Glutamate - Could its Hidden Sources Be Harming Your Health?
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Beyond MSG: Could Hidden Sources of Glutamate Be Harming Your Health?

by Chris Kresser

Last updated on

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This is a guest post written by staff clinician Amy Nett, MD.

A few weeks ago, Chris interviewed Yrmis and Bobby from Mission Heirloom on his podcast, and the topic of glutamate in our food was briefly discussed. Since then, we have had several questions from our patients about potential health concerns regarding glutamate, so I decided to take a closer look to see what role dietary glutamate plays in our health.

What is glutamate and why is it so important?

Glutamic acid is an amino acid found in abundance in both plant and animal protein.  It is considered a non-essential amino acid, meaning that our bodies are able to generate glutamic acid even without ingesting it through food sources. (Yes, glutamic acid is just that important that we cannot risk being without.)

Is there a link between ADHD, autism, migraines, and glutamate?

Glutamate is essentially the same compound as glutamic acid and is the most common form of glutamic acid in our bodies. Glutamate is not only beneficial, but essential for life. It is the most abundant neurotransmitter in the brain. (Neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that nerve cells use to communicate.) Glutamate thus activates—or excites—cells in the brain in order to communicate messages, and is particularly important in the growth and development of the brain, learning, and memory.  Because of the way glutamate sends these messages, by “exciting” the cells, it is called an excitatory neurotransmitter. You can think of glutamate as a stimulant. And as anyone who’s had too much coffee can tell you, too much of a stimulant is not a good thing. 

What’s the difference between bound and free glutamate?

It’s important to note the distinction between bound and free glutamate since any potential health concerns are associated with the free form of glutamate. Bound glutamate refers to glutamate in a whole, unmodified protein source and is therefore generally digested and absorbed slowly. Free glutamate, by contrast, is no longer bound to other amino acids, and may therefore be absorbed much more rapidly, causing spikes in the concentration of glutamate in the blood. Free glutamate is found in natural food sources, with particularly high sources listed at the end of this article.  But of more concern is the abundance of free glutamate in nearly all processed and packaged foods, also described in more detail below. 

All glutamates are not created equal

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a synthetic chemical that is added to manufactured and processed foods to make them more palatable. This form of free glutamate is present in almost all processed foods and is valued by manufacturers for imparting a pleasing, savory taste. Though MSG contains glutamic acid, due to the manufacturing process it is also almost always accompanied by unwanted by-products or contaminants. Searching the scientific literature regarding the health effects of MSG indicates controversy over the potential of MSG to cause various adverse reactions—from headaches and migraines to endocrine disruption. However, careful attention to the source of funding from these studies often reveals that many confirming the safety of MSG are in fact supported by food manufacturers. The Truth in Labeling Campaign has extensively studied the role of MSG and found that some people are clearly sensitive, with the most common sensitivity likely being intolerance to one or more of the contaminants produced through the manufacturing process (1).   

Even those of us without an identifiable reaction to MSG should aim to avoid this additive due to the lack of reliable safety data.

So let’s get back to natural glutamate…

How does glutamate affect the brain?

Glutamate and glutamate receptors are well established as playing critical roles in normal and abnormal brain development and function (2, 3, 4, 5, 6).  

In particular, abnormal concentrations of glutamate are associated with migraines (7, 8, 9), and hypersensitivity to glutamate is proposed in several other diseases, including Huntington’s Disease (10) and autism (11). Genes that predispose patients to glutamate sensitivity are being investigated. An imbalance in glutamate and GABA (another neurotransmitter that counters the effects of glutamate) is increasingly implicated in many conditions involving the brain. This imbalance likely disrupts the brain’s ability to efficiently process information, and gradually leads to lasting injury to the brain.  

Can lowering dietary glutamate help treat autism and ADHD?

Because of this genetic sensitivity to glutamate seen in children with autism spectrum disorder and ADHD, some clinicians recommend lowering glutamate intake in the diet (12). Decreasing glutamate intake intuitively seems like a potentially effective approach to decreasing the amount of glutamate exposure to our brain. However, this strategy is not as straightforward when we consider the role of the blood-brain barrier (BBB).

How the blood-brain barrier protects your brain

The BBB is a layer of cells surrounding most of the brain, that acts to limit the compounds entering the brain. Under normal circumstances, there is careful regulation of the types and amounts of compounds that enter the brain.  This means that normally, glutamate can only enter the brain through specific receptors that regulate the amount allowed in. (This is analogous to a bouncer letting only a limited number of people through the door.) One study, notably funded in part by the International Glutamate Technical Committee (a nongovernmental organization funded by industrial producers and users of glutamate in food), perhaps not surprisingly demonstrated that glutamate, even at high concentrations, does not readily cross the BBB.  

Even if glutamate does not cross the healthy BBB, there are many factors which may contribute to a leaky BBB, potentially allowing too much glutamate to enter the brain. In his podcast on the “gut-brain axis,” Chris explained that having a leaky gut (which itself can be due to a number of underlying causes, including food intolerances, dysbiosis, or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth) can contribute to a state of chronic low grade inflammation. This low grade inflammation then also makes the BBB leaky, which essentially loosens the control over what enters the brain. More recent research has identified a specific molecule that damages the cells to create microscopic gaps allowing material through, bypassing the normal regulatory pathways, and explaining how general inflammation within the body can cause a leaky BBB.

Thus, it may be that in the setting of inflammation, we have a leaky BBB, which allows more glutamate to enter the brain than normal.  Moreover, since some people have a genetic predisposition to glutamate sensitivity,  it may be that a combination of excess glutamate in the diet, combined with chronic low grade inflammation, and an associated leaky BBB, contribute to symptoms. It seems less clear if people without an underlying genetic predisposition to glutamate sensitivity experience any adverse effects from excess dietary glutamate. Further research is clearly needed to elucidate the contribution of dietary glutamate to symptoms.  

How to lower glutamate in your diet

What we can take from all of this is that some individuals do have a particular sensitivity to glutamate.  Understanding the different sources and types of food that contain glutamate can help you make the best food choices for you and your family, and avoid symptoms of sensitivity. If you suspect that glutamate may be playing a role in your symptoms, you can try to eliminate any sources with added free glutamate (specifically in processed and packaged foods) and monitor your symptoms. If symptoms persist, then try eliminating sources of natural free glutamate as well. Once your symptoms have subsided or resolved, gradually introduce some natural sources of free glutamate back into your diet as tolerated over a period of weeks to learn which foods may trigger a reaction.

Additionally, given that glutamate excess may be associated with symptoms only in the setting of chronic inflammation, consider adding turmeric or ginger to some of your meals for their potent anti-inflammatory properties while you investigate potential causes of inflammation.

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Free glutamate may be listed as any one of a number of ingredients:  

Monosodium glutamate, monopotassium glutamate, yeast extract, anything “hydrolyzed” such as hydrolyzed protein, calcium caseinate, autolyzed yeast, textured protein, gelatin, soy protein (including isolate and concentrate), whey protein (including isolate and concentrate), carrageenan, bouillon and broth, stock, and “flavors” or “flavoring” (i.e. natural vanilla flavor), maltodextrin, citric acid, pectin, milk powder, soy sauce, anything “protein fortified,” corn starch, corn syrup and modified food starch.

Here are links to more inclusive lists of hidden free glutamate, including a link to unblindmymind.org, which is a nonprofit working to raise awareness of the link between autism and MSG (13, 14).

Natural sources of free glutamate:

  • Foods matured, cured, or preserved, such as matured cheeses (Parmesan and Roquefort) and cured meats
  • Fish sauce
  • Soy sauce and soy protein
  • Mushrooms
  • Ripe tomatoes
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Walnuts
  • Grape juice
  • Bone broths and meats cooked for long times (generally using moist cooking methods such as braising)
  • Malted barley used in breads and beer
  • Wheat gluten
  • Dairy casein

Please share your experiences and post a comment below to let us know if you notice any symptoms after eating foods containing free glutamate.

Amy NettAbout Amy:  Amy Nett, MD, graduated from Georgetown University School of Medicine in 2007.  She subsequently completed a year of internal medicine training at Santa Barbara Cottage Hospital, followed by five years of specialty training in radiology at Stanford University Hospital, with additional subspecialty training in pediatric radiology.

Along the course of her medical training and working through her own personal health issues, she found her passion for functional medicine, and began training with Chris in June of 2014.  She has recently joined his clinical practice to work with patients through a functional medicine approach, working to identify and treat the root causes of illness.  Similar to Chris, she uses nutritional therapy, herbal medicine, supplements, stress management, detoxification and lifestyle changes to restore proper function and improve health.

We will be opening the clinic to new patients soon, at which time you will be able to work with Amy as part of our clinical team.

248 Comments

Join the conversation

  1. This was an amazingly comprehensive article! Very well put together with a lot of details. Thank you 🙂 Have a question. I understand that Hemp has high levels of glutamic acid. But would you know if it is also a source of free glutamate?

  2. My son was just sent home from ROTC training camp because they fed them MREs, and he got very very sick. Could not sleep, and with each MRE got more and more nauseous. Not being able to eat or sleep means not being able to perform. He is a bit sensitive to MSG, so my thought is they were probably loaded with it. Heartbroken that he has to give up this dream. I wish I knew how to cure him so that he was more hardy.

  3. The thing is, I have Mast Cell Activation Syndrome and must eat a low histamine diet (histamine foods are severe triggers for my condition). I see on this list that most of the foods high in glutamates are also high in histamine, or are triggers for the mast cell problem, such as casein and wheat, so I avoid eating them. When I do start to nibble at them here and there, the histamine builds in my system and then the severe reactions occur. I am now wondering what role these glutamine-containing foods play with my condition. Is there a link between glutamate foods and their histamine content and the effect they have on sensitive individuals? I found this correlation interesting and wonder if there is anything more to pertaining to my condition. I’m wondering if I even have MCAS or is it glutamine intolerance? Not that it makes a difference. I still suffer badly from whatever the problem is nonetheless.

  4. I know this is an old post but I saw several folks asking about recommendations to bring down glutamate levels. I have developed glutamate sensitivity after taking collagen to help heal some gut lining inflammation. Ya know, I did plenty of research and just kept seeing how SAFE collagen powder is. Argh!

    Anyway, when my glutamate levels are high, here are some of the things I try. They work for me – may not work for you: 1-Magnesium, 2-potassium, 3-Taurine, 4-B-6 (P5P), 5-1/4 Tsp Baking Soda in water, 6-Elderberry, 7-Echinacea (who knew?), 8-Cat’s Claw (really love this), 9-Magnolia Bark (this is powerful. I only use it when everything else fails), 10-Grape Seed Extract, 11-Tart Cherry, 12-Olive Leaf, 13-Milk Thistle, 14-Valerian, 15-Nettle, 16-Neem Leaf Extract, 17-Vitamin C, 18-Zinc, 19-Alpha Lipoic Acid, & 20- Dietary Fat – usually coconut oil. I don’t do this too often as it dampens my Dopamine and causes problems with Restless Legs Syndrome

    • Forgot to mention….. Using an infrared sauna has been wonderful! I tested this by going to a local massage therapist’s office that offered infrared sauna use. Then I bought an infrared sauna blanket – much cheaper and easy to store. It helps the body detoxify and the heat helps bring down histamine. I also have an infrared heating pad that I use on my tummy when I don’t have time for my sauna blanket. Even this heating pad helps bring down both glutamate and histamine so I can sleep.

  5. Try Taurine. Taurine acts to balance glutamate in the brain. It is antioxidant, improves insulin action, and has a host of other benefits. Glutamate causes excitability which causes an influx of calcium into cells. Taurine stabilizes membrane of cells and stops that calcium channel hyperpolarization. Start low dose, 500mg at night as initially can make sleepy and lower BP. But body will adjust. Try at least 1000mg at night and 500mg then in morning. Taurine should be made from cysteine, but if you have inflammation your body might be pumping up glutathione production using all the cysteine and none avail for taurine production. Taurine is neuroprotective.

  6. I was diagnosed by my pediatrician with a glutamate intolerance at the age of 3. My symptoms: within 10-15min my face feels pressure and numb and pressure begins to build from the cerebellum and moves forward above my ears to my forehead. The migraine is intense. An MSG migraine lasts 48-72 hours; while other free glutamates last from 24-72 hours. I have brain fatigue after the migraine subsides and it takes another 24-48 hours to be back to normal and be able to function normally in daily tasks. During the migraine, I am unable to tolerate bright lights, sound, my speech and finding words is impaired and talking with someone face to face is challenging, especially eye-contact as this makes me feel agitated and nauseated. As a child, every MSG episode I would also get a fever of 102°F. Free glutamate was so much easier to avoid.

