The Many Faces of Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)

MSG Facts and Statistics:

  • MSG and Aspartame have similar chemical structures, both are considered to be “excitotoxins
  • People who react adversely to MSG are susceptible to cross-reaction with aspartame.
  • Americans consumed about one million pounds of monosodium glutamate in 1950. Today we consume about 300 times that amount!
  • Some researchers claim that only 1-2% of Americans experience adverse reactions to MSG.
  • Other studies reveal as many as 25-30% American react to MSG.
  • Over 30% of all people are found to be extra sensitive to MSG if consuming over 5 grams of MSG in one sitting.
  • 90% of the population are “oversensitive” if consuming over 10 grams of MSG.
  • Nonsensitive people are able to eat high doses, up to 25 grams, without having adverse reactions. (Putting that into perspective, a pound contains about 454 grams.)
  • US FDA defines MSG as “naturally” occurring.” so has it on the GRAS list (Generally Regarded As Safe)
  • MSG’s action is to excite the neurotransmitters, causing nerve cells to discharge an electrical impulse, exciting the nerves of the tasting apparatus.
  • There is no list of “safe” foods which do not contain MSG because food processors often change recipes.
  • Your best bet to avoid MSG is to READ THE LABEL, READ THE LABEL, READ THE LABEL.

Who should NOT have MSG?

  • ADD and ADHD people
  • Asthmatics
  • Babies!
  • Children
  • Depressed people
  • Hypoglycemic patients
  • People who get migraine headaches
  • People with Congestive Heart Failure (CHF)
  • People with nervous system diseases
  • People with pre-existing vascular disease
  • People with renal (kidney) problems
  • Pregnant women

Note: The homeopathic, “Food Additive Detox Drops” produced by Professional Health Formulations and sold through professionals only helps the body get rid of MSG, sulfites, aspartame, and other food additives. I would never be without these drops because it’s almost impossible to manipulate my life to avoid those things which I am allergic to and I often get exposed to them– unfortunately. I personally know of one life these drops have saved.

Top Adverse Reactions Associated with MSG:

Listed in order of frequency according to the FDA:

  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Heart rate change
  • Stomach cramps
  • Mood changes
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Other Adverse Reactions to MSG:

  • ALS, contributing to
  • Angina
  • Anxiety
  • Arrhythmia
  • Asthma
  • Behavioral problems in children
  • Benign Prostate Hyperplasia (BPH or Swelling of the prostate)
  • Bloating
  • Blood pressure increase or decrease
  • Blurred vision
  • Chest pain
  • Clouded memory
  • Concentration, inability to maintain
  • Convulsions
  • Depression
  • Developmental brain defects in children
  • Diarrhea
  • Difficulty in concentration
  • Difficulty with balance
  • Disorientation
  • Dizziness
  • Drowsiness
  • Esophageal reflux and heartburn
  • Extreme dryness of the mouth
  • Extreme mood swings
  • Flu-like aches
  • Flushing of the skin
  • Focusing difficulties
  • Glaucoma in test animals
  • Hives or rash
  • Hyperactivity
  • Infertility in test animals
  • Insomnia
  • Irritable bowel
  • Joint pain
  • Learning disabilities
  • Lethargy
  • Light-headedness
  • Loss of balance
  • Mental confusion
  • Migraine headaches
  • Mouth lesions
  • Nausea
  • Nervousness
  • Nocturia (Bed wetting)
  • Numbness or tingling of the skin
  • Panic attacks
  • Pounding heart
  • Runny nose
  • Sciatica
  • Shortness of breath
  • Skin rashes
  • Sleep disturbances
  • Sleepiness
  • Slurred speech
  • Sneezing
  • Stiffness
  • Stomach ache
  • Stomach cramps
  • Swelling
  • Swelling of the throat
  • Swollen gums
  • Temporary tightness or partial paralysis
  • Tightness
  • Tinnitus
  • Vomiting
  • Weakness

Syndromes Associated with MSG:

“Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”: The syndrome occurring 15 to 20 minutes after ingesting Chinese restaurant food containing MSG believed to be responsible for racing heart or palpitations, chest pain, general weakness, headache, and numbness at the back of the neck radiating down the arms and back, facial pressure, anxiety, eyelid twitching. The syndrome lasts up to several hours and sometimes leaves one with a hangover effect.

MSG symptom complex is thought to be responsible for poorly controlled asthma and asthmatic symptoms following ingestion of MSG.

Migraine Headaches: MSG seems to be a common cause of migraines. I have muscle-tested that the headaches can happen up to 36 hours after ingesting MSG. For those people ingesting MSG every day in something, it’s kind of hard to track down the core cause of a headache when you are not thinking more than a few hours ahead!

Reactions and duration of symptoms times vary for all symptoms and can occur immediately upon ingestion and up to up to 48 hours after ingestion of MSG.  While MSG reactions vary widely from one individual to another, the reactions are markedly consistent for each individual.

