In my previous post on Catamenial Epilepsy, I touched briefly on the topic of Monosodium Glutamate, a food ingredient more popularly known as MSG. Many restaurants and food companies pride themselves on the exclusion of this ingredient in their products. Why do they do this? I know that whenever I hear anyone mention MSG it is usually because they are trying to avoid it. Over the last few years, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has supposedly been making an “effort” to keep it out of our foods (whether this is actually true or not will be discussed below). So, why is this ingredient so bad? Judging by the many restaurants, bakeries, and grocery stores (like Trader Joe’s, for example) that have made a serious effort to advertise the lack of MSG within their products, I think it’s safe to say that society in general knows this ingredient is bad.
However, most people don’t know why it’s bad or even the extent to which it can harm the human body. These important details aren’t discussed like they should be. You have the right to know what you’re putting into your body, so keep on reading because you won’t find anything sugar coated in this blog post.
What is Monosodium Glutamate?
A good start to understanding MSG and its harmful effects is to first understand what it is. By breaking down the intimidating “Monosodium Glutamate,” you will find nothing more than a man made chemical. That’s right; MSG isn’t even a naturally occurring ingredient that we have been eating by mistake all these years. No, it is a man made chemical that has been purposely added to many foods and products. You’re probably thing right about now, ‘Why on Earth would anyone do something so idiotic?’ The answer is money.
This synthetic substance is cheap to make and it enhances real food flavors to be more fresh, savory, and heartier than they actually are. Many times this “enhancement” of flavor is also disguising the true poor quality of a food. It originates in Asia and has made its way around the world and into most of our processed foods. The fact that MSG is dominantly found in processed food presents an even bigger issue due to the fact that a typical American diet is filled with these food products.
Dr. Mercola gives an excellent description of the actual makeup of MSG in his amusing, yet appropriately named article MSG: Is this Silent Killer Lurking in Your Kitchen Cabinets: “It’s a misconception that MSG is a flavor or “meat tenderizer.” In reality, MSG has very little taste at all, yet when you eat MSG, you think the food you’re eating has more protein and tastes better. It does this by tricking your tongue, using a little-known fifth basic taste: umami. Umami is the taste of glutamate, which is a savory flavor found in many Japanese foods, bacon, and also in the toxic food additive MSG.”1
How does Monosodium Glutamate affect our bodies?
Here’s the biggest problem lying within the chemical makeup of MSG: glutamate. This ingredient also happens to be a naturally occurring amino acid within the human body that multiple organs, like the brain and nervous system, use as a neurotransmitter to carry out certain bodily functions (Dr. Mercola). Consuming MSG results in the elevation of glutamate levels within the body, thereby interfering with the stability of neurotransmissions between organs.
MSG is also considered an excitotoxin, “which means it overexcites your cells to the point of damage or death, causing brain damage to varying degrees — and potentially even triggering or worsening learning disabilities, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Lou Gehrig’s disease and more” (Dr. Mercola). Dr. Mercola has a lot of great information on MSG, the dangers of this ingredient and how to avoid it. I strongly encourage everyone to read his article (link provided above); I guarantee you will gain some vital insight into the silent killer known as MSG.
Due to the fact that processed foods are such a large part of the average American’s diet, men, women, and children are flooding their bodies with glutamate. Companies using this ingredient are choosing to jeopardize our health in order to save a few extra bucks in production costs.
Although the FDA has made some efforts at getting “Monosodium Glutamate” off the ingredient list of many foods, the organization has made an even greater effort in creating code names for MSG. The fact of the matter is you can no longer assume that just because “Monosodium Glutamate” isn’t listed, MSG is not present within a food or product. This is why avoiding MSG completely can be such a challenge. Some code names for MSG are Natural Flavors, Xanthan Gum, Guar Gum, Soy, and Carrageenan. There are over 40 different hidden ingredients containing MSG, click here to read a full list. Be sure to also read the “Reminders” section found below the list of ingredients, the site gives some really great tips on how to avoid MSG in common foods.
How MSG impacts my body
MSG has certainly had quite the impact on my state of health since I was first diagnosed with Catamenial Epilepsy in 2009. Many people can eat MSG without having an extreme reaction to it, but, unfortunately for me, I am not one of those people. No, MSG has long been an enemy of mine. Shortly after my diagnosis, I discovered that I had also developed an allergy to the ingredient. My allergic reaction came in the form of grand mal seizures and was caused by the weakening of my Blood Brain Barrier. (To learn more about the Blood Brain Barrier, click here, and scroll down to the bottom of the post.)
Due to my extreme allergy, I was forced to cut MSG out of my diet completely. Now, I avoid processed foods at all cost. I try to eat 100% Organic (sometimes there are certain foods that are absolutely impossible to find Organic), and all of my meals are cooked from scratch using recipes. I have found that from scratch baking is the best way to keep MSG out of my diet. At 16 years old it was hard to give up processed foods like Oreos and Cheetos Puffs, but today, as a 22-year-old woman, I have realized that it was the best thing I could have done for my body.
Ready to cut MSG out of your diet?
Did you know that MSG makes you want to keep eating even when you’re full? It’s like an addictive ingredient that tricks your body into thinking it needs more food when, in actuality, it needs less. With food additives like this, it’s no mystery why obesity has become such a large issue in America. Cutting MSG filled foods from my diet allowed me to rid my body of synthetic ingredients by replacing them with naturally healthy foods. No chemicals, just vitamins…a very beneficial change!
If you are experiencing health problems, I sincerely recommend evaluating your diet. It made a world of difference in the stability of my epilepsy and the overall quality of my life. It can be so easy to rely on medications to fix the problems we experience, rather than becoming proactive in alternative ways. Sometimes you are the only source capable of healing not only the symptoms, but the cause of your health issues, as well. I understand that overcoming any problem is a challenge, which is why I like to think of my health as an elephant. How do you swallow an elephant? One bite at a time. By thinking of it as a step-by-step process, everything becomes less overwhelming. So, seize the day, take control of your health and let your first bite of whatever your elephant is be your diet.
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1Dr. Mercola. “MSG: Is this Silent Killer Lurking in Your Kitchen Cabinets.” Accessed on July 28, 2015.