In late 2010, I was having about three coffees per day, each one with an Equal or two. In addition, I’d drink about four or five cups a day of grape drink sweetened with aspartame. This isn’t including any of the other sugar-free products I’d drink or eat occasionally.
At the end of that December, I decided I would stop eating any form of aspartame (also called Equal or Nutrasweet) as a New Year’s resolution.
I was a healthy and fit guy who exercised almost daily, took vitamins, and made my best effort to eat right. I didn’t feel that consuming aspartame fit with my other healthy lifestyle choices.
Aspartame can cause a host of problems, such as headaches, vision problems, fatigue, and depression. However, the worst of aspartame side effects is the impact it has on neurons. It can actually destroy brain cells. Here is an article about more of aspartame’s negative side effects.
This article lists my experience with aspartame detox and withdrawal. I’m not a doctor and this isn’t medical advice. I’m not arguing to ban aspartame and I’d never judge those who use. These are just my experiences that I’ve shared for everyone’s benefit. It’s about being informed and quitting if you desire. If you have problems or questions when giving up Equal consult a doctor.
On January 1st, 2011, I just simply stopped consuming aspartame of any kind. I didn’t stop gradually; I just quit cold turkey. Was it the best method? I’m not sure. I assumed that quitting aspartame was as easy as giving up any other “food” or drink.
However, as you’ll read below, I was wrong. Looking back, a more gradual detox process would’ve been better. If you’re considering quitting aspartame, try to wean yourself more slowly by cutting back before quitting.
I can’t say if my symptoms were genuine withdrawal, my body detoxing, or some other type of reaction related to quitting aspartame. By far, my biggest aspartame withdrawal symptom was a headache. I have no history of headaches at all (I get about one mild one per year), but the day after I quit aspartame, my head felt horrible!
Along with the pain, came a huge light sensitivity. I couldn’t stand any sort of light. Not only that, but when I closed my eyes, I could still “see” the light from lamps or other bulbs in my mind’s eye. It was awful and I can’t remember ever feeling like that before (or after).
Fortunately, my symptoms only lasted a couple of days. I think it’s because I am generally healthy and followed a simple aspartame detox plan (below).
First, I drank lots and lots of water. Keeping myself hydrated made sure that any toxins being produced left my body as quickly as possible. It also flushed out any aspartame residue out of my system that much more quickly.
Second, I exercised. It wasn’t the easiest with a splitting headache, but (after taking a few aspirin) I still forced myself to do it. I sweated like crazy, which undoubtedly pushed more junk out through my pores. I always feel better after exercise, so this helped my overall mental health too.
Third, I began to eat more fresh fruits and vegetables and cut out other chemicals. Although my diet was generally good, I still wanted to make sure I wasn’t putting new chemicals in my body while I was detoxing the old ones (aspartame). I switched to sucralose (Splenda), but also gave that up as well.
I still have a taste for sweet things. For example, I love coffee, but find it too bitter without cream and some type of sweetness. But, without Equal or Splenda as options, I was at a loss. That’s when I discovered stevia.
We’ve written an entire review of this natural herb entitled what is stevia that can tell you more about it. Basically, stevia is an all natural no calorie sweetener. Although the taste is slightly bitter, it doesn’t have near the side effects and possible downsides of aspartame and sucralose.
If you are having some aspartame detox and withdrawal issues, I hope my tips have helped you better deal with it.