For example: If your particular reaction to eating MSG is a dangerously racing heartbeat and flushing skin these symptoms will consistently be your reaction each time you consume MSG.

For me, I start to feel a heart arrhythmia (palpitations), mild asthma, anxiety, nervousness, my feet start to swell, my eyelids twitch and slight nausea–every time the MSG load gets to be too much in my body. If I’m lucky, I have my Food Additive Detox Drops with me, and yes, I have an extra bottle backed in my luggage! (Along with the food I pack around every time I travel.)

Question:  I eat foods with naturally occurring MSG (glutamic acid). How come I don’t react to that?

As the theory goes, most proteins, such as meat and other types of natural food products, are quite rich in glutamic acid in the form of protein. This is slowly broken down with digestion so you’re delivering the amount in slower and smaller quantities than if you were eating food highly seasoned with MSG.

When you ingest MSG in it’s free form, glutamic acid, it doesn’t have to be broken off of a protein chain so it can absorb more quickly and in higher doses. When this happens, the body just can’t keep up and the liver gets overloaded.

A quick test to see how your liver is doing in the detoxification arena: Look at the tips of your fingernails. Do you see reddish lines just at the tips? If so, your liver is overloaded. You will need to find out why, cut some MSG foods out of your system, eat more raw fruits and vegetables and possibly add a liver cleanser of some kind to your regime.

SOURCES OF MSG:

Monosodium Glutamate is Naturally Occurring in:

  • Apples
  • Dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Grapefruit
  • Meat
  • Mushrooms
  • Oranges
  • Potatoes
  • Poultry
  • Sea tangles
  • Seaweed
  • Soybeans
  • Sugar beets
  • Tomatoes

Names on Food Labels that Always Contain Some MSG and the names of ingredients sometimes (but not always) used to hide MSG:

Note: Products labeled “no MSG added” are not necessarily free of MSG.

  • Accent
  • Ajinomoto (In Oriental foods)
  • Calcium caseinate
  • Gelatin
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamic acid
  • Glutavene
  • Hydrolyzed Oat Flour
  • Hydrolyzed Protein
  • Malt flavoring
  • Malt-extract
  • Maltodextrin
  • Mono potassium glutamate
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Natural beef flavoring
  • Natural chicken flavoring
  • Natural pork flavoring
  • Pectin
  • Protease
  • Protease enzymes
  • Seasonings
  • Sodium caseinate
  • Soy protein concentrate
  • Soy protein isolate
  • Soy sauce
  • Soy sauce extract
  • Stock
  • Textured protein
  • Whey protein
  • Whey protein concentrate
  • Whey protein isolate
  • Yeast extract
  • Yeast food
  • Yeast nutrient
  • Zest

Food Label Names That Often Contain MSG, or Create MSG During Processing:

  • Ajinomoto
  • Anything labeled Fermented
  • Asian Food Condiments
  • Autolyzed Yeast
  • Barley Malt
  • Bouillon
  • Broth and Stock
  • Cake
  • Candy
  • Canned Chili
  • Canned Gravies
  • Canned Stew
  • Canned Sauces
  • Carrageenan
  • Catsup
  • Chewing Gum
  • Convenience Foods
  • Deli-Style Meats
  • “Diet” foods
  • Enzymes
  • Enzyme Fortified
  • Fermented Foods
  • Flavor Packets in:
    • Boxed Rice
    • Dried Soups
    • Pasta Products
    • Salad Dressing Mixes
    • Top Ramen
  • “Flavorings”
  • Fortified Flavoring
  • Frozen Foods
  • Kombu Extract
  • Hydrolyzed Cosmetics
  • Ice Cream
  • Malt Extract
  • Malt Flavoring
  • Maltodextrin
  • Manufactured Food
  • Mayonnaise
  • Mei-Jing
  • Milk Solids in low-fat products
  • Mustard
  • Natural Beef Flavoring
  • Natural Chicken Flavoring
  • Natural Flavoring
  • Natural Pork Flavoring
  • Pectin
  • Pickles (fermentation)
  • Processed Foods
  • Protease
  • Protease Enzymes
  • Protein
  • Protein Concentrate
  • Protein Fortified
  • Protein Isolate
  • Restaurant Food (Most)
  • Sauce Extract
  • Seasoning (the word)
  • Smoked Meats
  • Soy Protein Concentrate
  • Soy Protein Isolate
  • Soy Sauce
  • Soy Sauce Extract
  • Spices (sometimes means MSG)
  • Stock
  • Subu
  • Tamari
  • Wei-Jing
  • Whey Protein
  • Whey Protein Isolate
  • Whey Protein Concentrate
  • Worcestershire Sauce

Note: Sodium guanylate and Disodium inosinate are two expensive flavor enhancing chemical food additives that most always are associated with MSG because MSG is cheap and used to extend the food additives.

