Hidden sources of dietary triggers
We recently received a comment from one of our Facebook visitors informing us that this year’s influenza vaccine contains MSG. This is a pretty serious concern for migraineurs. On the one hand, no one wants the flu. It can be especially difficult for migraineurs because viral and bacterial illness often trigger a long and difficult round of migraine attacks. Not wanting to be an alarmist, I went straight to the source. I found a list of all available flu vaccines at the CDC1 which confirmed that at least one brand, FluMist, does contain MSG. If MSG is a trigger, you might want to talk to your doctor about using one of the other brands.
This is not the first time I have heard about medication containing potential migraine triggers. Even migraine medications sometimes contain triggers. For example, Zomig ZMT contains the artificial sweetener, mannitol3. For this reason, it is especially important to know your triggers and read all labels. Sometimes it’s not so easy though. MSG can be listed by other names or it can be one of many ingredients within a labeled ingredient. If MSG is a trigger and you’re serious about trying to avoid it, you need to know all the ways that MSG can hide in foods2.
Definite sources of MSG
|Ajinomoto||Any “hydrolyzed protein”||Anything with “enzymes”|
|Anything containing “protease”||Anything “enzyme modified”||Anything “fermented”|
|Anything “hydrolyzed”||Anything “protein fortified”||Anything “protein”|
|Autolyzed yeast||Calcium caseinate||Calcium glutamate|
|Malt extracts||Maltodextrin||Magnesium glutamate|
|Monoammonium glutamate||Monopotassium glutamate||Monosodium glutamate|
|Natrium glutamate||Potassium aspartate||Potassium citrate|
|Potassium glutamate||Smoke flavoring||Sodium caseinate|
|Soy protein||Soy protein concentrate||Soy protein isolate|
|Soy sauce||Soy sauce extract||Textured protein|
|Whey protein||Whey protein concentrate||Whey protein isolate|
|Yeast extract||Yeast food||Yeast nutrient|
|Any “flavors” or “flavoring”||Anything “ultra-pasteurized”||Barley malt|
|Bouillon and broth||Brewer’s yeast||Carrageenan|
|Citric acid, Citrate||Malt extract||Malted barley|
Suspicious foods and ingredients:
|Annatto||anything “enriched”||anything “pasteurized”|
|anything “vitamin enriched”||Balsamic vinegar||Brown rice syrup|
|Corn starch||Corn syrup||Dextrose|
|Lipolyzed butter fat||Milk powder||Modified food starch|
|“low fat” or “no fat”||Reduced fat milk||Vinegar|
Citrate, aspartate, and glutamate are used as chelating agents with mineral supplements. Binders and fillers in supplements and medications may contain MSG, too. If you are highly sensitive to MSG, you may also react to these ingredients. Also disodium guanylate and disodium inosinate work with MSG. If they are disclosed, assume that some form of MSG is also in the food even if not labeled.
If you suspect you have been exposed to MSG by accident, there are some things you can do to counteract its effects. Supplemental Vitamin B6 can help reduce your reactivity to MSG. Both Benadryl and Hydroxyzine can reduce the symptoms of an MSG reaction. Vitamin B6 and Bendaryl are available over-the-counter. Hydroxyzine requires a doctor’s prescription. Please discuss these with your doctor before making any changes to your treatment regimen.
If you are sensitive to MSG, you may also have problems with sugar-substitutes. This can be very difficult for those who must also watch their sugar intake. In that case, you are better off avoiding anything that isn’t naturally sweet.
Artificial sweetener ingredients to watch for
How much has your migraine disease changed or evolved over time?