This is the first in a 3 part series about hidden additives in our food. First, I will tackle MSG. In the following posts I’ll address sugars and gluten.What these foods all have in common are they are highly addictive, highly damaging and often hidden.
As our society’s pace of life has picked up we have more and more frequently turned to manufactured food to make ends meet. The problem is that real food is not cheap and fake food tastes bad. Not a great combo if you are a food manufacturer. So our food giants have to find ways to make less than palatable food taste great and cost less. Enter MSG.
WHAT IS MSG?
Glutamic acid in it’s natural form in needed by the body. It is a non-essential amino acid that has important functions in the brain and nervous system. It also helps to heal the intestinal lining. It is found in many foods like cheese, milk, meat, fish, grains and legumes, seaweed, and bone broth. The human body actually contains over 4 pounds of glutamic acid and if it is not found in the diet, it can be manufactured within the body. When we eat food containing this acid our body breaks it down regulating the amount extracted and excreting the rest. It is not stored in the body and is mostly harmless.
The problem arises when glutamic acid is altered by modern processing. MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a byproduct of protein manufacturing. Through chemical processing the glutamic acid is broken off of protein, bound to a sodium molecule, purified into a white powder and added to foods to make them taste A-mazing. MSG can kill cells within the brain by exciting them to death. Therefore it is often referred to as an excitotoxin.
EFFECTS OF MSG EXPOSURE?
MSG has a cumulative effect and has been linked to numerous health conditions like metabolic syndrome, Parkinson’s and other brain and nervous issues. More immediate reactions to MSG can include brain fog, tingling, headaches and migraines, lethargy, numbness, shortness of breath and pain shortly after consumption (usually within about 3 hours and up to 24). Some people are more sensitive than others. It seems that severity of symptoms after exposure is often related to the health and permeability of a person’s intestinal wall. The rate of leaky gut in our society is ever increasing making many people very sensitive to this toxin.
WHERE IS MSG FOUND?
Because MSG tastes SO GOOD, it is found in highly palatable processed foods and restaurants. That is why MSG toxicity is often referred to as restaurant system. The more refined the food the more the addition of flavor is necessary. The FDA only requires MSG be labeled if the added ingredient is 99% pure MSG. As a processing agent or byproduct MSG is not required to be labeled. This leaves the burden on you as a consumer to look for the hidden byproducts in your food. Reading labels and knowing what they mean is one of the most powerful tools you have for changing your health. At this time over 40+ ingredients contain MSG and do not require a label!
Following is a list of the most common hidden MSG names that I see when I am browsing through the inner aisles of the grocery store:
- Anything hydrolyzed or any hydrolyzed protein
- Yeast extract, autolyzed yeast
- Textured protein
- Whey protein (concentrate and isolate)
- Soy protein (concentrate and isolate)
- Soy sauce (and extract)
- Bouillon, stock, chicken and meat flavor
- Natural flavors, flavoring, seasoning, enzymes
- Citric acid
- Anything ultra-pasteurized
This is not a complete list, rather it is only what I see most often. To find a complete list check out the Truth in Labeling Campaign. MSG is not just in food but also in vitamins, supplements, medications and vaccines. It is also in skincare and cosmetics. Your skin is the largest organ in the body and is highly permeable. If you won’t eat it, you probably shouldn’t put it on your skin. Because, MSG is often a byproduct of unnatural protein break down in the food industry, you need to be extra vigilant when selecting protein powders. So many protein powders on the shelves are toxic and contain many additives besides MSG. Read your labels and know your source.
FOODS THAT OFTEN CONTAIN MSG:
- Salad dressings and sauces
- Nuggets, fish sticks and sausages
- Store bought broth and bouillon
- Seasonings, especially mixes like ranch or taco (Lawry’s brand contains yeast extract)
- Chips and sweets
- All fast food
- Vegan foods
- Protein powders and meal replacement shakes
- Baby food and formula
The best way to avoid exposure of course is to stick to whole foods as found in nature as much as possible. If you cannot avoid processed food try to find packaged food with 5 or fewer ingredients. Remember “natural” doesn’t always = safe. Check those organic and natural labels. Not all MSG can be avoided. As always remember to support the health of intestinal skin so that it continues to be an effective barrier against less than perfect food and pathogens.
ADDITIONAL SOURCE LINKS:
- Book: Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills by Dr. Russell Blaylock
- Video: Sneaky Names for MSG
- Sneaky Names for MSG
- Dirty Secrets of the Food Processing Industry
This post was originally written for Crossfit Round Rock.