    In 2008-2009 I was sick for about 18months, not realizing I was eating MSG related foods as the symptoms were more muted. The new labelling compromised my health and lead to undiagnosable chronic condition my doctor’s could not put their finger on. I was sleeping 14-18/day, I was nauseated, interacting, my speech/finding words was slow, and I felt a burning sensation in my upper digestive tract, my metabolism decreased and I gained 40pounds in a few months. I had been the same weight for 15years previously. I had blood tests and ultrasounds, stopped working, could not finish my degree and was overwhelmed normal daily tasks that had built up. I have had more adverse reactions from 2008-2012 by a factor of 4 than the previous 3 decades. From time to time I get accidental reactions from free glutamate, as it can be found in many food products.

    Questions:
    1) Does anybody have any idea, whether one needs to avoid hydrolyzed proteins in shampoo, lotions? I have been avoiding them, but it’s tricky and not sure if it’s necessary.

    2) Does anyone know the affects of MSG, hydrolyzed proteins and yeast extracts found in some vaccines? I currently avoid these vaccinations. I would like to give my doctor’s more information, but it’s hard to get.

    3) Any other known medications you are aware of? I have wondered if I should get a medical alert bracelet in case I ever find myself in a tragic accident so the medical team are aware.

  7. I’ve given up on commercial bone broth. Even one tablespoonful makes me feel terrible. Headache and what feels like high blood pressure. I’ve tried three or four brands with the same result. This article suggests why I feel best on a carnivore diet, though I have a lot more research to do.;

  8. Back to migraine triggers—I will share my list. This may not work for you, but some of these may surprise you.

    MSG
    Artificial sweeteners (except stevia)
    Yeast extract
    Autolyzed yeast
    “Natural” flavor (unspecified flavoring)
    “Spices” (unlisted)
    Preservatives of almost any variety
    Nitrates
    Nitrites
    Peanuts (for myself—less than 2 tablespoons is not a problem)
    Cranberry juice (fresh or cooked cranberries are fine)
    Apple juice (fresh or cooked apples are fine in any quantity)
    Grape juice (fresh grapes are fine in any quantity)
    Blue cheese (small quantities in a salad is not a problem)
    Alcoholic drinks
    Dark chocolate (or cocoa)
    Multi vitamins
    Hydrogenated fats

    This leaves fresh food: meat, fruit, vegetables, grains and dairy. I have no headaches if I stick to fresh food. I can use lots of flavor, garlic, chilies, and spices. There are some processed foods like canned or dried vegetables, grains and flours—but read the label!

    • Janice – I found the same thing with Grape Juice which really makes me sad. I had started drinking it because of its possible health benefits AND because it just tastes so darn good. Really depressed that I have to limit it…

  9. Hi Chris,

    I am considering adding goat’s milk to my diet for nutritional purposes. However, I know that I am sensitive to free glutamate since I have strong reactions to foods like cow dairy, tomatoes, broccoli, and bone broth.

    So, I am wondering if A1 casein and A2 casein contain different amount of free glutamate. I am not sensitive to bound glutamate, so I am hoping that goats milk is still an option for me.

    Thanks!

  10. Hi Chris,

    I would love for you to do a deep-dive into this topic on RHR. It’s interesting to read all the comments about histamine intolerance. I’m not sure histamine intolerance and glutamate intolerance are related but it’s worth exploring. I had histamine tolerance but beat it entirely through the correct balance of probiotics. Recently, I started drinking kombucha everyday for about three months (this, in addition to my vinegar-based salads). I started to develop terrible insomnia and neuropathy in my legs. I had read that high levels of free glutamates can cause nerve damage so I cut out the kombucha and vinegar all together. I slept like a baby for the first time in weeks and my neuropathy disappeared within a day or two. The BBB leakage theory is an interesting one. I’d love to hear more from Katherine Reid on your show but would also like to hear from another scientific expert who could corroborate her studies. Please shine some more light on this topic; thanks for all your great work!

    • Hello Angela. I think that I am also sensitive to gree glutamate in foods. Interestingly enough, I also have been having major issues with insomnia and on and off issues with neuropathy in my hands, which seem to be getting worth. The only issue is that I can’t pin point any foods that contain free glutamate. I don’t consume vinegar or kombucha. I eat organic whole foods (vegetables, fruits, meat, etc.), minimal dairy, and absolutely no processed foods. So I am at a loss here.

    • Hello Angela,
      I too would love to see Chris do an in-depth series on the issue of glutamate (glutamate/GABA balance) AND also on histamine. It seems to me there may be some connection. It appears that many foods high in histamine are also high in glutamate. I’m currently suffering severe insomnia (sleeping only 1-3 hours per night – sometimes not at all) and other devastating life-altering symptoms related to glutamate toxicity/dysregulation as a result of a high profile functional medicine center physician prescribing high dose glutamine as treatment for leaky gut. I’d explained to him that I’d had bad reactions to glutamine, but he insisted it was not glutamine that had caused my problems. He convinced me I “needed” it to heal my gut. He put me on a high dose (11 grams/day) of glutamine for nearly 8 months! It’s nearly killed me.
      Glutamine converts to glutamate. I’ve been suffering for over 3 years with no answer in sight as to how I reverse this process and imbalance. It’s a nightmare. (He also messed with my hormones and thyroid by prescribing Estrogen and several other hormones, even though my clinical picture indicated estrogen dominance.) My neurotransmitters are in complete dysregulation. I don’t want to live like this but I can’t seem to find help or relief. I’d love for Chris to convene a panel of experts to address this issue.
      And by the way… what probiotics did you use to help your histamine intolerance? Thanks so much!

      • Try reading everything by Dr. Russell Blaylock. I would also pay for his newsletter and send in a question to him to answer re. glutamate poisoning. Once you buy his newsletter, you can search on past issues for everything relating to MSG / glutamate poisoning.

        Dr. Blaylock wrote THE book on MSG called: Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills. Read it.

        See also Mike Adams’ interview with Dr. Blaylock, here:
        https://www.naturalnews.com/035243_Russell_Blaylock_MSG_interview.html#

        Dr. Blaylock underlines the importance of magnesium as opposing the effects of glutamate, MSG and “processed free glutamic acid” in the brain. Therefore, read everything he has on Mg and also read the Mg books of Dr. Carolyn Dean and Dr. Sircus.

        I would immediately start getting your Mg levels up in your body. (Dean recommends her own ‘ReMag’ and Sircus recommends ‘Ancient Minerals’ spray-on Mg). Epsom salt baths / foot soaks are a quick, temporary fix, but you also need to take Mg every day and spray Mg oil on your skin, for quick absorption.

        There is a homeopathic remedy that worked for me when I ingested hidden MSG and was poisoned: histaminum hydrochloricum 30c.

        Ditto on the taurine recommendations, above.

        Number 1 recommendation: avoid the hidden MSG which has literally been poisoning our food supply for decades. Start cooking from scratch, as they have found 50+ ways to hide MSG in food ingredients you would never even suspect. Hidden MSG is also in things like toothpaste, shampoos, pharmaceuticals & supplements, and vaccines.

        MSG is addictive and when ingested it immediately enters the brain. Therefore, the food industry has been utilizing a sneaky way to get us hooked on their processed food products (think ‘Doritos’ and how you can’t just eat one.)

        Read everything on the website “Truth in Labeling,” as cited in the article. Jack and Adrienne Samuels have been fighting, since the ’90s, the battle against hidden, toxic MSG in our food supply. Jack Samuels passed away a few years ago and his wife wrote a book about his battle entitled, “It Wasn’t Alzheimer’s. It Was MSG.” http://www.truthinlabeling.org/ItWasntAlzheimers.pdf

        That title says it all, as re. MSG harming our brains.

        If you eat US processed foods you are getting hidden MSG in your body 3x a day, with every meal. Dr. Blaylock states that the effects of MSG are cumulative and he states the reason for such an increase in diseases like Alzheimer’s, ALS, ADHD, and so on, is the cumulative effect – over decades – of hidden MSG upon our brains.

  11. I agree, the amount of MSG available to the brain, could definitely be attributed to a ” Leaky gut”, which would allow the msg to easily bypass the BBB (blood brain barrier).The article did not mention the fact that glyphosate in “roundup”, which has been increasingly sprayed on crops, since the 1970’s, and since 2007 was the most used herbicide in the US… causes “leaky gut”. Not only should we avoid free msg, but we should boycott Monsanto, and eat only “organic” vegetables!

  12. Msg syndrome was a smear piece against Asians in the fifties. Msg is harmless. Still used in all of Asia. No reports of mass headaches. Racist propaganda rationalized by Internet science. Sad!!!

    • I started having migraines at the age of 10. I am 70 now. In the 1950s, MSG was in everything—canned soup, hotdogs—everything our mothers fed us! They even sprinkled Accent on our foods. Little by little, I eliminated foods that made me sick until, at age 25, I finally stopped having them. It was not until I was in my 40s, that the medical profession caught up. I learned later that many of these things are glutamate based. Artificial sweeteners, yeast extract, msg, etc. Sorry to disagree but not everyone can tolerate these substances. Now, I do all my own cooking and grow my own fresh vegetables and hardly ever have headaches.

    • Try living with chronic msg and Glutamate toxicity. Some western people cannot metabolise msg just like some Asian people lack an enzyme to metabolise alcohol. This is not racism. It shows differences in people’s ability to digest and metabolise chemicals in our diet. These conditions are hereditary!

  13. NAET therapy can be really useful for this type of issue if, in my experience, one helps identify allergens from a naturopath’s diagnosis as well. Because I get migraines (less frequently after NAET therapy), I’m going to ask my NAET therapist to test me for glutamate and glutathione. I originally got the idea to look up glutamate after hearing the intro of a Sporkful podcast citing poor research on msg as a reason to supposedly debunk concern over msg. Thanks for the article. It would be really helpful to see sources, also to send a comment to the podcast. Thanks again!

  14. Elevation of glutamate levels in brain from glutamate intake should be not necessary from a week BBB allowing glutamate to enter the brain but by inhibiting the opposite way. Brain should get rid of excessive glutamate by disposing it to blood stream which process may be limited by an already higher level of glutamate in the blood thus resulting in abnormal concentration of brain glutamate.

  15. I also consume so many cups of bone broth, broccoli, mushroom and all meat broth that in 34th day, I get forefoot pain. Omg. Thanks for this information!!!

  16. I get forefoot pain with muscle twitching. Very very painful with muscle twitching that last quite a month or sometimes 2 years or more. The glutamate triggers pseudo-ALS and pseudo-gout. Also Spring Valley brand vitamins as high amount of glutamate that I get pseudo gout, pseudo ALzs, both of which means symptoms identical to real gout and real ALS except that they are trigger x caused by glutamate. This article enlightened me a lot. I ate so much potatoe stew with fish sauce, about 1 dozen eggs, and fish in 3 days. On 4th day, I cannot even stand, not even can walk because of severely painful forefoot with my muscle twitching. Now I realize what I need to avoid eating. Wow. Thanks

    • I also had a reaction to Spring Valley vitamins. As a result, I tested positive to MSG allergy via blood test. Must have been the gelatin in the vitamins. The doctor told me “it’s just a chinese food issue” and he didn’t have a clue! This allergy is very complicated. It is difficult to avoid, even when reading labels!

  17. I have a history of glutamate intolerance & am now Zero Carb. With recent histamine success I experimented with fried, cured & slow cooked meats, all low histamine, for a glutamate overload & long lasting headaches, unusual for me. Using GABA [& melatonin] for sleep disruption problems, I tried GABA for headache to no avail. It seems that GABA, melatonin & other amino acids I was taking all act in the same transmethylation/transsulfuration pathways loading my glutamate levels for dietary excess. Why I came here looking for links. A period of raw [meat] solved the problem.

