People trying to avoid too much of sugar sometimes use artificial sweeteners so that they do not have to completely give up sweet foods. One of the most common such sweeteners is aspartame. Cutting down on the consumption of sugar has thus been made easier; too much of sugar comes with unpleasant consequences involving non-communicable diseases like obesity and diabetes, and hence, it is extremely desirable to reduce one’s sugar consumption. However, the alternative in the form of aspartame is not itself completely without drawbacks.
Some people have allergic responses to aspartame. This might lead to a number of health complications, from gastrointestinal ailments to skin problems.
People displaying these allergies should not consume aspartame again.
Why does aspartame trigger an allergic reaction in certain people?
Aspartame has been approved by the FDA. However, in some people, it stimulates an immune system reaction whereby the body identifies the molecule as a potential threat. As a consequence, in an attempt to protecting itself, the immune system fuels the production of other chemicals like histamine to attack the aspartame to get rid of the ‘intruder’. The allergic reactions are thereby caused in a matter of minutes after having consumed the substance.
Gastrointestinal system affected
As the allergic reactions are triggered, the gastrointestinal system suffers from the bitter consequences. The lining of the intestine undergoes inflammation which usually leads to
- Stomach Pain
The histamine that is produced by the body causes swelling in the soft tissues of the intestines.
Once the unwanted chemical is flushed away from the body, the person will slowly recover.
Respiratory system affected
In barely some minutes after aspartame consumption, the respiratory system might show signs of its intolerance to the substance.
The symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
- Difficulty in breathing
- Throat swelling
- Chest pain
- Congested sinus cavity (consequence of a severe allergic reaction that requires emergency care)
Itchy rashes form as a side-effect of the aspartame affecting the skin. The rashes cause clusters of welts of varying shapes and sizes to form on the skin.
This type of rash known as hive fade after a few hours. However, if they form in the throat or inner ear, they are not as harmless – anti-inflammation creams will be needed.
Over time, the use of aspartame has grown to be quite controversial. While it is hailed as being the ideal sweetener, alternative to sugar, some food experts have warned against its consumption. When aspartame is digested, potentially harmful substances are released, like methanol which is a carcinogen, and which might also be neurotoxic. Aspartic acid is another product of digestion and it might cause hormonal disbalance and anxiety disorders.
Many experts have denounced its approval by the FDA, while the latter maintains that no concrete evidence has been put forward to show that aspartame is indeed harmful.
Research has not shown whether aspartame allergy happens over long-term use or if it can happen on the short-term. In case of allergic reactions, medical assistance should be sought to determine their real nature.