Note From Carolyn:  If after reading today’s article you’re interested in a detox to quickly flush the chemicals from diet soda out of your body, CLICK HERE to learn about Meridian’s wonderful herbal detox that’s terrific for any kind of health refresher!

My dear friend’s two-year-old daughter had a fascinating response to her very first taste of carbonated soda. After one sip she wrinkled up her tiny face and nose in disgust and said with surprise, “Good for you???” She thought it was medicine!  It’s very odd, isn’t it, how quickly we can acquire a taste – even a dependence – on drinks that are not good for us!  Drinks that, at least in the beginning, our tastebuds tell us are unnatural and bad.

One summer when I was 14 or 15, an uncle in his 60’s joined our family on a road trip from Southern California to Alberta, Canada for a big family reunion. It’s a long drive and took us 2-3 days to get there. A couple of times each day my Dad would lean over and speak very quietly to the big brother he adored. With the kindest of smiles, he would stop the car at a bar. Although it seemed very strange, we knew not to say a word. My uncle would go inside for a few minutes. My siblings and I didn’t really understand what was happening until my mother lovingly explained in just a few sentences that our darling uncle needed an alcoholic drink to get him through the day. She was able to quickly and effectively teach us that being free of addiction and living each day on your own terms is something very special that our uncle had lost. It was my first and very effective lesson on the reasons to vigilantly safeguard health and freedom from addictive substances.

As members of the Church, we don’t drink alcohol, yet if we are drinking soda, especially diet soda, several times a day, (especially more than one serving at a time), making special trips to the store to purchase it, or reluctant to stop this habit because we know we’re facing several days of headaches and a detox to get it out of our systems, our bodies — not our spirits — are ruling US. To have an addictive food or drink determine the flow of our day is NOT our Heavenly Father’s plan or desire for any of His children.

The following definition of addiction for Latter-day Saints comes from the Church’s official website: “Addiction is a persistent dependence on a harmful behavior or substance. It can disrupt the ability to listen to the Spirit and limit agency.”  I repeat:  “And limit agency.”  That says it all, doesn’t it? When we’re repeatedly eating and drinking things that we know are not good for us, we’re in trouble.

The guidebook for the Church’s Addiction Recovery Program says:

“Some people consider addictions to be simply bad habits that can be conquered by willpower alone, but many people become so dependent on a behavior or a substance that they no longer see how to abstain from it. They lose perspective and a sense of other priorities in their lives.”

(You can learn more and download this life-changing guidebook HERE at

Obviously drinking diet soda does not cause the devastating and disrupting challenges of alcohol. In its own way, however, drinking it can seriously devastate and disrupt health. The hardest, weirdest part is that even with the common, and very available information I’m presenting today,  drinking diet soda is 100% totally acceptable in all circles!  No one is going to point any fingers or take you to task for drinking diet soda – in any amount be it occasionally (honestly, there’s probably no harm here) or multiple times each day (here’s where to watch out.)  There’s no denying that it is a big part of every-day life.  The general population and non-stop ads from the multi-billion dollar diet soda industry will always tell us diet soda is a great way to be happy and refreshed all summer. Of course they will! We’re talking the mainstream population who love the drinks they’ve acquired a taste for! We’re also including the livelihoods and financial profits for countless thousands of stores, businesses and people who both market and provide diet soda for our consumption.

Our doctors, scientists and bodies, however will tell us a completely different story. Drinking soda, especially diet soda, is not the pause that refreshes, it’s the pause that destroys health.

Who do we want to listen to for the sake of our health?

Here are five quick reasons to take a good look at what drinking diet soda does to your body:

1: Drinking at least one diet soda daily increases your risks of obesity by 36%, of cardiovascular events by 61% and of Type 2 Diabetes by 67%.

2:  It erodes your tooth enamel. Diet soda doesn’t have sugar, but it does have acid. Phosphoric acid and citric acid are used to flavor colas which can erode enamel and reduce how much calcium is in your teeth and bones.

3: Diet soda has been linked to dramatically declining kidney function.  Our kidneys are the organs that reprocess and detoxify our food.  So this is really important!

4.  Brain function and dementia: Studies are showing that artificial sugars disrupt the calcium balance in brain cells. This disruption of balance can cause brain cells to die off, usually before there is any clinical symptom of lowered brain function.  I don’t know about you, but I need all the brain cells I can get!  (Use my link below for a very interesting article on the effect of Aspartame on the brain.)

