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Artificial Sweetener & Headache

As with so many different foods, artificial sweeteners are anecdotally linked to headaches. A New York Times article summarizes the studies on the supposed link and concludes — as the International Headache Society recently has — that studies have not found an association between the two. That doesn’t mean that it can’t be a trigger for some people (it is for me), just that it’s not generalizable to everyone with headaches. Good article, but… The headline is, “The Claim: Artificial Sweeteners Cause Migraines.” I don’t need an article to know that claim is false. Migraines are caused by a person’s neurobiology. NO ENVIRONMENTAL FACTOR — from food to stress to weather — CAUSES MIGRAINE! How much do we have to scream for the media to understand this?

29 Responses to Artificial Sweetener & Headache

  1. Angel says:

    It is a trigger for me, or rather, withdrawal from it is. I only started having migraines when my mom quit using artificial sweetener in the tea I’d been drinking all the time. So I avoid it like the plague (for this and other reasons).

  2. Roger McArtor says:

    Please send me a referral for a physician handling patients with debilitating headache. I have a friend who is having cluster headaches 2x a day and injecting imitrex. He has lost 28 lbs and was lean to begin with. If you know of any headache specialist, I would be most grateful for a referral. In Phoenix,AZ, but would consider any anywhere.

    ********
    The doctor I saw in Phoenix is no longer taking new patients, but here’s information on finding a specialist: http://www.thedailyheadache.com/2005/11/one_of_the_ques.html

    Best of luck to your friend.

    K

    K

  3. Rebeca says:

    I suffer from migraines and artificial sweeteners are one of the food triggers that can cause a migraine for me. I get a migraine within one hour of consuming an artificial sweetener. Once I realized the connection I of course watch what I consume–but I’m not perfect. At Thanksgiving my family accidentally purchased a sugar-free blueberry pie. I ate a piece without realizing the content. Within 30 minutes I started to get a migraine. I was confused because I thought I had steered clear of trigger foods… I looked at the ingredients on the chocolate I had eaten (sugar free chocolate has gotten me before) and then the pie. I knew right away that the artificial sweeteners Maltitol and Polydextrose in the pie had been the cause, my consumption of which had triggered a three day migraine. Understanding and avoiding food triggers (such as wine and artificial sweeteners) has dramatically decreased the frequency of my migraine attacks–from one to three a month to one or two every few months. Of course these food triggers are not the only causes of all my migraines, but avoiding these food triggers dramatically decreases the frequency of my attacks.

    ********
    I’m so glad that you’ve been able to reduce your migraines by avoiding food triggers. I’m sorry you missed most of your Thanksgiving weekend because of a dumb blueberry pie!

    Thanks for mentioning that maltitol and polydextrose are artificial sweeteners. Other than aspartame, I never know what compounds to look for.

    Take care,
    K

  4. junea says:

    Artificial sweeteners also give me migraines. I wanted to point out to others with the same trigger that tooth paste has artificial sweetener in it and you can buy some without the sweetner in it at a healthfood store. I always got a migraine after going to the dentist and I didn’t know why–but then I figured it out. most dentists will clean your teeth with whatever toothpaste you bring them:) These dayd even things not labled as lite, have the artifical sweeteners in them including gum, mouth wash(listerine), candy, and some drinks. I would advise to always check the label.

  5. CZ says:

    You must be an idiot or something to think you could know everything about migraines when scientists, doctors and scholars around the world don’t even know. I know for A FACT that artificial sweenteners cause migraines, I get one within an hour or so everytime I have any artificial sweeteners and if I don’t consume them, I am fine, no migraines. My nerologist confirms this is the trigger. You are a moron.

    ******
    No one is claiming to know it all. Many people have trouble with artificial sweeteners, including me. Others don’t at all. That’s how triggers generally work. What is true for one person isn’t true for everyone.

    Kerrie

  6. mary says:

    there’s artificial sweeteners in maalox and mylanta, too. not sure about pepto bismil but i wouldn’t be surprised.

  7. Kathy says:

    I think I am getting mini migraines from using Splenda, Stevia adn Purevia. About one hour after ingestion, I get the fuzzy vision which would last about 20 minutes with a small headache, not the full blown vision and headache syndrome that I would ususally get from other triggers. Then I realized that I had been consuming the “natural” sweeteners recently with my weight loss program. Is Splenda,Stevia and Purevia considered artifical sweeteners?

    *******
    I know Splenda is, but don’t know about the other two. I’ve waffled back and forth with whether stevia is a trigger. Have been using a lot of agave nectar lately.

    Kerrie

  8. Tara says:

    I avoid nutrasweet like the plague, and am coming to understand that sucrose and polydextrose do the same to me on a smaller scale. These are the biggest migraine triggers for me. Look for nutrasweet under its new secret name written in bold at the end of ingredients lists: phenylalanine. It is everywhere, salad dressings,spaghetti sauces, all gums and mints, you name it. I have used Stevia as my only sweetener besides real sugar for over five years without a problem. I have thus far not heard of it being a trigger for anyone.

