October 22, 2007

Have You Had a Bad Reaction to MSG?

MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) is added to foods as a taste enhancer. The FDA says MSG is safe, except for some folk to take too much of it, or those who suffer from asthma.

At MSGTruth.Org, there is a long research list that begs to differ. There's also NoMSG.com, a consumer group site battling against MSG; MSGMyth.com, a reference website compiled by Debbie Anglesey; MigraneWeb.com, which has a section of its site dedicated to MSG; and the British watchdog group's FedUpWithFoodAdditives.Info's fact sheet on MSG.

Yes, it's controversial. A nice, concise summary of that controversy is found on the British fact sheet.

For those who have had a reaction to MSG, there's no debate. Also called "Chinese Restaurant Syndrome," reactions to MSG can range from feelings of nausea to migranes, dizziness, and heart palpitations. It can trigger asthmatic attacks. And, it's not a quick response/recovery: it takes a good couple of days to bounce back from an MSG reaction according to the University of Illinois Medical Center.

There are those that argue that long term effects of MSG can include Parkinson's Disease, Alzheimer's Disease, Autism in children, Diabetes (I and II), and obesity in children and adults. (Yes, MSG is argued to cause you to want to eat more.)

Both sides can agree on one thing: too much MSG will cause bad reactions in humans. The FDA report suggests that amount to be around 3 grams. And, with the growing list of foods containing MSG, perhaps it's not too hard to imagine that more and more people are getting excess MSG in their diets ....

From MSGTruth.Org, a partial list of common foods with MSG (go to link for complete list):

McDonald's French Fries
Doritos®
KFC® fried chicken and most of their other products
Progresso® Soups - all of them
Kraft® products nearly all contain some free glutamate
Planters® salted nuts - most of them
Accent® -this is nearly pure MSG
Braggs® Liquid Aminos - sold at Whole Foods
processed cheese spread
supermarket poultry or turkeys that are injected or "self-basting"
flavored Ramen noodles
boullion - any kind
flavored potato chips
soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Parmesan cheese - naturally high in free glutamate



From Rense.com, a partial list of ingredients that all mean the same thing, MSG has been added, quoting from Excitotoxins - The Taste That Kills by Russell Blaylock, MD:

Monosodium Glutamate
Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
Hydrolyzed Protein
Hydrolyzed Plant Protein
Plant Protein Extract
Sodium Caseinate
Calcium Caseinate
Yeast Extract
Textured Protein (Including TVP)
Autolyzed Yeast
Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
Corn Oil


And, if that's not enough, there's also the ingredient "natural flavor" or "natural flavoring." Yep, you guessed it: another synonym for MSG.

Personally, I believe MSG is bad for me and I avoid it. I know enough to know that Panda Express Gourmet Chinese Food takeout causes me to feel terrible the next day -- but my real testimonial comes from some flavored Kettle Chips (Maui Onion) that I splurged on, even though I usually avoid fried potato chips. Bad reaction (including dizziness, which was scary), and the cause? MSG.

34 comments:

Debbie said...

I experience migraine headache, nausea ,vomiting etc- it's the worst-always from seasoning on meat

Rebecca said...

Hi Debbie,

Thanks for writing!

I get the same symptoms but interestingly, not meat seasoning as much as Chinese food or those kettle-type chips. So, I just avoid the chips (which I guess is a good thing anyway) and I eat Chinese food at home, where I know what goes into the food or I go someplace where I think they are going to prepare my meal fresh, not some takeout place with pre-made food like the Panda.

Have a great day, and thanks again for taking the time to write a comment!

Rebecca

Anonymous said...

Rebecca, thank you for writing this blog on the topic of MSG adverse reactions.
I suffer big time from MSG consumption. And I AM Chinese! Every time I vista my sister in the Los Angeles area, we always dine out in different Chinese restaurants. The aftermath is always terrible. I get migraine and won't recover for a couple of days. I will end up taking Maxalt - a prescription rx for migraine.
I want to share this experience with others so that my fellow suffers don't feel alone. I did not understand what was going on with me for years and suffered from these issues all this time.
So, heads-up to those who frequent restaurants in Montery
Park, Rowland Heights, China Town in LA, please be aware. Even if you asked them not to put MSG in the food, they don't always comply for two reasons; one is they just don't understand we suffer from adverse reactions; two, the cooks think MSG critical ingredient and don't know how to cook without it.
Be careful and take care!