5:  Bone Health: Not only does diet soda mess with the calcium balance in the brain, it messes with the calcium balance in your bones! For those of us with Osteoporosis, this is a  VERY BIG DEAL.  “Bubbly beverages rob your bones of their youthful vitality.  They literally melt your bones because of the enormous amount of caustic phosphoric acid they contain. This acid dissolves calcium, making it just about impossible to prevent bone loss.”  (Vivian Goldschmidt, – If you deal with Osteoporosis, do not miss the important, documented studies and information here.  I bless the day that a Meridian Reader sent me to this website.)

Now add to that, fatigue and depression! Just what we do NOT want for summertime fun and memories! Of course we want a refreshing, delicious, fun way to hydrate and cool ourselves in the summer! But after the initial tasty enjoyment, the human body’s response to diet drinks is chilling in exactly the wrong way.  If drinking one diet soda triggers a need for more, that’s all the more reason to continue reading this article.

If you’d like to see something interesting, CLICK HERE for one gal’s documented experiment of going 30 days without diet soda and how it impacted her skin, appetite, energy, bank account and more.

Yes, I know it has zero or very few calories which can be seen as a viable option for reducing calorie intake. There are also the artificial-fruit flavored, zero-calorie water bottles. It’s not rocket science to know that one 0-calorie drink in the hand is a 250-calorie bowl of ice cream avoided!  But, no matter how many times I review this information, I’m always shocked with the bad news scientific facts of drinking diet soda.

Dr. Kristen Allot, a naturopathic doctor in Seattle Washington describes how it works in easy-to-understand terms:

Let’s first look at what happens when you drink a glass of freshly made lemonade (½ lemon, 2 tsp white sugar and 12 oz. water). The sucrose (white sugar) is converted into glucose and enters the blood stream. The pancreas releases insulin  when the taste buds sense sweetness on the tongue. Insulin’s job is to open the glucose gates on cell membranes so the glucose can enter cells and then be burned as fuel. This is how the body naturally processes sugar.

Now, let’s look at what happens when you drink a diet soda. The taste buds register that you are consuming something really sweet and the pancreas releases insulin expecting glucose to arrive shortly in the blood stream. The insulin starts unlocking the gates to let fuel into cells, but there is no renewed fuel supply because there is no sugar in the soda. The cells absorb the limited supply of glucose in your blood stream left over from your last meal, causing a critical deficit. Typically when the level of glucose in the blood stream gets dangerously low, the body has over ten hormones that mobilize glucose to fuel the brain. However, the diet soda has triggered the release of all that insulin, which turns off the mobilizing hormones and causes the body’s glucose regulation system to fail.

Long term exposure to these insulin spikes from artificial sweeteners in diet soda causes the body’s muscle cells to ignore insulin prompting and put up a big “Closed for Business” sign, causing insulin resistance. Once the body’s natural process has broken down like this, the glucose rejected by the muscles is absorbed by adipose tissue (fat cells) and the rest accumulates in the blood stream, causing obesity and insulin resistant type 2 diabetes.

Another problem caused by artificial sweeteners is that when insulin is released to clear calories from the blood stream and there are no calories, the body begins burning muscle mass as fuel to keep glucose feeding the brain. Losing muscle mass through this process increases health risks since muscle mass is what consumes calories and helps prevent diabetes and obesity. Additionally, our brain and body with the low fuel supplies will say, “Feed me, feed me”. Often setting up the likelihood to binge on sweets later in the day or the next day. The calories in the binge will be a lot higher than in the lemonade.

The ingredients of diet soda, particularly caffeine and amino acids, for a few hours will help improve the symptoms of fatigue and depression. However, in the long term the same metabolic processes that cause obesity and diabetes will also cause depression and fatigue.”  (I’ll be reviewing Dr. Allott’s new book, “Feed Your Brain, Not Your Anxiety” in an upcoming Meridian article.)

So what’s the answer?  Always the same: water!  “But water is so boring!” is the response we hear.  Well, not necessarily! Water is only boring if you THINK SO!  There are many websites with stories of people who have given up diet sodas and once the first week or so is behind them, not only do they no longer desire diet soda, but actually can no longer physically drink it!  (These stories are easy to find. Just google.)

