Arthritis and Joint Pain Caused By Aspartame / NutraSweet (Monsanto)
Aspartame (NutraSweet) Toxicity Information Center
Arthritis Treatment Books (Amazon.Com)
MY PAINFUL EXPERIENCE WITH ASPARTAME AND ARTHRITIS
(From "The Preventive Diet" by Richard J. Sabates, M.D.)
"There is no better reading than the book of your own life". A
terrible pain woke me up in the middle of the night. My right big toe
was on fire, even the sheets rubbing against it caused excruciating
pain. I could not remember any recent trauma to my foot, but the pain
continued, persisting day after day.
My first wrong diagnosis, and as it turned out, not the last, was gout.
This is a type of arthritis characterized by pain and swelling in the
joints. I had blood drawn in my own office to confirm the diagnosis,
which should have shown high levels of uric acid. While awaiting the
results, I took large dosages of the anti-inflammatory medication
Indocin, plus Colchicine. These two drugs are normally effective first
line drugs in the treatment of an acute gouty flair up.
Days later I still had the pain and had begun to walk with a noticeable
limp. The test results came back negative, to my great surprise and
showed no uric acid reaction. The blood test also showed no other type
of infection, it registered totally normal.
This was just the beginning of a long odyssey of self diagnosis and
treatments. I experimented with physical therapy, hot soaks,
ultrasound, and massages. I restricted my physical activity and
elevated my foot on top of my desk between patients. After x-rays were
taken, I argued with the radiologist, insisting that he find something
wrong, even though I knew perfectly well that the x-rays were negative.
A few weeks later, the throbbing pain stopped in my foot and literally
moved to my right hip. The limp was even worse. I could not even enter
my car properly. I had to dive backward into the seat like I often had
seen my father do after his hip replacement surgery.
I repeated every possible blood test. I checked rheumatoid factors,
lupus, syphilis, parasites and even had an HIV test. All this time, I
continued limping, popping pain pills and denying the obvious - that a
doctor had no idea what was wrong with himself.
I stubbornly continued to think that I could decipher this illness
myself. I dusted off my old textbooks and voraciously read all the
latest arthritis journals. I remembered that high dosages of vitamin A
may cause a similar arthritic syndrome, so I stopped taking all my
vitamin A supplements.
Being a preventive physician, I started taking natural anti-
inflammatories such as Bromelaine, Chondroitin Sulfate, and the oils GLA
and EPA, as well as large dosages of vitamin C. All of these natural
substances I had used for years in my medical practice, with good
results. Finally I broke down and asked for help. First I consulted a
long time friend of mine, Dr. Herbert Pardell. After a thorough
examination and review of my extensive lab tests and x-rays, he
diagnosed septic arthritis . He speculated that my ailment may have had
an infectious origin, so I embarked on a fruitless regimen of anti-
bacterial agents. Under the guide of Dr. Pardell I took strong
antibiotics such as Tetracycline, Ampicillin and Flagyl for several
months, without any results.
From the right hip, the pain migrated to my right shoulder. I could
not even comb my hair. Dr. Pardell injected me with an anti-
inflammatory substance named Sarapin, an excellent natural product for
the treatment of bursitis. But after the anesthesia wore off, the pain
I then consulted a well known orthopedic specialist, who recommended
another stronger antibiotic (Cipro). He diagnosed atypical rheumatoid
arthritis, though he was uncertain exactly what my ailment was.
Several weeks later I went to a chiropractor. The good doctor examined
me. He assured me that my ailment was due to a problem in my neck and my
back. He then adjusted me and I thanked him and left his office with the
same pain with which I had come.
During my studies, it occurred to me that I may have contracted Lyme
Disease. This rare illness is transmitted by an insect bite. I live on
a ranch outside of Miami and have several horses. Perhaps I had been
bitten some sort of insect. I had more blood drawn looking specifically
for Lyme Disease - came back negative.
Two months later something happened that scared me even more. I noticed
loss of vision in my left eye. It was cloudy, as if I had cataracts. I
quickly consulted an ophthalmologist an an optometrist in my immediate
family,. Both, after carefully examining me declared that I had perfect
vision. They found nothing wrong with me. Interestingly, both were
surprised that at my age pushing fifty, I did not need eye glasses. The
lens of the eye usually hardens with age and the majority of people need
glasses after age 40. I reminded them that the use of certain vitamins
and antioxidants retards the aging process and that I would probably
never need to use glasses. They laughed and said: "We will see you back
in a couple of years to fit you for glasses."
The pain continued to plague me. From my right shoulder, the pain
shifted to my left shoulder. Again, I had more x-rays, this time chest
x-rays. I had more blood drawn, and again, all tests proved negative.
I resigned myself to the possibility that I had some sort of hidden
cancer. I remember being depressed and not being able to concentrate on
my work. I had general fatigue and my hands would fall asleep,
especially after waking up. I had to clap my hands in the morning just
to get the feeling back. At that time, I thought my symptoms of
depression were caused by mu inability to cope with this terrible
affliction. I had no idea that all my symptoms may have been the result
of the same illness.
