Me, Sher, and Ad

Me, Sher, and Ad
Bro Adam and sis Sher, my rocks!

Sunday, May 14, 2017

A Monster Allergic Reaction: Erythritol

Marc with Hives
(Cabbage Patch link)

By chance, I completed this blog post on Mother's Day so I guess I will put it up dedicated to my dear Mother Abby. Not a day goes by where I don't think about you, miss you, and love you. And I guess I will thank my Mother for passing on a whole mess of allergies to me, LOL. It's not so bad, I live with them. Sometimes as you will see below, a new allergy will crop up and be added to my list. As my Mom once said to me, "Your allergies? Well you can thank your Mother for that one!"

A couple years ago, my doctor recommended I stop drinking so much coffee as well as those energy drinks. I drank the energy drinks fairly often like at least once every couple days. It didn't matter the brand, just whatever was on sale or available. He had stated that he thought there was nothing beneficial to them from a nutritional standpoint and he'd rather have me drink my coffee instead. I did not completely give up my coffee but cut back on it as well. 

The other week I was shopping at the local supermarket after work. I didn't feel like making an extra stop for cup of coffee before the ride home so I grabbed a Monster Energy brand drink. I hadn't had one in ages so I figured I'd save time, grab one, and be on my way. I drank them before with no bad reaction whatsoever: the Regular, the Lo-carb, and the Zero Ultra. I decided to try the Absolute Zero variety to see what it tasted like.

I started drinking it, had about 1/4 of the can and within 5 minutes, my armpits.... YES my armpits, started itching. I started sweating pretty profusely. I was perplexed to say the least. I checked the car temperature, maybe it was on high heat? Nope. I thought about my antiperspirant, maybe a reaction? Nope, I'd been using it for weeks with no issue. I thought about the laundry detergent and my shirt. New detergent? Nope. I was using the same brand for the last several weeks as well.

The itching got worse and I had to pull over to the slower lane. My legs itched, my chest itched, my neck itched, arms, hands, feet, my "nuggets N tender" itched. WHAT THE HECK???? I looked at my arms and I was breaking out in hives!!!

Monster Energy Absolute Zero
I called my sister immediately and gave her the rundown on my itchy situation. After a frazzled conversation, we identified the culprit, the Monster Energy drink! She told me to make a beeline to the nearest pharmacy and grab some Benadryl. That was good advice because the swelling wasn't going down. I bought a bottle of 100 and popped two to start and took off for home.

I wasn't too worried because I've had hives before but in retrospect I should've probably gone to an urgent care facility as my throat started feeling a little itchy. I made it home, popped two more and then passed out on the couch. Yeah, I know a lot of you are thinking I am crazy for that as my throat could've closed up and I would've died on that couch. It didn't happen but rest assured, if I ever have a reaction like that again, I will go straight to a doctor. 

After this energy drink fiasco, I did some online research to see what was the difference between the ones I normally drink and this one, the Absolutely Zero flavor. Luckily, there are many many websites which list the ingredients of these drinks. I've never heard of half of those ingredients though!

One thing stood out which I noticed was not in the other energy drinks I had consumed was the ingredient erythritol. It's an artificial sweetener / sugar substitute which can be used on it's own or used with other sweeteners such as aspartame (think Equal or NutraSweet). In nature, erythritol is naturally occurring in pears, soy sauce, wine, sake, watermelon, and grapes. (link)

In addition, it was reported online that erythritol has been known to cause gastro-intestinal problems, headaches and wait for it ... allergic skin reactions such as hives. From the website :  "Although not highly common, erythritol can cause an allergic skin reaction for some people. A study published in 2000 in the Journal of Dermatology demonstrates how drinks containing erythritol can potentially cause a severe allergic skin reaction. A young 24-year-old woman had severe wheals (hives) all over her entire body after having one glass of a beverage sweetened with erythritol." 

In addition, and this is scary, there is research that erythritol is a "potent insecticide that kills fruit flies which consume it." (link below)

WHAAAT? Put on those brakes and let that sink in!!

This major sweetener which is a genetically modified and chemically processed corn product is now being researched to be used as a "safe" insecticide.  Interesting articles are below (in safe links) laying out the pros and cons. Even if it is "safe" I think I am going to begin passing on these artificial sweeteners. People, we really need to be more proactive into finding out what we put into our bodies!

