I always assumed monosodium glutamate was like a snowstorm in Los Angeles: easy to avoid. I simply needed to sidestep Chinese restaurants and eyeball product labels for those conspicuous three letters: MSG.
At the same time I asked myself, why even go to the trouble? Whats the harm in ingesting this salty filler? If it were a culinary evil doer surely Food and Drug Administration (FDA) would pierce it with its mighty sword or at least put it in the stockades for all see and taunt. Since the FDA had no ban and no serious disclosure requirement, I figured all was fine in kitchenville, grocerville and restaurantville. I was wrong.
I suffered from migraines before I was old enough to say the word, eye ache, my childhood name for the excruciating pain that pulverized one side of my face eight days out of every month. While my school friends enjoyed recess between classes, Id lie in my usual spot: on the cot in the nurses office.
While my classmates whizzed through standardized tests, I held a cold pack to my forehead and struggled to discern the fuzzy print. While my buddies hoofed it up at the prom, I lay in a hatchback of pain in the parking lot in my dates Saab. This was my life until 2003 when things took a turn for the worse.
I started getting migraines every day, and the one prescription medicine that had decreased the pain on occasion, no longer worked. I pushed through weeks, months and years, experimenting with allopathic medicines as well as alternative remedies, such as acupuncture, homeopathy, massage and hypnosis. Nothing helped.
Thursdays child may have far to go, but on a Thursday in December 2008, I got closer to relief when my husband said, Maybe your migraines will go away if you stop eating monosodium glutamate.
What are you talking about? I hardly ever eat anything with MSG.
Turns out I was wrong. This substance, which was discovered in 1908 by Tokyo University professor Kikunae Ikeda, is now as ubiquitous as blue jeans.