When I mention MSG to my patients they usually say “Oh I don’t eat Chinese food.” Well sorry to say but Chinese food is the least of my worries. This harmful chemical really is lurking in almost all processed foods that we eat. Some common examples are soup, crackers, candy, lunch meat, bread, seasonings, bouillon cubes, and even many “health foods.”

MSG is put into foods to enhance the flavor. I’m guessing because it is in so many of the processed foods that it really does a good job. The problem with it is the side effects. This website explains that MSG is tricking the taste buds into sending the signals that we are eating a healthy protein rich food. Unfortunately for us it may even make us overeat that food and make us overweight. So how in the sea of MSG containing foods do you avoid this additive? Well that’s where it gets complicated.

MSG can be part of other additives and therefore called many different things. Here is a “shortened” list of some of the most common names I have found that could contain MSG:
MSG, Gelatin, Calcium Caseinate, Monosodium glutamate, Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP), Textured Protein, Monopotassium glutamate, Hydrolyzed Plant Protein (HPP), Yeast Extract, Glutamate, Autolyzed Plant Protein, Yeast food or nutrient, Glutamic Acid, Sodium Caseinate, Autolyzed Yeast, Vegetable Protein Extract, Senomyx, Modified Food Starch, Maltodexrin, Natural Flavoring.

Ok it wasn’t that short but believe me the list goes on. So what can MSG do to you? Well it makes different people react different ways. One common way is that it causes headaches. That could actually be a symptom of what is really going on. Free glutamic acid (a component of MSG) acts in the brain as an excitotoxin. An excitotoxin is a chemical transmitter excite your brain cells to death. Sounds like loads of fun right? Well in the book “Excitoxins: the taste that kills” Dr. Russel Blaylock explains this process in detail along with how some other nasty substances like artificial sweeteners do the same thing.

So how do I stay away from this substance? Well the truth is I sometimes go out to eat and I sometimes to eat it unknowingly. But what I focus on is that I generally am aware and stay away from it. If you stay on the outsides of the supermarket (fruit, veggies, meat, eggs… etc) and avoid the processed foods in the isles you are generally safe. I used to also keep a list of the common names for MSG in my purse but now I know them pretty much by heart. There are some good manufacturers out there who do not use these additives so I’ve just learned to buy from them. Do your best and you’ll be healthier for it!

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