Eight months had passed since the start of my arthritis. My research
uncovered an article in a publication called The Townsend Letter,
written in May, l991. This small publication is dedicated to discussing
medical conditions and how they relate to nutrition and unorthodox
therapies. Frequently, preventive physicians contribute interesting
articles. Numerous articles in The Townsend Letter have been previously
turned down by the most prestigious medical journals because they
advocate the use of vitamins, minerals and alternative treatments not
yet proven to the satisfaction of mainstream medicine.
I read an article titled "Joint Pains Associated with the use of
Aspartame," written by Dr. H. J. Roberts, M.D., of West Palm Beach,
Florida. In his introduction, he referred to the fact that the article
had been turned down for publication in the Journal of the American
Medical Association. With much interest but very little hope, I read
Dr. Roberts describe 58 cases of multi-articular arthritis associated
with the use of Aspartame (NutraSweet). All symptoms subsided after the
patients discontinued using the artificial sweetener. The pain returned
when he reintroduced aspartame.
Could it be that this product approved by the FDA and used by millions
of people could be responsible for my arthritis? Could it be something
so simple? I doubted it.
At that time I consumed large quantities of Aspartame, and like many
people across the country, had a running battle with my weight. When
hurricane Andrew ripped through South Florida, I used my two week
vacation to help out in the community. I opened a small clinic in a
partially damaged church where there was no water or electricity. We
slept on the floor and all we had to eat were canned foods, colas and
ham and cheese sandwiches. During this time, I gained more than 1 0
pounds. When I returned home I started a crash diet, including
Aspartame products. My diet consisted of two to four yogurts a day,
"lite" of course. I would add Aspartame to my Cuban coffee, as well as
occasionally drink protein shakes sweetened with Aspartame. I reread
Dr. Roberts article and started to believe that maybe Aspartame could be
the cause of my arthritis.
Dr. Roberts article narrated the story of a 62 year old patient that
had pain in all his joints. The man regularly used eight packets of
Aspartame a day among the coffee, hot chocolate and gelatins in his
diet. This patient also complained of loss of vision in one eye,
headaches, hand cramps, irritability and a feeling of sleepiness during
the day. Interestingly enough, he had gained 30 pounds instead of losing
weight. When he stopped using Aspartame, all his symptoms disappeared in
just a few weeks.
I nearly fell off my chair when I read this. This must be it. Full of
renewed hope, I stopped my daily yogurt and called Dr. Roberts in West
Palm Beach. The doctor spoke to me at length and told me his
frustrating story of trying to alert the community of the Aspartame
problem he uncovered. He had tried to publish his article not only in
JAMA, but also in three other publications. Each turned him down. He
suggested that the principle cause of this denial was money. The
manufacturers of these drugs spend million of dollars in advertising
and promotion to position their products in the medical community.
Sometimes they are even able to exert editorial control and block
unfavorable articles concerning their products. Dr. Roberts also told me
that he had published a book titled "Sweetener Dearest" in an effort to
alert the general population of the problems associated with this
My improvement was a lot slower than I wished, but little by little the
pains became less intense and I began to engage in all my previously
normal physical activities. Small tasks such as combing my hair and
raising and lowering the glass of my car window to throw a coin in the
Turnpike toll became very significant milestones in my life.
Two months after I began treatment, all my pains had disappeared though
I was still troubled by my left eye. As a doctor, I knew that I had
not proven that my particular arthritis was caused by aspartame. It may
be a coincidence that my pains had disappeared. So I decided to be a
scientist with all the risks this carried. First of all, I risked
suffering the terrible pains again just to attain some sort of causal
proof. And second, if the pains did not return, I would again worry
about my mysterious illness. I started my Aspartame loaded diet as a
test, consuming colas, yogurts, gelatins and ice creams.
It was with a mixture of happiness and sadness that I woke up the very
next day with the familiar throbbing pain, this time in my shoulder.
These events took place several years ago. My vision has returned to
around 100% normal. The pains are all gone, yet I know that my joints
have suffered permanent damage. All damaged joints, through accidents,
sports or arthritic processes, attract calcium and fibrin to the tissues
that in the long run may cause permanent arthritic changes. All
arthritic process liberates the so-called free radicals, toxic
substances that erode the tissue. The only protection against them
are antioxidants, especially ones that form SOD. I now take extra
dosages of antioxidants and try to apply the lessons that I learned with
my arthritis experience.
- I learned that sugar, even when used excessively (sometimes causing
terrible health problems) is after all, a natural substance that our
immune system recognizes. Never again will I touch artificial
sweeteners and I will try to educate my patients as to the very
important reasons why.
- In an effort to substitute nature through chemistry, all adulterated
foods have a great possibility (sooner or later) of eventually
producing toxic or allergic reactions in certain groups of people.
- The FDA is intimately related to the pharmaceutical industry. It is
important to let the consumers know that many retired FDA officials go
to work as special counselors to the pharmaceutical industry. FDA
Commissioner Dr. Charles C. Edwards has said " It is not our purpose to
endanger the financial interest of the pharmaceutical companies."
FDA ex -commissioner Dr. Robert Liz put it more directly. "What bothers
me most is that people believe that the FDA is protecting them....