Props to anyone who can have coffee without added sweeteners. Whether it's Splenda, Sweet n' Low, or plain white sugar, most people agree that sweeteners are necessary with their morning pick me up.

That said, legions of fans can't always protect from a bad reputation. White sugar has pretty much been crucified in the health food community, and Splenda and other sweeteners seem to be the next victims.

The most common attack is that sweeteners like Splenda have been reported to cause cancer over time with regular use. I can't say that I've ever been too worried about that possibility–helps to have a nurse for a mom–but that's a real fear for some people!

In my experience with artificial sweeteners, I'm usually A-Okay, but lately, I've been having side effects from my daily Splenda packet: headache, stomach aches, and bloating. So, I decided to see if switching to a natural sweetener for a week would help some.

Let me tell you guys, the transition was rough. But, I made it through and made sure to document every last sip (because I care).

Day 1

It may have been syllabus week, but Day 1 found me in the library getting some homework done. A few hours in, I felt sapped for energy, so I got a grande iced coffee from the Starbucks in the library.

Let me tell you, if you're already in the library on a beautiful day, it makes it that much worse when your coffee is pretty lackluster. I had to settle for skim milk in my drink because there was no half and half. That might not be a huge issue for some people, but milk in my coffee (rather than cream) always makes me feel sick. I know, it makes no sense, but I just can't explain it.

And the raw turbinado sugar definitely took a bit to get used to. I'm used to Splenda, which dissolves right into my drinks. This sugar was gritty, almost sickly sweet, and I kept sucking it up my straw. I shouldn't be able to crunch my coffee. For the rest of the day, I wasn't feeling too hot, but the jury is still out on whether that's because my body was going through Splenda withdrawals, or because I didn't have time to eat lunch.

Day 2

cappuccino, sweet, pudding, espresso, tea, milk, cream, chocolate, coffee
Shannon Carney

After nearly a full eight hours of sleep, I was up and ready for my next day of the experiment. I wanted to see how well dorm room coffee would compare to the Starbucks disaster of the day before.

I used my Keurig to brew a strong (there's a setting for that!) cup of regular old coffee. I had some flavored K-Cups at my disposal, but I wanted to make sure I could taste any difference that the natural sugar made. And this time, I had some half and half, God bless.

The hot coffee definitely made a difference here. While the coffee was a little on the bitter side because I didn't use the whole sugar packet, I didn't experience any of the grittiness at the bottom of my mug this time.

And, after drinking this coffee, I felt a decrease in the severity of my headaches. Things seemed to be looking up, but I didn't want to make any conclusive judgments just yet! 

Day 3

Halfway there (kinda sorta)! Fun fact about me: I love to work out in the mornings! My friend Nellie and I often get to the gym around 7:00 a.m., work out, and then grab breakfast at the dining hall.

I had to admit, I was curious to see if natural sugar in my coffee would help me feel better post-workout than my usual coffee with Splenda. I had some issues at first because the natural sugar dispenser was pretty much empty, but after hitting the button about twelve times, I finally got enough sweetener.

Everything seemed to be coming up roses: I had just worked out, I had no headaches, and I was actually satiated after my meal. As it turns out, there is research out there that artificial sweeteners like Splenda can make you even hungrier!

But then...I started craving sugar. Like, "let me go to the ice cream bar and eat all of the chocolate chips" level cravings. So, while I wasn't having headaches, and while my bloating had lessened slightly, my body was definitely still going through Splenda withdrawals.    

Day 4

It was back to the Keurig this morning, and I decided to try a flavored coffee to see if I even needed the added natural sugar. But even some French vanilla goodness couldn't save me from my sugar cravings.

I had a small resurgence of my headaches, but I feel like I can attribute that to the coffee rather than the sugar itself. What was weird though is how poorly I had been sleeping since my experiment started. No matter what I tried, I woke up sluggish and exhausted–not even melatonin could help!

This is definitely a weird side effect because usually, artificial sugar like Splenda is more likely to cause insomnia than natural sugar. I openly invite any bio majors to help me solve this one...or at least to send me some sheep to count!

Day 5

Day five. Morale is low. I was riding on a (natural) sugar high for the past few days being headache free. But, I think the poor night's sleep and sugar cravings are getting to me.

I had my normal coffee this morning with the raw sugar, and it seemed...almost unnaturally bitter. Maybe it was the flavoring, maybe I made the cup too strong, but my body might as well have been staging a revolt because I wasn't giving it the artificial sweetener that it wanted. Fun fact: Splenda is about 600 times sweeter than ordinary sugars.

Making matters worse, another uninvited guest came to the party: bloat. I might be grasping at straws here, but I seem to be unusually puffy since starting this challenge. It's true that some people have trouble digesting sugar, even natural ones, but the worst offenders are usually artificial sweeteners, honey, and agave. Just two more days...

Day 6

Day 6 started off relatively promising. I had one of the most productive workouts I've had in a long time, the dining hall was serving banana pancakes for breakfast (God bless), and I got through Spanish class sin problemas.

But, try as I might, there was no getting around the side effects of today's coffee. Again, I was hit with the same problem of craving sugar, but I powered through for the sake of the experiment. What I didn't count on was a drastic mood change from breakfast to lunch.

When lunchtime came around, I was mad at the whole world within the blink of an eye. Everything was getting me down: the sun wasn't shining, my hair wouldn't stay put for the life of me, and people in my dining hall were just standing around and blocking my way, which is a huge pet peeve of mine.

It's general science that sugar can put you in a sour mood, but generally artificial sugars are worse offenders than natural sugar. Maybe my body was just being extra cranky to compensate for the fact that my coffee tasted terrible?

Day 7

Tell my mom I made it! It was finally the last day of this challenge, and of course, I needed coffee this day more than ever. I was up until 1 am the night before reading for religion class, I had to give a tour at 2:00 that afternoon, I had an improv performance at 8:00, and I had a birthday party to go to at 10:00.

Oh yeah, and I also had two morning classes to get through. Surprisingly enough, I was awake, but I really can't attribute any of that to the natural sugar in my coffee. Again, I was met with the bitterness that I had come to loathe.

Making matters worse is that I picked a flavored coffee that I thought would be especially sweet, butter toffee (make your own using this recipe) to counteract it–alas, to no avail. But, that said, I guess I was just stuck on that Friday feeling, because it didn't get me as down as it had the previous few days.

So, a week into my Splenda detox, I couldn't say that I had experienced many positive changes due to the use of natural sugar. If anything, it just made me realize how much more of a sweet tooth I actually have!

At the end of the day, I understand why some people want to make the switch to natural sugar. It's less processed, still pretty sweet, and might be better suited for those who have trouble digesting artificial sugars.

  As for me? There's no way I can go all natural... call me "fake," but back to Splenda, please and thanks!