Also indexed as: Chinese Restaurant Syndrome
Enjoy the taste of Chinese food and other ethnic dishes without
the headaches and nausea that MSG can sometimes cause. According to research or other
evidence, the following self-care steps may be helpful:
- Mix in a B6
- Take 50 mg of vitamin B6 a day to help process MSG into harmless
- Forego certain foods
- Check food labels for MSG and ask restaurant staff if the food you
eat contains MSG
- Skip the seasoning
- Avoid Accent or Aji-No-Moto products and any foods containing
These recommendations are not comprehensive and are not intended to replace
the advice of your doctor or pharmacist. Continue reading the full MSG sensitivity article for
more in-depth, fully-referenced information on medicines, vitamins, herbs, and dietary and
lifestyle changes that may be helpful.
About MSG sensitivity
MSG sensitivity is a set of symptoms that may occur in some people after they consume
monosodium glutamate (MSG). The syndrome was first described in 1968 as a triad of symptoms:
“numbness at the back of the neck radiating to both arms and the back, general weakness
MSG is used worldwide as a flavor enhancer. Although many restaurants now avoid the use of
MSG, many still use significant amounts. The average person living in an industrialized
country consumes about 0.3 to 1.0 gram of MSG per day. MSG is classified by the US Food and
Drug Administration as “generally recognized as safe.” Indeed, many researchers
have questioned the very existence of a true MSG-sensitivity reaction. Most clinical trials,
including some double-blind trials, have failed to find any symptoms arising from consumption
of MSG, even large amounts, when taken with food.2 3 4
5 6 However, clinical trials have found that MSG taken without food
may cause symptoms, though rarely the classic “triad” described above.7
8 9 A large trial and a review of studies on MSG both suggested that
large amounts of MSG given without food may elicit more symptoms than a placebo in people who
believe they react adversely to MSG. However, persistent and serious effects from MSG
consumption have not been consistently demonstrated.10 11
People sensitive to MSG may also react to
Product ratings for MSG
What are the symptoms?
The symptoms of MSG sensitivity have commonly been described as headache, flushing,
tingling, weakness, and stomachache. After eating meals prepared with MSG, people with MSG
sensitivity may have migraine headache, visual
disturbance, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea,
weakness, tightness of the chest, skin rash, or
sensitivity to light, noise, or smells.
Over the counter antihistamines, such as
diphenhydramine (Benedryl), might help reduce the symptoms of MSG sensitivity.
Severe reactions may be treated with prescription antihistamines such as hydroxyzine (Atarax).
MSG sensitivity is not a universally accepted medical condition. Other than avoidance of
foods containing MSG, there is no common treatment for this condition.
Dietary changes that may be helpful
Simply avoiding MSG will prevent MSG-sensitive reactions. MSG is found in some Chinese and
Japanese food and is also contained in some flavor enhancers, such as Accent® and the
Japanese seasoning AJI-NO-MOTO™. MSG may be difficult to avoid completely, as it also
occurs in hydrolyzed vegetable protein, textured
vegetable protein, gelatin, yeast extracts, calcium and sodium caseinate, vegetable broth,
whey, smoke flavoring, malt extracts, and
several other food ingredients—including “flavoring” and “natural
flavoring”—without otherwise appearing on the label.
Vitamins that may be helpful
Years ago, researchers discovered that animals who were deficient in vitamin B6 could not properly process
MSG.14 Typical reactions to MSG have also been linked to vitamin B6 deficiency in
people.15 In one study, eight out of nine such people stopped reacting to MSG when
given 50 mg of vitamin B6 per day for at least 12 weeks.
The actual percentage of people with MSG sensitivity who are deficient in vitamin B6 and
who respond to B6 supplementation is unknown. Nonetheless, many doctors suggest that people
having MSG-sensitivity symptoms try supplementing with vitamin B6 for three months as a
Are there any side effects or interactions?
Refer to the individual supplement for information about any side effects or interactions.
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