Anyone with chronic pain can attest to the fact that there are certain foods and ingredients that can aggravate the pain. Though each person's triggers may differ, there are certain ingredients that should generally be avoided. Among them are artificial sweeteners such as aspartame. These sweeteners activate the neurons that increase our sensitivity to pain, often resulting in a flare up.
Lets take a look at seven of the most common food sources of aspartame and why you should avoid them:
We all know this by now, right? Maybe not. According to the Center for Disease Control, on any given day – 20% of the U.S. population drinks a diet soda. The average diet soda contains nearly 100 mg of aspartame. Besides increasing the risk of a flare up of your fibromyalgia pain, diet sodas have also been associated with kidney problems, disruptions to metabolism, obesity, headaches, fatigue and more.
Aspartame is often used in chewing gum – especially sugar free gum. Though it may seem like a good choice to help curb cravings, evidence suggests that those who chew gum are more likely to crave less healthy foods later on – resulting in an increased risk of nutritional deficiencies that can contribute to fibromyalgia.
Additionally, chewing gum often can lead to gastrointestinal issues. One reason for this is that as you swallow air, your bowels become bloated – possibly resulting in discomfort and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Many fibromyalgia sufferers already deal with IBS, so avoiding anything that might contribute to it or worsen it is strongly advised.
Like diet sodas, powder drink mixes are often loaded with aspartame and offer little nutritional value. Though they may be marketed as a healthy alternative to sugary drinks, they’re often trading one vice for another. Avoid these mixes if they contain aspartame and look for a more nutritious alternative. If all else fails, stick with water. It may not taste as good – but some good old-fashioned hydration with H2O can go a long way in improving your health and feeling of well-being.
We already know to avoid sugary cereals – but artificially sweetened cereals can be just as bad. Check the labels for ingredients like aspartame, high fructose corn syrup, or anything labeled ‘artificial sweetener’. In lieu of sweetened cereals, look for sugar-free and artificial sweetener-free fortified cereals and top it off with some antioxidant-rich blueberries for a super healthy start to your day.
Those little packets of sweeteners on the table of your favorite restaurant may seem like a healthy alternative to sugar, but they’ll wreak havoc on you. For those with chronic pain, these sweeteners can be especially hazardous as they turn up the body’s sensitivity to pain. Aspartame is perhaps the biggest culprit, but other sweeteners have been shown to cause similar effects.
Although hydration is important for fibromyalgia sufferers – especially during the winter months – use caution with what liquids you drink to stay hydrated. If flavored water is your go-to source of hydration, check the label for any sign of artificial sweeteners like aspartame. Many flavored waters use artificial sweeteners to achieve the flavoring without adding calories or sugar.
Sugar Free Foods
Be especially cautious with sugar free foods. Though we may be inclined to think they’re healthier, they are often sweetened artificially and can have negative outcomes on our health. Check the labels to see what, if any, artificial sweeteners were used in making the food. Some common ‘sugar free’ culprits that contain aspartame are sugar free gum, soda, ice cream, yogurt and drink mixes.
Being aware of the ingredients in the foods you eat can be a critical step for minimizing the intensity and frequency of your pain. Though it will not eliminate the pain entirely, it can result in a marked difference in your quality of life. We recommend keeping a food journal to track the positive or negative outcomes the foods you eat have on your pain and making adjustments to your diet accordingly.
Has cutting aspartame out of your diet improved your pain levels? Share your story below or post a comment on our Facebook Page.