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May 26, 2009 11:42 AM

Pho Attack

I ate a nice bowl of Pho Tai about an hour ago. About the time I finished slurping it up, I felt this WEIRD sensation. Like my head was being compressed. From my collarbones, up my neck and into my temples, the strangest sensation. I was worried for a moment I would pass out, but it was not so much the lightheadedness of a vasovagal reaction, more like the increase in blood pressure and pounding head you get when you go anaerobic on a hot day. But that's not an exact description either.

I drove back to work, and was scared the whole time. I still feel the sensation, but it's slowly diminishing.

I eat Pho alot, but never in this particular restaurant before. I have never had any sort of MSG reaction, or any other food allergy or sensitivity (other than aspartame makes me vomit). I'm very healthy, with low/moderate blood pressure.

WHAT THE HECK???? Does this ring any bells with anyone? I love pho!!

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  1. It really sounds like an msg reaction... I think that allergies and food reactions are frequently trumped up and taken too far but you may have experienced one. Remember that allergies can come on at any time. They can also happen once and then never again.

    On the other hand it may have nothing at all to do with the pho.

    Either way, do not stop eating pho!

    2 Replies
    1. re: Kater

      thanks. I am now about 2 hours post-pho and feel normal again.

      yeah, I don't want to give up pho either...maybe I'll have to treat it like wine next time...only partake when I have a designated driver!

      1. re: danna

        To paraphrase the Scots...

        Danna fast yerself.

        (I am sure you can work it out.)

    2. Well, it happened again. Almost 4 years later, and in a different restaurant. It's like all the muscles around my skull are being compressed. lips tingling just a bit.

      This happened again once in the intervening years, same restaurant as the first time. I stopped going there. I've had pho at other places many times since, no reaction.

      It's always pho...never any other food in asian restaurants. So is it MSG? Or could it be massive amounts of sodium? My bp last week was 104/70, so you'd think if it were sodium, it would kill people w/ high bp. Any ideas? Anybody?????

      3 Replies
      1. re: danna

        It does sound like MSG, between the tingling lips and the facial pressure.

        1. re: danna

          It is almost certainly *not* an MSG reaction as by and large they don't really exist

          There's likely some obscure ingredient that you have an allergy to.

          1. re: jgg13

            Nobody wants to hear that. They want something simple they can blame.

        2. First, you should ask your doctor.

          But things to think about if it is a food reaction . . . .

          When you say you each Pho all the time - is this happening at the same restaurant? When you eat Pho at other restaurants are you fine?

          I would hate to have to cut out Pho - especially since most of the ingredients in Pho are in so many other dishes . . . .

          2 Replies
          1. re: thimes

            thanks. i don't understand why the posts are showing up out of order...but to try to clarify:

            This happened twice at the same restaurant several years ago. i stopped going there, have had Pho at various other restaurants w/out this occurance, until Monday, when I revived this thread. Monday's occurance was at an entirely different restuarant where I have had the Pho once previously.

            A quick google brings up the old "chinese restaurant syndrome" that people used to say was MSG, but has been supposedly "debunked". Maybe not....If it is MSG, and MSG is used like a seasoning....perhaps it's just a matter of an occasional heavy-hand with the MSG. ??? maybe? Anyway, i was hoping someone might have had a similar experience to share.

            1. re: danna

              I very occasionally have something like what you're describing, most of the time it happens at dim sum (although impossible to say more granularly than that).

              Obviously it's easy to point fingers at MSG but that's silly. I cook with MSG a lot in my home cooking, not to mention less controversial forms of glutamates (e.g. dried mushroom powder, fish sauce, worcester, etc), often layered heavily to build a strong umami presence. I can guarantee that if I had *any* sort of MSG sensitivity (which is a condition IMO is 99.9% incorrectly blamed) I'd know about it.

              My theory is that I have a mild allergy to something which tends to track with dim sum, or at least something which I tend to only eat as part of specific dim sum items.

          2. Some Pho restaurants use a powdered mix for the broth instead of making their own. Perhaps there is an ingredient in one of the powdered mixes that doesn't agree with you? Or an intermittent issue with the production/supplier of the mix?

            1. Just had a similar experience and was googling this to see if I'm crazy. I have eaten pho maybe twice before without incident. went to a place in Chinatown, Philly today...10 min into my pho it felt like my head was being squished and I might pass out. my heart was racing off the charts. it felt like the sensation I get when stung by a bee, I have a slight allergy. I chugged down a kirin and the heart race stopped but I still felt out of sorts and a bit sick to my stomach. I am prone to panic attacks so the heart race may have been an after symptom from the lightheadness and head in a vice feeling but idk. wondering if there is a certain spice or something only some places use that I may be hypersensitive to? I don't want to be scared of pho...

              3 Replies
              1. re: crashinglightly

                I'm glad I noticed your post. Scary thing when it happens, huh? Glad you survived and if you figure out what it is, please post. I don't like being afraid of pho either!

                1. re: danna

                  Wow! I've never heard of this. How scary.

                  Have you ever asked a doctor?


                  1. re: The Dairy Queen

                    What could that event be called? Getting Pho'd Up? We must also remember that certain raw herbs including even ginger have strong effects that vary according to the person.