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Fat Thigh-roid Woes: What flavors MSG?

Post Published: 05 November 2010
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Category: Column, Fat Thigh Roid Woes, Graves Disease Symptoms Column
This post currently has 8 responses. Leave a comment

Over the years my food sensitivities have gotten, well, more sensitive.  Also, since the overhaul of my diet, anytime I eat something super scummy (yet delicious) my stomach, head, nose and everything just wants to explode.  Sometimes it’s worth it (I’m talking to YOU, pastrami subs), and sometimes it’s one of those poor decisions made out of extreme hunger and exhaustion (You know who you are, Snickers).

One thing I can’t tolerate anymore is Chinese food.

Let me take you to a time, a few years ago, while I dined at this amazing Chinese restaurant and everything tasted delicious.  For the purposes of this column, I will call this restaurant “Chinese Grub #1”.

About an hour after eating, I was struck with the worst headache of my life.  I don’t normally get headaches, but this one was migraine-like and pure dull ache.

I didn’t think anything of it.  Didn’t think it had anything to do with the Chinese food (figured it was the weather, or I was dehydrated) but it was so bad I had to pop a pill and it STILL didn’t go away.  A few months after this incident, I ate again at Chinese Grub #1 cause it was so damn delish and once again, head throbbing.

Chinese Grub #1 has a sign posted outside their establishment that they use NO MSG.  Guess who is allergic to MSG?  Me!!  The FDA says MSG is safe, and a very small percentage of people actually have a reaction – but if you have it in normal quantities you’ll be fine.

I call BULLSHIT on the FDA.  Nothing that gives me a headache like that should be considered safe.

MSG is in so many processed foods, and yeah, maybe in very small quantities it’s *okay*…but my body has gotten so sensitive that I can’t tolerate those small quantities anymore.  I don’t eat flavored chips anymore because of this nonsense, and my former fave was BBQ dipped in yogurt.  I dip everything in yogurt, and if you haven’t gone down this path – I highly suggest you try it out.  You’ll be hooked.   Now it’s just plain salted kettle chips for me…sniff.

Part Two of my Story:

My grandma loves Chinese food, so I picked some up for her bday a few months ago.  Went to this small establishment near my home, Chinese Grub #2, and it’s run by just one guy.  He cooks and waits on tables.  Superman.  I asked him if he put MSG in his food, and he hesitated before answering and said “yes, but I don’t use too much – if you want, I’ll only use very little in the food today.”  He then went on to tell me stories while he was making my food, stories that perked my ears up.

“Every Chinese food place uses MSG, that’s where they get flavor – if they tell you they don’t use it, don’t believe them.  I have a friend that works at “Chinese Grub #1” and they tell people they don’t use MSG – he said they have bags of it in the back, and they put one cup in their dishes.”

Stroke of luck, some gossip from one guy to another guy and finally to me to me that pointed out the specific restaurant that made me sick.  Now, I know this isn’t a very thorough investigation, but I don’t have access into the kitchen of Chinese Grub #1.  But, my headache and bent over sickness from Chinese Grub #1 was so severe I was very willing to believe how much MSG they actually used.

So I called Chinese Grub #1, and the convo went something like this:

Me: “Hi, I’m severely allergic to MSG, do you guys use it in your food?”

Guy on phone: “I don’t think so.”

Me: “You don’t think so?”

Guy on phone: “No, we don’t, it’s in soy sauce, but we don’t add any to the food.”

Okay….

Being sick with thyroid disease makes our bodies become sensitive to additives and even things like gluten.  I’ve worked at plenty of restaurants, and no one really took allergies seriously.  That was then, this is now.  It’s worse people.  I’m convinced that guy doesn’t think I have an actual allergy to MSG, but I’m just saying it cause it’s the thing to say.  MSG is unpopular. It’s damn near social suicide to get into bed with MSG.

What the hell are we supposed to eat if we can’t or don’t want to eat every meal at home?

This guy is potentially dealing with a lawsuit, no?  What if I can prove they use MSG in their food, what happens then?  Does the health department come down on people who lie about ingredients, or do they only think certain health hazards should be cited?

I once worked at a restaurant that got a “B” rating for a leaky faucet.  A. Leaky. Faucet.  This system is backasswards.

