MSG is short for monosodium glutamate which is a flavor enhancer and food additive. MSG has been used in the Asian cuisine for centuries. It is added to many processed foods, canned soups, processed meats, frozen foods, Chinese food and Japanese cooking. Monosodium glutamate is also found naturally in seaweed as well. Generally, food additives often induce allergic reaction in people. Allergic reaction to monosodium glutamate is known as “Chinese restaurant syndrome” because it is common ingredient in Chinese restaurant cuisine.
Symptoms of MSG Allergy People who are allergic to MSG usually experience symptoms of the allergy an hour or so after ingesting foods with this ingredient. Often this allergic reaction is only short term and disappears after couple of hours. However, some people may suffer from severe symptoms caused by MSG allergy that can be life-threatening. Common symptoms of monosodium glutamate allergic reaction include severe headache, dizziness, confusion and mental disorientation. A person may also experience skin sensations such as burning in the skin of the chest area, legs, arms and neck, numbness or pressure in or around the mouth and flushing and sweating. Throat tightness, difficulty breathing, nausea, vomiting, heart palpitations or chest pain and swelling of the face may occur in case of severe MSG allergic reaction. Symptoms can be worse if food containing MSG are consumed in high doses and on an empty stomach.
Some researchers believe that reaction to monosodium glutamate is not actually an allergy but food intolerance or food sensitivity. There is a difference between food allergy and food intolerance. Allergic reaction to food occurs when the body’s immune system produces antibodies against food components regarding them as foreign bodies. On the other hand, food intolerance represents response of the digestive system to food ingredient. It occurs when the digestive system is irritated by certain food or when it cannot process the food because of some factor related to metabolism.
Food and Drugs Administration in the United States recognized MSG as safe although it may trigger short term reaction is some people. However, if you are allergic to monosodium glutamate you have to stay away from food containing this additive. You have to carefully read the label on food item but you should also know that MSG can be hidden under different name. Some of the other names for MSG are: hydrolyzed vegetable protein, plant protein extract, sodium caseinate, calcium caseinate, yeast extraction, textured protein, malt extract and hydrolyzed oat flour.