Hundreds of millions of people around the world are addicted to bubbly artificially sweetened diet drinks, drunk morning, noon, and night. An astonishing number of people even make a breakfast out of Diet Coke. If you have Type 2 diabetes, however, all that diet soda can have very detrimental effects on your health.
The biggest problem with artificially sweetened beverages for Type 2 diabetics is their effect on the pancreas. Although you are not conscious of them, your pancreas has taste receptors for sweetness that work in the same way as those on our tongue. When a sugary sweet drink touches your lips, you get a sweetness signal in your brain. When the drink reaches your small intestine, you get a sweetness signal in your pancreas.
When the pancreas experiences a sweet sensation, it releases insulin to transport the sugar that should be soon to arrive from your digestive tract. If the beverage is sugar-free, however, there is no sugar to be released.
What happens with all that insulin? If you are working hard at keeping your blood sugar levels in control, then for a while your blood sugar levels may run a little low. Instead of a pick me up, a diet drink becomes a let you down. You feel a little tired, or a little jumpy, or worse, both at the same time. Diet drinks make well-controlled Type 2 diabetics feel bad.
On the other hand, a Type 2 diabetic who is letting blood sugar levels run high will just experience the sweet taste. The added insulin may lower blood sugar levels just a little (this happens more often with drinks that are sweetened with saccharin, also known as Sweet 'N Low, than with drinks that are sweetened with aspartame, also known as NutraSweet). More than likely the drink has no immediate effect on blood sugar levels or energy levels at all. It just satisfies a habit. But on a cellular level, the extra insulin wreaks havoc with your body.
The underlying problem of Type 2 diabetes is insulin resistance. Cells all over your body turn off their receptors for insulin to keep from being flooded with sugar. The more sugar around them, or the more insulin around them, the more insulin-resistant they become.
When you drink sweet drinks that do not deliver any nutritional value, cells all over your body shut down insulin receptor sites. That means the next time you eat a food with real carbohydrates, your pancreas has to work just a little harder to make just a little more insulin to lower blood sugar levels. The extra insulin, unfortunately, is still very capable of transporting fatty acids into fat cells. This means you become more and more diabetic as your fat cells are more and more ready to stuff themselves with the first extra calorie they can.
It is not really hard to stop drinking diet sodas. If you experience a headache the first day, it's OK to take an aspirin or NSAID. Just do not make a habit of replacing one addiction with a new addiction to pain relievers. If you stop diet drinks, you will find controlling your Type 2 diabetes easier, and you may save hundreds or even thousands of dollars each year.