Monosodium Glutamate: A Hidden Source of Migraine Pain

Monosodium Glutamate: A Hidden Source of Migraine PainOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

I woke up today already at battle. I haven’t battled a migraine like this in years. In fact, I rarely get migraines anymore, unless I mess up on my strict dietary regimen.

The fight was between monosodium glutamate and me. MSG was winning. I found myself curled up in a ball hysterically crying out for respite for my pain. Inflammation prickled through my body, erupting in a pulsing and stabbing pain along my shoulders and neck, up into my jaw, along my face and temple, and behind my eye.

Was death knocking at the front door? …I wondered if I was actually dying. No, it was MSG poisoning.

Like I said previously, I have avoided MSG for years now. It is a common migraine trigger. But we went to a friend’s house for dinner last night and well, I ate something that triggered this. I know better than that. Now, where’s my activated charcoal, aka, poison control?

Did you know that MSG is a common ingredient in many processed foods? And free glutamate occurs naturally in various vegetables, meats, and other foods. MSG, a salt form of a non-essential amino acid, is a flavor enhancer and common food additive. MSG tricks the taste buds and brain into thinking that food tastes delicious. An excitotoxin, MSG works by triggering the brain to produce excess quantities of the feel-good drug dopamine. Here’s a list of hidden sources of MSG – I was surprised at this and you probably will be too. Some of the alternative names for MSG are: natural flavoring, monopotassium glutamate, glutamic acid, vegetable protein extract, whey protein concentrate, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, hydrolyzed plant protein, hydrolyzed soy protein, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, textured protein, carrageenan, yeast extract, and autolyzed yeast.


Even better, just eat whole, organic foods and avoid processed foods!

So, are tomatoes, mushrooms, soy sauce, nuts, legumes, milk, peas, grapes, or cheeses trigger foods for you? Natural glutamate may be the reason why. Sulfites could be another reason and that’s a topic for a different post. The longer these foods are cooked, the more glutamate becomes freed and active. Free (natural) glutamate can have the same effect as MSG in sensitive people.


I usually keep activated charcoal powder in my Emergency Migraine Toolkit, but I had recently given my younger brother my stash of charcoal to keep on hand for his food-triggered migraines. So, I was empty-handed for this unforeseen MSG poisoning… and it took me over a week to regain homeostasis. Did you know that hospitals use activated charcoal for poisoning? It’s a very powerful natural remedy to help you with migraine food triggers. I carry a small jar of it in my purse and anytime something I eat triggers a gut or migraine response (usually related), I drink charcoal immediately with a big glass of water. Also, if I cheat a little on my diet and have a bite of chocolate or some other trigger food, I just mix up some activated charcoal powder in water to make sure I’m still in the safe zone.

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