Handful of Pills

2 Lifestyle Changes to Curb Chronic Headaches

By Beth Ford  

I began having little headaches in my early 20s. Small nagging ones that lasted an hour or so and eventually went away.

In my 30s, the migraines developed. They only came on occasionally but led to me seeing a neurologist and adding prescription medication to my over-the-counter relief regimen.

The pattern continued through my 50s. According to my neurologist, I was experiencing rebound headaches from all the medications I was taking.

I finally decided to take his advice in November 2011. I went cold-turkey and stopped taking everything. I had one of the worst migraines I’ve ever had. I missed a week of work—tossing and turning in bed, pacing back and forth through the house—until the headache wore off. It was one of the most miserable weeks of my life. But I did it.

The next four months, I had some headache-free and some not-so headache-free days. The days I struggled, I would fight through it without taking anything.

I became engaged to my now-husband, Charlie, and had a wedding to plan. Three days before our wedding, I gave in and took an Excedrin to get rid of a nagging headache. Unfortunately, that was all it took.

The same problem returned—infrequent headaches that intensified and drove me back to medication.

By February 2016—yes, this year—I decided enough was enough. I was going to try going cold-turkey again. I missed another week of work with an excruciating headache.

While I was in bed suffering, my twin sister Nancy, who is a nurse, came by to check on me. She was going over a list of other potential causes of my headaches and asked me how I drank my iced tea.

We grew up on iced tea, and it was my go-to beverage. Over the years, I switched from sugar to Sweet’N Low to Splenda. Being healthy wasn’t quite the fad it is now.

Nancy banned me from using artificial sweeteners in my iced tea, and I agreed. That’s the decision that changed everything.

I have been a headache sufferer most of my life. Now at age 61, I can finally say I am headache free.

Four months ago, I gave up Excedrin and stopped adding artificial sweetener to my iced tea. I no longer have daily headaches. I feel great and love life again!

Beth (right) vacationing with three of her four sisters
Beth (right) vacationing with three of her four sisters

I had heard through the years that sweeteners can cause headaches but never really put much stock in that. After all, if it’s on the market, it must be safe, right?

Wrong. I now firmly believe my daily use of artificial sweeteners was the main cause of my headaches. I am ever so thankful to my caring and knowledgeable sister who solved my headache mystery.

I hope this story helps anyone who might have a similar problem. Life is too short to not be enjoyed every day!


Beth Ford Beth Ford Contact
UT Knoxville

Beth was born and raised in Knoxville, along with her six siblings. She grew up an avid tennis player, following in the footsteps of her parents. She has also discovered pickleball with her new headache-free life and cannot get enough. Beth and her husband, Charlie, attended high school together and have a love for animals. Beth is an administrative support assistant in the UT Knoxville College of Law.

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Posts represent the views, expertise and recommendations of their authors and do not necessarily reflect an endorsement by the University of Tennessee. Furthermore, the content of the blog is for informational purposes only. The content of the blog is not, and is not intended to be used as, a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.