I can’t keep count of how many people have casually told me “I’m actually really sensitive to monosodium glutamate (MSG).”  News breaker… you’re not.  I know you think you are… and you really want to tell me all about your symptoms… and that you’re the special one… but I promise, you’re not.

That being said you probably could cut back on the fried rice and General Tsao’s chicken.  I mean you did just complain about being bloated…

Let’s walk through the science.

What is MSG?

MSG is a flavor enhancer which has been used effectively for nearly a century to help bring out the best flavors in foods.  MSG can be used in many savory dishes including meat, fish, poultry, many vegetables and in sauces, soups and marinades.  It harmonizes well with salty and sour tastes but contributes little or nothing to sweet or bitter foods.

MSG is the sodium salt of the common amino acid glutamic acid (or glutamate), which is naturally found in most foods and in your body (remember – amino acids are the building blocks for proteins).  It occurs naturally at high levels in many foods such as tomatoes and Parmesan cheese, and the glutamate in commercially produced MSG is chemically indistinguishable from the glutamate naturally present in food.  Our bodies handle both sources of glutamate in the exact same way. Breast milk actually contains high levels of glutamate that’s produced naturally by the human body.

The average adult consumes about 13 grams of glutamate each day from the protein in food, while intake of added MSG is around 0.5 grams.  Want to taste the best scrambled egg on earth?  Add a pinch of MSG.  Try it… you won’t regret it.

How is MSG created?

In 1908 a Japanese scientist, Kikunae Ikeda was able to extract glutamate from seaweed broth and show that it provided the savory taste to the soup.  Today, instead of extracting MSG from seaweed broth, it is created by the fermentation of starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses. This process is the same used to make other common food products such as soy sauce, vinegar and yogurt.

Is MSG safe?

Absolutely. Scientists have not been able to confirm MSG causes any of the reported effects (e.g., headache, nausea, etc).  There is no limitation for use of MSG in foods because international scientific and regulatory bodies have failed again and again to identify any harm from consumption of MSG.

In 1968, an American doctor wrote a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine claiming to have experience symptoms of numbness in the back of neck and a feeling of pressure in the fact and upper chest muscles, which he coined as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.”  He suggested this was caused by MSG because of its widespread use in Chinese restaurants, without any study, data or proof.  While the term Chinese Restaurant Syndrome caught on in the U.S., study after study has failed to show any consistent effects among individuals who claim to be “MSG-sensitive” when blindly exposed to fairly high levels of MSG.

How much sodium is in MSG?

MSG has a low sodium content.  It contains about 12% sodium while salt contains 39%.  MSG is used at levels much lower than salt.  Using low levels of MSG allows food scientists to effectively reduce the sodium content of foods, like ready-to-eat soups by up to 40%, without sacrificing flavor.  Take out salt, add a pinch of MSG, and cheers to your health.

Don’t get me wrong, you are a very special person… just not one that’s sensitive to MSG.

For additional information see the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s “Questions and Answers on Monosodium Glutamate (MSG)” consumer information website.

72 Thoughts on “Sensitive to MSG? Guess What… You’re Not!”

  • About 6 months ago my boyfriend started getting migraines on a fairly regular basis after only having one or two his entire life. I love Asian food and always want to eat it when we dine out. He finally realized that he only got migraines after we ate Asian food. I found a “cure” for the headaches that takes some time to work but eventually reduces the migraine to a bearable state and neutralizes the effects of the MSG. Your article does nothing to address allergic reactions to MSG and stigmatizes people who claim to be sensitive to it. Further, it provides no proof that it can’t make people ill.

  • Dr Wallace, please explain why after eating a food w MSG in it, that u think I’m not allergic to it when it gives me diarrhea. I can tolerate sm amts apparently, but I get severe stomach pain, feel faint, have to have bowel movement that ends up w severe diarrhea.
    I just ate a fried egg w mayo sandwich w 2 slices of crumbled fried bacon-Gwaltney.The MSG had to be in:Sodium Phosphates, S. Erythorbate or S.Nitrite, 2 % or less listed on bacon pkg.

  • If you are so certain, why is that when I forget to request “no MSG” with my favourite dish at the Chinese restaurant, I have difficulty sleeping, and are dragging the next day. Yet when made without MSG I sleep well and the following day is productive.

    Note I also am sensitive to other food additives, and stabilizers in processed food and keg beer.

    My credentials? Advanced chemistry degree, and a career of identifying root cause for problems.

