This Hidden Ingredient May Be Causing Your Headaches

By on June 1, 2011

By Erin Chamerlik, MT(ASCP) –

I used to think that MSG was only a problem in Chinese food and packages of flavored ramen noodles.  I was aware of “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome”, a group of symptoms caused by a food additive, monosodium glutamate (MSG), but I didn’t know that this was just the tip of the iceberg.

I have come to understand that MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is ubiquitous and hides under many alias names (like “yeast extract”) on a food ingredients label.

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You might be consuming MSG if you

  • use prepared, packaged, boxed or canned foods
  • dine in restaurants

What is MSG and Why is it bad?

MSG is a chemical additive taste enhancer.  This chemical is added by the food industry to trick your taste bud receptors.  The brain is fooled into thinking that the food tastes better than it actually does.

Adverse effects

Eating even a small amount of MSG might be enough to trigger a severe migraine, nausea, a rapid heartbeat or a host of other problems.  This is not new information.  Early studies showed that cells in the retina were damaged by MSG.  1968 studies showed that the neural connections in the brain were killed.  This led Dr. John Olney to coin the term “excitotoxicity” to refer to the way that MSG damages and kills nerve cells by exciting them to death.

Russell L. Blaylock, MD wrote in the October 2007 Blaylock Wellness Report, “We know that the excitotoxic process plays a major role in many life-threatening maladies: Strokes, brain injury, degenerative brain disorders (like Alzheimer’s), depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, addiction behaviors and multiple sclerosis.”

Our bodies were created with a system to keep naturally-occurring glutamate from entering the brain. The problem is, there is so much glutamate in our food today that the safety system in our bodies is being overwhelmed, allowing glutamate to seep into the brain and cause great harm.

What foods have MSG or free glutamates?

MSG is commonly found in soups, dressings, bouillon, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, frozen food, ice cream, Doritos, Potato Chips, Ramen Noodles, Hamburger Helper, Canned gravy, Frozen meals, Accent, Natural Meat Tenderizer, frozen pizza, salad dressing, jerky, barbecue sauces, steak sauce, many vegetarian products and many more processed foods.

Hidden names for MSG

The FDA allows food manufacturers to claim, “MSG-free” and yet contain equally dangerous “free glutamates” or other MSG alias names.  There are no laws that require products to list glutamates and manufacturers may hide free glutamates under any name they choose.

Here is a list of foods commonly hiding free glutamates:

  • free glutamate, glutamic acid
  • monopotassium glutamate
  • textured protein
  • hydrolyzed protein
  • plant protein extract
  • sodium caseinate
  • carrageenan
  • TVP (textured vegetable protein)
  • autolyzed protein
  • autolyzed yeast, yeast extract
  • soy protein isolate, soy extract
  • natural flavors, artificial flavors
  • spices, seasonings
  • bouillon

Visit the Truth in Labeling website for additional names of ingredients that contain processed free glutamic acid.

How to avoid hidden MSG

Avoid processed food and choose to eat a whole food diet that consists of vegetables, fruit, seeds, nuts, beans, wild caught fish and organic meat, poultry and eggs.  If you choose to eat packaged food you will need to read labels and choose products that do not have MSG or any ingredients known to hide free glutamates.

The book, Excitotoxins, The Taste That Kills is an excellent book by Russell Blaylock, MD that will provide more information on the subject.

Erin Chamerlik, MT (ASCP), is a regular Health & Fitness contributor for LivingBetterat50+.  Erin offers e-courses for uncovering food sensitivities and improving candidiasis.  Nutrition and wellness consultations are available through local and long distance coaching.  Please visit Erin’s website at for more information or to receive her free newsletter.

About Erin Chamerlik

Erin Chamerlik is a health and wellness educator. She is a mentor and coach for people who are ready to change. Her company, Get Better Wellness, Inc., is based in Nashville, TN. Erin extends her message through blogging, podcasts, social media (Twitter, FaceBook, Pinterest and Instagram), workshops and on-line webinars and Facebook health communities. Connect with Erin at

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This Hidden Ingredient May Be Causing Your Headaches