Sugar tax, with more drinks' manufacturers putting Sucralose into drinks where other sweeteners were in use before.

I've had a bad UTI that wasn't responding to antibiotics so I've been drinking cranberry juice and even the full sugar variety has Sucralose added. Subsequently every single night for weeks now I have had RLS and had to take an iron tablet. I'm lucky that iron works for me, but it's a major pain that Sucralose is finding its way into everything.

Anyone else suspect Sucralose as an issue? I can't help feeling a lot of people are probably having this problem and are completely unaware of just how much of this is turning up as a booster sweetener in things.

I've read on here that some people have a problem with Aspartame but I do wonder if Sucralose is the same but two and two hasn't been put together yet, or perhaps more importantly, whether all artificial sweeteners are doing something neurologically that is causing RLS issues. I'd be most interested to hear from anyone who has read/heard anything about this or knows why art' sweeteners are such a disruptive substance. I saw a book years ago that claimed art' sweeteners were neurologically destructive and I thought the guy was a crackpot of the 'your fillings are killing you' ilk, but now I wonder...……...

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I'd be inclined to agree with you. We've always said artificial sweeteners are suspect-- without a shred of peer reviewed Cochrane based research to back it up. But- hey, what's a little bit of bad science got to do with anything?🤗

Seriously- everyone seems to have their own individual pallette of rls symptoms and reliefs.

So, it's very much a question of finding what works for you.

It's good that you have discovered this little bit- and freaky that it's taking over the whole food industry.

Good luck with your quest.

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I've noticed it for sure

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I've found that sugar, sweetened foods and very high carbohydrate meals gives me rls. I think you need to wean yourself off the taste of sugar, not just look for another sugar substitute. Sugar has no nutritional value, so your body will hapilly function without it. If you think you'll run out of energy without it, you won't. I cycled sixty miles a few days ago, and only ate a snack of baked beans on toast. If you find food bland without sugar, experiment with herbs and spices.

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Hi Earl: my husband has rls and we have noticed an uptick when he eats sweets. Since you have given up sugar, did your rls stop?

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It hasn't stopped, but is a rare occurrence these days. In my legs, I only get very mild symptoms about half an hour after a carbohydrate rich meal, and It only lasts a few minutes. Sometimes in my hands when I've just gone to bed, but I guess that's because the blood which collects in the leg tissues due to gravitational effects, is reducing, and flowing into my arms.

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Thanks, Eryl, but I'm ahead of you. I've been off sugar for about month now, maybe longer. I have done it before, an embarrassing amount of times, but I have finally, in my dotage, admitted that it is an addictive substance for me so have sworn off it permanently. It was both idiotic and wearing to keep repeating the same pattern over and over (binge - deprive) while my health went down the toilet.

I only use artificial sweeteners to sweeten fruit, primarily rhubarb, a good low carb fruit and I love it made with fresh ginger, but you really do have to sweeten it. I've always used sucralose, but like I say, I'm pretty sure it is definitely a culprit. I'm just in the process of giving up eating fruit completely, not because I believe it's unhealthy, but because I want to be absolutely sugar-free to see the effects of zero sugar on my cravings/gut health/health in general. When I was ill with gallstones, in hospital in Aberdeen, they had an unusually stringent (and very good) diet for hospital meals. They did offer sugar, at the main meal only (jelly, ice cream, tinned fruit and rice pudding - all lower sugar plainer options), but I never ate them because I was on a zero fat diet. Subsequently I ate practically no sugar, not even fruit because they only gave you one piece of fruit a day. I found it incredibly restful and my cravings died right away so I am going to recreate that. But I do believe that artificial sweeteners are not a great idea - I'm finding them more and more suspect, for lots of reasons, as time goes by.

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Sorry, forgot to say - exceptionally interesting that you find sugar and high carb also aggravates your RLS. I've never heard that before, but it really doesn't surprise me. I know that chocolate aggravates my RLS, but I've always assumed it was the caffeine (and maybe the theobromine) but interestingly, coffee, which I VERY seldom drink, doesn't do it and yet it must have way more caffeine. So possibly it's that sugar after all, or the combo of all 3.

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Someone posted on here some time ago that they found that having a cup of coffee when they were awake in the night actually helped to settle the legs. I have tried it a few times and found it helpful but I usually take some form of medication at the same time so it’s not certain it’s the coffee.

Isn’t there something about caffeine working on the adenosine receptors. There is a link between adenosine and rls.

Incidentally I believe that articial sweeteners can affect my rls - I’m not sure about sucralose specifically.

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Sorry it's taken me so long to reply to you, Dancer. I hadn't heard about the Adenosine thing; I don't even know what it is! So thanks for that - going to check it out...

P.S. Very unusual about the coffee helping - might try that some night when I'm desperate!

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Hi Chancery,

Everyone used to think that artificial sweeteners (aspartame and sucralose etc) passed through our digestive tract without much effect.

Some of the latest research though has found that sucralose has a negative effect on our bacteria in our digestive system .. and this can set us up for weight gain and metabolic syndrome.. it’s also been shown to increase fat droplets in fat stem cells. It’s also been linked to dementia and also leukemia. Definitely something to avoid in any case!

MSG acts as an excitoxin .. which can have a negative effect on nerve cells.

I don’t eat any of these (artificial sweeteners or MSG) but notice my RLS gets a lot worse with any sugar ., including the sugar in wine or champagne! And dairy products I think are linked in my case too. Milk etc has high amounts of milk sugar. (Lactose).

I wonder if there is a link between high blood sugar or high insulin levels and RLS?