Another common allergy is to gluten.  Everyone and their mom talks about their gluten intolerance.  I live in Los Angeles, where most people will tell you they have a gluten allergy.  “Gluten-free” became the new Atkins a few years ago, but these thin bitches have taken it a step further and lie about having an intolerance.  The actual intolerance is to FOOD, but whatever.  Point is, servers think we’re all just crying wolf.  But again, back to last week’s column, people just DON’T CARE about you and your allergy.

This makes it that much harder for people with an actual legit allergy.

I don’t want to become that person that is super suspicious of every meal I eat, but at the same time – I MUST remain cautious.  It’s not worth the headache, bloated belly, and pain I’ll be suffering with the rest of the day.  Unless I’m at home alone and near a bathroom.

How do you deal with food sensitivity issues in an increasingly insensitive world?

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8 Responses to “Fat Thigh-roid Woes: What flavors MSG?”

  1. Linny says:

    Oh I know this story and more like them. I have developed so many food allergies since die~a w/Graves!
    27 foods.
    I cryed when the Holistic Dr. put me on a cleanse to rid my toxics built up from eating what to me was poison.
    He taught me how to eat again.
    It was like being a baby and learning all over again.
    It was so hard, and I do still eat out. As careful as I am now, just today I died with belly aches and all that jazz because I missed something!
    Anyone who is suffering from head to toes and emotions too could be eating it as a poison. Cleaning my menu up has rid me of many of the side effects of Graves. Also getting off Sin’thyroid, which for me another factor in problems like bloating. I am Lactose intolerant and ever small it is an ingredient in synthroid.
    It is not fair. I can’t taste food the same way. I really eat very little at a time. otherwise I cannot process the food.
    Why aren’t Dr.s explaining that some of our pains are allergies?
    Who will teach the staff of Dr.s to understand what it is we need them to know?
    Great story, important to share…..Linny

    • Nicole Wells says:

      Dear Linny,

      How are you feeling overall since you’ve cut out all the trigger/bad foods? I know it’s difficult, but is it worth it to you in the long run?

      Personally, I’m glad I don’t crave the processed junk anymore – and wouldn’t trade a piece of broccoli for a candy bar if you begged me. Not that anyone would trade me, but you know what I mean…

      Take care,

      Nicole

  2. Amanda says:

    Food sensitivities and allergies are not always taken seriously. When my son was young and he began having behavior problems [and basic discipline was completely ineffective], I began researching. Not trying to “label” him, but to help make things better. We didn’t give him any junk food or take out, so eliminating preservatives was pretty easy. We had to watch for MSG and nitrates, because they caused the most problems. Whenever I mentioned this to his pediatrician or multitude of psychiatrists, psychologists, counselors… they always dismissed the “allergy” idea. I am ok with calling them sensitivities, because I know he has a reaction when he eats anything with nitrates or MSG. Migraines, lethargy, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, and just outright no control. Food dyes cause troubles too.

    My daughter suffered from typical signs of lactose intollerance. Except it never happened when she had dairy. Only if she had fruits or fruit juice. I reasearched and found out that there is such a thing as fructose intollerance. Doctors once again didn’t get that idea and ordered tests at far away hospitals, we went to a few and all showed nothing. We just eliminated fruit juice and limited certain fresh fruits.

    So I am used to being in charge of the food research in this family. Now that I have Graves, I am doing the same for myself. I am limiting gluten. I have been working on an optimal eating/food plan for myself. We don’t eat out much, or get take out food. Sure the kids go to fast food places when they are with friends, but for the most part I cook everything. The occasional treat like “pizza” or “chinese” isn’t worth it. I had pizza with the girls at work Friday, and I am still suffering. Stomach, head and sinuses all in freak out mode. Awesome.

    I know it isn’t practical for everyone to cook all their own food, it takes time that you may not have. I tend to make the time, because cooking is therapeutic to me. After 19+ years of dealing with taking care of everyone with good home cooking, I have more challenges with my added chronic disease. I really wish that there were more emphasis put on nutrition in school. Not just the basics, but more as a science.

    Thank you for this great, thoughtful article Nicole.

    Amanda

    • Nicole Wells says:

      Dear Amanda,

      First of all, I want to come over for dinner. You had me at your whole homemade cheesecake thing a few weeks ago, and now, I’m convinced you’re whipping up glorious feasts.

      The doctors you saw ran allergy tests right? Or, were they doing some other kinds of tests to check for food sensitivities/allergies? I know that you can do your own by eliminating one food every couple of weeks, and keeping a journal. Have your kids tried this approach?

