Friday, August 15, 2008

Aspartame Is the Devil

Thursday, August 14, 2008

I've been avoiding this topic for a while now, but I've decided to venture into this territory in hopes of some feedback from folks who are about my same age (35) give or take a few years.

A little back story...

About 10 years ago I went through a time period when I gradually began to have SEVERE joint pain. It started in my right elbow and was limited to times when I would supinate my arm. Over the course of about 6 weeks, this progressed to pain in literally every joint in my body and swelling and huge purple nodules on my legs. By this time, I had to postpone my schooling because I couldn't move without absolute misery. I decided it wasn't going away on its own and went to see a doctor. A series of those later, the only thing that would give me any relief was steroids. The minute I quit them, the pain and swelling returned. But noone had any idea why this was happening to me, and as a result, the rheumatologist was proposing a lifetime of steroid use. "FUCK THAT" was my response to that thought process, and I began to try to figure out on my own what the issue was.

About six months prior, I had started clinical rotations in my training which meant that I was working 18-20 hour days every day and every third to fourth day was unending. Since I had never acquired a taste for coffee (I still only really like frufru stuff like cappucino and espresso), Diet Dr. Pepper was my best friend. I drank anywhere from 3 to 9 cans a day. Hey, they were free in the lounge and calorie-free, so why not? Since I couldn't fix my schedule, and after some research I was doing in the lay-literature, I decided to drop the Diet Dr. Peppers. Within a week, the swelling was improving. After two, the pain was beginning to subside. It took over two months for me to become pain-free, but I got there, and for a year or so thereafter, I could take just a sip of anything with aspartame in it and within an hour be miserable. The doctors, of course, said it was just coincidence. Aspartame is completely harmless. Bullshit. For various and sudry stupid reasons I won't go into now, I found myself drinking a Diet Coke last Sunday. Sixteen ounces and twelve hours later, I was miserable yet again. Every muscle and joint in my body ached and even now I don't think I'm quite rid of its effects.

Which leads me to my ponderings... As I go into this 35th year of my life, I find myself aching much more than I would have anticipated--even now that I have been pretty much completely free from artificial sweeteners and have been eating all-natural for the last 3 months or so. The aches are not consistent but instead are migratory, a shoulder today, a knee tomorrow, my feet or even my neck this week or that. Some part of me hurts or is uncomfortable pretty much all of the time. This is not prohibitive or even miserable. It simply is and has been for a while now. I really can't even remember when it started to be a daily thing. I chalk it up to life. To walking concrete floors fourteen hours a day four days a week. To being overweight on and off for portions of my life. To too many cartwheels ending in full splits as a girl. To TaeKwonDo and softball, running six miles a day for three years. You know, just to life. I've assumed that the kettlebells have actually made things better than they otherwise would have been and losing weight has made things even better still. I've convinced myself that if I'd been doing the mindless gym rat workout or even nothing at all the pains would be worse and maybe even then would be coupled with stiffness. But for the last couple of months, I've begun to wonder if other people near my age who've been and are active have similar aches and pains. I've thought maybe a little too much about Rif and how his years of gymnastics and powerlifting actually broke his body down in the long run. And this little fear that maybe these aren't "normal" for someone my age has crept in.

Not enough to slow the training, mind you. I'm just wondering. So if you read this and you have some insight, please comment or e-mail. I'd love your input.

TODAY'S WORKOUT: A nice little ladder workout in Nashville with David W. after he put me through some paces again making sure I won't embarass him in St. Paul in October. (My words, not his. ) He swears I'm ready, but I'm getting nervous.
With the 12...
Clean, Squat, Press x 1 right
Clean, Squat, Press x 1 left
5 swings.

Repeat multiplying by 2 then 3 then 4 then 5.

We did this 3 times. The 12 becomes a deceptive little ball somewhere in there. I should have a new program from him to start on Sunday.


  1. Hi Jen!
    I am in my 36th year, and I rarely have joint pain. The week before period time my shoulders and wrists get a little achy... but nothing serious. Shoulders have bugged me off and on since I was a teenager. Never had an injury, maybe just a slight structural defect is my guess.

    I never was a runner. I was never was a high school athlete. I have practiced yoga for over 12 years. Kettlebell training for two years and resistance training for 3 years.

    I was in a car crash in 2001 and 6 months latter I was hit by a truck on my motor cycle. Neither accident was serious, but I did have joint pain for about 6 months to 1 year after.

    I want to say the wrist pain I get around "that time of the month" is from the two accidents combined with water retention.

    My father in law reacts poorly to Nutrasweet. He used to get panic attacks... quit drinking sodas... all gone.

    I am with you... aspartame is the devil. The only idea I have for you is to try an elimination diet... If you are sensitive to Aspartame, maybe you are sensitive to wheat, peanuts, dairy, corn... I try to limit the "allergy" type foods. I still eat everything, I just don't pig out on any particular food.

    I am always so curious about diet and how it affects us as athletes. Way good message!

  2. Thanks for the input, Fawn! I'm thinking I need to incorporate some Yoga somehow or another.