  • This is very false. MSG causes a sensitivity in some people, a sensitivity which is poorly understood. It differs from a true allergy, but symptoms can be similar.
    It does not lead to death the way a peanut or shellfish allergy can but the symptoms are disconcerting.
    My sensitivity began with severe headaches when I would eat at chinese restaurants as a child. Now at fifity, I never have had headaches like that in my life.
    I realised I was sensitive to it and would always avoid it. The last time I accidently had it the symptoms progressed to a shortness of breath. I exused myself from the table and went to the restroom. I felt faint and my chest turned blotchy red. The symptoms lasted for about ten or fifteen minutes. We were at a chinese restaurnt in Berkeley CA and I had asked to have my food made without MSG.
    When I returned to the table to question the waitress she said there was MSG in the soup, which was communual to the table, I had just eaten the soup and that is what made me sick.
    Ever since I only eat at restaurants that do not use MSG and I am vigilant.
    My third similar reaction was at a restaurant that it turns out had it in the sauce.
    Knowing it is not a true deadly allergy is helpful, as I have learned it lacks the ige response. However the symptoms are unpleasant enough for me and many others which is why we avoid it.
    Every single person I know that avoids it has personally had the physical responses similar to me, they are not just afraid it is bad for you for no reason, they have personally experienced it.
    As we all know Dr Wallace medical science is replete with illnesses mediical science is ignorant of so please don’t speak as the definitive word on all and dismiss people’s symptoms just because you do not understand them.

  • I suffer from migraines only after I ingest MSG. Once I thought that this was debunked because I hadn’t accidentally had it. Then I found out that the flu shot I had just received uses MSG as a stabilizer.

    Although my experience is only one data point, I can assure you that every time I have a migraine it has been directly traced to MSG I accidentally consumed.

    My mother used to put MSG on everything I ate. I didn’t used to have any migraines. This only started when I was about 35. I suspect there is some limit that my body reached.

    You cannot universally say that people aren’t sensitive.

  • Whenever I ingest a meal that contains msg I get a serious stomach spasm by the following day. It has been happening to me from I was a teenager (13/14???) and now I am 60 and just been able to pinpoint it

  • Does it help to report the restrant that uses MSG which has made a dozen or more people I know sick? Sweet Tomatoes is basicly a vegetarian Restrant, but it also serves soups and breads. I always thought that MSG was used to fill people up, so the restrants don’t lose money on the larger portion eaters? Not as a flavor enhancement. I honestly believe this is what its intended for. Or there is that something else being used to make people feel fuller? Wish I knew what it was. Should be unlawful. Gives so many people I know headaches and diarea. Something needs to be done. This restrant doesn’t even post there using MSG.

  • Another person here who gets serious migraines, the kind that mess with my vision, when exposed to msg. It took me many years to figure this out. The migraines didn’t start until my 20’s. Like clockwork if I ate anything with msg I’d get a migraine within a day and never immediately. The exact same foods that were prepared without msg (the ones I could do that for) produced no migraine. Your article makes me wonder because as far as I can tell the migraines are only triggered by added msg, i.e. tomatoes and parmesan don’t trigger which based on what you say should be impossible. But it doesn’t have to be Chinese food, many times I’ve eaten something I thought was safe, gotten a migraine and then looked at the label and have seen msg listed. I hadn’t had any migraines for many years and thought I had aged out (my mother had a similar experience of migraines from 20’s-30’s) until tonight. Turns out I ate some food with added msg last night. Then I went online to see if anyone had done more research since last time I looked many years ago, to find your article calling it a myth. I don’t think there is anything else common to the foods other than msg. It is very frustrating to still not have a handle on this and then be told it is in my head.

  • OK. Glad you cleared that up. But since feeling like I’m on fire isn’t fun, I think I’ll skip it all the same.

  • I am in Japan and having bad react ions to the food – like a severe bloating water retention it may be MSG or other ingredients used- i was concerned for anaphylaxis as it usually manifests in lower extremities but last night involved my hands i could not make a fist- i did then take a antihistamine doxylamine i use for sleep and it is better this am started diuresing and its almost all gone. Does anyone know if not MSG what other ingeedient may cause this effect? Is DIPHENIHDRAMIBE USED FOR ANAPHYLAXIS EQUIVALENT TO OTHER ANTIHISTAMIBNES SUCH AS DOXYLAMINE?
    I AM ALSO LOOkING FOR CONFIRMATION ABOUT MSG REACTIONS NOT CREATING ANAPHYLASIX because now im worried since its travelled up my body lower extremities to upper if it can continue to laryngeal edema and cause obstruction ?

