MSG (Monosodium Glutamate) By Emma Van Den Driest 2017
What is it, and what does it do?
MSG stimulates the ‘feel good’ parts of our brain, which in turn can make even a bad tasting food seem delicious. It is created when an amino acid binds with sodium.
MSG may present an issue in its isolated form. It is used as an additive in most packaged foods, even ones that are labelled ‘all natural’ or ‘no additives’. Various symptoms have been reported and studied upon eating MSG-containing foods. Symptoms may include digestive issues (nausea, stomach upset), congestion, migraines or headaches, asthma, hives/rashes, mood changes and flushing.
Isolated versus Naturally Occurring
MSG naturally occurs in some foods such as mushrooms, tomato, meat and cheese. These levels are in balance with other amino acids and not in the high levels found in isolated MSG. This makes it much easier for the body to digest and reduces the risk of side effects. If you suspect an MSG intolerance, limit these foods, particularly in combination with high salt intake.
MSG does not need to be labelled in food products unless it has been specifically added. Even if it is present in an ingredient, it can still be labelled ‘no added MSG’. MSG may not be directly written on the ingredients list, and instead may be written as any of the numbers listed below. It also does not need to be labelled if from a restaurant or takeaway shop, however it is always of benefit to ask the staff if their foods are MSG free.
Other Names to Look Out For (these will almost always contain MSG)
Definitely Avoid these MSG products
- Glutamic acid (E620)
- Glutamate (E620)
- Monosodium glutamate (E621)
- Monopotassium glutamate (E622)
- Calcium glutamate (E623)
- Monoammonium glutamate (E624)
- Magnesium glutamate (E625)
- Natrium glutamate
- Yeast extract
- Anything that says “hydrolyzed”
- Anything that says “protein isolate”
- Hydrolyzed protein
- Calcium caseinate
- Sodium caseinate
Ingredients that often have MSG (check labelling, if in doubt, avoid)
- Malt extract
- Soy sauce and extract
- Seasonings (including salad dressings, sauces)
- Protein fortified
- Carrageenan (E407)
- Bouillon, broth
- Flavours, flavouring (including those labelled ‘natural’)
- Citric acid, citrate (E330)
- Powdered milk
- Barley malt
- Pectin (E440)
- Anything enzyme modified
- Anything food ingredient labelled ‘enzymes’
What to do
The only way to stop MSG intolerance is by avoidance. Although it may seem overwhelming at first, MSG intolerance can be very simple to treat. Stick to a wholefood diet of which is non-processed. Avoid or limit anything in a packet and instead include plenty of fresh vegetables, lean protein, fruit, nuts, seeds and legumes. If you would like some guidance, speak to one of our naturopaths about our super eating plan.
Blaylock, R. (1997). Excitotoxins – The Taste That Kills, Albuquerque, NM: Health Press NA.
Food Standards Australia and New Zealand. (2015). MSG in Food. Retrieved from http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/additives/msg/Pages/default.aspx
Populin, T., Moret, S., Truant, S., & Conte, L.S. (2007). A survey on the presence of free glutamic acid in foodstuffs, with and without added monosodium glutamate. Food Chemistry, 104, 1712-1717. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Lanfranco_Conte/publication/222429905_A_survey_on_the_presence_of_free_glutamic_acid_in_foodstuffs_with_and_without_added_monosodium_glutamate/links/02bfe50df11558beb4000000.pdf
Williams, A.N., & Wessner, K.M. (2009). Monosodium glutamate ‘allergy’: menace or myth? Clinical and Experimental Allergy, 39, 640-646. Retrieved from http://z4.ifrm.com/12418/66/0/p1046803/MSG.pdf