TLDR: stevia can f*ck you up.
I should preface this by mentioning that I have some fairly strong chemical sensitivities. Alcohol is a no. Instant coffee is a no (caffeine itself is fine). Any form of hormone and most estrogenic compounds (lots of plant stuff) are usually a no. Dark chocolate is sort of a no - if I eat too much I get heart palpitations but I eat it anyway. Cuz hey, it's chocolate.
So while at CVS last week (Monday) I noticed these Starbucks 'Refreshers' energy drinks. Figured I'd try one. It was pomegranate. Who doesn't like pomegranate? It's red right? It must be good! It also had Ginseng (kind of like chocolate it's a 'shouldn't but do', in moderation), some B vitamins, and stevia leaf extract, which I didn't think too much of at the time. Stevia, aka Rebaudioside, (aka rabies!) is this fucked up kinda-new all natural sweetener derived from members of the ragweed family. Now, I don't have asthma or respiratory allergies, but I've never downed a glass of essence of ragweed before either. It had cane sugar as the primary ingredient so it didn't set off any alarm bells, and it didn't really taste weird like other 'fake-sugar' drinks (I can't even tolerate the taste of those) - it actually tasted pretty ok and was cheaper that some other drinks I often get.
The next morning I thought maybe I was getting the flu (weird, because I never get the flu, not too weird, because I figure eventually I'll get the flu). I had muscle aches and extreme fatigue, and was extremely irritable. Weirdly, no fever (it really felt like I had a fever). I also had a really stiff neck/shoulders - like it felt like I got charlie-horsed in the back of the head/neck/shoulders in multiple places. I work in the medical profession, so this raises some red flags (though generally, if you CAN move your neck, it just hurts to do so, it's not as serious), so I was a bit concerned. Didn't think anything of the stuff I drank the day before. This went on for a few days, at which point (Thursday) I had ANOTHER of those drinks at lunch, because I wanted to try the different flavors. By the end of the day the pain in my neck had intensified. Every single muscle in my head neck and upper back had decided to violently constrict. I started taking ibuprofen (1 per 8 hrs) because everything hurt so damn much. Stayed in on club night because I could barely friggen move never mind 'dance'. Started looking into the possibility that I had slipped a neck disc or something (though the muscle pain and nausea and overall sick feeling didn't make sense).
By the end of the weekend I also had joint pain and swelling. My knees hurt. My hips hurt. Rings that were usually loose almost didn't fit and my fingers hurt. I felt faint/dizzy, especially standing up. The thought of eating made me feel disgusted. The only thing I had any desire to eat at all was sourdough and honey (my normal diet is pretty much cow, sometimes between a couple slices of cow, with a side of cow, usually washed down with a glass of fresh cow - so 'hey ima eat bread all weekend' is weird all on its own). I was starting to feel a little better Monday afternoon, but then woke up in the middle of the night Monday/Tues covered with sweat, with upper abdominal pain and nausea (the ibuprofen had probably further aggravated this too). I took my temp and it was 97. Didn't really know what to make of this. I had had to clean out some fungus infested boxes at work two weeks ago and started to wonder if I had picked up some crazy shit. Finally called someone and had them take me to the hospital. Blood tests revealed *no infection* which was really strange considering I felt like I'd been forced to sprint a mile and then run over. Went home, called in sick to work, and slept for 10 hours. Got up to drink some tea. Went back to sleep for another 8 hours. Called in the next day, slept half the day, spent the other half of the day drinking water and tea/honey(mostly decaf) and then slept through the whole night. Thursday, finally, I started to feel normal again (my neck went from omgwtf to fine so I don't think it could have been a damaged muscle).
I don't know what made me think of the stevia (I was still thinking I had some virus plus a bad reaction to ibuprofen) but I found some accounts of it causing headaches/ migraine and muscles pain in some people. The descriptions are like textbook. Headache, stiff neck, fatigue, dizziness, nausea, arthritis-like swelling. The hell? You would think there would be a warning somewhere on this crap. Like: May cause anaphylactic shock (NOT what I had thankfully but apparently it can cause this if you are allergic to ragweed, wtf) and/ or make you feel like you've been shot in the neck with a nail gun, had your head pressed into a vice and then your body steamrolled and then suffocated.
Some people drink some really bizarre shit man...
Listening to: Grendel - Hate This
Watching: Neverending Story
Playing: Killing Floor