The concern about MSG and glumtames in the food supply has hit a new all-time high since Codex Alimentarium rules are being enforced. Codex, through the WHO and WTO (World Trade Organization) creates the standards by which foods can be “legally” adulterated.
When I attended meetings in Bonn, German and Rome in 2004 and 2005, and wrote about them in Death by Modern Medicine, it was very clear that developing countries were trying to enforce the maximum levels of toxins allowed in foods without acknowledging health side effects.
Regarding glutamates, L-glutamic acid (glutamate) has been accepted as a GRAS (Generally Recognized as Safe) substitute for salt and can be added to any prepared food. This means a product labeled “Low Sodium” can contain L- glutamic acid (the amino acid that forms MSG) and does not have to be labeled.
Let’s review MSG, glutamic acid, glutamate, glutamine, and gluten. They are all related and we mix them up all the time. I’d like to present the case that if we would only mix them with magnesium, our health would improve.
1. MSG (monosodium glutamate) is a sodium salt of the amino acid glutamic acid. MSG is primarily used as a taste enhancer; however, it doesn’t just affect the tongue. When MSG reaches the brain, it can produce an MSG rush with flushing, headaches, scalp tension, migraine and seizures. MSG also lowers the pain threshold for people with chronic pain, headaches and fibromyalgia. This can occur in susceptible people. Who are those susceptible people? Those with magnesium deficiency. Low levels of methylated B6 and taurine can also contribute to symptoms of MSG “poisoning.”
2. Glutamic acid is an amino acid that acts as a primary neurotransmitter in neural activation. Glutamic acid is found in most foods with high amounts in gluten grains: wheat, barley, rye (25%), soy (40%), legumes, peanuts, dairy (20%), nuts, seeds, meats and non-gluten grains quinoa, amaranth, tapioca, millet, flax and sorghum.
It turns out that food sources of glutamic acid can do the very same thing as MSG in sensitive people; they simply take longer to reach the brain. MSG reaches the brain in 15-30 minutes; in susceptible people, it takes 4-6 hours for glutamate from digested food to arrive. That can explain the 4-6 hour timing from a meal to a seizure; or someone who has insomnia in the middle of the night 4-6 hours after a late dinner. Specifically, when these food sources of glutamic acid are digested and lose a hydrogen atom, glutamate is produced. Glutamic acid is mostly found as glutamate in the body. Also, note that glutamic acid, along with aspartic acid, is an ingredients in aspartame, which causes almost 100 side effects.
3. Glutamate is an amino acid critical for brain function and metabolism and the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter. It is found in meat, fish milk, cheese, mushrooms and many vegetables. Internally, the body can produce its own glutamate from other amino acids.
Levels of glutamate are kept under control by glutamate transporters that function to remove glutamate from outside of the cells. At times of brain injury or disease, excess glutamate can accumulate which opens up NMDA cell channels allowing calcium to enter the cells causing neuron damage and cell death. Such a process is called excitotoxicity and is associated with stroke, autism, ALS, Alzheimer’s and memory loss. Glutamate channels are controlled by magnesium.
4. Glutamine is the most abundant amino acid in the body. Most glutamine is made and stored in muscles and lung tissue. Glutamine helps protect the lining of the gastrointestinal tract. For that reason, some researchers have suggested that people who have inflammatory bowel disease (ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease) may not have enough glutamine. However, 2 clinical trials found that taking glutamine supplements did not improve symptoms of Crohn’s disease.
My friend, Dr. Russell Blaylock, a neurosurgeon who wrote the book Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills says that glutamine itself is not a problem. However, high doses of the single amino acid glutamine will be converted into glutamate. Then, as I’ll discuss below, a person who is low in magnesium will be unable to prevent glutamate from flooding into unprotected brain cells.
5. Gluten is a protein found in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is approximately 25% glutamic acid by weight and casein is 20% glutamic acid by chemical structure. Soy is richer than bothin this amino acid. By now you know that glutamic acid will be converted very quickly into glutamate.
How do we go about protecting ourselves from the glutamates? MSG is difficult to avoid if you eat processed foods. Glutamate and glutamic acid are considered GRAS substitutes for salt. As mentioned above, glutamic acid and glutamate in food can be metabolized into the equivalent of MSG and reach the brain – it just takes longer and makes it harder to track the cause of your brain rush.
Of course, all this sounds very scary since these amino acids are in so many foods – it’s impossible to avoid them. But what people don’t factor into the equation is the role of magnesium in the function of brain neurotransmitters.
The Magnesium Solution
Here’s what the very popular Psychology Today says about Magnesium: The Original Chill Pill.
“Magnesium hangs out in the synapse between two neurons along with calcium and glutamate…calcium and glutamate are excitatory, and in excess, toxic. They activate the NMDA receptor. Magnesium can sit on the NMDA receptor without activating it, like a guard at the gate. Therefore, if we are deficient in magnesium, there’s no guard. Calcium and glutamate can activate the receptor like there is no tomorrow. In the long term, this damages the neurons, eventually leading to cell death. In the brain, that is not an easy situation to reverse or remedy.”
I’ve written about the natural calcium-channel blocking action of magnesium, which protects the heart. Now I’m focusing on glutamate-blocking to protect the brain.
Many studies echo the Psychology Today summary of magnesium’s role in glutamate inhibition. Wikipedia shared the following: “Excessive synaptic receptor stimulation by glutmate is directly related to many conditions. Magnesium is one of many antagonists at the glutamate receptor, and magnesium deficiencies have demonstrated relationships with many glutamate receptor-related conditions.”
In the journal, Magnesium Research we learn that: “Magnesium decreases the intensity of some drug-induced dependencies (e.g. opiates, nicotine, cocaine, amphetamine, ethanol, etc.). The main mechanism involved is a decreasing activity of central glutamatergic synapses, especially those involved in the reward system.”
It is true that wheat has been hybridized, increasing the gluten content and glutamates are used in processed foods and we are using too many drugs – prescription and street drugs. However, I think we are also becoming more gluten-sensitive, glutamate-sensitive and drug-sensitive because we are collectively and epidemically very magnesium deficient. Eighty percent of the American population obtains below-RDA levels of magnesium. It is widely promoted by magnesium experts and researchers that we should be ingesting twice the RDA of magnesium.
I believe that the solution to “food sensitivity” is not to avoid more and more foods but to enhance the body’s ability to handle these foods. Well-absorbed magnesium, multiple minerals and sea salt in your drinking water help the underlying structure, function and electrical activity of your body and allow your body to adapt to your environment and your diet. More is involved, of course, but begin with magnesium and then fill in the gaps with probiotics, methylated B vitamins and taurine once you are saturated with magnesium.
A recent client of mine in his 20’s has high glutamate levels. Neurologists know that glutamate opens up calcium channels causing nerve cells to fire.Overstimulated nerve cells can excite themselves to death if too much stimulatory glutamate is present. My client is on a seizure medication that is designed to block glutamate receptors. But it doesn’t. What his neurologists don’t know is that magnesium is a natural glutamate blocker. Magnesium is the mineral the nervous system uses to switch off overtaxed nerve cells.