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Do you feel worse with Aspartame and MSG?
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Do you feel worse with Aspartame and MSG?

I read the article I've pasted in below.  I know that I react to both of these.  Have you eliminated these from your diet?

Excitotoxins & Food in Fibromyalgia & Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Saturday August 7, 2010

One of the many things that's blamed for symptoms of fibromyalgia (FMS) and chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), especially pain and mood symptoms, is an over-excited brain. In studies, FMS and ME/CFS brain scans light up like crazy in the areas that deal with pain and emotion. It's a bit ironic that those of us with the least energy are actually hyperactive in certain small areas.

What's going on, research suggests, is that  amino acids called excitotoxins are in there at high levels. Their job is to stimulate neurons -- the cells that send and receive electrical messages -- and in the proper amount they're a good thing. In fact, they're essential for proper brain function. However, at high levels, they cease to be good. As many of us experience every day, high concentrations make the receptors on your neurons misfire, amplifying pain signals, or creating uncontrollable anxiety and irritability. When concentrations become high enough, neurons become so hyper-stimulated that it actually kills them.  When neurons are gone, they're gone -- the brain doesn't build new ones.

The chief excitotoxin in your brain is glutamate (also called L-glutamate.) The healthy brain works hard to regulate levels, and there's even a specialized type of glial (white matter) cell whose job is clear that stuff out of there.  We don't yet know why, but high glutamate levels are associated with FMS.

Another common excitotoxin is aspartate (or L-aspartate).  Aspartate and glutamate both occur naturally in your body, but you don't want to do anything to raise your levels.  The scary thing is, it's really easy to do just that.

Why?  Because they're both present in the modern diet, especially in the U.S.  Aspartate is a component of aspartame -- the artificial sweetener known as Equal, NutraSweet and AminoSweet.  It's in diet sodas, sugar-free drink mixes, and all kinds of low-calorie packaged products.  I'm sure you've heard of MSG, but do you know what it stands for?  Monosodium glutamate.  It's in a multitude of packaged products as well, as a flavor enhancer.

Fortunately, research shows that your blood-brain barrier only allows a small amount of these things through.  That's good news, right?  If they can't get to your brain, they can't make those receptors misfire.  Well, not exactly.

You see, not all of your receptors are in your brain -- your pain receptors are actually in the spinal cord.  That means every bit of aspartame or MSG you ingest has free reign to get your pain receptors worked into a frenzy, sending a whole bunch of extra pain signals to your brain.  They actually cause you to hurt worse. And some of what slipped through the blood-brain barrier may also help your brain amplify those incoming pain signals even more.

Some people who are especially sensitive will feel the effects of food-based excitotoxins immediately, but for most of us they're much slower and more subtle.  It may be worth eliminating them from your diet for a few weeks to see if it helps your symptoms.  Studies of several neurological diseases (Alzheimer's, Parkinson's and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis), suggest that aspartame and glutamate can exacerbate symptoms.

Avoiding aspartame in your diet isn't that difficult if you read labels.  In spite of a frequently changing name (generally in response to bad press), it still has to be called aspartame in the ingredients list.  MSG is a different story, as it's a component of many common food additives.  The organization Truth in Labeling has a fabulous list on its website: Hidden Sources of MSG.

The brain provides other amino acids that counter the effects of excitotoxins. The job of GABA (gamma-amino-n-butyric acid) is to calm brain functions, and some people with FMS and ME/CFS say GABA supplements help relieve their symptoms.

I do pretty well at avoiding aspartame, but I haven't been conscientious enough about MSG. Fortunately, my gluten intolerance has lead me to eat much more of a whole-food diet, so it's not as much of a concern. When I eat a lot of packaged foods, I do notice that I feel generally worse.

Have you noticed a problem with aspartame or glutamate in foods?  Has eliminating these foods helped your symptoms?  Have you used GABA supplements?

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5 Comments Post a Comment
I don't normally have a problem with aspartame, but I do have definite problems with MSG and avoid it whenever absolutely possible.

When I first read about the "link" between aspartame and fibro, I did eliminate it from my diet for about 6 months.  I didn't notice any difference by not having it, so I decided to "test" it and slowly added it back into my diet and I still haven't noticed a difference, so I must be one of those people that it doesn't bother (good thing for me as I don't like the taste of "regular" soda - I only drink diet - and I also don't like and/or get a reaction from Equal or the other "new" one out that I just had a brain fart and can't remember the name of!)

I have noticed, however, that I do tend to have more problems/pain/symptoms if I have caffeine - even small amounts.  Does anyone else have this issue?  It would be interesting to know if I'm alone in that or if it's more common than I think.
don't know about aspartame cause i don't like the taste so i don't eat it anyway. msg makes me sluggish and a muscles sore/ inflamed all over. yuck!
the caffeine - largely cut this out in the last year, good for reducing tension, not sure if it originally caused inflammation.
i've found milk/ dairy has been the biggest irritant, i react to it severely.
Both Aspartame and MSG cause difficulties for me.

Since being diagnosed with Fibro/CFS, I have started removing these substances from my diet and noticed marked improvement.

You might also consider eliminating any and all processed sugars and white flours ... big improvement in my energy levels when this is eliminated.  

Suprisingly, it doesn't take long to notice improvements. Within as little as 3 days, I notice changes for the better!
I'm good at avoiding aspartame and all artificial sweeteners (I don't even trust stevia, I'm waitinf for more time to pass before deciding on that one!).

I used to be a total diet drink junkie.  Now that I've stopped, if I even take a sip of one it tastes awful to me.  So I take that as a sign that I'm better off without it.

I have not made a conscious effort to avoid MSG, but I am working in general to get further away from processed foods.  I was eating a more natural whole foods diet until my recent relocation, now I have so much less time to shop and cook.  But reminders like this post are good!
Hi to all.......Yes I too have problems with artificial sweetners and MSG. I do avoid them as much as possible...I found this out last summer...I stopped drinking it and then by mistake had the sweetner and I was down for about a week....It makes the pain much worse and it just doesn't stop.....The process food is my problem. I try to avoid it but sometimes when I'm home alone and need to eat I choose a frozen meal or something of the sort....I hope every one is having a pretty good day......((((Gentle Hugss)))
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