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


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processed food

Previously, 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).

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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
Amy Nett

About 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. She works with patients through a Functional Medicine approach, working to identify and treat the root causes of illness. She uses nutritional therapy, herbal medicine, supplements, stress management, detoxification and lifestyle changes to restore proper function and improve health.

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Join the conversation

  1. 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

  2. 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!


      • 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!


    • 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

    • Hi Katie, I don’t use the gelatin capsules, I bought cellulose ones and transfer the ingredients from the gelatin ones into the cellulose.

  3. 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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!

  7. 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.

  8. 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.

  9. 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:
    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.

  10. 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.

  11. those links seem a bit odd… “foods that damage nerves”… fermented foods???
    anything seasoned???
    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!

  12. 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?

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

  14. 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

  15. 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.

  16. 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:



  17. 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.

  18. 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?