  • This Wallace person obviously doesn’t have MSG sensitivity, and since he firmly believes in the FDA he assumes it must be safe. I get a terrible reaction to MSG. Usually super tired right after meal, followed by very specific unpleasant sensation all over my body (searing tingles that make me twitch and short of breath), followed by being tired the next day.

  • MSG or Mono Sodium Glutamate is just a sodium salt of Glutamic Acid, one of the most abundant naturally occurring amino acids. The protein in your body is literally made of it. It occurs naturally in high levels in tomatoes, grapes, cheese, mushrooms and other foods. It is present in your brain and functions as a neurotransmitter. https://academic.oup.com/jn/article/130/4/901S/4686606

    It is possible that your mind associates MSG with a previous bad food experience. If you had vomiting and diarrhea from under-cooked or contaminated food that also contained high levels of MSG your mind can be programmed to associate MSG with this bad food experience. The worse the bad food experience the more likely this is too happen. There are cases of severe food poisoning where a person will feel nauseous years later just by smelling the offending dish.

    Another possibility is that you have a “leaky brain” or faulty blood brain barrier. This can be caused by inflammation, head injury, and degenerative diseases. Even so, these headaches should quickly subside as your gut scavenges free glutamate and turns it into energy.

  • Most of these people are saying they have issues with MSG in Chinese food, but are you just as sensitive to Doritos and other snacks which are loaded with MSG. If it’s only from Chinese food then it’s something else not MSG.

  • So why do I have a severe physical reaction to eating pho? If I eat pho and drink to much of the broth, I break out in a rash, my head neck and back skin feels like it is literally on fire, I get a migraine, and my stomach kills me, and I sweat the whole night. I don’t have any other allergies at all, only happens when I eat pho or something else with very high level of msg. But pho is when it’s the worst. I had never heard about msg sensitivity before this happened, which is why I’m looking it up now. But that is not normal or ok

    • Hey there – you may want to try one of the food sensitivity tests or see a specialist. MSG is in almost all restaurant foods (steaks, vegetables, soups, etc) since it isn’t required to be labeled like on packaged products… so if its just a reaction to Pho… its likely something else.

  • I’m suspecting that some of these symptoms people experience are real and some are psychosomatic.

    For the real ones, an interesting test would be for the subjects to have the same fish a week apart with one dish having 12% more table salt and the next week’s adding approx one portion of MSG.

    I’m curious to know if it’s actually the higher overall dose of sodium that’s causing these symptoms, not specifically MSG.

  • All these people saying that they eat at Chinese restaurants and then react – my question is, do you react when you eat chips? Dorritos? Home-made noodles? Or McDonalds, KFC, Karls Jr, pretty much most fast food? Because they all contain MSG. If you react to MSG, you have to avoid most processed foods, or be very careful about what you do eat. I say this as someone who is allergic, not sensitive, but allergic to MSG. So if you *only* seem to react at Chinese restaurants, it’s either psychological, you’re just racist or it’s something else you’re reacting to.
    There are no studies showing that it affects the body in any way, and every country has deemed it safe. Go to the doctor and get tested for what ever it is you are actually reacting to.

  • i realized that I react to certain type of MSG (not all, which brand or amount, unknown tho). I know most of the Asian restaurants use MSG, I feel numbness on back of the neck and shoulders.

  • Interesting that this article suggests that if you want further information on the topic to refer to the US FDA. Not sure I would trust their track record.

  • Dear doctor Taylor,

    My wife once a thought as you until we had kids. Like myself my kids are extremely sensitive to MSG or free glutamate. I cam tell if any food has MSG from the first bite. It tastes way better than it should and puts me into an eating Frenzy and feel like I’m on a heavy stimulant I do have brain fog the following day. My wife thought it was all in my mind until our kids had the same sensitivity. Now anytime we eat out my wife makes me try a bite before feeding to our kids as they start bouncing off the walls from free glutamate or MSG. Also I’d like to know who funded these very incorrect studies and what their agenda was. My recommendation to all those who are MSG or free glutamate sensitive, while eating out if it tastes better than it should send it back and don’t pay for it. That brain fog you experienced the following day is from over-stimulated brain neurons . Some studies suggest msg causes accelerated brain aging. I am one of the more sensitive people to MSG and for some reason high glutamic acid foods such as cooked tomatoes Chili’s mushrooms Etc will give me no MSG symptoms besides the enhanced flavor of the natural glutamate. Go figure hmmm.

    • That is really interesting. Actually a lot of MSG is still extracted from kelp (so it is a plant-based source). This is why I’m fighting to get time on the fMRI we just got at George Mason University. If there is any “neuro-stimulative” about MSG we should be able to see it (and that hasn’t been done before).