  18. Hi Amy

    I’m Ming from Asia, i was suffering from severe blocked nose & sinusitis since a year ago & till date the symptom come & go which is really tough for me & suffering.
    From kinesiotic test by an allergic specialist from my place shows that i’m allergic to MSG & i found that it’s very though for me to avoid MSG fully from my food list.
    Would like to know more about is there any alternative treatment other from avoidance? I’ve tried out NAET & challenging yet seems like fail to me.
    Appreciate if you could share some of your case & experience.
    Thanks

  19. 20 years ago I ate at a chinese restaurant and spent the night in the ER thinking I had food poisoning. They said it was a reaction to MSG. So, I avoided MSG. But, 20 years later – it’s in everything. Today I drank something with “natural flavors” because I thought it was one of those rare items that didn’t have an effect on me: I became angry, unable to think through problems, my ear felt like it was filling up with water, I started feeling like I had low blood-sugar, my vision became blurry, then my head began to throb. I am now on anti-seizure medication. I heard ibuprofen was a glutamate blocker so I’m taking that – which seems to help a little, but didn’t stop the seizure. I feel like my life has been taken over by this monster. The glutamate doesn’t stop in my gut anymore, it goes straight to my CNS. Why is it in everything? Why could I eat processed foods before, but now it will send me into a seizure? My nieces seem to have similar emotional and headache reactions to MSG. My sister also has migraines with seizures. Is there a genetic glutamate problem? Is there a doctor on earth who knows what my problem is and what I need to take to live a normal life?

    • I also had a severe reaction ( heart pounding, fast heartbeat, irregular heart beat, and anxiety), after eating at a Chinese restaurant,(Chinese syndrome) that was high in MSG. I found that , if I accidentally eat MSG, I take an amino acid “taurine”.I take 500 mg for a very mild reaction, up to 4000 Mg for a severe reaction.Taurine contains a sulfur molecule , if you take more than you need, you will suffer from “sulfur flatulence”Vitamin B6 may also help some people.

    • You may have the mthfr gene.
      My experience of chronic migraines with aura, diahorea and vomiting, muscle weakness, altered taste and fatigue has been cured with diet.
      As well as Glutamate sensitivities I also eat a low sulphur diet. This means I avoid chlorine cleaning products and swimming pools. Avoid 220 preservatives and all 200 numbers. Don’t drink wine, it has 220 preservative.
      So learn to cook. I cannot eat high sulphur vegetables like onions. Broccoli, tomato etc.
      High Glutamate vegetables are Tomatoes and soy.
      I can metabolise eggs and red meat, they both have sulphur but it is only sulphur vegetables that affect me.
      I hope this helps. I hv a diet I stuck to.
      Rosa

      • Rosa. I realize this is an article and conversation that was months ago but I have the same symptoms. Your story is inspiring!
        If you can point me to any resources I would be so grateful.

    • Doctors do not study our food supply. You are being poisoned by processed foods. The poison you are ingesting – MSG, aka “processed free glutamic acid” – is in (from consumer estimates like “Unblind My Mind”) 95% of processed food.

      Stop eating ALL processed food. Do not eat out at restaurants / salad & food bars: full of hidden MSG! Cook from scratch and organic/local. Limit the natural glutamates which are found in bone broths, soup stocks, and long-cooked foods.

      This is NOT a medical issue; it is an issue of a poisoned food supply, which results in terrible medical issues for humans which eat that food.

      Listen to this TEDx by Dr. Katherine Reid, a mom and biochemist, who got rid of the autism harming her daughter’s brain, by methodically removing MSG from their food: http://unblindmymind.org/

  20. My concern is different: I hear of sea lions in California dying of domoic poisoning. Domoic is dangerous because it replaces glutamic acid in the brain and disrupts proper brain functioning. So my query is: Can affected sea lions be helped by an overload of glutamic acid?

    • Wikipedia is not the holy writ, but I’ve found this:
      “In addition there is a synergistic effect with endogenous glutamate and N-Methyl-D-aspartate receptor agonists that contribute to the excitotoxicity.”
      According to this it seems to be not the solution.

  21. Have read a lot of stuff online saying that ALL hydrolyzed products and all gelatins by definition contain free glutamates/glutamic acid and must be avoided like the plague. But the Great Lakes website shows the results of 3rd party testing for both their hydrolyzed collagen product and their gelatin product, and yes they both contain free glutamic acid, but seemingly in minuscule amounts. Don’t these warnings need to be qualified better?

  22. So I’m almost in shock right now! I started trying to figure out why I have been intensely bloated, nauseas, feeling the need to vomit with any small amount of food at all & came across dangers of bone broth on fearlesseating blog. Followed a couple of links from there & ended up here. Thank the Lord! I have auto immune diseases mostly unknown & SIBO. So this week I started vine brotb for breakfast, 8oz. By today I could hardly finish 6oz. It didn’t dawn on me it could be that until reading that first article. Then reading yours I know the glutamate has to be the problem factor for me. It’s in several other things I’ve long since had to give up for these very symptoms & it all makes so much sense now.
    Anyhow at the end you say to share any side effects from free glutamates so those are mine. It’s insane & I never would have thought of it & gifted it out on my own! Thank you for posting this info & thank you a lord for being me across this!
    I’m very excited about this though bc on the list, inspite of my very strict whole food diet I am still eating a lot of free glutamates which I believe have been contributing to my inflammation & digestive problems.
    Thanks again!

  23. i have spent 5 years wokring out what all this is about… i found the answer for me last year.

    i have a histamine intolerance.. and plenty of foods with additives set it off… msg is the worst.. but red wine, champagne, ready meals, any almost any restaurant food (apart from curry).. and even stuff like supermarket yoghurts, cakes these days also include flavour enhancers

    my symptoms are a jolt awake when i’m literally about to get to sleep… when its really bad this can happen like 100 times a night = no sleep at all. or like 3 hours sleep late at like 4am.

    so there seems to be a food supplement that works for me – it stimulates an enzyme release which seems to digest the histamine and so i dont get an overload.

    anyway i use a food supplement called Daosin – this isnt a shameless plug, it has changed my life. i can now eat whatever food i like, though i tend to stick to boring diet for much of the time as i dont want my body to get used to the supplement.

    try it it might change your life too!

    • OMG thank you for sharing this. What you describe is EXACTLY what I have been experiencing for over 4 years. I too was finally diagnosed with histamine intolerance and was prescribed an acid reducer but it hasn’t helped. I will go to Natural Grocers tomorrow to give this a try! Thank you so much!

    • Thank you! I have a sensitivity to anything that causes a histamine response. I will try this supplement. I’ve been feeling much better avoiding dairy completely and some of the histamine and glutamate foods. My heart goes into overdrive and I feel super sick, my glands in my neck swell also. It’s a challenging existence!

    • My understanding is Daosin is no longer available in U.S. Do you know of any good alternatives that would work as well?

    • I can’t find the Daosin Supplement anywhere in the US. Is there an exact equivalent sold here? Where did you buy yours?

  24. Hi, I have been suffering with leaky gut for over 15 years. I also suffer from brain fog and many other things. I eat very healthy. I tried glutamine a year ago and it gave me a lot of gas and it felt like my intestines were swollen for like a week. Glutamine seems to be the #1 go to supplement for leaky gut and everyone says it repair it fast, so I decided to give it another go. I tried another brand and a few days later, same excruciating pain. Does that mean it is converting to glutamate in my body? it’s a pity because I have to keep testing out supplements to see what will help. While I have seen some improvement with supplements, it is a slow process. charcoal helps and NAC (but it is not good to take long term). Bone broth does not seem to hurt me, but I didn’t notice any improvement after 3 months of use.

    • Try to cure your gut first with probiotics -leaku gut often comes with dysbiosis or candida overgrowth.it might also be another componate of the supplement you took that you’re intoletant to-many brands are not gluten free and gluten is no.1 gut killer. I have the same problem-I also have a leaky gut (plus anxiety,recurring depression etc) and I was prescribed l-glutamine. one single 5g dose made me feel like mentally ill, complete brain disorder…neurotransmitters are a tricky thing and you better be careful

      • I tried l glutamine – one dose of (2g) to try and help my stomach issues and till today I have not felt the same. It has been 2 months and still have extreme anxiety (manic) depression, loss of concentration, tingling in head, feeling of being lost, paranoid, etcetc. I have not been able to work or do my daily activities. Also has given me balance issues. I am 35 years old father of 3 and a business owner for many years and now since this l glutamine incident I have become a vegetable. Yes all from just one dose (2g) of l glutamine. Seen all the doctors and none are able to help nor are they educated in this area. They just know how to give out pills or look at you like your crazy. This l glutmine should be banned. I hope to save others from this l glutamine nightmare from sharing my experience.

        • I had a very similar, extreme negative reaction to supplemental L-Glutamine taken for digestive issues.

          It elicited extreme anxiety, bordering on psychosis where I was afraid to even leave the house for weeks. I had been functioning normally, took the glutamine one night and felt restless but managed to get to sleep. A few hours later I woke in the middle of the night having a horrific panic attack and feeling extremely agitated; this had never happened before. I have still not fully recovered from this, almost 4 months later, but my symptoms (which are similar to Manny’s above) have improved gradually over time.

          I am assuming this reaction was excitotoxic in nature, at least this is what a neurologist has conjectured. I have been prescribed anti-seizure medication, but have been reluctant to take it in the hope that my nervous system can naturally recover. I am at the point where I feel medication may be necessary in order for me to live a normal life.

          I found this site because It seems that certain foods aggravate my anxious state, so I am currently trying to find the correlation.

        • I, too, will share my experience with taking glutamine as a supplement as a caution to others. After 2 doses, 3 g each, I started to experience extreme anxiety, to the point of being non-functional. Despite anti-anxiety medication, this continued for about a year, a lost year. After this the anxiety gradually decreased, but I started having motor symptoms: balance, weakness, tremors. I was diagnosed with Parkinsonism. Then, this gradually got better over the next year or two. My neurologist was amazed! I’ve been well again for about 3 years. I believe, like others writing here, that excitotoxity was triggered by glutamate, derived from the glutamine I took. Excitotoxicity led to brain damage, hence the Parkinsonism. I wish I could tell you what helped me recover, except that I take a pretty full suite of supplements.

  25. Hi. I’ve been feeling TERRIBLE lately. Very exhausted but with severe brain fog and very blurry vision, too. I recently started drinking a lot of bone broth as well as occasionally taking L-Glutamine to try to heal a leaky gut. I am now wondering if Glutamine could be part of the problem.

    I read this comment on another website ” Some of these people are so sensitive they react not only to broth but to any good dietary source of glutamine, including beef, chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products.” I eat a LOT of chicken, eggs and fish.

    Is there a test for glutamine sensitivity or do I just have to try to avoid all of these foods?

    I have a lot of digestive issues and its getting to the point where I don’t know what to eat.

    • Ditto Betsy! Don’t know what to eat anymore. Severe fatigue, brain fog, stomach pains all the time, gas, the list goes on. I am losing so much weight and getting more and more debilitated

          • I think you might be confused about how this NIH website works. PubMed simply published this paper on their website, as they do with a lot of (most English language? plus some other language) peer-reviewed research. That particular paper is not an official NIH study. It was written by a Certified Nurse Practitioner/ Master of Public Health/ Clinical Instructor at The Ohio State University College of Nursing. Published in 2006. Fine creds and all, but not an NIH-sponsored study and now 10 years old.

            If you use the search options from that page you linked, you can find more studies, including more review articles. Definitely some more recent articles on that (or any health-related) topic.

            As I easily found a newer article that said (same as the migraine associations say), triggers are not the same in all migraineurs.

            Some may find that a specific item, such as MSG, reliably causes a migraine–and those specific people should avoid it, while others may safely be able to use that same item–leading to advice that universal “migraine diets” are unlikely to be of much help. But again, specific people should avoid what they have carefully determined specifically bothers them. Seems sensible to me.

          • As someone who has had thousands of migraines over the past 30 years, I can personally attest to the fact that glutemate and glutamic acid are a MAJOR migraine trigger for me.

        • You might want to check out histamine intolerance. The list of high histamine foods is nearly the same as the list of high glutamate foods. There is a long list of symptoms that histamine can cause. healinghistamine.com is a good place to learn about it.

    • Betsy–Glutamine (Gln) is a different amino acid than Glutamic Acid (Glu) or it’s version, glutamate. That being said, possibly having free amino acids in high concentrations could cause problems in sensitive individuals. I’m trying to just eat whole foods and avoid processed ones. Eating out is a challenge.

