Artificial sweeteners have found their way into a wide variety of foods that people — mostly processed food product like diet sodas, but even in ones they prepare at home — in their efforts to lose weight over the years.

There are always tradeoffs when you make drastic changes in your diet, however, and some may not be worth it based on the state of your health.

Unfortunately, switching to artificial sweeteners could be a serious tradeoff that can cause serious problems for your gut health.

The damage was real, based on the results of a very recent study that monitored the gut health of 29 healthy, non-diabetic Australian patients who consumed artificial sweeteners.

Some patients received the amount of artificial sweeteners you’d drink in 1.5 liters (about 51 ounces) of diet sodas each day for just two weeks or a placebo.

After comparing stool samples before and after the trial, researchers concluded the consumption of artificial sweeteners was enough to change the composition of bacteria in the human gut for the worse.

Not only did bacteria that promote good health significantly decrease, so did the species that fermented foods. Plus, 11 different species of opportunistic bad bacteria increased too.

All of these changes in the gut occurred at the very same time as declines in microbial genes that work to metabolize simple sugars like glucose and a specific hormone (GLP-1) that controls blood glucose levels.

Just to reiterate, all of these changes happened in just two weeks.

A second recent study appearing in the journal Molecules (conducted by researchers in Singapore and Israel) underscored the damage artificial sweeteners could do to your gut health.

This time, scientists exposed modified E. coli bacteria to 1 milligram amounts of a half-dozen popular sweeteners. Interestingly, each sugary substance did its own unique damage, from harming DNA to proteins in bacteria.

Artificial sweeteners are non-natural for good reason. Compared to real table sugar, many high-intensity, artificial sweeteners can be as much as 20,000 times sweeter than the real thing.

For example, the six artificial sweeteners used in the E. coli study are referred to as high-intensity sweeteners, according to the FDA. Here’s why, based how much sweeter they are compared to table sugar.

  • Aspartame: 200 times
  • Acesulfame potassium-k: 200 times
  • Sucralose: 600 times
  • Saccharine: 200-700 times
  • Neotame: 7,000-13,000 times
  • Advantame: 20,000 times

These aren’t the first studies that have called out artificial sweeteners for the possible harmful effects to your gut health, and they probably won’t be the last ones either.

The good news is that you have healthy options that are easy to do. For example, drinking more water keeps you hydrated, and promotes a sense of fullness so you won’t overeat.

If diet drinks are too hard for you to give up, based on this research alone, taking a probiotic — ideally a brand with multiple species of beneficial bacteria like EndoMune Advanced Probiotic — will protect the healthy balance of bacteria in your gut.

And, if you’ve been wanting to lose weight, the unique mix of Bififobacterium lactis and the prebiotic XOS in EndoMune Metabolic Rescue will give your body the jump start it needs to promote a feeling of fullness and protect your gut health too.