  • Well….if its not MSG somethings going on.
    When i was a kid ( jr high and high school) i noticed one time while eating w my family in a local Chinese Restaurant that i felt like i was somewhere else. Like i was in a cloud. I sat there thinking…”what is going on?” my head kind of ached and i got a loud ringing in my ears. After about 5 mins it went away. Of course i didnt say anything and just ate my fortune cookie.
    Skip ahead about a year and im in the same place with different people and it happened again. Pressure in my head, ears ringing and a feeling of disconnect from the group. Once again i didnt say anything and the feeling went away.
    The third time it happened around senior year in the same place i spoke up and said, “ im not sure why but every time i eat here i get kind of dizzy and a weird ringing in my ears”
    My Aunt said “maybe you have that MSG allergy”. I didnt even know what she was talking about.
    The feeling kind of scared me so i self avoided Chinese Food for years. A few years back i tried some Chinese food at a different place and it didnt happen again.
    So not sure what was happening but i know it wasnt me. Something weird was going on. I guess I’ll never really know.
    Im now a nurse practitioner. I do believe that you need to listen to people as they are usually pretty good judges of whats going on in their own body. This MSG thing may not be a true allergy but that doesnt mean that people arent correct in the way it affects them.

    • I agree that people are the best judge of what’s going on in their body… this is why I’m so interested in studying MSG. The issue is that when you enroll people who say they are “MSG-sensitive” in a placebo controlled trial, they can’t distinguish the MSG from the placebo. Neither can the blood work (granted there are additional markers that need to be measured). Honestly, it really worries me that there is something we don’t know that could be non-MSG related but really impacting people…

  • Don’t believe you! Whenever I have food with msg, I am awake all night, rapid heartbeat and brain fog the next day.

  • Nonsense. The ONLY thing that triggers my migraines is MSG. I have unknowingly eaten things with MSG and ended up with a horrible migraine. Going back over all of the food I had eaten and there it is! There is such a thing as Chinese food without MSG and many Chinese restaurants are getting away from using it.

  • I want to know how this is true. Every time I’ve eaten a food with MSG in it, I’ve vomited during that night. I’m so annoyed at having some sort of intolerance to MSG because I love foods that have it in it. Is there any way to have it checked or stopped?

    • Well since its not a traditional allergen an allergist wouldn’t be able to test for it. It makes me quite intrigued that a couple of people have said their allergist diagnosed them with an MSG-sensitivity when there’s no test for it because its not a traditional allergen (I.e., proteins are allergens because they trigger a immunoglobulin response). MSG doesn’t trigger an immunoglobulin response (at least in my read of the peer-reviewed literature).

    • We just got a new functional MRI at George Mason University and I am dyyyyyying to recruit people who say they are “MSG-sensitive” into a placebo controlled study. I’ve been applying for grants left and right and would definitely put the little money we have in my lab (and donate my time) to run the study. I don’t want to take any company money to run the study because of the ascetics of industry funded research on such a controversial topic.

  • Interesting article, thank you. And some interesting respondents too. Obviously lots of people who mistake their brain fog for an MSG-induced symptom when it’s obviously caused by carbohydrate loading.

    A good science education is sorely lacking on schools these days…

  • Recently discovered that not only do I have a severe reaction after eating something with MSG, but I also have the same and sometimes worse reaction from items containing Yeast Extract. Anyone else experience symptoms with this?

  • Hi Dr. Wallace,

    As a child my family got Chinese food about once a month, and every single time, I felt a particular kind of sick afterward — flushed and achy, with tender skin, especially around my shoulders and neck…like I was getting the flu. It was awful, and then it was over — no virus or anything. Did anyone in my family ever suggest that maybe I shouldn’t eat Chinese food? No. (It was the 70s and no one was paying attention.) Did I ever connect the dots and avoid Chinese food? Nope. Flash forward to adulthood, when I had the reaction a couple of times and thought, huh, maybe I’m reacting to MSG. So I just avoided Chinese food, simple enough. Then I had lunch at a Vietnamese restaurant, having no idea it used MSG, too. It was a cold day and I gulped the delicious Pho broth down pretty quickly. Very quickly I started sweating and was flushed, with that horrible achy feeling and a rapid heartbeat. I was doubled over and barely made it out of the restaurant.

    It is most definitely the MSG that I and others react to. It’s unlike any other food reaction or a typical overeating reaction. The thing is, it’s very much dose dependent — for me, at least. I can have a little MSG — in a couple of Doritos, a couple of Planter’s peanuts, etc. I could probably have a couple sips of Pho. But eat a whole dish that’s loaded with MSG, and I get very sick, every time. I’ve had allergy testing and there’s nothing I’m allergic to, and I regularly have Asian sauces and ingredients without MSG and am fine.

