Years ago, I suffered from migraines. I carried Excedrin with me where ever I went. There were even occasions that I had to take Vicodin just to rid myself of them. At the time I was lucky enough to work with a few different women that also suffered from migraines and we talked often about them.
One day after lunch, about an hour after I’d gotten back, I noticed the dull ache in the back of my head move sharply toward my temple. It was the classic sign that yet another migraine was coming. This time though the woman I sat next to looked over at me and said something like “Girl, whatever you’re eating is giving you migraines”. (ok, so she probably didn’t say “girl”. We didn’t care for working with each other much… she may have just been annoyed that I was complaining yet again. )
“But all I had was a salad!” I mentioned. I was trying to be all healthy and whatnot and eating just a low-fat salad.
Then she knew because MSG was one of her triggers too.
From that day forward my migraines came only occasionally as long as I avoided any foods with MSG. I probably should have been nicer to my coworker after that since that moment has changed my life so much…but the two of us? Like oil and water.
What is MSG?
MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a flavor enhancer that is commonly added to soy sauce, soups, processed meats, packaged sweets, chips, and the most widely known – Chinese food. This flavor enhancer also tends to enhance (increase) our appetite and cravings for the foods with added MSG.
It has also been blamed for brain, nervous system and reproductive system disorders.
The FDA has considered MSG to be safe, but the controversy behind remains great, with many health-conscious people actively avoiding it. So much so that it’s now common to see products labeled as “msg-free” or “contains no msg” to let discerning shoppers know that they can safely buy the product.
Our bodies have a natural glutamate in them and MSG producers claim that the naturally occurring and the processed MSG are the same. But they have some differences:
- There are contaminants in the processed MSG from the actual production of the amino acid.
- Our bodies know what to do with the naturally occurring amino acids, but the processed glutamate also has amino acids in it that are basically backward or mirror images of themselves. This makes it more difficult (and for some people, impossible) for the body to process.
Other names for MSG
Another problem with MSG is the labeling of it. In food labels, it can actually be hidden under another name. Names like;
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein,
- Hydrolyzed Protein,
- Hydrolyzed Plant Protein,
- Plant Protein Extract,
- Sodium Caseinate,
- Calcium Caseinate,
- Yeast Extract,
- Textured Protein (Including TVP),
- Autolyzed Yeast,
- Hydrolyzed Oat Flour, and
- Corn Oil.
How it can affect your health and fertility
Along with its damaging effects on fertility, MSG can also cause irritability, migraines, nausea, and hyperactivity.
MSG actually stimulates your pancreas to produce more insulin. Even if the food you eat doesn’t have the carbs in it for the insulin to act upon. When your bodies insulin (a hormone) is constantly rising and falling, it causes your other hormones to be thrown out of balance as well. Basically, insulin sits on top of the cascade of hormone imbalances – when it’s “off”, estrogen, testosterone, etc are off as well.
Not only does insulin affect your reproductive hormones, it also creates a drop in your blood sugar when it floods your body. A drop in blood sugar and you feel hungry again. Overeating and we’re right back to weight being an issue as well.
Iva Keene, Natropathic Physician, mentions a study that was published in Neurobehavioral Toxicology back in 1979, showed that MSG reduced pregnancy success. Before 1970, it was routinely added to baby food, until children started developing convulsions and the link was discovered. After 1970, MSG was banned from baby food but conveniently added to many adult foods.
Studies on MSG
So far I have only found animal studies that have been done on the effects of MSG to fertility, one in particular from North Eastern University showed:
- Rats fed MSG before attempting to conceive had a decreased conception rate. Male rats fed MSG before mating had less than a 50% success rate (5 out of 13 animals unable to reproduce), whereas male rats not fed MSG had over a 92% success rate (12 of 13 animals were able to produce).
- The offspring of theMSG-treated males showed shorter body length, reduced testes weights and evidence of overweight at 25 days.
- In female rats, it seemed to interfere with ova and follicle releases (annovulatory cycles) and overall decreased fertility. (source)
- The biggest thing you can do is check labels. I have been able to find MSG free products in my normal supermarket as well as a health food store without problems.
- Try and make more of your food from scratch – if you make it at home you know exactly what’s in it!
- Replace processed snack foods with whole foods. Try eating an apple or carrots instead of chips!
- Eat out less. (fast food, restaurant food – especially chinese! —tend to have MSG in it)
- Most of all: be aware of what you eat!