Small Change #3: MSG

This post was originally published on Nov 6, 2008 and I’ve updated it and am linking it to Katie’s Spring Cleaning Carnival where we’re all discussing the how and why or getting rid of food additives! This week it’s being hosted over at Lenetta @ Nettacow and next week we’ll be talking CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) over at my friend Kelly the Kitchen Kops!

Years ago, I suffered from migraines. I carried excedrin with me where ever I went and even had to take vicodin on a few occasions just to rid myself of them. At the time I was lucky enough to work with a few different women that also suffered from migraines and they shared their triggers with me.

MSG was at the top of the list. But back then, I had no idea what it was. I also had no idea if it was in the food I was eating, so I set out to read all the food labels in my home. Little did I know how many food items actually contained MSG! It was no wonder I got a headaches shortly after lunch. I regularly ate salad with ranch dressing on it. That dressing contained MSG!  And the only way I’ve been able to find an MSG free ranch is by buying organic. And it’s no wonder I’d start getting a headache after I got home from work and helped my hubby eat into a bag of Doritos. Full of MSG! (Many other flavored chips have it in there as well).

While preparing to write this post, I had planned on making just a quick overview of what MSG is and letting you know that I’ve only stayed away from it because it’s a migraine trigger for me. And that has been my only reason to stay away from it.

That is, until I started researching this post a couple weeks ago.

Because it also affects fertility.

What is MSG?

MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a flavor enhancer that is commonly added to canned vegetables, soups, processed meats, packaged sweets, chips, basically a large portion of  bottled and packaged foods in the store, and most widely known – Chinese food. Now, the FDA has considered MSG to be ‘safe’, but the controversy behind it is great.

See, our bodies have natural glutamate in them and MSG producers claim that the natural occurring and the processed MSG are the same. But they have some differences, like:

  • There are contaminants in the processed MSG from the actual production of the amino acid.
  • Our bodies know what to do with the natural occuring amino acids, but the processed glutamate also has amino acids in it that are basically backwards, or mirror images of themselves.

Another problem with MSG is the labeling of it. In food labels it can actually be hidden under another name. Names like; Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein, Hydrolyzed Protein, Hydrolyzed Plant Protein, Plant Protein Extract, Sodium Caseinate, Calcium Caseinate, Yeast Extract, Textured Protein (Including TVP), Autolyzed Yeast, Hydrolyzed Oat Flour, and Corn Oil.

How it can effect your fertility

MSG actually stimulates your pancreas to produce more insulin. Even if the food you eat doesn’t have the carbs in it for the insulin to act upon. When your bodies insulin (a hormone) is out of balance, it causes your other hormones to be thrown out of balance as well. Not only does insulin effect your reproductive hormones, it also creates a drop in your blood sugar when it floods your body. A drop in blood sugar and you feel hungry again. Over eating and we’re right back to weight being an issue as well.

And I also found this link on a post Stephanie did earlier this week (Things to Avoid When You Have PCOS) that says this:

“Excess intake of substances such as excitatory amino acids, found in many food additives like MSG, aspartame, glutamate, etc. that affect the pituitary regulation of the ovary cycles.”


So far I have only found animal studies that have been done. One, from North Eastern University, shows that animals fed MSG before attempting to conceive, had a decreased conception rate. Male rats fed MSG before mating had less than a 50% success rate (5 out of 13 animals unable to reproduce), whereas male rats not fed MSG had over a 92% success rate (12 of 13 animals were able to produce). Also the offspring of the MSG treated males showed shorter body length, reduced testes weights and evidence of overweight at 25 days.

So what do you do?

  • The most of what you can do is check labels. I have been able to find MSG free products in my normal supermarket as well as a health food store (most of which are organic).
  • Also try and make more of your food from scratch.
  • Replace one food item each week with an MSG free item.
  • Replace processed snack foods with whole foods. Try eating an apple or carrots instead of chips!
  • Eat out less. (fast food, restaurant food – especially chinese! normally always has MSG in it)

All in all, be aware of what you eat!

Check out this month\'s sponsor, Natural Fertility Shop. They are 100% focused on helping you during your journey towards parenthood and have expert staff and knowledgeable customer service here to help you every step of the way.

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About Donielle

Donielle is an amateur herbalist and natural momma to two littles (with another babe in heaven) after dealing with being less than fertile. She has a passion for nourishing nutrition, natural living, and spreading the word on how food truly affects our health.


  1. Oy, MSG is as bad or worse to try and cut out as gluten. It’s hidden everywhere! Even trying to cook at home is hard because it is in the prep sauces, marinades, seasonings, etc. that are sometimes hard to make at home.

  2. zebe- I know what you mean! And at first I didn’t have such a hard time staying away from it – until I learned about all the hidden names! Seems like it’s in almost every processed food around.

  3. [email protected] says:

    Thanks for posting the hidden names! I’ve been staying away from stuff labeled with MSG but I’m afraid I may have been buying stuff with the other names on it now. How frustrating and tricky! that should be illegal or something-lol. And I loooove Ranch Dressing!Hopefully I find some w/o MSG or it’s pseudonyms. Great post!

  4. In an article I received from another website, I also saw these ingredients listed as MSG:
    Autolyzed Yeast
    Glutamic Acid
    Monopotassium Glutamate
    Sodium Caseinate
    Yeast Food
    Yeast Nutrient

    Hope this is helpful.

  5. Watch out for “natural flavorings” too. My husband gets a ‘purge’ effect from MSG (plus headaches and higher/lower blood pressure (spike-crash)) so we’ve been cutting it out but even ground beef with natural flavorings will be enough of a trigger. Very interesting about the fertility as we’ve been unsuccessful so far but havn’t found a reason why yet. Time to step it up on eating better and stressing less.

  6. I hope you don’t mind that I also linked to this in my post – it’s a good one! Thanks for fighting the good fight! :>)

  7. Wow – I knew MSG was in a lot but didn’t realize how many other names it went by. We’ve been slowly trying to eliminate it, but after reading its effects on insulin that seals it for me. My PCOS is difficult enough to control as it is; no need to make things worse!

  8. Thanks for posting this. I’ve been trying to stay away from products that list MSG as an ingredient, but I had no idea there were so many other names for it…

  9. has an extemsive list of other names for MSG on labels.