  9. Danielle says:

    This may be a long shot, but my migraines have increased drastically ever since I started using eye drops that contain sorbitol, which is an artificial sweetener in foods. I’m not sure if this is the same exact ingredient in food as it is in my eye drops. It seems strange, but this is the only thing I know of that has changed since my migraines have increased. Has anyone experienced anything like this?

  10. Sandra says:

    I have found artifical sweetners to be a trigger for migraines. I have avoided them as best I can for years and significatly reduced the number of migraines. I have been on the fence about trying Stevia and have wondered if anyone has tried this product with success?

  11. Diane says:

    I have tried artificial sweetener instead of sugar to lose weight. It took about a month before I figured out that splenda was the cause of debilitating migraines. I avoid artifial sweetener all the time now and just use sugar if I want something sweet.

  12. Jenna says:

    Diane,
    Splenda and other artificial sweeteners definitely triggered my migraines. You are wise to avoid them. I’ve done the same and my migraines have been reduced to once every 2 or 3 months. I used to get 2 or 3 each month. So, this has been a great relief to me. Another change I’ve made is that I’ve started a vitamin regimen that my dr. suggested: Vitamin E 400 iu, Calcium 1200mg, and B-Complex. It’s been working great! good luck.

  13. jamie says:

    I just figured out that artificial sweeteners (including sorbitol) trigger my migraines. I thought I was avoiding these chemicals, but they are EVERYWHERE, so I had to look a little further to discover the many names they have and places they are hidden. If I don’t intake any artificial sweeteners, I don’t get migraines at all. The other day I took a couple of Tums without thinking and a few hours later…here comes the light show. I had to switch toothpaste too. If they keep adding these chemicals to everything what are we going to use? Sorbitol in the eye drops? Whats next? I had heard that putting visine in someones drink would give them cramps and diarrhea…Now I understand why…Sorbitol!!

  14. Virg says:

    I’d had a similar experience as those described with Equal. Recently told I’m pre-diabetic and MUST avoid all sugar so using Splenda. Didn’t get HA’s at first but now am waking virtually every morning with one. Or go to bed w/mild HA (taking some Rx at bedtime) and wake with screaming migraine! Probably the Splenda but also just read that soy can trigger HA. I’m back to keeping food and HA diary. QUESTION: Most on this list speak of HAs happening quickly after food triggers. Is it always that way or might it take 12+ hours? Also, I’ve heard of people taking prophylactic Rx when they thought they’d consume a trigger. Any luck w/that and if so, what?

  15. Jessica says:

    I am so happy because today I figured out that one of my migraine triggers is artificial sweetener – specifically in sugar free chewing gum. I know I most likely have other triggers too, but I’m so happy that I figured this one out because it will definitely help me in preventing future headaches!

  16. Lisa says:

    Hi Everyone,

    I have tried Stevia and no reactions at all. All good so far after using it for 2 days.

  17. Debra says:

    I believe I have made myself sensitive to Splenda. I had gastric bypass 5 yrs ago and it was my choice of sweetner. I have in the past year started with the really terrible migrains, after use. I also notice when I eat a sweenter, (sorry) my urine will change its smell. Just one packet will do it to. I will stop using it and after a couple of hours, that goes back to normal.

  18. Melissa says:

    Headaches, including migraines, have been scientifically linked to consumption of red wine in some people. There is also scientific evidence that shows that some people get headaches as a response to food allergies. Have you talked to a respected neurologist or allergist? Have you read any articles in a respected medical journal that publishes double blind, randomized studies such as the AMA journal? There is nothing that is generalizable about headaches. 10 people could be in a study to find the cause of their headaches, and the answer could be different (and correct) for all 10 people. Please validate your claims.

  19. GJ says:

    Is anyone knowledgeable of the side effects caused by using Pure via or Truvia artificial sweeteners? i am aware that aspartame can cause migraines, but neither one of these sweeteners contain that ingredient to my knowledge. Thanks so much!

  20. Noah says:

    I get migraine fro me over exertion and dehydration
    But latly iv noticed strange painful scalp on the right side of my head before I go to bed and when I wake up in the morning after drinking coke zero or this sugar free alovara drink With of corse artificial sweeteners em I allergic ?

