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MSG

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This is a sort-of-about food topic . . . we had dinner the other night in a Thai place that opened recently near our house. It wasn't very good for several reasons, and we're not likely to go back. Apart from the other issues, the next morning I had a low grade migraine, and my husband had a painless ocular migraine. I get headaches a lot, but he has those events only very occasionally, usually if he drinks too much coffee. I've heard that MSG doesn't deserve its reputation, and I have no way to know if there was any of it in the food we had, but I'm wondering if there might have been and if that was the cause of both of us feeling weird the next day. Does anyone else get those kind of reactions?

  1. Friday night after work I picked up some takeout from Peiwei for dinner for me and my husband. We hadn't had PeiWei in a couple years but it's right next door to where I work, it was 8pm, he'd worked late and didn't want to cook so it was a quick and easy solution.

    We both had bad headaches yesterday morning. Definitely from the food I think...probably the sodium as along with the headaches we couldn't get enough water into us yesterday. Could sodium have caused the same problem for you?

    1. MSG causes my jaw and my face to hurt... feel tight and gives me a low grade ache behind my eyes as well. Since I had that reaction I refuse to go anywhere that uses it. MSG is not good for you in any amount, let alone the massive amounts they put in some foods at many asian restaurants.

      4 Replies
      1. re: gryphonskeeper

        "MSG is not good for you in any amount"

        At this time, all scientific research is contrary to this statement.

        1. re: gryphonskeeper

          I hate to tell you this, but MSG is everywhere. Truly. Granted, most restaurants do not liberally apply MSG to their dishes straight from the jar, but they may use packaged broth as a soup base or cut corners with their salad dressing. If so, MSG is involved. The soup is still homemade and probably delicious, due in part to the addition of MSG. Do you ever eat any kind of packaged snack from the conventional grocery store? MSG is there too. Honestly, if you eat out at mid-range restaurants, you are eating MSG, maybe only in minute amounts, but still; even if you think the restaurant "would never" use MSG.

          1. re: gryphonskeeper

            Causation is a tricky thing. Lots of people claim that MSG causes various syptoms, but in double-blind placebo-controlled tests, there's no correlation between the administration of MSG and the presence of such symptoms, or between the administration of the placebo andthe absence of symptoms. That's not to say that nobody is sensitive to MSG, but scientists who have tried to prove that such a sensitivity exists have failed.

            Oh, and by the way, MSG is the sodium salt of glutamic acid, which is an amino acid necessary for metabolism. Without glutamic acid, you die. So some amount isn' t just good for you, it's necessary to sustain life.

            1. re: alanbarnes

              alan, I am telling you right now I know it is the MSG in the food. I also know that from a nutritional standpoint MSG is worthless.

          2. From what I understand, MSG is fine as long as it doesn't come to the boil. It's a matter of not knowing how to cook with it. Has anyone else heard this?

            5 Replies
            1. re: suse

              ahhh...yet another MSG thread

              I have never heard of MSG vs. boiling...I'd take that info with a heaping palmful of salt...

              MSG is harmless

              1. re: aelph

                I was told this by several Asians while living in Asia. How can no one ever have heard of this? It's not msg vs. boiling, but rather boiling after msg has been added to a dish.

                1. re: suse

                  By "MSG vs. boiling" I was referring to the constituent elements of your suggestion...not, literally, MSG vs. boiling...

                2. re: aelph

                  If MSG is harmless... why does my jaw, face and head ache after eating it? I would wager that is harm.

                3. re: suse

                  Yes, another MSG thread. But one of my pet peeves too, even though I do crave a bit here and there.

                  From what I gather, the heating or boiling of MSG simply disintegrates it to a point where it destroys the flavour, rendering it useless. I do not believe it makes it toxic in any way.

                  I think this is consistent with the package instructions for some of the finer ramen noodles, where they say to add the soup package to the bowl right before serving, instead of adding it to the noodles while cooking.

                4. I know MSG is in many things...but they are several times after eating pho at different Vietnamese places that I feel very "spacey" and must chug litres of water....I have to think there must be an abundance of MSG at some places!

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: burlgurl

                    Agree! I'm aware many places where I eat out use MSG in various amounts, and I do drink up the soup in my instant noodles when I make them at home.

                    But occasionally I would get this super-thirst right after certain meals eating out. The thirst gives me the need to chug litres of water throughout the day even though it doesn't seem to help much, and the worst spell in recent memory lasted for two days! The last two of these spells was caused by a bowl of pho and a bowl of Thai soup.

                    I could only conclude that it was either the massive quantity of MSG (more likely), or the type of MSG (is here such a distinction?) that caused the super-thirst in those select cases, and not in the other cases (thank goodness).

                    BTW I am a fiend for all foods natually rich in umami/MSG, such as parmesan, cured ham, anchovies and mushrooms, and I never get this super-thirst or any type of discomfort eating those in big quantities, so that is why I suspect even more there might be diffierent types of MSG that cause or do not cause a problem.

                    Can anyone please enlighten?

                  2. I go to a headache clinic, run by very good neuologists, for migraines. MSG is indeed a major trigger for migraines. The amount that it takes to set you off, can vary...since it is in so many food items. If the restaurant cooks with alot (??) of MSG in the food, the amount may have exceeded your limit and triggered your and your husband's migraine. I don't know where you heard that MSG doesn't deserve its reputation, but in the World of Migraines, it is right up there with red wine and aged cheese (sigh). Unfortunately, it's one of those things that you don't know til it hits you...ie, that this resto cooks with alot of it. I guess it is ok that the food was mediocre and you won't be returning anyhow!

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: anthrochick

                      If MSG is a migraine trigger that doesn't make it "harmful" to those who don't suffer migraines...same for red wine and aged cheese...

                      You could also make the argument that too much red wine is "harmful" to you

                      or, godforbid, too much aged cheese...

                      this thread is risking rehashing several other MSG threads; a territory very well-covered on CH

                      1. re: aelph

                        no, I am not saying MSG, or red wine or aged cheese, is "harmful" or maligning them- just that they are known migraine triggers to people. Some people don't get migraines or bad headaches in general, but sometimes get a doozy from a trigger like MSG when the circumstances
                        are right ( or wrong). My point was that she was not crazy, that the MSG very well could be the migraine culprit in her case.

                        1. re: anthrochick

                          To elide the discourse of other MSG threads: sure, if you experience migraines, a "trigger" could catalyze them...

                          Certainly, if you eat too much of something, anything you may experience deleterious effects.

                          The MSG/Asian food/Chinese Restaurant Syndrome conundrum has been examined from divers sides: fyi...I've long thought MSG unfairly maligned(long before the MSG threads proliferated on CH)...there are other factors at work...psychological, sociological, possible sensitivity,
                          ethnic/exotic misapprehensions than merely MSG.

                          I recommend anyone(outside of those predisposed to migraines) to pick up an oz. of MSG at your local spice store, Asian market, or in those bottles of Accent ubiquitous on the shelves of major grocers. Test it yourself. It's a cheap experiment.

                          or, even cheaper: eat a bag of Doritos

                          1. re: aelph

                            hah i did that once (ate a spoonful of msg) and it didn't do anything...but then again i love the stuff and grew up eating it. My mother always added a "dash" only to foods and that was only a few things. However my grandmother (korean) loves to add loads of it to things like bean sprouts.

                            I LOVE MSG

                            1. re: aelph

                              haha, I was gonna say! why don't you eat a bag of cheetos and see if you still get the headaches, then you'll know if it's the MSG!

                        2. re: anthrochick

                          Funny that you mention the cheese, since that is a natural source of glutamate.