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Glutamate, MSG, monosodium glutamate, MSG, glutamate, glutamic acid
Are you Sensitive to MSG?
Pinpointing MSG as a Reaction Trigger

MSG-sensitive people report reactions ranging from simple skin rash to severe depression and life-threatening physical conditions. Two or more reactions occurring together, or one following another, are not uncommon. The amount of processed free glutamic acid (MSG) ingested may play a role in the severity and specific nature of a reaction. The intensity or severity of a reaction also appears to be affected by alcohol ingestion and/or exercise just prior to, or immediately following, MSG ingestion, and some women report variations in their reactions at different times in their menstrual cycles.

Diagnosis of MSG sensitivity is extremely difficult.

- None of the symptoms of MSG-toxicity are caused exclusively by MSG. Most, if not all, could be caused by various physical conditions as well as by other food additives.

- Some people eat MSG and react immediately. Some react as late as 48 hours after ingesting MSG. Of help in diagnosis is the fact that for any one person, the time between eating MSG and reacting to it is generally the same.

- Reactions are dose related. Some people can not tolerate even the smallest amount of MSG. Others tolerate single small amounts, but react to MSG when they ingest a gram or more in any one meal. Others can ingest five grams or more, without evidencing a reaction. Canned soups analyzed some time ago, each contained about .6 grams MSG. Five grams or more MSG can, at times, be found in a single meal.

- The adverse effects of MSG ingestion may be cumulative. People have reported eating products containing small amounts of MSG once a week without experiencing reactions, while having reactions when those same products were consumed two or three days in a row.

- MSG is very often hidden in food. Hiding MSG makes recognition of MSG so complex and confusing that people who are sensitive to MSG have a great deal of difficulty pinpointing their sensitivities. If a person reacted after eating something known to contain MSG, he might suspect that MSG was the culprit. But if that person had the same reaction after eating something that contained MSG, but did not disclose that fact on the label, he would very likely question his original suspicion. Until all sources of MSG are easily identifiable, evaluation of possible MSG reactions will be difficult.

- Difficulty in diagnosing MSG-sensitivity is compounded by the industry practice of illegally advertising "No MSG," "No MSG Added," or "No Added MSG" on labels when products do contain MSG.

- Difficulty in diagnosing MSG-sensitivity is also compounded by use of fertilizers, pesticides, pesticides, and plant "growth enhancers" that contain MSG. MSG in that form has been approved by the EPA for spray on fruits, grains, vegetables, and other vegetation. (See MSG is Sprayed on Growing Fruits, Grains, and Vegetables)

- Diagnostic tools generally available to physicians are limited to a procedure called "challenge." In a physician's office, an appropriate dose (or doses) of MSG would be given to the patient, and provision would have to be made for both restricting the patient's contact with other potential reaction triggers and observing reactions delayed by as much as 48 hours.

As an alternative, physician and patient working together may be able to identify, or rule out, MSG as a reaction trigger through analysis of a patient food diary. Restricting intake to totally unprocessed food and drink for three weeks, then reintroducing items, one at a time, may help identify offending sources of MSG.

Please check out the references to Web sites given elsewhere on this Web page. There is a great deal of valuable information there that will help you identify and avoid sources of processed free glutamic acid (MSG) and build meals that do not contain it.

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This page was last updated on July 3, 2004.