Monosodium Glutamate (“MSG”) bad for Migraine Sufferers

What is MSG and where does it come from? MSG is a sodium salt of glutamic acid, a naturally occurring non-essential amino acid (1). It is made by fermenting certain carbohydrates in addition to using certain bacterial and yeast species. MSG functions as a food additive and has been marketed to enhance the taste of certain foods. When we generally think of MSG, we think of East Asian cuisine. Why should Migraine sufferers stay away from foods that contain MSG?

Why is MSG bad for those of us with migraines

Most migraine sufferers are led to believe that they are susceptible to many things, including: weather, food, lack of sleep, changes in the environment etc. Researchers at the University of Oxford in England have found what they believe to be the migraine gene (2). Every person has a gene called “TRESK” which controls the sensitivity of pain nerves in the brain. For those of us with migraines, TRESK is hypersensitive. This means that we are more susceptible to triggers that activate TRESK. Glutamate is an agent that triggers TRESK. In other words,

people who suffer from migraines and who eat foods containing MSG are activating TRESK, thereby directly causing a migraine.

The reason why migraine sufferers have a problem with glutamate is that our stomachs are more sensitive. The migraine acts as the manifestation of this sensitivity. Our bodies are telling us that something we ate, did not agree with us.  As our society becomes more health conscious, there continues to be a push to remove natural salts and sugars from our diets in order to lose weight and lower cholesterol. This could mean that we will see more MSG type additives replacing natural ingredients. It also means that migraine sufferers will have to become even more vigilant in controlling our diets to make sure that glutamates do not find their way into our bodies.

I am not fond of recommending any types of medicines for migraine relief, but sometimes it is unavoidable. Medicines that block glutamates that could activate this gene should be used if a migraine sufferer feels a migraine coming on and has consumed food containing glutamates. This explains why Ibuprofen can help since it blocks glutamates from activating the TRESK gene. Ultimately, you should keep detailed food diaries, removing any potential foods that might contain MSG.


  • Monopotassium glutamate
  • Glutamic Acid
  • Vegetable Protein Extract
  • Gelatin
  • Yeast food or nutrient
  • Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein (HVP)
  • Hydrolyzed Plant Protein (HPP)
  • Autolyzed Plant Protein
  • Sodium Caseinate
  • Autolyzed Yeast
  • Senomyx
  • Calcium Caseinate
  • Textured Protein
  • Yeast Extract

(1) ”Monosodium Glutamate” Retrieved from
(2) “Gene Called TRESK Causes Migraine, Controls Pain”

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Unfortunately, the US (and Britain) does not require glutamate products to be labeled as such. They are completely unregulated, and are found not only in our diet but in our medicines/vaccines, pesticides, animal feed, ( where it settles in the muscles, which we then eat) and even things like shampoos. We can’t even avoid it by eating what we’ve been duped to thinking is an all natural diet. Glutamates may (and often are) simply be lumped under the vague label “natural flavorings” or “spices”. The reason it is used in animal feed is to stimulate appetite – it is also… Read more »