The devil is in the details. You’ve heard that saying before, right? Well today the devilish details we are going to explore are on the ingredient labels of the foods you eat day in and day out. In fact, we are only going to be talking about one ingredient: monosodium glutamate. Otherwise known as MSG. Or yeast extract. Or Glutamic acid. Or hydrolyzed corn gluten. Or the more than two dozen other names that either always contain MSG or most often contain MSG. MSG is too often disguised in labeling practices, and you don’t realize you are ingesting it.
What’s the problem with MSG, you say? You probably think of MSG and think of the delicious take out from the local drive through Chinese restaurant. You think to yourself: “It states right there on their menu they don’t use MSG so I must be making a healthy choice”. The restaurant itself probably doesn’t even realize the ingredients they use are MSG derivatives, making their food toxic and tricking your brain into making their food taste more delectable. The next thing you probably think to yourself is, “why do they go through the hassle of making a big deal about not using MSG?”. According to the Annals of Pharmacotherapy, Volume 35 from June of 2001, “MSG is a sodium salt of the amino acid glutamic acid or glutamate, is an additive to enhance the flavor of certain foods”. “It does not have a flavor of its own, but is believed to enhance the taste of other foods by stimulating glutamate receptors on the tongue”.
The FDA does not require food manufacturers to label foods containing MSG so the unfortunate fact is that we eat is far more than we realize (think: processed foods and pre-made meals). If you haven’t caught on by now, MSG is one of the bad guys. It is an excitotoxin that causes harm to the brain, nervous system and has been shown to play a part in the relationship to neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Lou Gehrig’s (ALS) and others. An excitotoxin is a substance (Aspartame is another one!) that, when consumed in high quantities like in the standard American diet (SAD), flip open receptors for voltage gated calcium channels in your brain. Literature says that when you flip open voltage gated calcium channels in excess, it generates free radicals that kill your nerves. That might be kind of technical so let me put it this way: nerves are important and you don’t want to do anything to harm them. I don’t just say that because I’m a chiropractor and work with nerves and the nervous system every day. Nerves are what help keep your body alive and your brain communicating properly to the rest of your body telling it what to do. You don’t want to kill nerves.
You obviously can’t feel the calcium channels in your brain being flipped open, but would you think twice about eating foods that contained MSG if it helped explain some of the symptoms you experience on a regular basis? Many people are very sensitive to MSG and experience a whole host of other symptoms like headaches, numbness or tingling, chest tightness, drowsiness or fatigue, rapid heartbeat, depression, obesity and other symptoms, too. Personally, it’s enough for me to know that MSG has a direct link to the development of neurodegenerative disorders (dementia, Alzheimer’s, etc) to work on eliminating it from my diet, but I know others need more day to day proof that the hard work they put into fueling their body with good foods is paying off. For these people, we look at case studies where people suffering from Fibromyalgia, carpal tunnel, headaches and other symptoms had their symptoms disappear when eating a diet free from MSG and symptoms returned only when they added MSG laden foods back into their diets.
If you are curious and want to learn more about this hellish ingredient and the devilish ways it is disguised in our food and harming our health, I’ll point you to some great minds and books by Russell Blaylock (a neurosurgeon), George Schwartz and Carol Simontacchi. If you simply want a more inclusive list of names for MSG, take a look at the handout: http://truthinlabeling.org/hiddensources_printable.pdf . Either way, I urge you to take a closer look, inspect what you’re eating and start eating foods that support your health, not break it down. Not only will your current health improve, but your future will be much brighter as well.