Looking for the source of your daily tension headaches? The National Institute for Neurological Disorders and Stroke reports that ingredients in processed food play a part in about 50% of headaches! One in every two people with headache or migraine symptoms has them due to their diet. You might be surprised to know that you need not look further than your daily headache cocktail: soda. Numerous studies show that this classic American beverage is becoming iconic for all the wrong reasons.
Caffeine in Sodas
Many people believe that the most harmful ingredient in soda is caffeine. Caffeine can be a trigger for headaches and migraines by its effect on blood sugar. It causes a stimulus to the adrenal glands, which perceives it as stress then send these signals to the pancreas to release insulin into the blood stream. The purpose of the insulin is to bind with glucose molecules in the blood and carry them to the cells so that the body can metabolize it for energy for fight or flight. This cascade of events causes hypoglycemia, which in turn can cause secondary headaches.
Sugar in Sodas
The next suspected ingredient is sugar or corn syrup found in regular sodas, which can produce the same sort of hypoglycemic response as caffeine. It also can cause other forms of secondary headaches over time and eventually lead to insulin resistance, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and obesity.
Just drink diet soda, you might say. While artificial sweeteners in diet soda provide a zero calorie alternative to sugar, they are in no way healthier. Diet sodas use many types of artificial sweeteners in place of sugar, including aspartame, which acts as a neurotoxin. Translation: nerve poison – toxic to your nervous system and a direct source of headaches.
Artificial Sweeteners in Sodas
Can be found in brands such as NutraSweet, aspartame has been the most commonly used sweetener in diet soda since it got its FDA approval for use in carbonated beverages in 1983. Still today, aspartame claims a majority of the adverse reaction reports made to the Food and Drug Administration each year. It is made from L-aspartyl-L-phenylalanyl methyl ester and is 200 times as sweet as sugar with negligible caloric content – great for food marketing, but not so great in the human body.
Aspartame breaks down in the body into phenylalanine, aspartic acid, and methanol. Methanol is a wood alcohol poison that, when heated above 86 degrees Fahrenheit, converts to formaldehyde. The normal human body temperature is 98.6 degrees. Aspartame is also an excitotoxin that builds up in the brain, and can excite brain neurons to the point of cellular death.
Sucralose is another fairly new artificial sweetener commonly used in diet sodas that despite the absence of long-term data, is showing signs of causing a host of health problems including headaches. Some evidence suggests sucralose may cause migraines, gastrointestinal issues, and thymus gland damage; intensify sugar cravings; increase appetite; and trigger insulin release.
[Photo Credit: poolie on Flickr]