Aspartame withdrawal is typically identified as the set of physical symptoms that someone might experience while struggling to break an addiction to the chemical sweetener aspartame. Many experts believe that aspartame presents serious health risks, and some think that it may even be deadly. Aspartame is believed to be highly physically addictive, and withdrawal symptoms can last one month or longer. Headaches are a common withdrawal symptom, but others are said to vary significantly from person to person.
It takes about 14 to 30 days for the average person to get through aspartame withdrawal. The length of withdrawal symptoms may vary, depending on the severity of the individual's addiction, and severe addictions may take longer than 30 days to break. Nausea and muscle pain can also occur. Some medical professionals believe that withdrawal symptoms manifest most often in the part of the body most damaged by aspartame consumption, such as skin symptoms, digestive symptoms, eye symptoms, or cognitive symptoms.
The most common symptom may be headache. Some experts believe that headaches occur because aspartame damages the brain, and some studies suggest that aspartame use can cause symptoms that mimic those of attention deficit disorder. In 1992, the United States Air Force warned its pilots that aspartame consumption could trigger flicker vertigo, seizures, memory loss, and vision problems during flight. The use of aspartame has been linked to such a wide range of physical and mental symptoms that some professionals wonder if it isn't responsible for the marked increase in the incidence of diseases such as chronic fatigue syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, and depression in the decades since its use as a sugar substitute began.
Addiction to aspartame is believed to be widespread, since this sugar substitute can be found in almost all diet sodas and sugar-free candies. It's used as a substitute for sugar in many processed foods and it's even used in a wide range of popular prescription and over-the-counter medications.
Aspartame has been linked to Alzheimer's disease, Parkinson's disease, attention deficit disorder, and multiple sclerosis, among other diseases. The United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has received more than 10,000 complaints about the adverse effects of this food additive, which appears in a wide range of foods, beverages, and medications. The FDA believes that complaints about aspartame's side effects may comprise as many as 75% of the total adverse reactions complaints submitted for foods and food additives.
What Is Aspartame?
Aspartame is a non-nutritive sweetener added to commercial food products to replace natural sugars. It is responsible for the sweet taste in sugar-free, low- or zero-sugar food items. However, per a study, aspartame is 200 times sweeter than the average sugar, so only a tiny fraction of the chemical does the trick.
This artificial sweetener is an active ingredient in diet sodas and low-sugar juices. You can also find it in dairy products, like low-fat flavored milk and sugar-free ice creams.
Some other everyday items that you should be on the lookout for containing aspartame include:
- Sugar-free gum
- Reduced sugar ketchup
- Light yogurt
- No sugar energy bars
- Sugar-free salad dressing
- Sugarless candy
Products that use aspartame are required to include it in their ingredient lists, so check the label of the foods you like to eat to see if it contains the ingredient.
The artificial sweetener aspartame is approved for consumption by all major food and drug authorities across the globe. However, it remains a controversial food additive. That is because the chemical derives a direct response from your brain, i.e., neurobehavioral effects.
Research shows that aspartame consumption can alter mood and cognitive performance. Some researchers believe it is responsible for adverse effects such as mood changes, depression, and headaches.
Aspartame tends to modulate neurotransmitter levels in the brain. Thus, it might also play a role in neurodegenerative disorders. Aspartame addiction is attributed to the chemical’s dopamine alterations in the brain.
What Is Withdrawal?
A withdrawal (effect) is the body’s mental and physical response to abstaining from an addictive substance such as alcohol or recreational drugs. Withdrawal is generally characterized by changes in mood, appetite, and physical symptoms such as headaches, sweating, irritability, nausea, etc.
Can Aspartame Have Withdrawal?
Yes, giving up aspartame consumption after you have become an addict can lead to aspartame withdrawal. Giving up aspartame after habitual consumption of large amounts can have substantial adverse effects on the body. Recovered alcoholic patients have reported aspartame withdrawal to be worse than alcohol withdrawal.
Aspartame Withdrawal Symptoms
Some common aspartame withdrawal symptoms include:
Headaches And Migraine
Aspartame consumption in large amounts for long durations is linked to triggering headaches. Therefore, individuals prone to migraines can trigger it by becoming an aspartame addict. In addition, withdrawal from aspartame can cause headaches.
As per a study, the most commonly reported aspartame withdrawal symptoms were tension, irritability, and depression. Several male and female participants also complained of sweating, nausea, and tremors on quitting aspartame. Some even compared the symptoms to smoking and cocaine withdrawal.
Patients also experience psychological symptoms such as anxiety. The neuromodulation by aspartame is responsible for psychological symptoms. Some habitual consumers report having severe anxiety and mood swings when not consuming diet soda. Many diet soda addicts explain their suffering when they travel abroad and can not find diet soda.
Some also experience a decrease in cognitive performance. As already mentioned, since aspartame can mess with the cognitive status, it may cause cognitive symptoms of withdrawal.
Strange enough, but some aspartame quitters complain of having blurry vision. An aspartame addict stated that she could not walk and see anything after she stopped drinking diet cola. She was sure she had multiple sclerosis, but the doctors found it to be aspartame withdrawal.
Some chronic aspartame consumers believe that it keeps their digestive system healthy. So, aspartame withdrawal can also cause digestive issues.
Aspartame Side Effects
Aspartame consumption alters the body’s cortisol (hormone) levels, which might lead to insulin resistance and weight gain. Therefore, type 2 diabetics are generally recommended against the use of aspartame products.
Animal studies have even found a link between aspartame consumption and cancer development. Thus, it is better to avoid aspartame-based products, or at least consume them in small amounts. Check labels to see if it is an included ingredient in the products you regularly consume.
Natural Alternatives to Aspartame
There are several natural alternatives to aspartame that you can use. Consuming diet sodas and desserts or juices made with aspartame have more adverse effects than benefits. Therefore, you should choose natural sweeteners such as allulose, monk fruit, and stevia. Brazzein and sugar alcohols can also be used as safe sweetener alternatives.