Nutrition and Healing
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  • If you love your General Tso’s chicken, I bet you’d say that nobody can take your favorite takeout dinner away from you.

    But a flavoring often used in Chinese food can be hazardous to your health — and eating it can cause everything from headaches to heart palpitations.

    It’s called MSG (a.k.a. “monosodium glutamate”) — and thankfully, many Chinese restaurants in the U.S. now leave it off the menu.

    But MSG is still lurking in a lot of America’s favorite packaged and fast foods. And according to a new study, regularly eating this flavor additive could saddle you with pain that just won’t quit.

    The study, recently published in the journal Nutrition, involved 30 Kenyan people who’d lived with chronic pain for at least three months.

    Now, in this particular part of Kenya, it’s pretty common to find folks with headaches — and researchers thought that might be because they use a spice mix containing MSG in their daily cooking.

    You see, we know that in high amounts, MSG can be toxic: It can over-stimulate, damage, and even KILL nerve cells.

    And that, as we’ve found, can cause otherwise unexplained pain.

    Then again, the study’s authors acknowledged that the headaches could be a symptom of dehydration, which is also widespread in that part of Africa.

    But these Kenyans were also experiencing neurological symptoms that are commonly found in patients with chronic pain right here in the U.S. — including chronic fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, and sleep issues.

    So, researchers split participants into four groups, with each group receiving one of the following:

    1. a seasoning substitute that didn’t contain MSG
    2. bottled water to increase their water intake
    3. both the seasoning substitute and bottled water
    4. acetaminophen (a.k.a. Tylenol)

    By the end of the study, it turned out that members of the group that cut MSG out of their diets AND drank more water reduced their chronic pain scores by 30 percent or more. And sure, that means that dehydration played SOME role in their discomfort.

    But although this study was small, these results are really something — because making a small dietary adjustment was enough to send their pain packing!

    So, if you’re living with ongoing aches (whether in the head or elsewhere), it’s a good idea to look at your diet — and start by cutting out any and all MSG.

    But you should know that it’s not always labeled as “monosodium glutamate” or “MSG,” because the FDA allows it to be listed under a bunch of OTHER names, such as “hydrolyzed protein,” “protein isolate,” “protein extract,” and “autolyzed yeast extract.”

    The feds, of course, allow ALL of those in foods because they classify them in the “generally recognized as safe” category.

    But we know how wildly overly optimistic the FDA can be about the safety of certain food additives. And if you’re in pain, you don’t want to wait for government hacks to start paying attention to scientific findings like these.

    The best way to steer clear of MSG? Avoid packaged and fast foods entirely!

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