Although the title of this blog suggests it is strictly about inhaled substances, I really like to address all things related to MCS or Environmental Illness or even Randolph’s Disease. This week the topic is excitotoxins. From the book, The Magnesium Miracle by Carolyn Dean, M.D., N.D., an excitotoxin is
one of a group of substances, usually acidic amino acids, that in high amounts react with specialized receptors in the brain, causing destruction of certain types of neurons.
These would include aspartame (aka Nutrasweet) and monosodium glutamate (aka MSG). Having a background in Biology, I knew from Biochemistry class (thanks, Dr. Phillips, wherever you are!) that aspartame and monosodium glutamate were amino acids. It puzzled me that something that is required for human life (amino acids are what proteins are made of) could also produce migraines in me.
Aspartame is widely used as an artificial sweetener. And MSG is ubiquitous in its use as a flavor enhancer – not just your Chinese food. Read your labels. It’s in nearly every commercial soup, salad dressing, sauce.
(Well except one well known commercial soup maker has a line of soups called “Healthy Request” which has no MSG, among other things. Which begs the question: If the ones without MSG are labeled healthy, what does that make the others? But, I digress.)
Glutamate (found in MSG) and aspartate (found in aspartame)
are two powerful amino acids that act as neurotransmitters in the brain in very small concentrations, … In higher concentrations as food additives, these chemicals constantly stimulate brain cells and can cause them to undergo a process of cell death known as excitotoxicity – the cells are excited to death.
That doesn’t sound like anything you want going on in your brain, right? And what about the developing brains of children? I admit I used to consume both of these, until the MCS got to the point that they caused migraines. If only I had known all of this long ago… I’ve now opted for less sugar, rather than sugar substitutes. As for MSG? Really the only reason it is used is b/c you can use less of the more expensive spices when you add MSG as a flavor enhancer.
Dr. Dean also says:
A growing number of neurosurgeons and neurologists are convinced that excitotoxins play a critical role in the development of several neurological disorders, including migraines, seizures, learning disorders in children, and neurodegenerative disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, Huntington’s disease, and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
I bought Dr. Dean’s book for the information about Magnesium and why we need it. But she has good information on other topics as well. You can also check out Dr. Dean’s web site.