Reba Kennedy said...

Anon,
Thanks for writing! And, good point: it's been my experience, too, that restaurants can (and will) ignore your requests for NO MSG.

At a local Chinese restaurant, my friends and I all ordered our meals without MSG to no avail. One of the guys said he thought that it was lunchtime, they always get a big crowd, and probably had several things already prepared in the back.

His idea was that our request was ignored because we got what everyone else was going to get: MSG-flavored fried rice, etc.

Didn't know that the cooks actually think that MSG is a must-have in their recipes. One more reason to cook at home, I guess.

Thanks again for writing!
Reba

Doeie Girl said...

Japanese food also has a lot of MSG. I just reserarched- for example- the clear soup and most of the time it is not made with natural ingredients but with dashi powder or a dashi cube and this is very high in MSG or sometimes yeast- also high in MSG. So, last night I had one sip of soup and instantly felt sick...I get a stomach reaction and then can not swallow. Like GERD reaction. It ruined the rest of my meal, later made me dizzy. Now I researched this on line and see what I may have been suffering from for years. THe high contents of MSG - even in Japanese cooking....

Reba Kennedy said...

Doeie Girl,

Thanks for writing! Interesting that a clear food like this soup would have MSG, glad you shared this. Wow.

Thx again,
Reba

Anonymous said...

i have serve reactions to msg i go like im on drugs i cannot hear or see let alone remember my name or where i am i go to sleep and wake up thinking it is the next day

Elyn said...

There are some natural bouillions that don't have MSG in any of its forms, but you have to look really hard for them. One is Organic Gourmet brand from Switzerland.

I live in China, and we have to cope with this a lot. Sometimes people say that eating a small piece of chocolate helps a reaction. I am not sure if this helps everyone - we are all so different - but it might help some. At least we can drink a lot of water to flush it out...

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Elyn,
Wow - you live in China - how fascinating!

And, much thanks for the tip about chocolate helping to combat MSG. It may not help everyone, but I think most everyone likes the idea of chocolate for medicinal purposes!

LOL

thanks so much for writing,
Reba

Anonymous said...

I recently started to have reaction to msg, skins on my hands will break out and somtimes blister. I actually grew up in Hong Kong, I can't even imagine how much msg I have eaten in my life, although I live in the US now. But everytime I go to Asian cities like Hong Kong, Tokyo. I would have the same problem, not that they use MSG less in the US, but I think the labeling is a little bit better and it is not as much of a "custom" yet in here to use MSG. In Hong Kong, to my surprise, even some of the most expensive and michelin starred restaurants cannot guarantee msg free in my food, well at least they are honest, which is better many other places that would just say yes when you ordered no msg and completely ignored you.
It is pretty scary, but we are really losing control of what we can put in our body.

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Anon,
Ye Gads, that sounds horrible - to have blisters on your hands from MSG. Eww.

I agree with you, it does seem like we are losing control of what we can put in our bodies. Or, at least we have to take extra steps and keep educating ourselves on what's out there ... because things on the store shelves and things on the menu cannot be trusted to be healthy and safe for you.

Thanks so much for writing, Anon!
God bless,
Reba

Anonymous said...

Yesterday I felt badly but hadn't any idea why. My vision was blurry, I felt sluggish, dizzy and then started hallucinating. Magic mushrooms? No, it was MSG. I had sausage Sunday and Tuesday... I guess the build up did it. My problem with MSG is that it sneaks up on me. I float along without any obvious difficult, then wham, I'm incapacitated for a day. My brain wouldn't fucntion normally. When I dozed off I had strange hallucinations and had to reassure myself upon waking that none of what I experienced was real.

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Anon,
So sorry to hear that you had such a bad reaction. Sounds very scary, and I hope you're feeling fine now.

I appreciate you sharing the warning about sausage because while I don't eat it, it's very popular here in San Antonio where we've got Chorizo, Kiobassa, and all sorts of German sausages that are very popular.

