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Reader’s Mail: Headache and Migraine Response to Sweeteners Varies

Q. I have heard on TV and have read about how artificial sweeteners are bad for those with headaches and migraines. One person was specifically talking about Equal, Splenda, and Sweet ‘n Low. I was wondering if you agree with this and, if so, if sweeteners like Stevia are okay.

A. Although it is true that some artificial sweeteners can trigger a migraine, it is very individualized and can vary from patient to patient. In my experience, patients seem to be more sensitive to aspartame than the others. Remember, when migraine is triggered by eating or drinking a specific substance, the amount is also an important factor. It is hard to recommend a sweetener to avoid, but I would start by eliminating aspartame. You can try the others in small doses to see how you tolerate them.

Edmund Messina M.D., F.A.H.S.
Medical Director Michigan Headache Clinic
East Lansing, Michigan

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