I can vouch for this with my own experience more than 10 years ago.  After a six-month period of not drinking any soda or diet sodas, I purchased a diet soda on a very hot summer day, thinking it would be a refreshing treat.  The first swallow was salty, fizzy, bitter and not at all enjoyable.  I was surprised, but determined to enjoy it.  After drinking several more swallows, however, I was done.  I thought of my 2-year old niece. It was out and out nasty, like a medicine you would not choose to consume unless required.  I poured it down a nearby drain.  The flavor stayed in my mouth until I had a large glass of water.

To this day I am a water girl who has a sip of  of root beer once in a blue moon.  I personally prefer it plain with not much ice, although there are lots of ways to make it a visually pretty, appealing and very refreshing drink.  Think of the beautiful and popular large glass beverage containers, filled with ice and sliced fruits, veggies and herb leaves.  You’ve got the picture.  YUM!

Putting things into your water improves not only the flavor, but your quality of life at the same time. Where soda drinks are acidic to the body, lemon and lime are alkaline forming in the body. By allowing your body to be in an alkaline state more often, you allow your body to absorb vitamins and minerals more effectively while eliminating wastes.  So …

Add fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice or a little fruit juice to your water.

Add slices of the lemon, lime, orange, apples or even cucumbers to your water.

Freeze raspberries, blueberries, mint leaves, etc in ice cubes, then pop them into the drinks.  Kids will love seeing the colors floating and bobbing in the drinks.

Add apple cider vinegar to your water – apple cider vinegar has been highly regarded throughout history. In 400 B.C. the great Hippocrates, father of medicine, used it for its amazing health qualities. Internally, apple cider vinegar is rich in enzymes and potassium, supports a healthy immune system, helps control weight, promotes digestive and pH balance and can help remove toxins and lower toxicity. Dr Steven Gibb says “everyone in the world should be drinking apple cider vinegar on a daily basis.”  Just a bit adds a kick!

Add ginger to your water. Steep a little fresh ground ginger root in boiling water and then add it to your water bottles. You might also grate some fresh ginger and then simply put it into your cold water to cold steep.

For the most flavor,  chop up the fruit or veggies, put them in a pitcher of water, put the pitcher in the fridge for two hours, and you get water infused with delicious light flavor.

Watermelon and Lime “Agua Frescas”

You might want to consider  Agua Frescas!  “Aguas Frescas” are “fresh waters,” often found in Mexican restaurants. Like juice, but much lighter, less sweet, more refreshing. Make them with cantaloupe and strawberries, too. Take whatever leftover watermelon you have lying around. Chop it into big chunks, not worrying about seeds or mushy spots. Fill a blender 3/4 full with the watermelon chunks, and add about 1 Tb.  sugar (or to taste) and 1/2 c. water. Puree. Pour puree through a fine sieve into a pitcher, discarding solids when done.

Peach Agua Fresca:

1 (10 oz.) bag frozen organic peaches, thawed (or fresh if you can!)
4 cups very cold filtered water
1 teaspoon agave nectar or 2 tbsp. raw cane sugar
Juice of one lime

DIRECTIONS   Place ingredients in a blender. Pulse until smooth. Pour through a fine mesh sieve, reserving the liquid and discarding the pulp. Serve over crushed ice garnished with fresh mint.  Serves 4

See?  It’s all good!  Heavenly Father’s plan for us to enjoy what HE has made, rather than man, will always refresh and delight the best, even on the hottest of summer days.

LINKS: Addiction Recovery Program Guidebook Drug-free support for Osteoporosis Homeopathic whole spirit and body approach to well-being and health with Dr. Kristen Allot, a naturopathic doctor, national speaker, author and advocate for whole food nutrition for the treatment of mental health.Your Brain on Diet Soda: Aspartame Effects on the Brain; Dr. Daniel Pompa  CLICK HERE

Carolyn Allen is the Author of 60 Seconds to Weight Loss Success, One Minute Inspirations to Change Your Thinking, Your Weight and Your Life. She has been a columnist for Meridian Magazine since 2007. She provided mental and spiritual approaches for weight loss success and happy living both online and in the Washington, DC community since 1999 through Weight Watchers, First Class, Fairfax County Adult Education and other community groups. She and her husband, Bob, are the parents of five children and grandparents of a growing number of darling little ones. They are now happy empty nesters in Sandy, Utah where they center their online business for an amazing herbal detox