  26. Hi – have you ever worked with a patient with ALS? My little bit of research since we’ve been recently diagnosed seems to indicate that too much glutamate may be a factor.

    • My sister was helped at a clinic in FL, who also worked with ALS patients. She had mold toxicity (in conjunction with lyme) and was dying from it. She is now much better and is only dealing with the Lyme (which is still nasty in and of itself). I would imagine that glutamate issues would be due to a toxic body. I personally get migranes when I eat gf miso or soy sauce, due it its high levels of free glutamate. Here is that doctors facebook page. I know he is very expensive, but perhaps you could find someone who does the same type of work?

      I have also some articles about a lyme ALS connection.

      I hope the best for you.

      https://www.facebook.com/Dr.RickSponaugle/

      • Hi. Can ylu say more on glutimate being involved with a toxic body? Interesting idea so would lke to know more on how you reached that conclusion and more on theconnection. Thanks.

    • Look into supplemental Lithium Orotate (NOT the prescription form) for ALS. It’s been proven to slow progression.

  27. Hi there!
    I have a question about gelatine capsules.
    First: Is the amount of a capsule with gelatine really crucial in case of glutamate? Does this already can have an effect on brain issues?
    And second: Is it true that auxiliary materials in medicine can have a more severe effect because they are entering the bloodstreem very quickly?

    I ask this because I try to avoid glutamate in all forms. But I take a thyroid pill made of gelatine (Tirosint). Because changing a thyroid pill is not an easy thing I really want to be sure if the gelatine could harm me or not.
    I take the Tirosint in the early morning and do not feel bad with it. Also hours later I feel good. Therefore I guess, the pill is not having any severe glutamate effect. But I am not sure if the effects could occur later and I do not see the link anymore.

    Thanks for your help!

  28. I can not eat any of the foods mentioned in this article, and just read about glutamates. Crockpot cooking usually makes me sick as well. I had Cdiff some years back and have had trouble with anxiety and allergy type spells and IBS ever since. The gut brain connection makes sense.

  29. Hello Chris. I’m trying to find a way to help my husband alleviate his chronic headache. We live in the South of Spain, and there are no functional medicine practitioners near us. He has had these headaches on and off for years. A few months ago we removed dairy and gluten from his diet and after that he noticed that eating MSG gave him headaches so we removed that too. The past month we have been strictly paleo. Then last week we had guests, and even though we stuck to the diet 99%, we did have a little wine every day, and due to tiredness after having guests he had chocolate (only 55%) sunday. This week he is misserable and nothing we do seems to help… It seems like we are just eliminating more and more foods from his diet, I am at a loss. I am thinking MSG sensitivity or histamine sensistivity – but I am not sure. I am tired of guessing. I would like to find a practitioner who can help him – the only Dr. we found that was close started him on an acid/alkaline diet and used “live wave” bandages… I’m a strong believer in evidence based medicine, and wasn’t willing to pay hundreds of € for that… Could you recommend a practitioner who is in Spain? Or someone who makes Skype consultations?

    • Please look into osteopathic treatments.. I used to have bad “right-sided migraines” that would put me into bed clutching my head until the ibuprofen kicked in. Sometimes I’d need to take 2. Since getting osteopathic manipulations (for other issues) I’ve only felt a tiny bit of a right-sided headache trying to come on, and it went away within an hour, no ibuprofen required. I’m sure over time I won’t even get mild migraines.

      It’s something to research into for sure.

    • Sounds like histimine intolerance..chocolate Is a no for many . Google histimine issues, and diet… to see if this resonates with what your husband is experiencing, good luck.

    • I used to think my severe msg sensitivity was just that, but was still having similar issues from non msg containing foods, and also from hot showers. I am convinced that halide toxicity (flouride, bromide/ine, chlorine) is a huge part of the puzzle. For example some wine, chocolate, tea, veggies, can be high in these toxic halides due to fluoridated water and bromide pestacides, and it even accumulates in the bones of the chicken you are making your broth from. Many flours in US are also brominated. If you think this may be part of your problem look into an excellent drinking water filter, a shower filter, and correcting the likely severe iodine deficiency. Toxic halides will latch onto empty iodine receptors. Iodine/selenium/boron/zinc supplementation with daily sea salt pushing (important), and also msm, vit C, and glutathione supplementation. Part of why we are being poisoned is that our antioxidants have been completely depleted and we have nothing left to combat the free radicals. Can be exasperated by MTHFR genetic mutation. This is part of the puzzle of MCS.

      Heavy metal toxicity along with undiagnosed infectious diseases, parasites, and viral infections, are other pieces to the puzzle.

      Look into food grade diatomaceous earth if you suspect leaky gut. Candida can morph and grow hyphae that puncture your gut lining, allowing unprocessed protein and things directly into your blood stream, wreaking havoc and causing severe food sensitivities. Remember, any herx reaction is from excessive free radicals that will wreak havoc and be reabsorbed if you don’t take action – activated charcoal, FG diatomaceous earth, bentonite clay, are good, along with ensuring daily #2s. Gross to say but worth noting, the probiotics, and even glutathione, will be more effective if you administer them via the other end.

      May God bless us all during our challenging path towards better health.

      • This is the most informative response I’ve read down to this post. Do you have a F B or other site where you could be followed? Thank You, RLG

  30. I have recently developed what I believe is Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). I’ll be going to a doctor to have that verified but, whatever the diagnosis, I’ve become sensitive to many chemicals (e.g., my hairspray so I changed to another w/fewer toxic ingredients but quickly became sensitive to the new one). Symptoms are itchy, red eyes with red circles around them so that I look like a panda bear except my circles are red and not black. Among the many things I’m now sensitive to (w/symptoms as above and none other) are free glutamates. I’ve found that glutamate is an “excitotoxin” and is present in many foods and is listed on the label under various pseuodnyms (including “natural flavoring” and “spices.”) A very informative video on the subject is by Dr. Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon/brain surgeon, who has devoted many years to this topic. Go to YouTube and search for “Russell Blaylock, Excitotoxins, the Taste That Kills”. It’s hugely informative. [Re Dr. Blaylock, he’s very Christian and wears his religion on his sleeve, so to speak. That’ll be a plus to some but a minus to others. Nevertheless, he’s got the credentials and the talk is essential for MSG-sensitivity sufferers. Both of his parents died of Parkinson’s Disease (which he thinks can be caused by excitotoxins) and he has devoted years to researching this problem.] Good luck to all of you sufferers!

  31. I finally realized that I may have this issue after drinking bone broth for almost a year. Every time I had it, especially when I cooked it for a very long time, I would get many unpleasant symptoms, the worse being brain fog and headaches. I thought bone broth was good for me, so I kept drinking it, but I finally realized that I just couldn’t have it.

    After doing research online, I discovered this free glutamate intolerance, and then a bunch of things clicked for me. I get the exact same symptoms when I eat wheat, certain aged cheeses, some cured meats, corn starch, and gelatin. And now that I’ve seen the list of things “MSG” can be called, this may also explain why I often feel this way and don’t know why. I am going to try to avoid free glutamates as much as I can and see how I feel.

    I’m really glad I found this article, and I really hope more research goes into this problem.

    • I found exactly the same. I’m extremely sensitive to MSG and was shocked and disappointed when I started experiencing the same symptoms eating slow cooked meats and bone broths. I get tachycardia, arrhythmias, numb sensations in my tongue and muscle stiffness. I really appreciate this article as it sheds a lot of light on my reactions.

      • I have a mechanical aortic valve and incision scar tissue that inflames with overabundance of glutamates to block electric pathways, creating atrial fibrillation.
        I am surprised that a plant growth encouraging compound can also create glutamates in fruits and vegetables.

    • Hi, I also have real problems with long cooked stews and broths and have learnt that they also create high levels of amines that give me really bad stomach symptoms. I get bloating, intense pain, and depression when I eat them. I now also avoid chicken fat and skin and all pork and any meat that isn’t exceedingly fresh. Meat and cheese and eggs must all be super fresh and never left at room temp. Don’t eat left overs the next day even if they have been in the fridge as they still increase in amines and glutamate rapidly. Give them to less sensitive friends or the dog! (cooked foods are actually really bad for pets, so only occasionally use them as your bin!)

      • Also those reacting to bone broths and slow cooked meats – look into histamine intolerance, as that can also cause these reactions.

        Healing the gut / balancing the bacteria in the gut is still the first point of call from healing from these issues.

  32. Thanks for the review; this has some truth, but not all the truth. There, I believe, is still a missing link, perhaps an unveiled metabolic pathway. Isn’t it strange that some very healthy foods, even with anti inflammatory properties, could be harmful?
    I think the take home message is to avoid as much as possible, processed food sources.

  33. I have just watched a film called the truth about cancer, one doctor says glutamate is a main cause of cancer, even worse than sugar

    • Exactly! lol….that’s why i’m reading this article too, i’m watching episode 4 now! I thought I was doing well by eliminating msg from our diet, but didnt know it was hidden in ohter forms smh. this is enlightening but stressful at the same time. the doc in the video said black beans is high in glutamate!!!

      • and not necessarily a “cause” but it was said that glutamate is a fuel source for cancer cells, along with glucose….these are the 2 fuel sources for cancer 🙁

        • Really?! I’ve just gone on the macrobiotic diet (diagnosed w/ breast cancer 2 months ago) and been eating black beans for protein. Not just those beans of course, but I read somewhere else that sea vegetables are also high in natural glutamates, and this diet is big on the sea vegetables! :0 Am I shooting myself in the foot?? It’s so hard to know what to do!

    • Hi Jude,
      I watched the same thing. I remember him mentioning black beans and mushrooms. This lady also lists broccoli which another doctor claimed to be good. So I’m not sure what’s good and bad. Were you able to find a list anywhere of glutamates to avoid?

      • Yes, that’s why I’m here too!! Black beans are one of my favorite proteins and I got really worried where they said it was a high glutamate product but according to this article it’s not even mentioned. I’m wondering if he may be bent black beans in a can, because I know that they do put a few things in that. I wanted to ask if I soak my own dry beans if it would still be high glutamate.

      • Sam – yes, mushrooms are another natural source of high Glutamate! That includes supplements made from mushrooms like Reishi

  34. Hi Chris, thanks for this info. I have been eliminating glutamate and high sulphur foods from my diet for three years and am now finally migraine and fatigue free. My family has a history of Spina bifida and although I d not suffer I did link the folate and nerve health to the glutamate sensitivity and find that if I accidentally ingest glutamate or sulphur I get a reaction in my body within a short time and I take folic acid to counter it. This does work if the dose of sulphur is small. Otherwise I suffer from glutamate overload and become shaky, laboured breathing, diarrhoea and sometimes vomitting, altered taste and vision and have to sleep for a day. Sports drinks high in magnesium seem to help to flush the toxin out of my system so I can function. Still it takes nearly a week to fully recover. I hope this information helps you. Can I heal my gut from this sensitivity?

    • Please, Please Look into the MTHFR genetic mutation!!!! It occur in about 50% of the population. It is a genetic problem that does not allow a person to process synthetic folic acid or B12. There is a special form to take. I (and others in my family…also with a history of spina bifida) have all been diagnosed, and are on the right folic acid and B12. WOW!!! the difference in all of our health is amazing!! This could be the answer to soooo many unexplained health issues!

      • Also people with MTHFR gene mutation can’t process folic acid and it becomes toxic to us. Use Folate instead.

      • I also found the connection somewhere along the line (probably another article online) that taking Folic Acid supplements could counteract the effects of eating glutumate. For years, I always had Folic Acid with me and would take it after a restaurant meal (particularly fast food). I seemed to have almost no headaches. I recently found out that people with ulcerative colitis develop a Folic Acid deficiency. I have UC and now I’m wondering if there’s a connection with having the glutumate sensitivity.

  35. “Though MSG contains glutamic acid, due to the manufacturing process it is also almost always accompanied by unwanted by-products or contaminants.”

    This is a big allegation. What unwanted byproducts or contaminants are we talking about?

    Has there been any testing done to confirm this?