  21. Laura says:

    I am so relieved to read all of your comments, after a mammoth migraine with aura on Saturday and then continuous headache for the last 5 days which I still have, I saw my gp who has prescribed preventative medication, which all it has done is knocked me for six and increased my appetite, it has dawned on me, I have changed my diet to lose some weight and have consumed a mass of sweeteners from coke zero, Splenda, fat free yogurts and dressings and I cannot describe how awful and helpless I have felt, I am now going to avoid sweeteners and I am sure this will have a massive impact on how I feel now and reduce my migraines

  22. ann says:

    I started using candarel and splenda for the last few years and buying suger free products squashes even cetain brands of yoghurts, with constant visits to the doctors with migraines waking up 3am nearly every day with an attack,i was also having memory problems and forgetting things all the time, recently looking for what was the triggers found that all these sweetners, which i was having about 6 cups of tea a day so that was 12 splenda tablets and then the squashes,and yougarts could be the cause, i have now cut out all sweetners and went back to sugar and using honey, i now buy rocks organic squash and rachels organic yoghurts, i have been migrain free for 3 months and feel that a fog has been lifted from my head and feel more alert and my memmory is loads better, i will never touch these poisons again, i have a child who is adhd and have found these products can make the symptoms worse i no longer give her anything with sweetners in and found she is a much calmer child,my uncle is diabetic and for the last 2 years suffered vertigo symptoms and having 2-3 attacks a week i found that he was drinking flavoured bottled waters and diet sodas which contains artifital sweetners i told him that these sweetners were cause of his dizzy spells, since he has stopped drinking these products he has’nt had i dizzy episode in 2 months he is much happier and has thanked me a few timesfor pointing this out. these sweetners are in nearly all children drinks and sweets no wonder there are more children being diagnosed with behaviour problem than years ago people need to be told this, me and my daughter and my uncle are proof that artifital sweetners are damaging our health.

  23. Laurie says:

    Last week I was talking to a friend of mine about my chronic, now daily, debilitating, aweful headaches. She told me that artificial sweetners give her bad headaches shortly after she consumes them. I am and have been for MANY years, a diet Mountain Dew addict…consuming several every day. Three days ago, I quit cold turkey and have switched to tea…using real sugar or honey to wseeten. Behold….I have not had a headache. No kidding!!! I have not been pain free in years. I know it is still early…and I shouldn’t count my chickens…but I am so hopeful that my problem is solved. I am so amazed and discusted at the same time. If artificial sweeteners can give people massive headaches, then what else are they doing to us? Scarry thought. Thank you to my friend for the most excellent advice!

  24. Emily says:

    I had a constant daily headache for years – I even considered having a brain stimulator surgically implanted to block the constant pain. I had been using the same artificial sweetener for years, but after I tried one of the new ones, which triggered a migraine, I considered that artificial sweeteners could be the cause of my headaches. I stopped using any and all artificial sweeteners and my constant, daily, brain-on-fire headaches disappeared. I still get headaches from other triggers, but the relentless, burning (brain-on-fire) headaches are gone – unless I use artificial sweeteners – then, they are back. I use only real sugar and natural sweetners now. I cannot believe that I suffered for years before I realized the headaches were caused by something so simple and common.

  25. michelle says:

    Chew lots of gum and drink tea with sweetnlow plus dietdp and dietdc more this last couple of years. Would use it as a tool to make me feel better. Here’s the punchline: I quit 3 weeks ago cOld turkey. My horrible headaches made me take a. Lose look at my drinks. I am at a volleyball tournament.. with fluorescent lighting whistles and ball noise and no migraine

  26. melissa says:

    I’ve tried it all!!! Stevia to aspartame they all trigger headaches! I just found out I’m diabetic. I haven’t been through councelling or seen a dietician yet. Got on this web page to see if there were options. I think I only have sugar in moderation or agave nectar. I use relpax and phenergan suppositories

  27. Jen says:

    I have been using truvia for a couple of years now and don’t get headaches. I can’t even stick a straw in my mouth after stirring coffee sweetened with equal, without getting a migraine. Truvia seems to be the best alternative for me. Also, if you have a kureg coffee maker, don’t get the snapple peach tea. It doesn’t say diet but it has it in it. It has aspartame in it. I drank 2 glasses yesterday and now am sick.

  28. Carol says:

    A hint w/Stevia, It’s 200-300 times sweeter than sugar. Use very little. Melissa, and any other folks that have to avoid sugar, get a diabetic cookbook. They’ve got all the exchanges for each recipe + they’re yummy [hubby was diabetic].

    Jen, I’ve gotten samples of Truvia. It’s quite good. Thx for the heads up abt the tea. Sharing back, the Yoplat yogurt ads sound like they’re switching to artificial sweeteners.

    Because almost all artificial sweeteners either give me a headache or “intestinal upset,” I’ve gotten quite adept at scanning labels.

  29. Sampson says:

    Im not a picky eater but there are certain things that I eat regularly due to routine or just time. So when I started getting migraines a few weeks ago I could pinpoint the change in my diet. Crystal light was onsale for pretty cheap and I bought a lot of them. After taking drinking it far a few days I understood the term “splitting” headache. It was scary and excrutiating. I noticed that they would come about half an hour after I had drank some. Wasnt absolutely sure why til I had a conversation with my neighbors sister and she said the same thing happened to her. That it was the aspartame. My questions are if they dont have to put these sweeteners in the ingredients, how will we know that it contains it? Does it martter how much I drink of the crystal light? Or will any amount of aspartame give me that spliting headache? Has this trigger open the door to other artificial sweeteners affecting me in the same way?

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