What is an MSG Allergy?

Malcolm Tatum

An MSG allergy is a severe allergic reaction to monosodium glutamate, a popular flavor enhancer used in many types of cuisine. Allergies of this type involve pronounced symptoms that include the onset of severe nausea, cramping and pain in the abdomen, and the development of a skin rash. In the worst cases, an allergy to MSG may cause difficulty breathing or even bring on anaphylactic shock.

A sour stomach could be an indication of an MSG intolerance.
A sour stomach could be an indication of an MSG intolerance.

While many people do experience some type of reaction to the ingestion of MSG, it is more common for the reaction to be considered an intolerance to the compound. Relatively mild nausea, a sour stomach, or loose stool would characterize an MSG intolerance. The main difference between an allergy and an intolerance has to do with the impact the substance has on the immune system and the severity of the reaction.

An allergy to MSG may result in severe nausea.
An allergy to MSG may result in severe nausea.

There is some debate in the medical community on whether an MSG allergy is a true medical phenomenon. One school of thought holds that while the symptoms may be severe, they are often more indicative of an intolerance and require simple treatment to correct. Others feel that if the symptoms produce a severe reaction that is life threatening rather than simply inconvenient and uncomfortable, the classification of the phenomenon as an allergy is more consistent.

Regardless of whether the condition is referred to as an MSG allergy or an intolerance, the fact remains that obtaining a diagnosis and seeking treatment is very important. As with any type of food allergy, a qualified physician can conduct tests to determine if consuming MSG is the root cause for the health issues. If that is the case, it is possible to obtain an intolerance or allergy diagnosis and engage on a course of intolerance or allergy treatment that is appropriate for the patient’s current situation.

After the task to diagnose allergy or intolerance tendencies, there are several courses of action possible. The first is to treat the symptoms brought on by the MSG allergy or intolerance. Most treatments involve the administration of oral medication or injections in order to bring relief to the patient. In rare situations, the patient may be kept overnight in a hospital for observation, if the symptoms are severe enough to merit this level of response.

Regardless of whether the condition is classified as an MSG allergy or an intolerant reaction, there is no doubt that the individual should avoid the consumption of food prepared using monosodium glutamate. This may involve avoiding certain restaurants known to use this flavor enhancer in their food preparation, as well as purchasing meats at supermarkets and butcher shops where MSG is not added.

Allergies may manifest as skin rashes.
Allergies may manifest as skin rashes.

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