I received an e-mail last week from one of my readers about artificial sweeteners. I have had such mixed feelings about these that I figured I would share it with you so that you could do your own research and adjust for what is correct for your own life.
I began trying to lose weight at the age of 15. This is when I first lost 70 pounds and kept it off for years. At age 22, fresh out of college, I started my first professional sit down job as an accountant at a CPA firm. This is when my weight began to climb. 2 additional sit down accountant positions since, and I had gained back all 70, plus some. Now, don't get me wrong, all those years, I had tried numerous "fad" diets. All with some loss, but never anything substantial. Then I found Weight Watchers, which I believe to be the healthiest plan out there. I found great success with WW, but for some reason, COULD NOT REACH LIFETIME GOAL. I got within 6 pounds, and then, backslid. I have now rejoined WW 5 additional times, and always have some success, but struggle and never reach goal.So, what is the point I am trying to make? Well, a few months ago, I was at a family function, and my future sister-in-law, who is in her Junior year of college to become a registered dietitian, and I were talking. I mentioned that I had been swelling so badly lately in my fingers that I was unable to wear my engagement ring. She made a comment to me that would change my life dramatically. She said to me,"Pam, how many diet cokes do you drink a day? I noticed you drink a lot of them. Artificial sweeteners are VERY bad for you. We have studied them and I have done a lot of personal research, too. I gave up all artificial sweeteners, and I have gone from a size 10 to 4 in the past year." Immediately, I was interested. So, I went home and began my own research. I am just going to tell you that I was in complete shock over what I read. I was confused, didn't know whether to really believe what I was reading or not. So, I spent many hours on the computer researching and reading. Then I became furious. Furious at the government and all the companies that have preyed on the most weak consumers at the expense of their health, just to make a dollar.See, what I did was start by googling "artificial sweetener side effects." After reading all the info, I realized that maybe, just maybe, I was suffering from aspartame poisoning. So, I set out to eliminate it from my diet. My first thought was eliminate diet coke. Seemed simple, until I realized that over half of the foods in my house are "lite" and they also contained sucralose (splenda) or aspartame. Before I got rid of everything, I decided to give it a few days to see if I noticed the difference. So, I started drinking just water and avoiding any foods containing artificial sweeteners. The first day wasn't too bad, although, I must admit, I really, REALLY wanted a diet coke! But I was so proud of myself for not having one and drinking all the water I had consumed that day. In the middle of the night of day 1, I woke up to a horrible, pounding headache. I took some headache medicine, but it didn't help. After a very miserable, sleepless night, I got ready for work, contemplating calling in sick, but I rarely miss work, so I tried to go on. I went to work, and the headache got worse and worse until I had to go home to bed and take migraine medicine. I knew it was probably aspartame withdrawal after what I had read, but I never expected it to be this bad. I mean, who would think you could be physically dependent on nutrasweet? CRAZY! I even drank coffee earlier, just to make sure it wasn't caffeine withdrawal, and I am not a fan of coffee. So, I can say, day 3 was when it started getting better. I still had a headache, but nothing like the monster headache that had incapacitated me the second day. The dull headache remained for days, but each day felt a little better.As the consecutive days unfolded, every day I saw the scale drop. Yes, even after substituting real sugar sweetened tea with meals halfway through the first week, I was dropping weight. I lost 2.5 pounds the first day, 3 the next, and it just kept coming off. After a month, I had lost 27 pounds. All, while drinking sugar sweetened tea in moderation, and not really counting points, just trying to continue eating healthy. I had read that aspartame makes you actually crave sugar and people who use large amounts of aspartame had actually gained weight compared to a study group that were allowed to eat and drink sugar sweetened foods and drinks. So, my sugar and carbohydrate cravings were gone, and naturally, I just began losing weight without trying. Now, I will say that had I substituted real coke for diet, all that sugar would have kept me from losing, but I was using sugar in moderation, something I hadn't done in 15 years while struggling with my weight, and I was losing weight.The weight loss was great, but the improvement in my health and the way I felt was even more dramatic. I had become a 30 year old with aches and pains of a 70 year old. Seriously, I had arthritic pain in my knees, hands, and feet. I had muscle spasms, and weak muscles at times. I had acne type problems show up in my mid-20's, after not having acne as a teen. I began having trouble sleeping. I also began having headaches and vertigo. After seeing the ENT and having an MRI, nothing was found to cause the vertigo. I was put on migraine medicine, but it didn't work. I had a constant sore throat and had been told it was acid reflux. The medicine seemed to help some, but not totally. I had been diagnosed with severe dry eyes and had to start wearing special contacts, although this condition isn't common in women so young. I knew my weight caused many of these problems, but I never seemed to be able to lose weight in my adult life, so I didn't know what to do.After discontinuing ALL artificial sweeteners, I am inching closer and closer to my goal weight. My arthritic aches and joint pains are gone...completely. No more muscle spasms, no more migraines, no more vertigo, no more sore throat. My skin is as clear as a bell, haven't had those nasty cysts in months! I now sleep continuously through the night and wake up feeling refreshed. I have more energy than I have had since I was a teenager. I am convinced that had I not found this out, I would have continued to have problems that would affect my health and my quantity and quality of life. I never thought I was depressed before, but I now feel so good and have such excitement for life, I must have had some mild depression before. I read that some people actually have aspartame poisoning so bad the toxicity presents itself in symptoms where they are diagnosed with MS, Parkinson's, and many other serious illnesses. It doesn't cause these diseases, it just manifests with similar symptoms. When people actually have aspartame toxicity,if they discontinue use, they will usually get better, if not completely well, whereas, if they really had these diseases, they would never be rid of it.So, all I am asking is that you look into this stuff and if it hits you in the gut the way it did me, maybe you could try to get more people to look into it through your blog. I am very passionate about this because I feel the dangerous side effects have just been covered up in an attempt to make money. My mother was also a user of Spleda ( I won't go into it in detail, but this one makes me even madder, because they advertise it as if it is all natural...made from sugar, but it actually not natural at all, and is poisonous in its very content) and was suffering severe swelling...we thought she was going into congestive heart failure. After 3 days on not ingesting Splenda (her drug of ignorance!), her swelling was completely gone, as well as a mystery rash, and 10 pounds! Just look all artificial sweeteners up. They say saccharin is actually the safest of the 3!!!! I would have never thought that!