Now to be fair, websites also state that many of these energy drink companies do not divulge what their natural flavors are, so it very well could be that one of those "mysterious" natural flavors caused my reaction. But I've drank other energy drinks with natural flavors and no reaction so I'm gonna start avoiding erythritol wherever I can.

I went to Starbucks the other day and chose their stevia sweetener for my coffee thinking it would be a safer/healthier alternative. It is actually stevia EXTRACT combined with ERYTHRITOL! Further research shows that a popular stevia extract brand, Truvia, is made with 99.5% erythritol and ONLY 0.5% stevia extract! (link below)

Scratch using that one!

I have seen the "Stevia In The Raw" and "Sugar in the Raw" brand sweeteners which I will now seek out and try instead of the pink stuff, blue stuff, and yellow stuff. I've also heard good things about monk fruit sweeteners. Here is a good link for info on stevia and monk fruit including the pros and cons of both!

You know, it makes me yearn for those days in the 70s and 80s of that pink stuff where you just had to worry about cancer in lab rats.

Or just MAYBE ... I am already sweet enough. LOL :)

Blogger's Note: This is my own experience and point of view with energy drinks. If you wanna drink them, go for it but do some research on what you're consuming and start making smarter decisions on what goes into your body. I have drank many brands and varieties of energy drinks in the past with no reaction whatsoever. I attribute this bad reaction to the erithrytol and/or those mysterious natural flavors. IN ADDITION, the LINKS I have provided above are safe. 


  1. Thanks for your research into this but sorry it followed a bad experience. I was going to recommend Whole Earth sweetener from Aldi's, labelled "with stevia and Monk fruit." Then the main ingredient is, surprise, Erythritol.
    I too inherited a propensity for allergies from my mother. This day, and always, may she rest in peace in the hills east of San Jose, Ca, where I spread her ashes.

  2. Next time put photos of the hives up so we can laugh! Just kidding. I love Monster Energy Drink but I have been lucky never to have any reactions. But I use regular sugar/products because I am chubby and would rather die from a massive heart attack instead of cancer. To each his own, I guess. Feel better, buddy!

  3. I was happy to come across your experience here. Recently, I've been using a Xylitol, Erythritol and Stevia combo sweetener which is from a very good quality source. This is the only thing recently changed in my diet from what I had ever consumed before. Oddly enough, also very recently I started to develop itchy legs, red itchy armpits (yes, I laughed when I saw your post so I knew I wasn't crazy) and itchy bumps, small welts all up and down my arms. At first I thought it was a certain lotion with hemp which I stopped using. Just now I drank a blended drink sweetened with that blend and all of a sudden the rash came back again, the itchy legs and pits came back too. I am sure you are on to something and I am going to take this out of my food supply (especially after I read it kills flies) and see if that makes the itchy scratchy's go away! Thanks again for putting your post out there!

    1. I meant to thank you for posting this comment! Much appreciated!

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  5. I also have experienced hives last month for the first time due to what was probably an "overdose" of erythritol ever since I baked some great tasting brownies that had more than a cup of Swerve as part of the recipe. Up to that point I could use Truvia packets in coffee with no problem. I guess once your body becomes sensitized to it even small amounts (one Truvia packet) will now evoke a hive showing up for me.

  6. I had a terrible experience with Truvia a couple of years ago. I'd never had hives before, and after consuming a homemade apple crumble made with Truvia over the course of a few days, I developed hives and angioedema. I was covered in sores and blisters all over my forearms and to a lesser extent on my legs. This lasted for two weeks and I needed prescriptions for steroid cream and Diprobase, as well as needing to take antihistimes and cover myself in calomine lotion. I spoke and wrote to Silver Spoon the makers of Truvia, who vehemently denied Truvia (which is made of mainly erythritol) could cause any side effects. I know for an absolute fact that it did, but it's my word against theirs.

    There should be a case for compensation as I've seen many posts of people complaining of the same side effect. The packaging needs to be changed to come with a warning - I wouldn't want anyone to go through what I did.

    1. Thank you SO MUCH Lynn for sharing your story! It helps more people become aware of the dangers of these artifical sweetners! ;)

  7. I just got back from the ER after having a very serious full body breakout of hives. Like you, it started in the armpits, sweating, and facial swelling about 10 minutes after I ate a bunch of ice cream that contained erythritol. They pumped me with steroids and benadryl, and I recovered in just a few hours. No respiratory issues though, but now my intestines are starting to rumble and hurt.