Diet, Society, Treatment, Triggers

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?

46 thoughts on “Artificial Sweetener & Headache”

  1. Ok I’m back again. Changed my eye drops and I was OK for a few weeks. I had bought two new manufacturer’s eye drops to try both. One was “Sooth by Bosch and Lomb, I was Ok with them. Just ran out and started on the new brand, Refresh Optive by Refresh America. I used the preservative free drops a few times today and I have had a headache off and on today.
    Tonight I used them and shortly thereafter the headache hit. I checked the inactive ingredients and there it was, Erithrytol. When I checked I found that Erithrytol is “natural” sugar, sort of, that can cause headaches. Natural my ass. So there it is. The only drops so far that don’t give me headaches between the Systane, Refresh, and Sooth, are the Sooth. By the way, Maltodextrin and MSG also give me headaches. And Nutrasweet gives me little bumps that line the outside of my lips, and make me feel like my lips are always chapped.

    On a little side note: I am on the Guafenesin Protocol which reverses Fibromyalgia. I have been taking Guaifenesin, which is an expectorant that breaks up phlegm in your chest when you have a cold, but I take it to reverse Fibro and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome and it works.

    The protocol was created by Dr. Paul St. Amand, an endocrinologist in Los Angeles who only sees patients with FMS/CFS. He, himself, is on the Guaifenesin as he has FMS but experiences no symptoms as long as he follows his own protocol. I mention all this because FMS causes headaches, but once you take the Guaifenesin and it begins to work the headaches disappear, unless you are allergic to all these stupid sugar substitutes. Hypoglycemia is prevalent in people with FMS and that causes headaches from sugar itself. So this has been a real quest to find everything that is causing my headaches.

    The doctor’s website is

  2. I have been using Systane Balance, and now Systane Ultra for dry eye. I am 72. Lately I have been getting horrible headaches. I wake up Ok but through the day my headaches gets worse.
    I avoid artificial sweeteners like the plague because they give me migraine type headaches but I never, ever thought to check the eye drops which my doctor recommended.

    It has been worse the last few weeks. That is about how long I have been using the Systane Ultra. So I checked the ingredients and sure enough there is Sorbitol in both Systane products.
    My eyes have been worse since using the Ultra and so have my headaches because the worse my eyes get the more drops I use. I will have to find drops that do not have artificial sweeteners in them. Who would have thought that they would put an artificial sweetener in eye drops!!!!!!!!

  3. I figured out 20 years ago that aspartame was a trigger. I have used Splenda for years with no problems. A few years ago I was using protein bars that had Stevia and I had the worst migraine I’d had in years. Steer clear of it now. Vit Water Zero has Stevia in it now. 99% sure it didnt used to. not sure when it changed. Chobani 100 calorie greek yogurt also has Stevia! Last night I had a migraine and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I looked at the ingredients of the orange Vit Water (which I know I’ve had before but hadn’t had in a long time) and it had sorbitol. Never
    Knew this was a trigger but wondering now. At the groc store today I looked at the vit waters
    And orange was the only one 2 sorbitol. Strange.

  4. all artificial sweeteners, including stevia, trigger my migraines. First and last time I tried stevia, I was down and out for three days. I just found out that toothpaste has saccharin. I’m wondering if my headaches would be better managed if I changed brands.

    1. Sam, it would definitely be worth a try. If you can’t find a sweetener-free toothpaste, you could try using baking soda or salt as toothpaste. If you want it to be minty, you can use a food-safe essential oil for flavor. If you do find switching toothpastes helps you, please let us know. I’m sure others could benefit from your experience.

      Take care,

  5. Hi All,

    I’ve been avoiding artificial sweeteners for 10+ years now. Literally I can feel the unique headache and feeling a bit weak within 35-45mins of consuming it. I’m now an expert at avoiding them. Two things that have helped me

    1. Don’t check the ingredients, they keep changing the name. Check the sugar content, a health sugar content on the label is a sure sign there isn’t an artificial nasty in there.

    2. If I do accidentally ingest these toxins and the headache kicks in, I immediately drink a large Coke (real one of course) it tends to fix it or greatly reduce it, otherwise anything with sugar in it still reduces my headache significantly but coke (with the caffeine) seems to help best.

    I’m sitting here annoyed because I simply can’t find a cough syrup with this crap in it … is there no end to it !

    1. James, thanks for sharing your suggestions. I hope they help others with similar problems. Caffeine can be a great migraine abortive, which you’ve clearly discovered. Have you tried horehound drops for your cough? It’s candy that is flavored with an herb that’s thought to reduce coughing. I’m almost positive they’re available without artificial sweeteners and they taste great (in my opinion).

      Take care,

  6. I have found that all artificial sweetners no matter what quantity will give me a migraine. I do not chew gum or consume anything with any artificial sweetner. I have found that Stevia does not trigger my migraines as it is naturally derived. So far I have not found anyone that stated Stevia is a migraine trigger for them. Hope this helps!

  7. 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?

  8. 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.

  9. 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.

  10. 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

  11. 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

  12. 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.

  13. 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!

  14. 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.

  15. 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

  16. 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 ?

  17. 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!

    1. I have tried to use Stevia (pure via is a brand name of stevia) and it definitely triggers migraines for me even though it has no aspartame.

  18. 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. 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.

    1. Hi Debra,
      I’m glad that you figured out some of your headache triggers-for me that was 90% of the battle. I came to this site looking for info on Truvia and stevia as I have recently changed from a sugar only diet to artificial sweeteners. I have a question for you that is a bit off-topic, but I wonder if you would mind discussing it. You mention that you had a gastric bypass several years ago; I ended up with one unintentionally about 4 years ago, along with a modified roux en y and short gut syndrome. I started out with dumping syndrome and some other problems after the surgeries, and I’m still mostly on a liquid diet. Have you been able to eat regular foods? And if so, how did you work up to them? Thanks so much!

  20. 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!

  21. 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?

  22. 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!!

  23. 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.

  24. 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.

  25. 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?

  26. 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?

  27. 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.

  28. 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.


    1. Kathy, if you are using a powdered sweetener, read the label as to what is added to it. I found that the brand Truvia, which is a form of Stevia, also has Erythritol in it. Truvia triggers a migraine in me but I believe that it is the Erythritol that triggers the migraines. When I switched to liquid stevia without anything added, I don’t get the migraines.

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

  30. 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.


  31. 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.

  32. 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,

  33. 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:

    Best of luck to your friend.



    1. Roger,
      I’ve suffering from Migraines for two decades, and after I saw Dr. Janine Good, today I’m migraine free.
      She practices at University of Maryland Medical System. Give her a try.
      Best of Luck.

  34. 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).

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