Monday, January 25

MSG attacks

I'm no poster child for MSG sensitivity - but I'm learning. It's only recently that I discovered this particular facet of my physical health. (See the health mystery tag for more information in regards to my roller coaster health ride.) And that's been a challenging ride.

I have a severe sensitivity to MSG in foods.

There's a lot of myths about whether or not people who are sensitive to MSG simply need more to increase their tolerance, or even if it's all in their heads. I was even told recently, "Well, hardly anyone uses MSG in food anymore anyway." And by a doctor, at that.

The devil's in the details.
The bad food on this plate are the onion rings.
High salt content and God-knows-what in the batter.

Not so. has all the hidden names for MSG. But before you go clicking over there, sit with me for a moment. I'll list to you the top tier of names for MSG.
  • MSG
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Vegetable Protein Extract
  • Gelatine
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Hydrolyzed Plant Protein (HPP)
  • Autolyzed Plant Protein
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Senomyx (wheat extract labeled as artificial flavor)
  • Calcium Caseinate
  • Textured Protein
  • Yeast Extract
  • Yeast food or nutrient
  • Autolyzed yeast
And that's just the top tier of additives / ingredients "with MSG containing 78%."

There's a whole other section with over 20 different ingredients and additives containing "factory created free glutamate in varying amounts." And, let me tell you, it's hit or miss with whether or not I'll have a reaction to any of those second tier. I rabidly avoid the top tier, but sometimes cannot avoid the secondary tier. I know after last night's bowl of tomato soup that high fructose corn syrup? Is not my friend.

What does an MSG attack look like? It varies from person to person. Just like allergic reactions can vary from hives to anaphylaxis. But for me?

It starts with increased pulse.
Then I start to feel shaky.
My head begins to hurt, and if I've had enough MSG-containing foods ingested, I cannot stop the migraine.
I get tingly all over. Short of breath.
It's usually around this time that I'll have a vertigo attack associated with my Meniere's Syndrome. When they occur during an MSG attack, the vertigo is that much worse than normal.
And then I feel nauseous and weak. Occasionally I'll vomit. Most of the time, I curl up on the couch and try to sleep it off. If the migraine has hit, I take my prescription emergency migraine medication and let that help me sleep.

I'm not looking for pity. I am looking for commiseration. For others who experience and suffer from this sensitivity / allergy / intolerance. If you're experiencing various health problems - chronic headaches and other issues associated with food allergies and sensitivities - try an elimination diet to narrow down what it is that your body is telling you it can't handle.

I am looking for those who are pushing for more explicit labeling. We want truth in what we're ingesting. Many of these ingredients are labeled as "artificial flavorings" or "artificial colorings." They don't tell you what, exactly, they've done to add those artificial flavorings and colors. And many times? Those ingredients are harmful to our health.

So how do I cope?
I don't eat fast food. I'm still experimenting with store bought foods, but we're getting there. The more I make at home, the more control I have over what goes into my body.

1 comment:

  1. I get weirdly bad reactions to hot dogs and from-a-mix pancakes, headaches, shakiness, nausea. Sleep is the only thing to fix it.
    I don't think I necessarily have a sensitivity to MSG, but I can commiserate a little, at least.