Some Hidden Sources of MSG:

  • Auxigro WP Plant Metabolic Primer contains around 30% MSG and is meant to be sprayed on beans, lettuce, peanuts, tomatoes and potatoes. (Is this REALLY necessary?).
  • Baby Foods (May contain Glutamic Acid):
    • Carnation Good Start
    • Enfalac Iron Fortified
    • Enfalac
    • Nutramingen Hypoallergenic
    • Isomil Soy Formula
    • Similac Lactose Free
  • Bacon and Ham
  • Bakery items with fruit fillings
  • Binders and Fillers for medications
  • Bouillon
  • Broth
  • Cake mixes
  • Candy
  • Canned gravies
  • Canned salmon
  • Canned tuna fish
  • Cereals
  • Chewing gum
  • Chicken and Turkey Gravy Mixes
  • Cosmetics with “amino acids”
  • Cottage cheese.
  • Drinks (Gatorade)
  • Enteric feeding materials
  • Fast Food Restaurant foods
    • Kentucky Fried Chicken
    • McDonald’s
    • Pizza Hut
  • FluMist Flu Vaccine (sold at Wal-Mart)
  • Frozen TV dinners entrees
  • Gatorade
  • Hair conditioners with “amino acids”
  • Ice cream
  • Iced tea
  • Lunch meats
  • Nutrients
  • Pre formed frozen hamburgers
  • Pre-made convenience food
  • Processed Cheese
  • Shampoos
  • Soaps
  • Soups, canned
  • Supplements (Watch for fillers)
  • Tobacco
  • Tooth pastes with Carrageenan
  • Wax on fruits
  • Whipped cream
  • Yeast, Red Star (it is grown on beets)
  • Yogurts

Depressing, isn’t it? No wonder I do so well on the Zone and Blood Type diet. I have to prepare my own food and eat simply. I’m eliminating most of the things on these lists! Kind of boring, but I sure do feel a lot better.

History of MSG:

Japanese cooks have traditionally used pieces of Kombu, a seaweed, to flavor broth and stew. In 1908 a Japanese scientist, named Kikunae Ikeda, became curious about why his wife used Kombu to season the family’s soup. Taking his curiosity to the laboratory, Ikeda soon isolated the flavor-enhancing component of kombu. He identified it as the sodium salt of glutamic acid, or monosodium glutamate (MSG).

Kikunae Ikeda, thinking ahead, took out a patent on the manufacturing of this white powder flavor enhancer that he’d isolated, as well as on subsequent patents on commercial manufacturing processes to use it.

By 1933, monosodium glutamate had become an important, even a predominant, ingredient in flavoring oriental food. It wasn’t until World War II that the United States became intrigued by this potent flavor enhancing powder as a way to enhance the flavor of army field rations. In 1948, the Armed Forces Chief Quartermaster convened an eight-hour symposium that was attended by all the major American food manufacturers and sellers. The topic of this historical one-day meeting was “Marvelous Uses for the New Flavor Enhancer, Monosodium Glutamate”.

Leading food industry representatives returned from the 1948 meeting, excited about what they’d learned about how MSG could increase the flavor and palatability of their commercial food products. Moreover, not only does MSG increase flavor and aroma, but it also suppresses undesirable “off” flavors. It could make marginal food taste better, and could even eliminate the “tinny” taste of canned foods.

This “discovery” coincided perfectly with the rise of fast and commercially prepared food products in this country. Competing fast food companies eagerly took advantage of this new flavor enhancing powder…. Until, today MSG, in all its guises, is difficult to avoid. The effects of those historical eight hours can still be witnessed on supermarket labels today as you can see by the many names and forms MSG is now known as.

Not only does MSG provide “mouth satisfaction” and “total intensity of food”, but some believe that MSG may even provide a fifth basic taste sensation (in addition to sweet, sour, salty, and bitter), what the Japanese call “umami”, roughly translated as “tastiness”.

Your best bet on avoiding MSG?

  • The safest produce is organic produce.
  • It is best to make things from scratch, avoiding all processed foods.
  • Avoid making stews or soups, or using a crock pot. (Slow cooking for a long time may cause small amounts of glutamic acid to be released from the protein in the food being slowly cooked.)
  • Be aware that some shrimp and other shell fish may have been dipped in Trisodium phosphate (TSP), a product that can cause reactions similar to MSG reactions in MSG sensitive people. (Farm raised shrimp are usually all right).
  • Trisodium phosphate may also be found in chicken parts that were not broken down from whole chickens in the store where they are purchased, and on major brand chickens such as Prod and Tyson.

Best bet foods:

  • Kashi seven puffed grains plus sesame seed (white box with purple trim)
  • Barbara’s or Nabisco shredded wheat
  • Oatmeal, unflavored
  • Cream of wheat
  • Garden of Eaten plain corn chips appear to be safe (red, blue, white, and yellow corn)
  • Hagan Daas ice cream (vanilla and strawberry)

Helpful Links and References for MSG info:

  • www.truthinlabeling.org
  • A Consumer’s Dictionary of Food Additives, by Ruth Winter, MS
  • In Bad Taste: The MSG Syndrome, by Dr. Schwartz