Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is in simple terms a common food additive, a flavour enhancer. MSG has been used to enhance the flavour of food for over 100 years. The Food and Drug Administration has classified MSG as a food ingredient that’s “generally recognized as safe,” but it remains controversial. When MSG is used as an ingredient, the FDA requires that it be listed. The majority of Americans are unaware of any effect of MSGs, but many people including myself are MSG sensitive.
How It Started
In 2017 I was a young girl working in retail. I had developed cold-like symptoms that were very persistent for 2 weeks, so I went to my local doctor. She said it looked like an ear infection (later it turns out I did not have one, and I most likely had the flu but was never tested). I was then prescribed Amoxicillin Augmentin. Unfortunately for me, this was just the beginning of my health journey. I took the pills every day as prescribed, but instead of feeling better I only felt sicker each day. In fact, one day at work I almost passed out because I felt so dizzy. I was having an allergic reaction, but at the time I didn’t know any different. I was seen by three other doctors until I was diagnosed with vestibular neuritis. In simple terms, my inner ear nerve was inflamed causing mixed signals from my ear to my brain, which explains extreme vertigo. I was experiencing a very scary invisible illness. Although this was a very loose diagnosis, it was a turning point as now I could form an attack plan.
An Unexpected Find
Friday night I had just pulled my pizza out of the oven (my favourite Friday treat) and honestly there was never a thought in my mind that pizza, or any food for that matter, was affecting my health. I was in good shape and young how could food be affecting me? Well, after dinner I lay down and started mindlessly flipping through the channels when I started getting a headache, but this headache was different to any I’d had before. The pressure on my forehead and cheeks was so intense I felt trapped inside my head and it only made my vertigo worse … and then my anxiety started to kick in. What could I have possibly done to trigger an attack, I’m just laying down on a Friday night?
MSG…Your Worst Nightmare
So, I started doing some research. I found that MSG sensitivity can cause headaches, runny nose or congestion, mild chest pain, facial pressure, nausea, upset stomach, mood swings, sudden fatigue and in more extreme cases can cause chest pains or heart palpitations. The food that I had just consumed is filled with MSGs. Thankfully there are many stores and name brands ditching MSGs so it’s quite easy to avoid them, as long as you’re not eating out. Aldi’s states that 90% of their in-house brand is MSG-free and quite affordable. Amy’s frozen meals are also a great resource, not only do they not add any MSGs but they also have vegan, gluten-free, soy-free and plant-based options. MSG is naturally occurring in certain fruits and vegetables, like tomatoes and broccoli. Parmesan cheese and cheddar cheese also contain MSG as well. My diet was very simple when I first started; rice and oatmeal. After going through my pantry, I realized so many of my go-to foods were causing my attacks. There were even times I went out to eat at a Chinese buffet and almost had an instant migraine after eating (Chinese food is notorious for a high amount of MSG.) Now, you might be like me struggling with an unknown illness wondering how the food I eat can affect me. Or perhaps you’re healthy and think MSG doesn’t matter to you, does it even have any effect? MSG is everywhere and you might not be sensitive to it, but everything you eat has an effect on your body and I believe all of us need a better relationship with food, one where we understand ingredient lists.
It is so incredibly easy to create a fresh MSG-free lifestyle. I started exclusively shopping at Aldi’s. I read every single label! Be THAT person who stares at the label and doesn’t care what people think. I looked for foods that had fewer ingredients. I switched to grass fed beef. But overall, I ate more vegetables. This isn’t an overnight success story. I committed to a healthy lifestyle, but we live in a very processed world so eating out does happen and needs to be done in moderation.
Still Going Strong
In 2018 I hit my one-year mark in my illness journey and I was about 6 months vertigo free. At that point I decided to work some processed foods back into my diet, saltier or high sugar foods. And it had zero effects. However, MSG still affects me and it’s now off of my diet. I am now three years into my health journey and I will never be 100% healed, but I am 99% and OK with that. I no longer have vertigo attacks, I no longer get sick every time I eat. I wake up feeling refreshed. Staying active and eating smarter has made a dramatic impact on my health. If you are experiencing migraines, dizziness or even light sensitivity, hours or even minutes after eating processed foods, try ditching MSG. The food you eat fuels your every move, thought and action you take, shouldn’t you eat something that has an impact on it?
Jennifer Lee Dixon writes for the health and wellness industry. After overcoming her health issues, she’s using her personal experiences and research to further her knowledge in the industry. “I’m out to live a better me, and show you how I did it. Living a healthy lifestyle isn’t just something I write about, it’s what my life is about.”
Visit her website – Jenniferleedixon.com