    From my unscientific life experience, most people do just fine with MSG. But some people, including me, most definitely do not. Interestingly, just recently my mom told me that every time she goes to the Chinese restaurant she feels sick afterward and has to lie down. (She was not present during our Chinese takeout Fridays; that was with my dad and stepmother.)

    I haven’t looked into the “msg reactions are fake!” studies, and I have no idea what is happening biologically during the very real reactions that some people have. Maybe it depends how much MSG was eaten that day in other foods? Maybe the doses used in the studies aren’t as big as what is sometimes in Chinese/Vietnamese/etc. dishes? Maybe it depends how much sodium is in the meal?

    I for one don’t jump to the “neurotoxin” explanation and (obviously) hope it’s a passing reaction that doesn’t do harm.

    I would ask you to please reconsider your stance. It’s one thing to say that science hasn’t been able to figure out the reaction; quite another to say that you know for sure it’s not the MSG. Why not be curious instead of condescending?

  • Yeast extract is widely known to contain high levels of free (not bound to protein) glutamate. The glutamate in MSG is free glutamate. So, eating yeast extract is like eating MSG without the extra sodium.

  • Dr Wallace, the reason I am reading this article is because I have been feeling so tired with a persistent headache and a tightness in my chest, as if I worked out too hard..starting three days ago after I ate rice cakes with MSG…I had them for my snack each day. I never feel this way and that was a new food for me, so I read the ingredients and there was MSG listed. I looked up MSG sensitive symptoms and found your article. You describe my symptoms to a tee, and yet you say they are not from MSG! I don’t know if it is or it isn’t but I do know I will not be eating those rice cakes again.

  • The only time I have ever fainted in my life (I’m 54) was last year immediately after eating a large meal at an Asian Fusion restaurant (the first and last time I was there). Just prior to the incident I was having extreme bowel pain (again, not normal). I went through a battery of tests; heart monitor, stress test, MRI, neurologist, etc. All negative. The conclusion by my GP and Cardiologist was that it was a Vasovagal Syncope event but they could not pinpoint the cause. So when I recently visited my Gastroenterologist for a yearly checkup, I mentioned the incident. His FIRST question was; did you eat Chinese food? He told me about a potential issue with MSG which prompted me to look it up (and I wound up here!)

  • The only time I have ever fainted in my life (I’m 54) was last year immediately after eating a large meal at an Asian Fusion restaurant (the first and last time I was there). Just prior to the incident I was having extreme bowel pain (again, not normal). I went through a battery of tests; heart monitor, stress test, MRI, neurologist, etc. All negative. The conclusion by my GP and Cardiologist was that it was a Vasovagal Syncope event but they could not pinpoint the cause. So when I recently visited my Gastroenterologist for a yearly checkup, I mentioned the incident. His FIRST question was; did you eat Chinese food? He told me about a potential issue with MSG which prompted me to look it up (and I wound up here!) (btw, I also went through a full allergy test panel. Nothing came up but not sure if there’s a test for MSG?)

  • Hi. Thanks for the interesting thoughts, but I must disagree…
    8 hours after ingesting MSG or Sodium Benzoate I get a severe migraine. I can almost set my watch by it. The migraines are so bad that I am unable to operate, unable to process thoughts, calculations, etc. I have had these migraines for 40 years, but with the increase of MSG & preservatives in food, they have increased over the years… Many doctors, including neurologists, have also told me that food allergies cannot cause migraines. They too are wrong… I do believe it has something to do with gut microbes (or the lack thereof). Would love to get to the bottom of this. Regards, Mike

  • I hope you will open your mind up to msg sensitivity. I suffer chronic migrain maybe not always msg related but Ihave had far to many experiences with msg to discount it.

  • I wish you would keep an open mind on msg sensitivity.To insinuate that people think they are special because they have an issue with msg is totally wrong. I am a chronic migrain sufferer and would change that in a heartbeat if possible. I know 100% that I get a migrain if I have eaten foods with high levels of msg eg tinned soups but I am able to tolerate low levels . My problem is not all Msg but a very large part of it.

  • I don’t eat in restaurants simply because I have a bad reaction to most restaurant foods. I can’t say it’s msg but I’m sure it’s due to additives in processed foods. I cook from scratch at home and don’t have those problems. Msg is natural but scientists can’t duplicate Mother Nature. Therein lies the problem.

