Migraine Triggers: How Do I Locate Hidden MSG Migraine Triggers?

Con’t from Part I…

Recently food companies have begun to come to the realization that consumers are becoming more label savvy. To their credit Migraine patients are reading labels and understanding them!

With 37 million Migraineurs in the US reading labels and trying to stay away from MSG and glutamates, this poses a problem for companies who want to make a profit by adding the compound to their products. As a result some companies have hired specialists to “clean up” their product labels. They take pride in this and often will proclaim their “clean” labels to the public. Many will announce “NO ADDED MSG”. In reality the MSG has not been removed from these food products at all, just from the label. Here are a few of the ways Glutamate may be found on a food label:

These ALWAYS contain free Glutamate:

  • Ajinomoto
  • Amino Acids
  • Anything with the word ‘hydrolyzed’ including hydrolyzed protein
  • Anything “… protein”
  • Autolyzed Yeast
  • Calcium Glutamate
  • Calcium Caseinate
  • Gelatin
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Glutamate
  • Hydrolyzed corn gluten
  • Kombu extract
  • Magnesium Glutamate
  • Monoammonium Glutamate
  • Monopotassium Glutamate
  • MSG
  • Natrium Glutamate
  • Natural flavors (may contain up to 20% MSG)
  • Seaweed
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Soy Protein
  • Soy Protein Concentrate
  • Soy Protein Isolate
  • Textured Protein
  • Umami
  • Whey Protein
  • Whey Protein Concentrate
  • Whey Protein Isolate
  • Worcestershire sauce
  • Vari-Vox chicken pox vaccine
  • Vetsin
  • Yeast Extract
  • Yeast Food
  • Yeast Nutrient

Glutamic acid that is found in unprocessed or unadulterated protein is bound and therefore safe. Things that often contain free glutamate, or free glutamate is created in their processing procedures include:

  • Anything “enzyme modified”
  • Anything fermented
  • Anything “protein fortified”
  • Anything labeled “ultra pasteurized”
  • Aspartame
  • Barley malt
  • Carrageenan
  • Citric Acid
  • Citrate
  • Boullion
  • Broth (not from scratch under controlled circumstances)
  • Dough conditioners
  • Enzymes
  • Flavors
  • Flavoring
  • Guar Gum
  • Locust Bean Gum
  • Malt Extract
  • Malted Barley
  • Maltodextrin
  • Mushrooms
  • Pectin
  • Protease
  • Sea Salt
  • Seasonings
  • Soy sauce
  • Soy sauce extract
  • Soy protein
  • Stock (not from scratch under controlled circumstances)
  • Wheat protein
  • Xanthan Gum

Highly sensitive people may find that these ingredients contain enough free glutamic acid to cause reactions:

  • Anything enriched
  • Beet Juice
  • Brown Rice Syrup
  • Corn starch
  • Corn Syrup
  • Dextrose
  • Lipolyzed Butter Fat
  • Milk Powder
  • Modified Food Starch
  • Overripe tomatoes
  • Reduced fat or skim milk
  • Rice Syrup
  • Things labeled “low fat”
  • Things labeled “no fat”

Ammonia is metabolized in the body into free glutamates. Ammonia is being added to meat products and does not have to be labeled.


Some ingredients were designed to work synergistically with MSG, so if you see them mentioned, MSG is almost always present:

  • Disodium 5 —Guanalate
  • Disodium 5 —Inosinate
  • Disodium 5 —ribonucleotides

Many wise consumers make the decision to contact companies to specifically ask about the MSG content of their food items. This is a mistake. Food companies will only tell you about monosodium glutamate that has been added to their product, not free glutamic acids which act the same in your body as MSG when eaten. Additionally, since some free glutamic acids are produced during the making of the product, these will not be included in their answer to you. Instead, ask the company for a copy of their “free amino acid assay” for the true content of free glutamic acid.

Here is a link that lists many common foods and products that contain MSG — including fast food and other restaurants.

Because MSG and free glutamic acid is found readily in nature, it is considered “natural”. Being natural does not however mean safe, so beware! Even cyanide and lead are natural, but ingesting them can result in terrible damage or death.

Glutamic Acid opens calcium channels. Many Migraineurs take preventive medications called Calcium Channel Blockers to help keep attacks from happening. For those who are very sensitive to MSG and free glutamates, Calcium Channel Blockers are often effective as preventives.

Migraine patients who have sustained physical trauma to their brains, may have an altered brain blood barrier (BBB). The BBB helps to keep unwanted toxins etc away from the brain, but when an injury occurs, this BBB may be disrupted, allowing even more MSG to enter the brain and act as a trigger. The altered BBB may be one reason so many of our soldiers coming home are doing so with Migraine Disease as a legacy of their service to our country.

It’s sad to me that MSG and its active component Free Glutamic Acid are being routinely hidden in our day to day lives. If it is indeed “all natural” and has no side effects, then why do they feel the need to hide it from those purchasing their products? Hmmm…

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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