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MSG Allergy

Overview

Monosodium
glutamate (MSG) is used as a flavor-enhancing food
additive. It can
have a bad reputation, as many believe it can cause allergy-like
symptoms and side effects.

However, much of the
evidence has relied on anecdotes and limited clinical studies. So what’s
the truth about MSG? Is it really as bad as it’s been made out to be?

Evidence

Preparation

Despite concerns,
decades of research have failed to demonstrate a relationship between MSG and
serious reactions for most people. People have reported
reactions after eating foods with MSG, but researchers have been unable to scientifically
prove the allergy.

In 2014, Clinical Nutrition Research did present
a link between MSG and allergy reactions in a small subset of people who suffer
from chronic hives. However,
the majority of these
reports involve mild
symptoms, such as:

  • tingling skin
  • headache
  • a burning sensation in the chest

Larger doses
of MSG have been found to cause
symptoms. But those portions are unlikely to be found in restaurant or
in grocery store food. After reviewing the evidence in 1995, the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration (FDA) put MSG in the same “generally recognized as
safe” category as salt and pepper. A 2009 review published in the journal Clinical & Experimental Allergy came to a similar finding.

The exception
to the safety of MSG is more questionable in
children. A 2011 study in Nutrition, Research and Practice revealed a
link between MSG and children with dermatitis. However,
further research is warranted to make a definitive statement about this
connection.

Symptoms and diagnosis

Diagnosis

Those
sensitive to MSG may experience:

  • headache
  • hives
  • runny
    nose or congestion
  • mild
    chest pain
  • flushing
  • numbness
    or burning, especially in and around the mouth
  • facial
    pressure or swelling
  • sweating

More serious
symptoms may include:

  • chest
    pain
  • heart
    palpitations
  • shortness
    of breath
  • swelling
    in the throat
  • anaphylaxis

Your doctor
may ask if you’ve eaten any food containing MSG within the last two hours if
they suspect you have a MSG allergy. A rapid heart rate, abnormal heart rhythm,
or a reduction of airflow to the lungs may confirm a MSG allergy.

Treatment

Treatment

Most allergic reactions to MSG are mild and go away on their
own. More serious symptoms, such as anaphylaxis, require emergency treatment in
the form of a shot of epinephrine (adrenaline).

Call your doctor and go to the
nearest emergency room immediately if you experience one of the
following symptoms:

  • shortness of breath
  • swelling of the lips or throat
  • heart palpitations
  • chest pain

The best treatment for a food allergy
is to avoid eating that
food. However, MSG is a prominent
ingredient in many different types of food. According
to the U.S. Department of
Agriculture, MSG is found in virtually all food. It’s found in high doses in food that is high in
protein, such as:

  • meat
  • poultry
  • cheese
  • fish

Labeling is only required when MSG
is added as an ingredient. In those cases, it will be listed as
“monosodium glutamate.”

People with a
true allergy to MSG should avoid packaged and processed foods. Instead, opt for raw foods including
fruits, vegetables, and organic meats instead. Other substances to avoid include:

  • dried meats
  • meat extracts
  • poultry stocks
  • hydrolyzed protein, which may be used as binders,
    emulsifiers, or flavor enhancers

Food labels
may refer to these products as “dried beef,” “chicken
stock,” “pork extract,” or “hydrolyzed wheat protein.”

Outlook

Outlook

A very small part of the population has a reaction to MSG. Most of those reactions are
typically mild. Try
avoiding the foods listed above if you suspect an MSG allergy. There’s a good chance that you’ll only experience mild discomfort
even if you eat foods containing MSG.

It would be prudent for children and adults with complex medical histories to limit consumption of MSG until
further research can confirm safety.

Your doctor may put you on a
strict avoidance diet and prescribe an epinephrine shot if you’ve experienced
severe reactions.

Posted by: Dr.Health

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