Last night I had the strangest dream. To describe it as psychedelic would be an understatement. Millions of stars danced around a luminous azure blue sky, colliding with each other from all angles. Every star in the universe was a shooting star, not a single star stood stationary. And that was just the start…
Not really being a Chinese takeaway kind of girl, only on the very rare occasion does a stir-fried vegetables and tofu in black bean enter my system. It is not that I am against ordering a Chinese to enjoy in front of the telly (read that how you please) – it is just that sushi or curry will always win. That said, due to a combination of location and laziness, last night was one of those rare occasions. The slightly unwell feeling after finishing my dinner was expected, the night-time adventure quest definitely was not. Putting two and two together upon awakening, a slightly alarmed Googling session ensued.
What exactly is MSG?
MSG or Monosodium Glutamate is a salt of the amino acid – Glutamic Acid (glutamate). MSG can be naturally occurring and is present in many foods including tomatoes and mushrooms. Manufactured MSG is an additive which is made by fermenting starch, sugar beets, sugar cane or molasses. Manufactured MSG is added to many processed foods and used during cooking in some Chinese and fast-food restaurants as a flavour enhancer. MSG stimulates the pancreas to produce insulin and can cause cravings as after about an hour of eating foods containing MSG, blood sugar levels drops inducing hunger.
Why did my late night Chinese takeaway cause psychedelic dreams?
One reason why MSG could cause vivid dreams is that the body converts excess Glutamate into Glutamic Acid and GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric Acid). GABA is a neurotransmitter which has calming properties; taken before bedtime as a supplement it has a tranquilizing effect and can lead to deep sleep and interesting, colourful dreams. Studies have shown that the release (and increased activity) of GABA in the posterior hypothalamus reduces the firing of the orexin neurons. This action calms down that part of the brain and promotes deep sleep.
What other symptoms can MSG cause?
Other symptoms experienced as a direct reaction to MSG include headache and numbness in the back of the neck, tightness in the chest, pressure around the cheeks or jaw, mood changes, skin rashes, weakness, tingling, burning sensations and even heart palpitations. A few people have also reported asthma-like symptoms as a result of MSG sensitivity.
Is MSG dangerous?
The FDA considers the addition of MSG to foods to be ‘generally recognized as safe’ (GRAS). However, some health experts strongly dispute this. Dr Frank Lipman names MSG as; ‘the most dangerous food additive around today and a known carcinogen, endocrine disrupter and killer of brain cells, which may also be linked to the development of cardiac problems, kidney problems, neurological disorders, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and Lou Gehrig’s disease to name a few.’
According to some MSG opponents the glutamate added to foods is “bad” and the natural glutamate in our bodies is “good”. MSG sellers argue that MSG is exactly like the glutamate in the human body, therefore it must always be “good”. It is not so simple. There are contaminants in processed MSG. An anology that can be used is that there are right-handed amino acids and left handed ones. They are like mirror images of each other. Processed MSG contains not only the kind of amino acids the body is used to handling, but mirror image ones too. This may cause problems because it is like putting the wrong glove on your hand. – MSGtruth.org
For a list of foods containing man-made MSG click here .