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Do Artificial Sweeteners Cause Migraines?

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Artificial sweeteners were supposed to be the best thing since sliced bread for people who needed a sweet fix but didn’t want to ingest extra sugar or calories. These days, even though they’ve been deemed relatively safe, there’s a bit of hesitation when it comes to embracing artificial sweeteners completely because of possible health concerns.

One concern in particular is that artificial sweeteners might cause migraines. We looked into the research to see what was out there.

What Are Artificial Sweeteners?

Artificial sweeteners are manufactured sugar substitutes. Some artificial sweeteners — like sucralose — are made from sugar itself, while others come from plants — like stevia. Artificial sweeteners tend to be much sweeter than sugar, which means you only need a little bit to sweeten things like coffee or baked goods, and they are almost calorie free. This makes artificial sweeteners very appealing to people trying to decrease their actual sugar intake or those seeking to eat fewer calories. A few other artificial sweeteners include aspartame and saccharin.

Are Artificial Sweeteners Linked to Migraines?

The short answer is yes, while the long answer is a little more complicated.

While a small study published in Neurology in 1994 did conclude that some people may be “susceptible” to headaches caused by aspartame and a 2006 case report published in Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain investigated a patient who’s migraines were “constantly” triggered by sucralose, these studies are small, making it pretty hard to say there’s a definitive connection between headaches, or migraines, and artificial sugar consumption.

However, both the Mayo Clinic and American Migraine Foundation list artificial sweeteners, specifically aspartame, as a possible migraine trigger, so if you already suffer from migraines, it’s probably best to stay away from them whenever possible.

The Bottom Line

Everyone’s triggers are different, but if you’re looking to be on the safe side when it comes to migraines, consider avoiding artificial sweeteners. This means being proactive about reading food labels and becoming familiar with the names of typical synthetic sweeteners.

Along with side-stepping artificial sweeteners, keeping a bottle of Excedrin Migraine with you is a great way to fight back against migraines. The No. 1 neurologist recommended over-the-counter treatment for migraine relief , Excedrin Migraine has been shown to provide relief for some in 30 minutes.

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