  36. I have been having full, severe allergic reactions to MSG and also to a few other things I can’t pin down. One is food that “may contain other nuts” also my allergist tells me I am not allergic to any nuts. As well as seeded bread, even if nuts aren’t listed. I have also had reactions to store-bought icing, although I cannot pin down the ingredients.
    Could there be any links between Food additives and “other nuts” such as a common processing chemical in certain nuts?
    Not sure where to get this info…

  37. Hello,

    I searched for possibilities of Betaine HCl w pepsin taking 3-4 grams per day causing high glutamate. I have been using this for about a month consistently and now my glutamate symptoms are through the roof! Anyone? I read here in the article “How to increase GABA and Balance Glutamine” found at http://www.holistichelp.net/blog/ that Glycine can be inhibitory or excitatory, and in ppl who tend to lean towards excess glutamate it typically becomes excitatory, so it may need to be avoided. Is Betaine HCL considered glycine??Betaine=TMG trimethyglycine does it not? Thanks for any help.

  38. Hi.
    After a year of trying to work out what was causing my symptoms (rapid heart beat, arythmia and nights unable to sleep (at all!) as a result of these symptoms) I finally linked it to both MSG and Maltodextrin. I had no idea until recently that these were both linked to free glutamic acid but when I found out it all made sense!!
    Does anyone have a remedy for the short-term symptoms relating to this?
    I naturally now avoid foods with these additives but sometimes they unknowingly make their way into a meal.

    • reader: NAC (n-acetyl cysteine) can help, and magnesium can too. both are very safe to take. NAC is an anti-oxidant and has many other benefits as well. the only thing to watch with magnesium is that too much can be a laxative. good luck. i have been experiencing this due to a misguided PA’s rec that i take glutamine. increased heart rate, inability to sleep… it’s been awful! so i completely sympathize.

      • Magnesium supplements are not safe for everyone. I know this isn’t common, but magnesium supplement d, even as little as 35 mg a few days in a row, keeps me up all night with leg cramps. Magnesium also drops my blood pressure so low I once ended up in the ER thinking I’d had a stroke. This misery a I described went on for a couple mo this before I finally figured out the cause. Even too much of a high magnesium food (chocolate) can do this to me. This is not a common response to magnesium supplementation, but I have met two other people who have the same response.

        • Me too! I know of only one other person this happens to. I have fibromyalgia and everyone wants me to take magnesium. Practitioners all look at me strangely when I tell them about how magnesium causes terrible leg pains and keeps me awake all night. Does anyone know why? Or how to overcome it? Can magnesium really just be bad for a few people?

          • Yep magnesium can cause restless legs, cramps etc I had it when using magnesium chloride transdermally.

            Mag tends to push down potassium, which causes the cramping, that’s why it’s recommended to increase your potassium-rich foods to the 4700mg RDA. It’s not easy.

            It’s also finding the right magnesium for you. Anything citric or oxide is a no-no. Glycinate can cause insomnia, malate and threonate I believe are the two best alternatives.

            • Well…pushing down potassium may not be the mechanism for me. High potassium foods, potassium supplements do the same thing to me that magnesium does, muscle cramps, low blood pressure, etc. I believe there’s something fundamentally “off” with my calcium metabolism. I’ve learned recently that I have a defective vitamin D receptor. Inadequate vitamin D absorption leads to Calcium deficiency. Calcium deficiency can lead to magnesium overload. I believe my body preferentially absorbs magnesium over calcium. ( I’ve had my RBC magnesium tested twice. Both times I had well above the normal range of magnesium in my rbcs.)

              • Yeah I’ve read if it’s not magnesium, if it’s not potassium, then calcium is next in line.

                I’ve got sky high calcium (dysregulation) and it was dragging my magnesium upwards with it, hence the cramping when I supplemented. I added in potassium and cut out cheese and it’s fine unless I eat high glutamate foods.

                Interesting links between glutamate (MSG foods) and calcium. As I understand it, when glutamate excites the cells of the brain it drags calcium in to kill those cells (which sounds like a dampening mechanism to me but leads to other neurological conditions) I wonder if low calcium people tend towards RLS when eating MSG because they don’t have that mechanism.

      • It’s possible to react badly to NAC as well. I was taking it for several weeks and noticing that my heart rate would be dangerously high at times. It took me a disconcertingly long time for me to figure out it was the NAC! After about a week of not taking it the heart rate improved considerably.

        I’d never heard of anyone reacting that way to NAC, but, everyone is different!

  39. Hi. Can you say more on how wheat gluten contains free glutimates? Never heard that before.

    Also, many of tbe same foods also contain tyramines. Is there a way for someone to tell if they rea t to tryamine or glutimate? Do tryramines damage brain tbe way glutimate does?

  40. I have Lamictal to help me with my depression that last for at least 10 years as far as I know. I read articles where the lamitrogine is related to inhabit the glutamate receptor. Does the glutamate diet do the oppoisite by exciting this receptor? does it mean I may help my medicine by avoiding glutamate in my diet?

  41. I learned recently that glutamates were causing me to have restless leg syndrome. Also had an extreme reaction to whey protein where i was so wired that i did not sleep for 4 days. I stopped eating foods with high free glutamates and the RLS mostly disappeared. When I get the RLS I can almost always relate it back to something I ate. but, there are still some times that I do not know what caused it. And insomnia continues to be a problem for me even after removing the glutamates. After reading all the comments I will remove gelatin capsules and digestive enzymes to see if maybe they are a problem. Maybe the glutamate they contribute are not enough to cause RLS but still enough to disrupt my sleep.
    Does anyone know, if you heal the Leaky gut will the glutamate sensitivity disappear. Although my diet includes many foods that I enjoy, I really miss all of the foods that have a more intense flavor.

    • About restless legs: I have found that my legs become restless when I need more iron. I ALWAYS get relief from restless legs when I remember to take iron regularly. Researchers at Johns Hopkins have noted the even RLS patients with normal blood levels of iron benefit from supplementation with iron. For this reason, they theorise that some people with RLS can have normal blood levels of iron while they are deficient of iron in their brains.

    • Hi Ann and Valerie. I was interested to read your posts. I have lived with restless leg syndrome for a number of years and only now finding out about the link with restless leg and glutamate sensitivity. A number of things ive noticed over the years bring on symtoms which I have naturally eliminated from my diet including protein supplements, creatine supplements, maltodextrin supplement, alcohol, coffee and also intense exercise. Is there a way of testing if you have a sensitivity to glutamate that you are aware of? I have got my iron levels checked which were normal but I’m now wondering of my brain may be low in iron…

    • Hi, did u check your kidney function, endocrine status( thyroid), or iron levels? Do u have diabetes, Parkinson’s, or arthritis, Are u on any medications, or do u heavily smoke, or drink. I refer you to NHS choices link, for more detail.
      May I add, from a personal experience; if u r around menopause age, that could be a notorious reason, and a reason for many more symotoms, especially when camouflaged while hot flashes are yet not fully proclaimed.
      Dr Hana Fayyad

  42. I was having migraines continuously and it was recommended to go grain free. I did and the migraines went away. Now I don’t eat any gluten but sometimes I am still getting migraines that last for days. Should I start watching out for Glutamate now too?

    • Yes. I had 15 years of chronic migraine that included vomitting and diarrhoea that lasted days to weeks. I could not work and spent 18 months in bed before I started taking betablocker meds.
      I discovered hereditary conditions included spina bifida (folate deficiency in utero) and sulphur intolerance.
      I have cut out all foods high in sulphur, high free glutamate foods are also on the high sulphur food list. If I accidently eat preservatives or a free glutamate food I begin to get very sleepy and my mood is flattened. I immediately take folic acid to counter this reaction.
      I am totally well now, working, and my poor health a distant memory. But I must eat a low sulphur diet, no preservatives or anything with numbers attached.
      Good luck

      • Hi Rosemary,

        I have the same reactions, high glutamate foods make me tired and sad, just out of interest, how did you find out that folic acid counters this reaction? Which type of folic acid do you take and how much?

        I might not tolerate high sulphur foods also, I found this article about the connection between sulphur intolerance and mercury intoxication

        http://www.livingnetwork.co.za/chelationnetwork/food/high-sulfur-sulphur-food-list/

        I have had bad reactions to taurine and NAC which are both to be avoided, if you’re sulphur intolerant, but I have not yet done the elimination test diet recommended in the article

        How did you find out about your sulphur intolerance?

        Regards

        Anne

        • Hi Anne
          My biological father, when I found him fifty years after my birth, listened to my symptoms and told me the whole family have a sulphur intolerance. He worked in the wine industry and advised me to stop drinking wine with 220 preservative. So I now eat preservative free.
          Folate is needed in the development of nerve endings, glutamate and sulphur are excitotoxin to the brain, folate helps to counter some of this chemical reaction. The other side of my family suffer from Spina bifida and migraine. I have a double -whammy intolerance. By connecting the family history and the science it became possible to note that folate (lack of folate causes Spina bifida) had a role to play in my health. NB Some new anti-epileptic drugs work on the glutamate receptors in the brain also, and may work for migraine.
          I hope this helps.

  43. Im sorry but this is What’s the difference between bound and free glutamate? completely untrue. First please studies that free glutamate ingested with food have fast spikes. Because you dont ingest free gluamate alone but with foods and this affecst absorbtion(like in glucose). Second bounded glutamate is very fast unbounded by digestion.
    Remember no one eat glutamate acid alone however, comes without the natural components of food that help the body regulate glutamic levels. For example carbohydrate significantly attenuate peak plasma glutamate levels at doses up to 150 mg MSG/kg b.w. Free glutamate lays physiological and nutritional roles and initiates digestion in the stomach as well as anticipates subsequent processes in the small intestine and the liver.

  44. This post is great Amy, I have a daughter with Autism that I’m trying to heal, I came across your website, and will start raw vegetable juicing first thing in the morning, do we mix fruits vegetable and nuts together. I’m assuming that she needs to drink everything including fibers. I’ve bee healing her, with herbs, Enemas, and she drinks CD, she is CFGF Low carbs and grain, mainly we cook with lots of mix vegetables. For seasoning I use Himalayan salt, and herbs, nothing else. I only started this 1 year ago as I didn’t know before!! I’m confused about Free Glutamate, as they are in broccoli, tomato’s any few other, do I need to eliminate them? I cook as healthy a possible, I just recently saw that my daughter is disliking meat now. She will have very very little almost nothing, wondering why? She is non verbal, but started with few words since on CD and herbal Therapy. Thanks you

  45. I am confused. How do we know what is free glutamate and what is bound? And how do walnuts have a high free glutamate index? Nothing is processed in them. You would think that would be the bound glutamate.

  46. I’m now convinced my 4 year old daughter is glutamate sensitive after a reaction to nutritional yeast flakes (I already avoid MSG as she suffers night terrors and seizures if too much ingested).

    Anyway, I have a question regarding MSG as an additive in vaccines (I believe chicken-pox and MMR have MSG as an additive). Is there any research on the safety of injecting MSG? Is the sensitivity point much lower? My daughter has not received these vaccines yet (only partially vaccinated). The reaction she gets from food is reasonably severe – I’m presuming injecting it would provoke a stronger reaction?

    • I’m just learning like you about free glutamate, but I can just share a link about vaccination, I truly believe that they cause many illness, like my daughters Autism, she was fine until she got her vaccination, anyway here is the link.

  47. Very interesting. I am 43 years old and since I was 13 have been dealing with a seizure disorder. After trying numerous different medicines without 100% success, I discovered a link between my seizures and MSG. My wife and I were at a Chinese buffet. That night I had terrible seizures. This was about 3 years ago. Since then, I generally try to avoid those known foods with glutamate. When I do have a seizure (approximately 1 every three months and always at night), I can always link it to something I ate the night before. I came across this article after having had another seizure last night. Not realizing it had so much glutamate, I had quite a bit of blue cheese last night. Also, my son has been struggling with symptoms of ADHD for several years. He has been diagnosed and has been on medication for several years now. Recently, he has seen by another physician and he has doubts that ADHD is the correct diagnosis. This is a very interesting thought and warrants follow up. Maybe the majority of his problems can be linked to a food sensitivity.

    • It’s worth investigating. My 11 year old with ADHD who has been on meds for a year, saw a functional medicine dietician and has been glutamate free for over a month now. He is so different it is almost a miracle – calm, focusing, fun to be around. We are yet to reduce the meds…and to re challenge his diet – but am very hopeful.

    • I’m learning about free Glutamate, and diet, I will start with raw vegetable juicing as of today, this is the first thing I need to include in my daughter, that has Autism. I’m in a huge group of people that we treat our kids with Autism, ADHD… it is totally free, if you are interested, contact me, and I can suggest a Facebook group depend of the age of your child. My daughter is getting better, but still missing that raw juicing, vegetable, fruits and nuts, which I learned it now and make sense to me….