Thanks for writing, Anon!
Reba

Sandra, from Canada said...

One reason that some restaurants can't deliver on 'no msg' in some people's meals, is that all of the meat is SOAKED in a solution containing MSG. So you may find yourself in a restaurant with friends and request that your meal be MSG-free, but it is impossible, since the food is completely saturated in MSG before it is even fully cooked. (A good friend who works in a local Thai restaurant let me know this, but it is a secret.) If a server tells you they will do up a 'special meal' for you, don't take their word for it, it is already too late. So sad, that adding these chemicals to everything is automatic and considered 'normal'.

Anonymous said...

I am age 65, OD'ed on msg last week and had the most harrowing bout of pain in my entire life. In the ER they gave me two shots of morphine and then benedryl IV.
It was truly tortuous levels of pain in my shoulder,head and neck.
My whole upper body is still traumatized and frankly I am terrified of ever experiencing something like this again. It was caused by four days of Japanese deli food, Marmite, nutritional yeast, and Miso. I am humbled to new habits. Bless us all to be free of this toxin and learn sound choices.
Best Wishes,
Wes

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Anon,

Wow - your story is so scary, and I'm so glad to know that you survived apparently unscathed (at least physically).

Thanks for sharing your story - the idea that MSG can land you in an Emergency Room is something that everyone needs to understand.

Again, thanks for sharing and God bless,
Reba

Rachel Davis said...

My 13 yr old daughter just started suffering from grand-mal seizures about 2 1/2 mths ago. She was just recently hospitalized 6/24/12 for 4 days after having 3 seizures in 1 day. Someone brought up Chinese food, so I went back on my bank statements and this is what I found.
5/29 bought Chinese food from a restaurant containing MSG
5/30 was seen by her Dr. for a seizure.
6/23 bought Chinese food from the same restaurant (this time she ate a lot of chinese food)
6/24 she suffered from 3 seizures and was in the hospital.
In the 1st week of april is when she went to her friends house and they had Chinese leftovers, She had a seizure 4/11. This is the very 1st time she had ever tried Chinese food, that restaurant cooked with msg.

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Rachel,
Thanks for sharing this -- how scary this must have been for you and your daughter. And how smart of you to go and investigate those bank statements.

I'm assuming from your message that now that the link to MSG has been discovered, your daughter is out of the hospital and the future looks bright.

Scary stuff, this MSG -- and scary, too: as discussed above, it's not just in Chinese food. I know that you know this already, with your investigative skills.

It just makes me sad and mad that a little girl can't have an egg roll or a bag of chips without risking a seizure.

God bless your family!
Reba

kate woodford said...

Hello

I am new to this site. What a godsend it seems to be. Last night, I think I had a severe and terrifying msg reaction. I went to a friends and he made a stir fry. Besides all the yummy veggies and organic chicken he used peanut oil, sesame oil, garlic, onion, ginger and black bean paste. I had no idea but its loaded with it. About half an hour affer we ate, I started to tremble and shake. It was kind of twitchy at first but then got much worse. My muscles all over my body became stiff and uncomfortable and as someone else posted here, my neck shoulders and upper back started to ache like I had been beaten. My chest tightened up and my heart started to race some. At first I thought it was a panic/anxiety attack of some sort so took a medication for that but it continued. It didn't get any better so I had to excuse myself and go home. I was twitching, shivering, aching the whole way home. This morning I woke up with a furious headache and I still feel achy and 'off'.

My question is besides chocolate, is there anything else that I should carry to help? I know msg is hidden in so many things and leads me to suspect that my ingestion of these stealthy excito-toxins might be behind some of the other medical issues I have been experiencing. Any help is greatly appreciated.

Bless all of you

Kate Woodford

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Kate,

How horrible for you - as I was reading I was thinking what a great recipe your friend had put together and then I read that black bean paste is chocked full of MSG.

Goes to show that we all have to be careful not just with stuff we buy at stores (like my Kettle Chips experience) or at restaurants (see Chinese food above) but also with our own food, made in our own homes, because some ingredient can sneak MSG into our homemade meals.

