Panic Attack = MSG

This afternoon a strange sensation came over me. My heart began to race and my breathing quickened. My palms became sweaty. I felt anxious and charged-up like I was about to run a track race or go on stage in a play. I couldn't understand where this nervous adrenaline was coming from. I was having an unusually low-key work day after some meetings got cancelled.

I thought maybe it was a panic attack but I wasn't having trouble breathing. I'd only had one coffee that morning. I kept pacing around and could not concentrate. One of my colleagues finally pointed out that it might have been the MSG in the dim sum we had eaten for lunch.

It made perfect sense.

I generally avoid eating MSG. I've moved away from hydrogenated oils, eschewing most crackers any particularly cheap forms of baked goods. I try to nourish my body with nutrients and minimize the negativity.

I almost wonder if I'm allergic to MSG. But then again, wait, isn't that unpleasant feeling that we all experience just the modus operandi of MSG? Do you ever feel Great after eating MSG? Monosodium glutamate is the kind of food ingredient that makes me wake up in a cold sweat after having a night terror. Literally. Like I said, it makes my palms all sweaty.

You can look up the reasons why MSG is scary, but I thought I'd offer you a handy list of names that MSG goes by in case you want to monitor your consumption:

  • Autolyzed Plant Protein
  • Autolyzed Yeast
  • Barley malt
  • Bouillon
  • Gelatin Calcium Caseinate
  • Glutamate
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Hydrolyzed Plant Protein (HPP)
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Maltodextrin
  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Monosodium glutamate
  • Natural flavoring
  • Senomyx (wheat extract labeled as artificial flavor)
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Textured Protein
  • Vegetable Protein Extract
  • Whey protein concentrate or isolate
  • Yeast Extract
  • Yeast food or nutrient


  1. Yikes. Personally, if I encounter too much MSG (ie: anything more than a tiny amount) I swell up like a balloon and have to drink water constantly for hours afterwards. I get anxious because of *that*, but not the way I think you mean.

    Hope you're feeling better!

  2. Thanks for your comment, Katherine. I do feel better and water proved to be the trick: lots and lots of water.

    It's sometimes good to have a reminder about eating consciously!

  3. Scary! I hope you're feeling better. I've had these types of reactions to excitotoxins before, particularly with artificial sweeteners. I used to get these little explosion headaches on the side of my head, have trouble concentrating and scariest of them all, have trouble speaking what I was thinking. I cut out artificial sweeteners completely and all my symptoms disappeared.

  4. Thanks Amanda! I'm wondering if artificial sweeteners played a role in my illness also. I need to kick that habit... hardcore!

  5. hi jess. sorry you had such a terrible reaction. thanks for the list of names--had no idea some of those things were enhancers!

    i'm re-thinking msg in the other way, actually. i have been listening to some discussions about the millions of asians who use it sparingly, yet, commonly without incident or noticeable impact. i actually just bought some and cooked with it this past weekend. i am not convinced it's healthy, by any means, but i think i cook with sauces, for instance, that may be just as processed or unnatural, so i am sort of re-thinking it. so your post was interesting for me to come across now too

  6. Thanks Yasmin! The verdict is still out. You're right. I can't say with absolute certainty that my reaction was a result of MSG.

    I've done the elimination diet before, where you eliminate different potentially allergenic variables in order to assess what the culprit is.

    It might be worth a try for me with MSG :)

  7. thanks for sharing an insightful article. Relaxv