Saturday, August 13, 2011

MSG: Food For Thought

I was looking at a bag of chips the other day, deciding if I wanted to eat them. I looked at the ingredients (which I do with everything, since I am now a label reader due to gluten), and found it to have "autolyzed yeast."  Why you say, would chips need YEAST in them? Well..... this is another term used for monosodium glutamate, i.e. MSG. You'd be surprised how much MSG is used. It is in dressings, gravies, chips, crackers, lunch meats, soups, and even in cosmetics and shampoos! I'm still trying to wrap my head around that last one.

What is MSG? MSG is an amino acid, or in other words, a protein building block, which causes an excitatory process within our neurotransmitters, or nerve cells. When you have an excess of glutamate, it can cause overstimulation and result in death of nerve cells. It is shown that people who have strokes can have an excess of glutamate in the brain. Drugs are being developed to block glutamates, so we know that there is a delicate balance in this situation of having too much of this substance. And this substance can cause reactions in some people such as migraine headaches, upset stomach, fuzzy thinking, diarrhea, heart irregularities, asthma, and/or mood swings. Fun stuff, eh?

People argue that since the human body creates glutamates, that glutamates are not bad. But these man made glutamates have contaminants from being processed/created chemically. And it might even be that too many glutamates - man made or natural - in excess are not good. If you'd like to learn more, here is a site that explains this in more detail.

And manufacturers are getting sneaky about their labels.  They will list "no added MSG," which means it is in there because a processed flavor enhancer already has it in its ingredients! See this site that provides names for all of these hidden sources of MSG.

I'm a big proponent of knowing what is going into my body, especially now knowing that gluten has had a negative effect on my system and well being. So why then, would I want anything unnatural in there either? I believe my body is my temple, and you are what you eat. Better safe than sorry. And I definitely don't let my government decide that for me. Educate yourself and be well.

Update to this post:  Although I usually post about gluten-freee foods, I feel that MSG is closely related to this topic. Many of us who eat gluten free look for healthy alternatives. For those who have sensitive digestive systems due to the intolerance or celiac, we try to cut other items out that can exacerbate the problem, and MSG can be one of those ingredients.

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