Pain or Pleasure

For me food choices are a pain or pleasure choice. In my opinion, as migraine sufferers we have to manage our headaches. Yes, I go to a neurologist. Yes, I take my medication (rescue drug) when needed. I cannot live without them. It is a constant source of ‘worry’ that I may run out of them! (I am working on the “constant source of worry” problem.).

My ‘ah-ha’ food moment came a few years ago when I was eating Cheez-It crackers. You know, those cute little cheese squares. One day at work I ask my client (who is a dietician) what Annatto is. (One of the ingredients in Cheez-It crackers). It is a ‘natural food color’ she snorted. When I Googled the word Annatto I found out Annatto has replaced orange food dye. Annatto has side effects. Yep, you guessed it. Headache! Soon after that I became a food detective. A good one too. I drove hubby nuts. But now he is an excellent food detective too. Why shouldn’t he also eat well? Soon we learned a new word. Excitotoxins. That’s a mouthful, huh? In a nutshell it means all things containing MSG. I hear you. “Not all foods containing MSG are my trigger food”. Well….let’s talk about that. Is MSG “bad”? When you see signs on restaurants doors that say “NO MSG” didn’t they just confirm it? The irony does not escape me. Those signs do not convince me that they do not use MSG since MSG has many other names. As you will see later.

I am not a health care professional, I am a person who gets migraines. One source of my information is Dr. Russell Blayblock. His book is titled, “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills”. His book explains the damage products containing MSG do to our brain cells and why our head hurts after eating foods that contain MSG. Prepare yourself for a scary read. There are many experts on MSG, Dr. Blayblock is just one of them.

The public is coming around and is taking a negative view of MSG. However, food companies are getting clever. Instead of saying MSG on food labels they are now using products containing MSG like: hydrolyzed protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, plant protein, whey protein, yeast extract, textured protein and natural flavors. They sound “pretty ok”, don’t they? What’s wrong with proteins? These words are just smoke and mirrors. They all contain MSG. Sometimes there are more than one of these ingredients in one food. At times a double and triple whammy! The list of these “other words for MSG” is endless. The “other names” used for MSG may contain 30 to 60% MSG but if the food product is 99% pure MSG then the FDA requires it to be called Monosodium Glutamate or MSG.

What is the answer? In my case, tough food choices had to be made. What was my payoff for eating certain foods? Did these foods bring me comfort? Ice cream sure does. When I started reading the label on what was in my favorite ice cream I stopped eating it. It is not the ice cream we ate as kids. I found one that will not give me a headache. No more processed food. None for me. Campbell’s Tomato soup and Chicken Noodle soup were other favorites. (Comfort foods from childhood?) Loaded with MSG. Absolutely no soups in restaurants! Do you think restaurants are using broth that is made without MSG? I hardly think so. They (whoever they are) say you can drink sulfite-free wine. Umm. Sulfite is a preservative. Interesting concept. We must become pro-active about our health. We cannot depend on anyone. It is up to us! Knowledge is power.

Learn to read ingredients on packages. Investigate ingredients you cannot identity. Eat whole foods. Yes, you know the ones. The foods we know we are supposed to be eating. I am not saying that this is a quick fix. No, it takes time, research and tough choices. But being headache free is worth it.

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