Thanks for that lesson, Kate.

As for your question about what to do that helps, I open that up for comments here.

I know that for me, sleep is important (not like I feel doing anything else anyway, right?) and drinking lots of water seemed to be a good thing.

Took me a good 48-72 hours to feel like I was back to normal.

Scary stuff, wish there was more public awareness about MSG.

God bless you Kate and thanks so much for taking the time to write,

Reba

Anonymous said...

I am finding I am very sensitive to MSG...especially recently. Back in April, I had a horrible reaction after eating a seasoned shrimp appetizer at a restaurant called Ozona Blue. Didn't immediately notice anything but at 5am I could barely crawl out of bed to go to the bathroom because I was so dizzy. I ended up hugging the toilet bowl dry heaving for about an hour and spent the day sitting or lying down as still as possible to avoid the spinning and vertigo. Meclazine did not help.

2 days later, I made steak and used worcestershire sauce (which I had used many times in the past with no effect and which does not list anything that looks like an MSG on the label) I woke up at 1am so dizzy, vertigo, room spinning, couldnt talk, had to moan to get my fiance to get me a trash can to throw up in and did so for about an hour until I thought I would be able to swallow and keep down enough water to wash down a couple of benadryls...finally was able to sleep but felt like HELL the entire next day.

Since then I have had periodic vertigo and almost DAILY dizzy spells. I had tried very hard to avoid MSG foods until yesterday when I tried to eat Chik-fil-A chicken tenders while running errands and I just knew it had to be MSG...about an hour after eating it my vision was just "off" felt like I was on drugs, altered reality and by 10pm had vertigo again...since I knew that feeling I rushed for the benadryl and took a 50mg capsule right away, then after about 2 hours of spinning, took another 25mg of benadryl in the liquicap form and listened to my ipod "healing 528 frequency music" I only mention that because an hour later, all spins were very thankfully gone :D I have tried about everything from sea-bands, to a variety of nasal sprays (thinking dizziness was also of a vestibular cause) sudafed (from behind the pharmacy counter) helps.

Unfortunately, I cannot be sure it is all MSG reaction or possibly underlying inner ear disorder that is severely triggered by MSG because a decade ago, I lost the hearing in my left ear with no cause or reason that a variety of docs couldnt decifer...and experienced periodic vertigo after that...hard to remember if I may have eaten MSG to trigger all of those episodes, but it is definately a likely possibility!

I have never tried chocolate for that, but I know that chocolate triggers me to get cold sores especially when stress levels are high so I am a little reluctant to try that....what is worse, vertigo or 9 days with a clod sore? that is a difficult toss-up!

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Anon,
Thanks for sharing your experiences here -- so scary! That inner ear problem sounds scary too.

Hope you are feeling better and that you can stay away from all the MSG that is hidden in so much stuff these days!

God bless,
Reba

Anonymous said...

I've recently been eating extremely "clean", doing the Paleo/Primal diet...so basically NO processed foods at all...just meat, vegetables, fruit, nuts and coconut milk along with healthful oils and a little raw dairy. The ONLY food I've been eating out is roasted turkey breast from HEB grocery store OR lean brisket or barbecue chicken (sauce on side) from a really good barbecue place by my house. I've been concerned that THAT might have bad stuff in it...but I never feel bad after eating there. The other day I went to Luby's cafeteria...always thought they were pretty healthy...but about an hour after I finished eating...I've had one of the worst reactions yet. I THINK b/c I've been basically doing like an "allergy rotation" diet...by taking everything bad out of my diet...then when you put it back in..,you'll know if it's a prob. for you. I used to just have to "pass out" after msg ingestion! I would get so sleepy I couldn't keep my eyes open and I'd just have to go literally pass put. But this latest reaction, was like the beginning of the flu....but yet I KNEW it wasn't. But I started sweating and started feeling fuller...than I had 1/2 hr. after eating. I got nauseous and my hands were shaking. My head felt weird...kinda headache-y but "off". I had to drive home and lay down immediately. At first I was thinking flu...but the more I thought about how "weird " I felt...the more I connected it to hoe I've felt in the past w/ msg! And then I thought how salty everything tasted. Well just put that down, at first, to having changed my diet..& that's part of it...BUT...I think it did indicate some msg usage. And I wouldn't have thought it of this restsurant either!!!! I'm hoping it was just the lemon pepper on the fish and not on ALL the food. But I'm scared to go back and try again...but it's one of my favorite places...I grew up at that restaurant!! : (

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Anonymous,

Wow - Luby's?!!!! I share your disappointment, that's been a place of many memories for me too!