  • My son – now 15 – is sick every time he eats food high in MSG. Last time was last night – at a festival in Scotland. He had chips with curry sauce (went back to the festival today to check ingredients) and yes, it was in the sauce. He was immediately very out of it and was sick multiple times; then slept for an hour then was OK. We used to eat Chinese when he was little (at a fairly cheap Chinese place) and he had the same symptoms every time. It’s the only common ingredient in the food for every time he’s had these quite severe symptoms. In general he’s extremely tolerant to all foods – not faddy at all. It’s quite alarming when it happens. It’s very boring to read online that apparently this reaction doesn’t exist when it is so clearly the MSG causing it.

  • A kick in the stomach, followed by face numbness and shortness of breath. Then, depending on how much I had, an incapacitating migraine.
    I hope dr W never has to go through all the symptoms described here and which he so flippantly dismisses.
    This compound affects how the neurons in your brain interact. Are we so advanced in neuroscience that we know how all there is about that? I know that I am sensitive to MSG. I know that my symptoms increase ten-fold if I ingest it in a soup or sauce. I know that some foods that have it do not affect me at a conscious level, while others never fail to. Don’t dismiss something as fiction just because you don’t understand it.

  • Hi, Dr. Wallace,
    I’m glad that you are interesting in MSG research,because it’s really annoyed me after I ate some food. And I always want to know why it cause to.

    I lived in Taiwan, and I have some personal observation about this problem.
    I notice this problem usually occur when I was eating noodles with clear soup, or some cuisine with thick sauce.(It’s normally found in Asian food)
    It’s really rarely (also can say “never”) happen on other meat, vegetables cuisine.
    So I guess it might be caused by high temperature cooking for a long time.

    Asian food usually boil soup in a big pot, and restaurant used to let the soup boiled all the day. They will cook noodles and soup separately, when the guests order meals, they just start cook noodles, but the soup is always waiting for .

    So I think, MSG doesn’t directly cause uncomfortable, it should be mixed other reasons.(cooking long time in high temperature)

    That is to say, if there is fresh soup, or it didn’t put MSG at first (maybe can put MSG when cuisine almost done), maybe it won’t be make any uncomfortable feeling.

    It’s all about my guess.
    But my English is not very good, I hope you could understand what I want to convey.

  • Please be open to the vast connections we do not yet know. It is interesting to me that many people report flushing, headache, brain fog etc. and this is called Chinese Food Syndrome.
    I would tend to believe there is a connection there with msg or something with it, although I don’t get that general pattern from msg. However, I do get migraines and II can’t see anything other than msg as the unifying factor preceding many of these migraine. These can range from mild to severe and disabling for a significant amount of time. Because they cause such productivity loss and suffering in some people, msg should be labeled — its in practically everything commercially prepared with seasoning.

    Over and over I am sick with migraine by surprise and I was unsuspecting – the food tasted great
    – too good – like shrimp chips, a casserole that had a can of soup , seasoned beef, etc.
    definitely doesn’t have to be from Chinese food. Anything seasoned, processed seems to be a risk.
    When I was a kid, on “spaghetti day” I refused to eat tomato sauce. I would have a headache already
    from the smell of the sauce simmering.I was surprised to find out tomatoes had msg —
    there was also probably a bouillon cube in it. Other things that are really bad migraine prompters for me
    are certain cheeses — like Brie, which is delicious in my distant memory and I tried it a few times hoping the bad migraine that ensued was just coincidental, but it turned out it wasn’t, so I have not eaten it in ages.
    Oddly fresh mozzarella can cause headache- I have no idea how. Pesto has been a migraine prompter, so I go very light with it,
    and make it myself avoiding parmesan as that is probably guilty – maybe also for the spaghetti sauce.

    I will add that I can’t imagine anyone in their right mind who gets disabling migraines like I do from msg would volunteer for an msg study.

  • This article makes no distinction between L-glutamic acid and D-glutamic acid, which is the main difference between MSG and the vast majority of the glutamic acid that we consume on a daily basis. Moving on…

  • Dr. Taylor, I have eliminated so many foods from my diet due to an absolute intolerance of MSG. I cannot consume yeast extract, cooked tomatoes, dried mushrooms, etc. The result? Severe brain inflammation requiring steroid treatment. Do you have any ideas on how to overcome so I don’t have to be so vigilant? I’m also severely allergic to coffee and chocolate. My body will turn fire engine red in less than 30 seconds after consuming. How do I get to be less reactive? Thanks.