    • Do the seizures happen during tbe night? I get tbe same thing but have been blaming on tyramines rather than glutimates- foiods that have them overlap considerably

  48. my son has numerous food sensitivitIes. Our first realization was the eczema it caused, but elimination of foods results in less excitability and better cotton and focus. In the past 3 years we trip on another sensitivity every 6 months or so-including red dye, chlorine and just recently glutamate. We find it based on symptoms then research to find the trigger based on what he most recently ate. I believe many children are being diagnosed with adhd – but really just have food sensitivites. frustrating what we allow in our foods. Praying as a society we stop poisoning ourselves just to use medicines that cause worse issues. Crazy downward cycle.

  49. As someone who adopted the real food diet this year and bone broth I was excited to be healing a very leaky gut. However to my dismay, my symptoms worsened and I hit a health low. I finally realized that my joint pain and hives were directly caused by the bone broth and possibly glutamine-containing amino acid supplements prescribed by my functional practitioner.

    So, I’m really at a loss because I don’t know how one can heal a gut properly without bone broth and glutamine. I’m intrigued by this “bound” vs “free” concept; are there supplements with glutamine that can heal and not worsen symptoms, and can you ever really heal a gut without glutamine? Any suggestions are welcome. Thank you!

    • Hi,

      My gut is by far not healed, but got rid of the hives using MSM. The itching was so bad that not even antihistamines only available on prescription several times a day could get rid of it, I then started supplementing with MSM and after 4 months it was gone. I also tried supplementing with glutamic acid also in order to heal the gut, but had to stop taking it, as it worsened my mood. I also just read a couple of days ago, that zinc helps heal a leaky gut (and a leaky brain), so I will try this too now.

      Just got in touch with a german (I live in Germany) university professor who has developped a drug for healing a leaky gut, it should bind endotoxins and eliminate them and also protect the gut with some sort of layer, it’s made of some specific sort of silicone + oxygen, but I’m not a chemist, so can’t really explain it well, I am about to start this treatment, he says it still takes 2-3 years to heal the gut 🙁

      You could also try a fecal transplantation to restore your gut bacteria, I have not tried this myself, but I’m planning to get this treatment,

      we need to help each other with advice, because leaky gut is kind of ignored by most doctors 🙁

      • I am also looking into fecal transplant. I cant restore a healthy microbiome because i cant eat any of tbe aged foods that provide beneficial bacteria. Between that and not being able to eat any dairy i have no lacobacilli in large intestine. I do not have evidence of leaky gut but do have gratly elevated secretory IgA suggesting my immune system is overactive about something.

        Aged foods give me neurological symptoms and have to avoid greatly. Dont know how the dairy intolerance – fresh or aged – factors in.

        • Try Progurt Probiotics . They give you one Trillion good bacteria in one sachet which you only take once a week and it’s from a human strain . Works wonders also for your mood !

  50. I stumbled upon the msg issue by accident. My grandson, who is non-verbal and autistic, was recently seen by a naturopath and had a full biochemical assessment done which, in part, showed low levels of glutathione. He was given a cream prescription to increase the level, but we were told this is a slow process and could take up to a year. No satisfied with this answer I went to the internet in search of a quicker way to raise his glutathione levels. After reading much about many different supplements I landed on a supplement called undenatured whey, which is supposed to be milk whey in it’s natural form. I ordered this, and before using my grandson as a guinea pig I tried it myself first. I used only about 1/4 of the recommended serving and I did this for three days. The first day I felt a very small amount of some generalized anxiety, the next day a little more and by the third day I was nearly crawling in my skin. My stomach was in a knot, my limbs, particularly my arms and calves were tingling and felt weak, and I just felt toxic.
    I had no idea what exactly was causing this but I knew it was something about the whey, so once again I went to the internet in search of an answer and I saw that on many of the body building forums (which is most of the folks who use whey products) people were talking about feeling anxiety when using whey. It was a relatively small population who made this complaint, with most other folks saying that they didn’t have any problem and that it was likely in the person’s head. This was most certainly NOT in my head, in fact, I’m usually the person who doesn’t feel a thing with most supplements, and is generally fairly skeptical.
    But in my searches I kept seeing glutamate referenced, so I did more searches on glutamate and anxiety and I hit the jackpot! I could barely believe what I was reading about this substance! So much to it, on so many levels, both good and bad, but it certainly provided some compelling food for thought around many questions I’ve had over the years about my own health and also that of my autistic son and autistic grandson.
    Thank god I did not give any of this poison to my grandson. I shudder to think about what he would have experienced with such a huge hit of free glutamate, on top of what he’s already getting in his diet. And of course, now, the question is, how is glumatate affecting him on a daily basis and what role might glutamate play in his autism.
    What I know of certain, is that I experienced a horrific overload of glutamate and the physical symptoms were real, painful, and disturbing. I cannot understand why the FDA allows this neurotoxin in nearly every single packaged food there is. I am extremely concerned about the amount (cumulative) that I, and my loved ones, are (have been) consuming each and every day, and that this is somehow ok with the very governing body designated to protect the health of this country’s citizens. I am stunned that there isn’t greater awareness around just how dangerous this substance can be.
    Besides avoiding free glutamate, using glutamate blocking supplements, such as magnesium, B6, taurine, etc., what else can one do to reduce glutamate levels in the body?

    • You didn’t say if you quit eating wheat. It is very important to get the modern, hybrid wheat out of your diet. No beer with what malt in it although German beer should be safe as they will not uses Roundup dried wheat to make malt.

      • Is there any wheat (but not whole wheat!) that does not have this problem? If i get stuff imported from another country (like pastafrom italy) would this help?

    • Hi my dear, please do not any medicine, or vaccination on your grandson!!

      This cause my daughter to be Autistic, I’m helping her natural way, I’m in a group of moms with autism…. and we are dedicated to cure our kids, if you are interested to hear it, you can contact me, The groups on Facebook, are totally FREE!! My daughter is better!! We do Herbs detox, colon detox with Enemas, I can tell you after just one enema, my daughter calms down immediately!! and I do it all that at home, it is had work, but I need to do it, I just go to the doctor to get some tests done, like blood test, so I can analyze, and help her accordingly. It is a slow process, to get our kids back, Many kids started to talk, my daughter just started to say few words, and that is a positive thing to me, Please don not get any injection of Vitamin B, the worst is B12. Wish you all the best!

      • Hi Mira, I just read your comment regarding the article on glutamate and your daughter. At the end of your comment you mentioned vitamin B12 being the worst. Have you thought about testing her genes, as in 23AndMe ? Perhaps, part of her problem is in methylation as in MTHFR. Just wanted to pass this on.

      • You might be interested to know that an expert in methylation, named Amy Yasko has discovered that a huge percentage of children with autism have a methylation mutation/disorder of some kind. This can affect their ability to use vitamin B’s that are not methylated (like plan B12 and not methyl B12).

        • A number children with autism have an MTHFR gene mutation. Check out mthfr.net to see if there are symptoms that overlap…or look into Amy Yasko’s site. She has a test that can test for where the methylation is breaking down. Having MTHFR affects the body’s ability to detox. So, could vaccines have toxins that affect methylation further? Hmm…I wonder

  51. Hi Katie,

    What about supplements that have their capsule made of gelatin? I Take HCL with a capsule made of gelatin, and I take it to very meal. Several capsules. Should we avoid taking supplements with capsules of gelatin?

    Thank you

    • Hi,

      you didn’t ask me the question, but I thought I’d mention my experience 😉 I tolerate some gelatin capsules and don’t even feel a difference, like Neptune Krill Oil capsules from Nature Point, other gelatin capsules I do not tolerate, like not at all, the smallest of gelatin capsules can ruin the whole next day for me, for example SF722 from Thorne Research, making me depressed and tired, I avoid buying supplements in gelatin capsules now, but do use the ones that I still have that do not affect me, so my suggestion is to try leaving them out for some days and then taking them again and see, if you notice any difference in your mood or energy level!

      En dansk hilsen fra Tyskland!

      Anne

      • Tusen takk Anne!

        I appreciate that you share your experience. I have been taking HCL and C it with gelatin capsule, and i feel better when I don’t take them, so I will buy the next one without gelatin capsule. I thought there might be another reason for me feeling better without them. I am new to this so I have so much to learn and understand yet! And then it is so good to hear from others what they do.

        Hilsen Elise!

        • Hej Elise,

          Just bought Betaine HCL & Pepsin from Thorne Research (do not contain gelatin!) and remembered that you had written about taking such a supplement! Do they help with your digestion? I think that I have SIBO and in connection to this, I read about low stomach acid also being a problem, I’ll do the test taking one the first day, two the second day etc to see which dose is right for me, how many do you take? Do you see a great improvement in symptoms and do you have any adverse reactions? I’m a bit anxious about it, because I read that you should not take HCL if you take NSAIDs (http://scdlifestyle.com/2013/10/4-common-betaine-hcl-mistakes), I do take a COX-2 inhibitor, but it should not damage the stomach as other NSAIDs, so I’ll give it a try and start out slowly!

          ha det bra!

          Anne

    • Hi Elise
      I came across your posting when researching glutamate but I wanted to comment on the HCl. I used to take this for digestion issues but no longer need it. Instead I have 4 teaspoons of unfiltered apple cider vinegar with the “mother” in warm water once a day and this does the trick.
      Hope that helps

  52. You provide neither support nor justification for your claim that “manufactured MSG” (MSG is not manufactured: it is extracted from soy) is usually contaminated and contains unwanted by-products. You need to be specific as well and specify what thewe contaminants a day by-products are. As far as glutamate and autism, this sounds suspiciously like the now discredited Thimerosal “cause” of autism. All of the latest and most reputable research indicates both multiple environmental causes (MSG could certainly be one) and a possible link to the dysbiosis and disruption of the normal bacterial population we all carry that outnumbers our own cells by 100X. You mention a “specific molecule” that damages the cells of the BBB but don’t state what that molecule is. Finally, you need to edit your work more carefully: you implied that vanilla contains glutamate which is merely a chemical impossiblity. All this said, please keep up the good fight because our food truly is our best medicine. I’m just concerned that Big Fooda’s propaganda machine will use your mistakes and ambiguities to undermine your very important message.

    • Doctor I know your post is very old, but may I recommend watching a new movie that was just released called “vaxxed” it has the proof you are looking for as far as autism is concerned.

  53. Thank you for all the excellent posts and comments. I want to learn more specifically about digestive enzymes possibly being a source of free glutamate? As was mentioned in one of the earlier posts. Is this really the case? Can someone please confirm with a citation or two with more information? I would be very grateful! Am curious if this is playing into a couple of very sensitive client’s symptoms.

  54. Hello, I was using half a cup of bone stock a day – cooked for 12 – 24 hours – when I developed a reaction to glutamate – for me this was an intense burning in my arms and legs. I had to stop all food sources of free glutamate but also had to ditch the fermented foods and digestive enzymes to get the pain to go away. It did eventually but even after 6 months I am not able to touch any of t he offending foods, this has made life particularly difficult with regards the digestive enzymes, I now have to puree all food.

  55. I have a daughter (almost 14) with high functioning autism and was told at a young age she likely had a leaky gut due to mineral deficiencies (though not tested), and I’m also a sufferer of migraines. We have both been vegan for 3 years now and have noticed a significant improvement in our health and mood. I’m sure there are other things at play too with us and I already know my mum has intolerances with MSG. I’ve been following this topic for a while but I think it’s time to start some trials. I’d love to know if there are any resources that would help a vegan trying to eliminate MSG. On a side note, we love our broccoli, mushrooms and tomatoes and would be devastated if they needed to be removed from our diet 🙁

    • I wouldn’t recommend getting rid of whole organic broccoli, tomatoes, and mushrooms. These have very low free glutamate levels (<0.2%) It's the processed foods that degraded proteins from the processing or the additive MSG that is causing a high level across the Western Diet. Viva la broccoli!

  56. I heard Katie interviewed by Holistic Nutrition labs and she was great. Look for her Ted talk as well. My question is, does free glutamate actually cause disorders like autism, ADD and Parkinsons or does it just exacerbate the symptoms because people with these issues are more susceptible?

