Fibromyalgia is a musculoskeletal condition that causes severe chronic widespread pain. Although there is no known cause for fibromyalgia, some factors contribute to the condition.
One of the factors that are known to flare up fibromyalgia is artificial sweeteners. Studies have shown that the consumption of artificial sweeteners can cause an increase in chronic pain and fibromyalgia symptoms.
What is artificial sweetener?
Artificial sweeteners are sugar substitutes that come in many forms and different names. These artificial sweeteners can be several times sweeter than regular sugar.
These artificial sweeteners can be used directly in commercially processed foods or mixed with one or more starch-based sweeteners.
Artificial sweeteners are widely used in processed foods, including baked goods, soft drinks, powdered drink mixes, candy, puddings, canned foods, jams and jellies, dairy products, and scores of other foods and beverages.
Types of artificial sweeteners
There are different types of artificial sweeteners. According to The Sugar Association, five artificial sweeteners are approved for use in the U.S.
Aspartame is known to be 200 times sweeter than sugar. Therefore, its intense sweetness calls for so little Aspartame to be used. The body breaks down Aspartame into two component amino acids – aspartic acid and phenylalanine.
Aspartame is sold under NutraSweet, Equal, and Sugar Twin brands.
Sucralose is made from sucrose and is believed to be 600 times sweeter than regular sugar. Sucralose is sold under the brand name Splenda. The ingredients are listed as dextrose, maltodextrin, and sucralose on the packet.
Neotame is the newest artificial sweetener composed of aspartic acid and phenylalanine. It is 40 times sweeter than Aspartame but about 8,000 times sweeter than sugar.
Saccharin is the oldest artificial sweetener. The sweetness of Saccharin depends on how it is used. It is believed to be between 200 to 700 times sweeter than regular sugar.
It comes under sodium saccharin, calcium saccharin, or acid Saccharin. It is sold under the brand names such as Sweet ‘N Low, Sweet Twin, and Necta Sweet.
Acesulfame K, also known as acesulfame potassium or ace K, is believed to be 200 times sweeter than sugar. Acesulfame K is commonly mixed with other nutritive and artificial sweeteners and can be listed as acesulfame potassium. Acesulfame K is available under Sunett, Sweet One, and Sweet & Safe.
How can Artificial sweeteners affect fibromyalgia patients?
Two artificial sweeteners are derived from amino acids. These are Aspartame and Neotame.
Aspartic acid and phenylalanine are the two amino acids that the body needs for its regular and natural functions. The concentration of these amino acids is much higher in artificial sweeteners. These two ingredients are also used in Aspartame.
According to the FDA, using aspartame results in various health problems. It is believed that fibromyalgia is caused or worsened by the chronic, long-term ingestion of Aspartame.
The two amino acids act as neurotransmitters or neurotoxins and are responsible for transmitting pain. Therefore, it is believed to be bad for people who have fibromyalgia.
According to a study by the University of Minnesota in 2000, fibromyalgia patients reported higher pain levels to higher levels of aspartate and glutamate in the body.
The experts have evaluated the levels of various amino acids in patients with different symptoms and severity levels of fibromyalgia pain. It was found that there wasn’t any difference in amino acid levels when patients experienced primary pain from fibromyalgia,
However, it was reported that the patients had higher levels of EAAs when experiencing secondary fibromyalgia symptoms.
In a clinical trial in 2001 at the Malcolm Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center, four patients who had fibromyalgia were asked to remove Aspartame from their diets. After a few months, all four fibromyalgia patients reported complete or near complete reversal of all fibromyalgia symptoms.
The experts concluded that fibromyalgia is induced or exacerbated by excitotoxins.
In another case, two studies were carried out by Burgundy University in 2010. It revealed a link between fibromyalgia and Aspartame.
In the first study, a woman with fibromyalgia who used to consume artificial sweeteners went on a vacation wherein she did not consume any artificial sweeteners.
While on vacation, she noticed that her fibromyalgia symptoms decreased and were symptom-free. After the vacation, she completely stopped artificial sweeteners and saw a full reversal of the symptoms.
In the second study, a man with fibromyalgia who consumed Aspartame (artificial sweetener) for three years was recommended to stop consuming Aspartame.
After the man had stopped consuming Aspartame, a complete reversal of his symptoms was noticed.
The doctors, therefore, concluded that it was important for a fibromyalgia patient to stop consuming Aspartame.
How to remove artificial sweeteners from your diet?
Removing artificial sweeteners from your diet could be difficult. Here are three tips to eliminate artificial sweeteners from your diet.
Reduce your intake of food with artificial sweeteners
Reducing your intake of artificial sweeteners will be difficult at first. Try to minimize the intake every day. For example, if you are consuming a lot of it, try to eat less of what you already eat with artificial sweeteners. This would help you reduce your craving for foods with artificial sweeteners.
Eat fruits that have natural sugar.
You can replace your craving for sweets by eating high-sugar fruits. It is important to note that fresh fruits contain natural sugar and various vitamins and minerals that help nourish the body.
Keep a record or a journal.
Keeping a record of the foods you eat and what foods you avoid can be very important in distinguishing what kind of artificial sweeteners in foods flare up your fibromyalgia symptoms.