      Are there any holistic doctors in your town? That’s how I found out about my gluten intolerance. I get the shitty sinus issues too when I eat pizza…we’re sisters.

      xoxo,

      Nicole

      • Amanda says:

        Ignore this if it sounds like I have an attitude. I just seem to come across that way lately.

        Doc’s did not run allergy tests, on me or my son. We did these with my daughter, but they were only looking for lactose intolerance. So now you think… “so why does she do all this shit if she hasn’t run tests?” Tests are extra on my insurance, my lovely insurance that pays for one wellness visit a year and the rest comes out of my pocket up to thousands. I am doing the elimination thing for myself, but I get over zealous and forget to take time and do it correctly. I am back on track and eliminating gluten has helped. Holistic isn’t covered by my insurance, of course. I have so many out of pocket expenses now, along with paying for my son’s eye issues that well.. I am on my own as usual. I don’t do anything radical, just try nutritional things that can help.

        Amanda

  3. Judanna says:

    Hi Nicole,
    The first time I ever had food allergies,I was 10, I had spent that Saturday in 1976 w/ my new girlfriend from VietNam & had all this really delicious Vietnamese food. Then Sunday I went to my Adoptive Grandma’s house for a meal of German food right down to some very chocolately dessert. And I wore my new pretty, pink, flame retardant nightgown to bed. I woke up Monday morning with hives all over my body. The pediatrician thought it would be cool if he took me off Chocolate & put me on Steroids : Prednisone. My mom would wrap a daily pill for me in my lunchbox in tin foil & tell me to go to the water fountain & not tell anybody what I was doing at 2PM. 5th grade. 10 years old. She was 34 . . . what was her excuse ? Until finally one day I had to go to the toilet at 1:30 & the fountain at 2PM to take my “Pill”. So, the teacher asked me where I was going. I told her to the bathroom. She said, you just went, sit down. Then I said yeah but that was for the bathroom now I have to take a pill. What did you say ?”
    “A Pill”
    “That’s what I thought you said. Let me see the pill. What is this?”
    “Prednisone” (I was impressed that I could speak Doctorese)
    Her face turned white & she got really sweet. Could you show this Prednisone pill to the Principal, please & Krissy.. . could you take a walk with her ?”
    Well mom was told by the principal very nicely that from now on she was to bring the prescription bottle in herself & hand it to the school nurse & she would give me my 2PM pill. And the nurse very sweetly told my mom, I wouldn’t be “Bothering” her that giving medicine to children was her job. Funny thing was my mom quit being a NURSE when I was born so she could have me & 3 other kids with/in the next 4 years, so, I could never figure out why she didn’t know that.

    Well that’s the first time I remember hearing the INITIALS “MSG”
    My dad worked in the food sales to restaurants industry & he was telling my mom there was literally “Barrels” of it in the kitchen. Then my parents were speaking about German Chocolate Cake & how dad had brought some new hot Cocoa from Europe home. And of course they were also telling me to stop wearing the new pretty pink night gown because it had dangerous chemicals on it.
    Eventually the hives went away & I was allowed Chocolate again & all was right with world. So, what do YOU think it was the Chocolate, the MSG or the Flame retardant Jamies ? WHO KNOWS. But, I think it was MSG in the Vietnamese food, because, today, if I touch MSG . . . I get a Basilar Artery Migraine w/ stroke symptoms !

    • Nicole Wells says:

      Dear Judanna,

      Whoa. I can’t believe you had to take Prednisone for those hives. Have you thought about writing this story as the start of a Dear Thyroid letter? It’s fantastic!

      I can only imagine being stuck in flame retardant jammies, eating chocolate and Vietnamese food and wondering what is making your skin break out. It’s a perfect shit storm!

      So, do you go out to eat or eat only at home? Do you ask every server if they use MSG in their food and let them know how severe your allergy is?

      xoxo,

      Nicole

  4. Linny says:

    It has truely been worth it. We are what we eat, and it was not pretty. I was a mess. The change has made a difference. I am so much better for being careful. I no longer want to eat the things that made me sick. I realize a moment on the lips is not worth the recovery of days of all kinds of ailments.
    I wish I’d known sooner what a difference my diet would make.
    I do find I can cheat a little now and then. I am proud of what I changed. Linny

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