    • My thoughts are there may be various factors that result in sensitivity to free glutamate like: high free glutamate exposure to a fetus, microflora imbalances that increase susceptibility to inflammation, any autoimmune disease where inflammation and immunoreactivity are high. In my daughter’s case, we manage her autism by a reduced free glutamate diet and I suspect in her case she had an imbalanced microflora at birth.

  57. I have started a nonprofit organization raising awareness of free glutamate sources and the science of its effect after realizing this amino acid excess was associated with my daughter’s autism. For more info see unblindmymind.org

    There is much science missing here and it is complex. Free glutamate need not cross the BBB to induce neuroinflammation in the brain, although crossing the BBB is one way for this response. Neurotransmission signals and other chemicals like insulin are induced by glutamate binding to glutamate receptors and these signal freely cross to the brain.

    Also – gluten does not contain 40% free glutamate by weight naturally. It’s only when the protein is hydrolyzed that high amounts of glutamate in the protein become free. The same is true of casein protein or any protein subjected to processes that break the peptide bond.

    • Thank you, Katie. As a follower (but not to the nth degree) of traditional foods, and as someone trying to heal diagnosed SIBO and reflux, I have turned to bone broth, gelatin, and probiotic foods for help, based on conventional wisdom. But now the glutamate issue is up and it’s extremely confusing! How does one know which way to turn? Drink broth/gelatin and see how you feel? I also have severe food allergies to nuts, peanuts and sesame, implying that there is a gut permeability issue. Without thousands of dollars of lab tests, any advice for the confused? Also thank you so much for your work, and your dedication to helping those who struggle.

    • I just watched your TEDx video and found your page. Great stuff! I had a recent experience with a change in diet. I have been avoiding free glutumate for over 30 years due to it causing bad headache and a hangover effect for 24 hours after consuming. I went on the DASH diet for a year and began drinking lots of milk (Lactaid, though) and more wheat. Before then, I avoided wheat and never drank milk. I became very ill with a flare-up in Ulcerative Colitis (after being in remission for 30+ years) that has been going on for eight months and though better, is not in remission. My gastroenterologist prescribed the probiotic, VSL#3 and I am back to avoiding wheat and am cutting back on the dairy, but now I think I need to eliminate the milk all together due to the casein connection with glutumate.

  58. As a person who gets migraines and has Fibromyalgia, I definitely have a sensitivity to glutamate. And I have studied this subject tirelessly. MSG is the biggest offender, but most of the products the author listed also bother me (except not really broccoli nor homemade broths). I would also add chocolate as one of my main triggers (most people with migraines should avoid chocolate too). I would also add that most IBS is caused by glutamates. As soon as I avoided it (as much as possible), my IBS completely went away!
    Although I do think the condition of the gut and brain barrier play a huge role in individual sensitivity, I think enzymes play a role too. Not just digestive enzymes, but possibly metabolic enzymes. And so each person will have a varying degree of sensitivity based on their personal profile of genetics and deficiencies and damage to these systems.
    I also read an interesting study recently about the role specific gut bacteria play in breaking down foods and making them more digestible, in this case the bacteria is “clostridia”. So it may be that if we are deficient in a specific bacteria, that we can’t break down glutamates (and other substances) sufficiently so they get into our bloodstream at a much more concentrated level. Here is an article about this study:
    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/08/140825152016.htm
    I believe that if we ate less of the artificial forms of glutamate, and maintained healthier gut flora and general health, many of us would probably never experience these issues with glutamate in its natural state. Because, as an earlier post pointed out, glutamate, like all other amino acids, is balanced in real foods by other inhibitory substances. It’s when we isolate glutamate (MSG, isolated proteins, etc), that they are over-excitatory and start causing problems.
    The role of MSG and other man-made versions of glutamate are a big problem for our health, and if the FDA would at least take a stand against it being added to everything, we would be taking a huge step toward improving the health of our country.

  59. I wonder if the neuro-excitability can be put to good use–say in Alzheimer’s patients? Could they be suffering from a glutamate deficiency, or have I got his backwards?

    • Yes, Adrien Samuels wrote a book “It Wasn’t Alzheimers, It Was MSG”. My scientific research supports that the protein associated with plaques (tau protein) in Alzheimer’s is excessively phosphorylated and this is regulated by glutamate binding to a specific glutamate receptor.

  60. those links seem a bit odd… “foods that damage nerves”… fermented foods???
    anything seasoned???
    tofu???
    fermented soy, soy sauce???

    Are we just being stupid, going too far with the health craze?

    • Daniel, when you are as sick as these people are, you have already studiously ruled out the most common cause of illness. Then you start going down the path of the lesser known causes. That’s where many people on this blog are at. There is no need to make light of their situation.

    • Hi,

      if you don’t have any problem with these foods, eat it!

      Some people such as myself get very not to say extremely sick ingesting these foods (glutamate is a neurotransmitter)

      I would never avoid these foods just out of precaution, if I did not experience any bad reactions. I would only avoid artificial MSG, after all foods were designed for humans, but for healthy/intact humans, not for people with leaky gut or raised blood brain barrier permeability. It can be difficult though to link your symptoms to these foods or to foods at all, because the reactions might come after hours or even the next day, eventually lasting for days; if you’re not feeling well, and don’t know why, it’s worth trying to exclude these foods for some days or a week to see what happens, I envy the people not having glutamate issues, cause it is as someone else wrote next to impossible to avoid these foods 🙁

      So I understand that it seems quite extreme or exaggerated, cause it includes just about anything!

  61. I suspect I have a glutamate sensitivity, but my symptoms are not the same as most described online. I get a reduction in the pressure of blood flow to the periphery it seems, so the weight of my feet is enough to push the blood out and make my soles white. Or, sitting on my hands pushes all the blood out and it comes back slowly over ten seconds or so. If really bad then Raynaud’s reactions are very very easily triggered, either by cold or minor stress or indeed by sitting on my hands. Does anyone else have this type of symptom? I also react to caffeine… Amy does that fit with a glutamate issue?

  62. Are you familiar with Idiopathic Hypersomnia? GABA is a key player in this condition. I wonder how the glutamate GABA balance affects this condition.

  63. I’ve been dealing with glutamate sensitivity for a couple years now and I think this issue is more common than health experts might realize, generally speaking.

    I actually couldn’t figure out what was causing my reactions because I was very careful to stay away from MSG. Until one day I ended up in the ER for anaphylactic shock after trying gelatin as a supplement. Thankfully I found forums where it seemed like an extensive number of people (who do not have ADHD or autism) have been dealing with the same thing and struggling to find a solution. From their stories I was able to figure out that my migraines, unexplained anxiety, brain firings, shaking leg, insomnia, feeling “wired” all of a sudden… were somehow tied to glutamate.

    I’m fine now as long as I’m really careful to keep all forms of glutamate at a tolerable level. I can consume homemade fish and lamb stock if cooked at a low level for a shorter amount of time.

    It seems like there might be another issue which is the ultimate cause but I haven’t been able to figure that out. Some people seem to have similar reactions to supplement fillers such as cellulose and silicon dioxide so I avoid additives as well. If that’s some kind of a clue, maybe we’re reacting to the chemical processing of glutamate rather than the glutamate itself, in which we then develop a sensitivity to it. Other than that I have no idea.

    Thank you for this article. It’s encouraging to see more attention being given to this issue.

    • Hi Ellisabethe,
      I would love to know more of your resources and the forums you mentioned. I am just realizing a connection between glutamate and my health issues and am amazed how much better I feel after just a few days of intervention. But, there seems to be so few choices for me to eat. Today, for instance, I had some avocado – I have now learned that right now I can’t tolerate avocado. I’m optimistic that I will unravel some of these mysteries and keep feeling better, but I would love to have more people to have conversations with about this. Thank yo

  64. I believe I experienced a “night terror” after being invited to a Chinese buffet some time ago. I never eat out, and I eat pretty clean. I was on 24 hour fast, not intentional but by chance. I experienced extreme thirst, which is a known side effect of MSG. I’m almost 30 years old, and night terrors are supposedly rare in adults. I experienced a very horrible case sleeping that night, and my body was full of sweat. I don’t remember any part of the dream. All I can recall is my head possibly hanging off the side of the bed looking down at the ground–perhaps I’m imaging or dreaming this. I screamed several times and jumped out of bed. I recall experiencing nightmares or night terrors as a kid, and I assume that was diet. I’ve read several anecdotal cases of kids experiencing night terrors when eating MSG. There’s no other logical reason but whatever was in the food. I never experience nightmares, not after the incident and not for years before it.

    • I’d like to clarify that this is probably the scariest episode I’ve ever experienced in my life. I was drenched in sweat. I didn’t know I was capable of screaming. I can’t consciously do it anyway as my voice is too low. Another thing I ate there was a lot of clams. They were big and chewy and gritty with what seemed like dirt. They didn’t taste good, but I ate a lot of them. I’m guessing some kind of shellfish poisoning is another possibility for this bizarre freak incident.

  65. Great post, thanks Amy. I am very sensitive to MSG – I accidently ate a large portion (on seasoned calamari) a few months ago and am stuck with a status migrainous aura in my right eye. I have tried lots of things to get rid of it, aspirin is the only thing that seems to help temporarily. Do you know of any MSG ‘antidotes’? I have read taurine can help, do you know any others? Thanks Emily

    • Hi,

      I’m also extremely sensitive to glutamate, ibuprofen works really well for me, I can eat almost anything and feel way better than I feel when trying to avoid everything and not taking Ibuprofen. The problem is that it can cause or worsen leaky gut, so in the long run I guess that it would only contribute to the problem, but nice to have for exceptional occasions, magnesium also helps, I take both “normal” magnesium and “brain magnesium” (threonate), improves my sleep and concentration, for more info see:

      http://www.msgtruth.org/remedies.htm

      😉

  66. Interesting article, my wife has suffered with seizures for three years, MSG and dairy were the triggers due to a leaky gut. Lglutamine is the amino acid found most abundantly in the stomach lining I believe and is good for healing a leaky gut. There was an article / video posted by Chris about how to heal a leaky gut but we missed it, will keep an eye out for the next one. You can get a leaky gut test (Intestinal Permeability) done, we use Biolab in London every three to four months and monitor the benefits of the various supplements / herbs being taken. We have noticed a marked improvement, but I think it will be a long haul and not a quick fix.

    • yeah, i just bought 2 kg of l-glutamine to hopefully help heal leaky gut/sibo/ibs or whatever i have. i do notice not really headaches but odd sensations every once in a while.

  67. I’ve noticed my son gets migraines to what I’m thinking are glutamates. Cleaning up his diet and going gluten free have helped a little, but we haven’t avoided tomatoes or cheese or some of the less processed foods that still contain glutamates. My concern however, is that he is due for vaccinations. We delayed a few when he was three, but now being in kindergarten it is a lot harder to avoid pressure from school. Would the glutamates in vaccines wreak more havoc than just ingesting foods with glutamates?

  68. It’s easy to just whitewash all the studies against MSG by saying “they were funded by XYZ organization”, but the Weston A. Price article does just that and then skips to citing a bunch of animal studies that have already been disproven for humans. I don’t care if a rat got lesions if that dose isn’t even near human equivalent doses.

    Anecdotal evidence is great and all, but I highly doubt that it’s the glutamate causing these issues – where is the citation for glutamate sensitivity via food? Glutamate neurotransmitter signaling problems for neurological diseases/disorders is a very different thing.

    Also, this is the same argument people make against dietary cholesterol, but forget that there are downregulation systems – why do we assume that an overstimulated synapse would downregulate receptors and thus re-establish balance? That is, if an appreciable amount of glutamate is even crossing the BBB.

    If chronic low-grade inflammation is actually a problem, oats (as an anti-inflammatory) would help: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/23072529

  69. Yes! Thank you for bringing awareness to this topic! Most of my clients are quite sensitive to glutamate, even in foods such as bone broths and peas. This is often related to functional enzyme deficiencies due to toxins such as lead, in addition to actual genetic mutations. We also find glutamate issues increase during a detoxification protocol. Highly intelligent people do tend to be more susceptible because they have higher glutamate receptor activity. http://peelingbacktheonionlayers.com/excitotoxicity-when-nourishing-foods-do-harm/

  70. Despite permeable BBB, Hashi-hypoT, tTG2 Ab (celiac), many genetic markers for autism, COMT homozygous variant, I don’t seem to be negatively affected by the high glutamic acid foods. But cysteine levels are naturally high-end with normal glutathione, so this may have something to do with not being bothered by glutamic acid.