  • As I type this comment, I have a wicked MSG headache. I seldom eat processed food due to eating Ketogenic/LCHF diet for the past 3 years. Every few months my employer treats us to a Chinese food lunch. The idea of opting out of the lunch makes me uncomfortable. I order shrimp egg foo young because there are zero other suitable choices. I know it contains some starch carbs, but I suck it up. I do add some soy sauce… because it’s delicious!
    The headache ALWAYS arrives during the night and by morning I’m nauseous, sweaty and my eyes are tearing. My personal remedy: potassium. Helps to flush out the MSG. I get mine from the salt substitute “No Salt”, but other people use cream of tartar. I use about 1/2 teaspoon dissolved in water. Then drink a couple of glasses of water over the course of an hour. It’s hard to drink because of the nausea but I soldier on. Buying a bottle of pills is of no value because I’d have to swallow 5 or 6 of them (along with the carby filler used to make them) to get the same dose. I’m a 61 year old woman with no health problems and taking no medications (because of the weight loss)…not saying anyone else should follow this advice. The headache is almost gone.

  • It’s 100% msg for me and cheese (not butter). If I make the same food at home from scratch nothing happens. If I got to two msg Free Asian Restaurants I love, no issues! I’ve done Cyrex labs food sensitivities test and Viome. I know what foods to avoid and anything with msg is a huge trigger. No fast foods, no processed foods and I have a huge saved list of all the names of msg when I go to the grocery. I’m always scared to eat out. First thing I do is ask about msg. It’s in All the cheap and chain restaurants. And if you compare toxic table salt to msg based on the sodium % you need to learn about what table salt is and how it can cause problems where natural sea salt with a similar mineral balance to human blood is perfectly safe. One is created in a lab the other humans have been using safely. High blood pressure is table salt not from sea salt.

  • It’s pretty clear he explained that MSG is a naturally occurring substance in relatively common foods and that the addition is minuscule compared to your actual natural intake. So blame italian, steak houses, French, blame them all. In the end, it’s just a bunch of hypochondriacs who need to point a finger as to why they feel like human garbage. I never eat Chinese food, as a Japanese american, but I put msg in lots of savory dishes at home(executive chef professionally), and my usual dilemma is heart burn from too much acidic food. But I love acidic food and hot sauce. Almost as much as i love hearing gluten diets cure autism. We’ve been munching on the same stuff for millenials. Maybe stop sucking down sugar and fatty foods and take a walk every once in a while. Might help that crater in your couch heal, along with you msg sensitivity. Also conducted a blind test locally with those claiming. Results were indefinitely negative. Guess those people were wrong too.

  • Norman borlaug won the nobel peace prize and is thought to have prevented billions of deaths from starvation. Guess we seem to be doing okay when mother nature wont tag in

  • Norman borlaug won the nobel peace prize and is thought to have prevented billions of deaths from starvation. Guess we seem to be doing okay when mother nature wont tag in

  • Everyone who thinks they are sensitive needs to take blind taste tests over a period of a few weeks to prove it. Or, just take a spoonful each day and see which days you don’t feel groggy or whatever that results from bad sleep or some other thing that is resulting to you all thinking it’s the MSG.

    Saying you are sensitive is like saying you’re sensitive to salt. It’s in everything, yet you are quick to blame it on MSG even through you have no idea what it really is.

  • It seems to me that most Asian restaurants are not kept very clean. I used to order from one place, take out. They would deliver. One day, I went there again. It was a small building, concrete floors, 2 booths, nobody there, about a dozen flies flying around, greasy windows. Never ordered from there again.

    Was at a restaurant for lunch. Looks nice and clean. Until I saw a large cockroach crawling along the booth median. My friends and I left immediately.

    I’m willing to be that most of these people that have these allergic reactions could be having some other reactions because of the food preparation. I’m sure other restaurants we all go to, not just Asian restaurants, are using MSG.

    Figuring it’s MSG is easy to say because “everyone” is saying it’s the MSG. But it’s a flavor enhancer. I don’t see how that could be the problem when there are so many other likely reasons why everyone is getting different reactions to the stuff. Lethargy, headaches, nausea. That could be anything. Do you get headaches from kids making so much noise? If you do, you must have a sensitivity to kids.

  • I know something is up with MSG. If I eat anything with it – it induces severe dizziness/vertigo. I absolutely have to avoid it, or I pay the price for days. I can add salt to my food … but cannot do fast food (Chinese, chicken) anymore, because so much of it has MSG in it.