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Hi Ureshi, yes, I've heard that artificial sweeteners can disrupt the gut microbiome. I have looked at some of the papers on this when it first emerged and it did look quite compelling. I hadn't head though that it increases fat droplets in fat stem cells - I don't suppose you know what effect that might have on the body? And I was very interested to see you also find that sugar effects your RLS. I think I might put a post up on this and see how common the experience is.

ETA: Forgot to say, it's very interesting that they may be implicated in dementia because sugar is very highly implicated in Alzheimer's, with some researchers referring to it as diabetes Type 3. Surely not a coincidence?

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Hello Chancery,

Here is a link to some information on the sucralose fat stem cell study;

sciencedaily.com/releases/2...

It could lead to weight gain, potentially metabolic syndrome, diabetes and increase heart disease risk.

RLS is more prevalent in people with diabetes. I’m just not sure actually what the mechanism is.

Sugar / alcohol aggravating RLS seems to be quite common.

Yes, some complelling research coming out now that links high blood sugar levels to faster cognitive decline.

Sugar has an impact on dopamine .. I wonder it has some effect or impact on the dopamine receptors .. and in doing so aggravates RLS?

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Absolutely fascinating research - thanks for that. And yes, the whole sugar/dopamine issue is a nest of snakes. I know from many years of addictive binge-eating that sugar was my most reliable go-to food to lift mood, and it's exceedingly common for alcoholics, in particular, but addicts in general to adopt sugar when they give up their addictions. Both alcoholics and drug addicts often have very bad teeth as if to prove it!

But I think sugar is a vicious overlord, in that yes, it helps boost dopamine in a very short-lived way, but then it causes it not only to crash but possibly damages the mechanism in the same way as it damages the body's insulin mechanism, hence diabetes. Unfortunately, restless leg syndrome doesn't seem to get the research that other conditions do - assumably because it's not life-threatening, and no-one seems to have thought it might be part of Syndrome X, i.e. metabolic syndrome, caused, at least in very viable theory, by carbohydrate issues. Maybe 50 years from now it will be lumped in with gallstones, high blood pressure, CVD, diabetes and all the other carbohydrate-related problems.

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Yes! So true. I think partly the name “restless leg syndrome” makes it seems like it’s not a serious condition ... I know they were going to officially change it to Willis Ekbom Disease...

An American professor (Dr Robert Lustig) has written a wonderful book an sugar, addiction and dopamine. You can listen to his lecture online. I’ll send a link in a separate message. He takes about overstimulating dopamine . Which can lead to cell death.

It’s fascinating!

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Here it is:

Listen to the part on dopamine .. after he explains the difference between happiness and pleasure.

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Very many thanks for this, Ureshi. I know Lustig's work and really enjoyed his book on sugar, but I had no idea he had a new book out so I was thrilled to discover that. It is now on order with my library!

I find it very interesting that he talks about how the American public (and by implication us here in the UK and Westernised Europe) have been hijacked into believing pleasure is the same thing as happiness by commercial interests. I had already been turned onto this idea by Phillip Seymour Hoffman, of all people, (who suffered terribly from addictions which, in the bitterest of ironies, killed him in the end) in an interview where he said it was easy to kill yourself with pleasure and that chasing pleasure often ended up making you more unhappy. I had never realised that before and I felt it very much applied to my own life - I found it one of the contributing ideas that led to me finally acknowledging my problems and letting go of self-destructive behaviours.

I do a journal and I write a LOT (sometimes literally whole journals) about the 'normalisation' of very not-normal foods. I do things like collect adverts where they are selling junk food with the word "love" in the copy (you'd be amazed - or maybe not! - at how many of them there are) and all the ads that promote sugary treats as part of being loved and/or connecting or being part of a happy family. My own family had no idea how to nurture so I formed a strong connection with things and, later, food because it offered an approximation of happiness. It's taken a LONG time to undo that and, like addiction, I don't believe it will ever really go away.

It sounds hyperbolic, but I don't think you can exaggerate the human misery that the food industry has created, and is creating still, through selling the idea of (sweet) food = happiness and fulfillment. They should be ashamed of themselves, but, of course, there is no real 'them' to be ashamed, just huge corporate interests. That's why you will never get them to change their ways through conscience, a shareholder-driven industry can't have a conscience. That's why it's up to governments to legislate - and I don't mean a sugar tax - but very clear-cut banning of things like claiming "healthy" or "natural" for products with sugar in them, for example. If they were forced to tell the ACTUAL truth about their synthetic foods then things like sugar tax would be utterly redundant.

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Chancery, I began adding Hawaiian Punch flavor drops to my bottled water a few summers ago and gradually developed an odd and unpleasant sensation in my hand. A tingling feeling and a need to stretch it out that never seemed to reduce the symptom. It progressed to my legs and at night I had to continually move them to avoid the very unpleasant inability to relax them. The possible causality of the flavor drops never entered my mind.

Summer ended, I discontinued the flavor drops because it wasn't as hot and my symptoms completely disappeared. Obviously the likely cause was the Sucralose (Splenda) in the flavor drops.

I tested the drops a few weeks later and those same unpleasant symptoms reappeared confirming my suspicion.

It's been two years now and I'm still symptom free. I looked for others with similar complaints but found few. Possibly they just haven't been able to isolate the cause because it's such a common ingredient. The other possibility is that we are more susceptible to this chemical.

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I just answered you on your other comment, Jerry. I've had no luck yet in pinpointing what foods, if any, make my RLS worse, or bring it on. Someday I might hit it lucky!

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