    I have some powdered glutamic acid (Vitamin Shoppe, 1 level teaspoon = ~3000 mg = ~3 mg) that I take sublingually occasionally, about every 1-4 weeks, for a mild jolt of extra energy and mental clarity, and to shake up the system a bit.

    Concord grape juice has always acted like a re-set button for me since I was a toddler. In my 60’s now. I had attributed it to the resveratrol, but maybe also to glutamic acid?

  71. I was finally able to pinpoint the cause of my ocular and acne rosacea as being glutamates. As long as I avoid them, and limit the amount of natural glutamates in my diet, my skin remains clear. I don’t have to avoid all of them, but I do have to be careful about the amount.

  72. What’s the difference between glutamine and glutamate? Does one preclude the other?

    What about supplementing with NAC to bind with excess glutamic acid and glycine to form glutathione-which cleans the liver etc…

    My understanding is the NAC pulls put the excitatory transmitter glutamine reducing adhd, OCD, and drug addiction withdraw… (Controversial research). Is this glutamate unrelated? Glutamate converts to glutamine

  73. Not only did lowering glutatmate intake reduce the frequency of my then 9yr old daughter’s seizures, she noticed improved ability to focus within 5 days and was asking for subsitute foods, rather than go back to the higher glutamate foods. The worst offenders for her, besides gluten, casein, and soy, were peanuts, yeast, and gelatin (those pesky supplement capsules!).

  74. Do you recommend avoiding all foods on the list at the end of the article? I have a hard time believing that mushrooms, tomatoes, and broccoli are bad for one’s health.

    • Hi Michael,

      I agree, most of the foods listed as containing fairly high amounts of free glutamate are very nutritious, and should be part of a healthy diet for the majority of us who tolerate them well. The only people who may want to consider decreasing some of these foods, are those who notice symptoms, such as headache, migraine, depressed mood, etc. after eating foods with high amounts of free glutamate.

    • no! unless you do have a severe sensitivity, which is RARE to this ingredients you are listing. these are very specific cases.
      What we are avoiding and have lead to amazing results in our cases are the listed in unblindmimind.org
      Ingredients like these:
      Barley malt, Bouillon and commercially processed broth, Brown rice syrup, Calcium glutamate (E 623) Carrageenan (E 407) Citric acid, Dextrose Enriched (anything)
      Enzyme modified (anything) Fermented protein (any) specially sauces with fermented anchovies. Flavors or flavoring [i.e. natural flavors, raspberry flavor, vanilla flavor, etc..] Gelatin (yes. sorry, but we have to find a better way to consume gelatine than in powder form) Glutamic acid (E 620), Glutamate (E 620) Hydrolyzed (anything) Hydrolyzed protein (any) Lipolyzed butter fat
      Maltodextrin Milk powder, reduced fat milk (skim; 1%; 2%), most things low fat or no fat
      Modified food starch, Pectin (E 440)
      Protease, Protein fortified (anything)
      Rice syrup, Soy protein isolate
      Soy protein, soy protein concentrate
      Stock (comercial) Textured protein
      Ultra-pasteurized any protein, Whey protein isolate
      Whey protein, whey protein concentrate
      Xanthan gum , Yeast (almost any)

      To name the most common ones.

    • Sharon Campbell. Well mushrooms give me raging migraines. In fact since going Paleo my migraines have been constant. I am so sensitive to glutamate that I do have to avoid all natural forms. As I am still trying to eliminate the migraines and I am worried what this will mean for my Paleo diet. I suspect my home made stocks n casseroles…even aged meat…(which we can’t avoid in the UAE) are contributing. Unless I can become more resilient somehow Amytriptaline may have to go back on the menu.

  75. I’ve been told and read a lot of the great health benefits of taking powdered grass-fed gelatin. I take the Great Lakes hydrolyzed gelatin due to its versatility. Is taking the gelatin a bad idea then? I also mix in a little to my infant’s formula.

    • Hi Angela,

      Grass-fed gelatin offers many nutritional benefits. Unless you notice symptoms after eating gelatin, there is no reason to exclude this from your diet.

      • i bought the Knox gelatin because it was cheaper. Any opinions on non grassfed gelatin? it was half the price (per lb) but i’m not sure i see much difference.

  76. I am confused. The author implies that bone broths may be harmful. A number of us are wondering under what circumstances that could be true. Long cooking, e.g. 3 days?
    Individual sensitivity, but which types?

    • Hi Grace,

      For most people bone broths are incredibly nutritious and healing for the gut. However, all bone broths contain free glutamate — the amount will vary, and may be more if cooked for longer periods, such as two or three days. This free glutamate does not adversely affect most people, and the benefits of bone broth far outweigh any potential concerns for this majority. However, when some people eat foods that are high in free glutamate, they may notice symptoms like depressed mood, difficulty concentrating, headache, migraine, or even heart palpitations. And, as mentioned in the article, this may apply particularly for children with autism spectrum disorder, though more research is needed. For these people, it is best to be aware of foods that contain high levels of free glutamate, since they may do better without them. So, individual sensitivity specifically means that some individuals notice symptoms when eating foods that contain moderate or high levels of free glutamate. In the absence of these symptoms, there is little evidence to suggest you should have any concern about eating these otherwise highly nutritious foods, such as bone broth or gelatin.

    • i think bone broths are great when done correctly. as far as our research and testing this is what seems to work better… btw we are looking for a plate reader spectrophotometer because we want to work with Dr. Katie Reid and have her run the standard curve with each test sample so this can be labeled in food!
      So back to how to do lower risk bone broths: do not add acidity, no vinegar, no citrus. Add antioxidants like rosemary or turmeric. only simmer, do not boil. cook for less than 6 hours. you will get all the amazing nutrition it has to offer with lower risk of unbonding the glutamic acid.
      Each person needs to determine its own threshold. hope it helps.

  77. Thanks for the great post. My 4 year old son has a sensitivity to glutamates and has had so all of his life (or as soon as he was on solids at least). We noticed some nights he would whimper and cry and bunch himself up into a ball. It was quiet distinct and different to his normal presentation and it caused him obvious stomach distress. We were keeping a goo diary as we thought he might be sensitive to fructose but it was glutamates in soy sauce, tomatoes and Parmesan cheese. We avoided any added MSG but on odd occasions he would ingest he would be extremely uncomfortable. He seems better able to tolerate the naturally occurring glutamates as he gets older and as we eat clean foods we don’t know if the same is for added MSG products.

  78. It’s funny how MSG makes food more palatable now and the ancient form was garum sauce. The romans put it on everything. I bought some and it’s repulsive. It does not make anything more palatable. I’ll stick to better, natural forms.

  79. I take L-glutamine from when I did The Clean Gut cleanse. I have continued taking it due to the fact it was described to work at healing the gut. The cleanse did wonders for me but know am concerned that this supplement is harmful or not something I should be taking. This is very confusing considering it was on the list of supplements to take in gut healing.

    • Hi Peggy,

      Glutamate and glutamine are different amino acids. The information in this article is about glutamate, and does not apply to glutamine.

      • Supplementation with any free amino acid outside the balance of natural proteins is a problem. Since glutamine metabolism can result in glutamate under certain conditions, I recommend avoiding glutamine supplements. Consuming natural intact proteins provides all the glutamine necessary for a healthy gut.

  80. Whey protein, which is generally considered an extremely nutritious substance and health food, actually contains more glutamate than any other amino acid. Since glutamate is the major excitatory neurotransmitter found in the brain, I don’t see how very much of it could be making its way past the blood-brain barrier, because if it did, it would probably cause a seizure. I think the glutamate content of natural foods is just not something we have to worry about.

    • Problem is, a lot of peoples blood brain barriers don’t work very well. If a person with epilepsy has poor blood brain barrier function, then glutamate often causes seizures. Though, when I had epilepsy, I never reacted to totally natural foods like tomato. I did react to bone broth and stock. Similar with narcolepsy, depression and other things sometimes triggered or exacerbated by an increase in exitotoxicity. Cold processed non denatured whey protein concentrate is ok, but whey protein isolate can be exitotoxic.

    • You are right and it does! As Amy’s article stresses, some people are more vulnerable than others. Celiac’s for instance are highly prone to a leaky gut, which is the catalyst to a compromised BBB. As Chris points out in his e-book 9 Steps To Perfect Health, 2.3% of people with Celiac Disease have epilepsy and “…17% of people with CD have an “undefined neurological disorder.”” Further more, it’s not uncommon at all to reduce or even eliminate seizures in humans and pets by eliminating gluten and healing their gut.

      http://dogtorj.com/main-course/epilepsy-and-diet/the-epilepsy-diet-made-simple/

  81. MSG and related compounds are a definite trigger for my restless legs symptoms. Ordinarily if I avoid specific foods the symptoms are not present, but they flare up if I eat synthetic versions of glutamate. Cheese and soy sauce don’t bother me, but the processed versions of glutamate definitely does.

    Other things that set off my restless legs are corn syrup, gluten, sugar, and other refined grains (even gluten-free flours). Probably other artificial chemicals would too, although I don’t eat anything artificial anymore.

    • According to the Gut and Psychology Syndrome Diet, bone broth can help heal a leaky gut, thus reducing depression and other mental disorders.
      Chris, can you please explain??

      • I think Nils comments above makes a great point about the benefits of bone broth. Unless you are extremely sensitive to glutamate and have determined you react to natural sources like bone broth, then i wouldn’t worry about bone broth. The pros far outweigh the cons and for majority of people the cons may not be an issue at all. Individuality is seems to be the big challenge.

        • This is true. Bone broth is an extremely nutritious and beneficial food for the vast majority of people. As Amy mentioned in the article, however, for a select minority with a leaky BBB and glutamate sensitivity, bone broth may exacerbate their symptoms. I have seen this in my work with patients, particularly children on the autism spectrum. But that doesn’t mean it applies to everyone.

    • Histamine can also be an issue in bone broths depending on how they are produced. Histamine has many roles in the body and some with histamine intolerance are affected in terms of mood.

    • I totally understand as I’ve had similar reactions myself. When I was drinking Shakeology (loaded with Amino Acids, therefore full of free glutamates) I got so miserable I thought I had a brain tumor and was going to die. I had horrible headaches, TERRIBLE, evil moods – including rages, brain fog that was ridiculous, and exhaustion. It took me the longest time to realize what was causing it. Since then I have experienced similar (though more short-lived due to the fact that I recognize the reaction now, and am more likely to determine the cause) reactions to bone broth, gelatin, and amino acid supplements. For people sensitive to these foods it is so important to figure it out and eliminate the cause because the reaction is awful. Thank you for getting the word out and helping to educate people!! This is so important.

  82. What about Glycine though. One of its functions is being a powerful inhibitory neurotransmitter. So while gelatin and bone broth might be relatively high in Glutamate, they are far better sources of Glycine. This makes these food sources very suitable in PREVENTING Glutamate (and tryptophan and methionine) overloads. Gelatin also happens to be very low in methionine and deficient in tryptophan as a bonus!

    While I liked the post, I don’t think talking about a single amino acid makes sense without discussing its interactions with other amino acids.

    • if cook correctly (low heat and about 6 hours – no more) you should not be unbonding the glutamic acid. Which makes it ok.
      Again, the problem comes when you add acidity, sugars or pass 300 degrees and cook over longer periods of time which unbounds the glutamic acid, becoming an unstable molecule that will look to bind with sodium or potassium now becoming Monosodium glutamate, monopotassium glutamate which are the problem when consume in large amounts and pass your threshold.

    • I have to agree – it becomes unnecessarily alarmist, since you will never be able to tell if you are sensitive. Elimination/reduction is next to impossible, it makes you fear foods, even whole good foods. I can see people avoiding gelatin and bone broths as a result of reading this!

      • When you are sensitive, you will have no trouble telling. At least for me, it is one of the strongest reactions I have ever experienced. I am learning which foods affect me by paying attention to my reactions – the lists are not alarmist; they are simply guidelines to help people like me suffer a little less as I learn what I can tollerate.

  83. Chris,
    I would love to hear more of your opinion on this and how common is this in your experience with patients? Its seems very similar to the diet component (fodmaps) with treating SIBO that Kelsey and Laura discussed on their podcast. The individuality seems to be a challenge.

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