  • When I consume food with MSG I get bloating, diarrhea, cramping, and spike a fever. It doesn’t matter the type of food. Yes, Doritos cause this for me, as well as soups, sauces, fried chicken, anything that has it. I’ve come to recognize how my brain reacts to foods with MSG, if I have the sensation that this is the best food ever and I have to eat it all, then it’s usually MSG. If found this article tonight as I was searching for information about MSG sensitivity. I had plain grilled chicken today with teriyaki sauce on the side. I barely dipped the chicken I the sauce, but within 30 minutes I had explosive diarrhea and now I have about 101° body temperature with chills and body aches. Same thing happened when I ate an order of fried chicken a few months ago, that time I was sick for 3 days. Basically, I rarely eat out due to this, and most wait staff are clueless. I would participate in your study if I lived near.

  • You are seriously listing the FDA as a source of information?
    You have got to be kidding. These are the biggest bunch of incompetent morons on earth. They rank among other organisations that are consistently wrong and are only found to be wrong after years of saying a product is completely safe. Others are the CDC, the FCC, ICNIRP, ARPANSA, ADA, AMA and many others.
    Very arrogant article in some parts. And also dismissive of people with genuine complaints with blanket statements that are denigrating to people who are seeking answers to their problems.
    Personally, MSG causes constipation in me. No, I have not done a scientific study. I would not waste my time. You seem to think that unless it has the seal of approval by a possibly corrupt “scientist”, that it is not worth a pinch of salt.
    The medical profession and so called experts have failed me every single time on other issues relating to health. It is only through my own research that I have overcome health issues that have been caused by government and medical profession approved toxins which they willingly administered. So the last organisation I would rely on for information is one of those organisations. They are corrupt and deliberately incompetent.
    But it is your opinion, you are entitled to it, and I am a firm believer in free speech.

    • Hey there – Thanks for bringing this to my attention. My first concern is these are all rat studies using doses of ~4g of MSG per kilogram of body weight. For a 150 lb person that would be equivalent to consuming over A HALF POUND of MSG per day (in the Nemeroff study for 42 days). I would imagine consuming a half pound of any amino acid would cause weight gain and other health issues (its the same as consuming an additional half pound of meat every day… you’ll gain weight). The same goes for the prenatal studies… ethically we can’t give pregnant women a half pound of any purified substance. Dose matters. We see the same issue with glyphosate, aspartame, etc. The rat studies linking aspartame to weight gain and cancer… you would need to consume 15,000 cans of diet Coke per day for 20 years to get the effect in humans. I could keep going and rant all day about how bad the data is… when we have very advanced studies in humans from top neurological institutions that affirm its safety at levels currently in food (and above).

  • I’d like to thank Val, for offering a remedy (KCl). I use a plant-based diet to help me avoid MSG and yeast extract (other names can be on labels). I used to have nearly daily migraines, and believed Dr. Taylor’s claim. If I’m very careful, I can eliminate the migraines, but I do feel like the quality of my life has been lowered, because of it. Yes – These flavor enhancers are used by food manufacturers and restaurants to get you to come back/buy again. I do have a knowledge of Medical Toxicology, so I suspect the prevalent use has lead to higher and higher dosages, With the vegan diet, I still must read labels carefully and cook most of my own food. This means I can’t enjoy a meal with friends at an water-front restaurant, for example. There was a comment made about Cheetos, which I can’t eat, but I can eat Bamba peanut butter puffs. Unfortunately, the plant-based market is starting to add yeast extract to their processed foods. I used to be able to count on Amy’s brand, but found a new product with it. The veggie burgers that restaurants have introduced, for vegans, all contain yeast extract. I actually have had a problem with hypotension from using KCl instead of NaCl, but the remedy makes sense, and I’m feeling much better now. I tried an Italian Sit down restaurant last night, and the soup I could tell had MSG. I sincerely hope that the few fast food restaurants (Chipotle, Tiajuana Flats, Bolay, Moe’s) I can eat at, don’t start adding flavor enhancers to theIr vegetarian products. I greatly appreciate the remedy, if I do have a problem. I’d like to be able to be more social, and I do like going to nice restaurants with friends. Chinese restaurants often don’t add MSG, because of the reputation, and they know how to prepare it without, if you ask. This is what threw me off of MSG causing my migraines in the first place. I don’t have any problem with nutritional yeast or soy sauce, by the way. Oh wow – I feel so much better!

  • starts about 2 in the morning with a bad headache and nausea and cant get back to sleep, like a bad hangover but without drinking, usually clears 4-5pm in the afternoon, i must be special

  • MSG in Japanese Curry Roux Mixes strongly amplifies my prevalent skin problems. I have been able to determine, beyond doubt, that MSG is the reason for this, because cooking with dry powder mixes, which don’t contain MSG, creates no issues.

    Listen to your body.

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