Congrats on eating so healthy, that's great, and thanks for writing and sharing this info.

Hope you're feeling okay now.

Thx again, and God bless,
Reba

Anonymous said...

I have severe reations to msg, headache, severe stomach cramps, the poopies, a feeling of my skin is on fire lets just say i feel like crap and for atleast 3 days after that. It only take about an half hour for symptom to show up and last for hours sometime. I believe there should be NO msg period allowed in anything. I want it to just go away. I get sick just from eating sliced cheese. It crazy how one thing can totally mess up our bodies.

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Anon 1023 pm,
So sorry that you've suffer from some a serious reaction to MSG since it seems to be sprinkled in all sorts of food, everywhere.

I don't understand why MSG has to be in our food, and outlawing it or at least LABELLING or WARNING us whenever MSG is present would be a good thing.

These days, I know to avoid MSG products but I can still get sick from a big surprise and I know you know just what I mean. You think you're eating something fresh and MSG-free, and then your body starts letting you know that Wo Nellie, MSG has snuck in again. Hate that!

Take good care of yourself, Anon, and thanks so much for writing!!

God bless!
Reba

Unknown said...

Is it wrong that after reading this that I'm really craving my favorite Chinese restaurant? I know they use it but for some reason I don't care. ??? I love the food and only eat it once every 6 weeks or so. Since I read this it triggered something inside of me and I can't stop craving it. It's like booze.....no drinks for months-one moonshine ad and I'm throwing up Ole' Smokey apple pie with 100 proof chocolate cherries. WTF?

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Unknown,
You're funny!
And I get cravings for Chinese Food too, love the stuff. LOL
Thanks for writing!

Unknown said...

I sm currently in bed with a massive migraine and vomitting on/off since 3 am...unable to go to my grad school classes today. All this from 2 slices of pizza.

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Anon,
So sorry to hear that you're sick. Hope you didn't miss much in class today!
Get well soon,
God bless!
Reba

Unknown said...

Okay, CRS, this is NOT fun. I make it a point not to eat fast food however today due to circumstance I did. BIG mistake. I am in the 9th hour now of severe uncontrollable tremors in my knees, neck and hands,to the point that I cannot walk or write so I am having my friend type this. As if this wasn't sufficient I also suffered a severe Asthma attack and mind you I have not suffered one like this in many years. I am trying to be still, be at rest because I am completely exhausted for hours now but what I am also experiencing are heavy powerfully thick palpitations combined with something I can only compare to as a dreadful panic attack. Wow, I am shocked after having done some research to learn how many foods contain MSG or similar subtance. WHY does the FDA allow the use of these additives and what can we do to get them banned?!!! Laurie - A Concerned Consumer!

Julie said...

I am trying the low carb diet and ate a 3.2 ounce bag of pork rinds/pork fat back. It had MSG in it...don't know how much. About 5 hrs after eating it, I got nauseated and dizzy. My eyes wanted to shake from side to side. I haven't had this happen in years. Do u think its something else or the MSG in the bag of chips I ate? I still feel like this 12 Hrs after eating them and about 6 hrs after I started feeling bad. Laying down makes it worse.

Reba Kennedy said...

Hi Julie,
Geez, I hope you are feeling better by the time that I've read your comment and posting this reply!

Obviously, from reading the prior comments as well as my own personal experience, I'm thinking "MSG Reaction." But I don't know -- other than what you are describing is scary.

Pork products are just plain scary to me as a general rule, anyway.

Please take good care of yourself, Julie. Good luck with the diet --
And God bless!
Reba

Sandra Ramos said...

Had Chinese food last night and now I woke up with vertigo #thissucks