Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

My friend says she is allergic to MSG and I shouldn’t eat it either. What foods have MSG and should I avoid it?

Allergies or intolerances to certain foods are very individual. Most true allergies occur in relation to a protein containing food such as nuts, milk and eggs. People experience an intolerance to foods that cause them gastrointestinal upset, especially when eaten in large quantity.

Our bodies use enzymes, such as lactase, to breakdown other compounds in the food that we eat in order to digest and absorb them properly. When the enzyme is not being produced adequately by our bodies, it can cause symptoms of intolerance.

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a flavor enhancer often found in Chinese foods, canned foods especially soups and processed meats. This compound is required by law to be included as an ingredient on food labels due to reported adverse reactions in many people. If you are sensitive, also avoid the words glutamate, glutamic acid and sodium glutamate which are forms of MSG, too.

Symptoms of what was called Chinese Restaurant Syndrome and now is known as MSG Symptom Complex include headache, sweating, tightness or swelling in the face, rapid heartbeat, chest pain, nausea, weakness and tingling or numbness in the face. These symptoms are usually mild and short lived and require no medical treatment.

If you have experienced these symptoms after eating foods containing MSG, you should avoid eating MSG in the future to prevent a potential reaction. If you have never been affected in this way, you have no reason to specifically seek out MSG, however, limiting processed foods in our diets is something we should all strive to do.

This additive has been used for many years. It is always a good idea to read the ingredient label on the foods you choose no matter what ingredient you want to know more about. The greatest amount of an item is listed first. The more ingredients listed, the more processing the food undergoes. There are healthier choices for foods that have long ingredient lists. A good goal for you and your family is to reduce the use of processed foods in favor of fresher, whole foods.

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