Mind Over Sports

Posts Tagged ‘Monosodium Glutamate

This is the second time it has happened. When Tiger was married to Elin, she prepared some noodles for him and seasoned them with Accent or some other type of seasoning that is essentially MSG. The result? Tiger sweated profusely and vomited on the course during a tournament. And now here it is again. This time at the Hero World Challenge and though he’s no longer married his reaction to a food allergy was the same. MSG is a food additive and flavor enhancer and the reason I know so much about it is that for many years I had the same reactions Tiger is having now. But when I finally figured it out, thirteen years had passed. A rocket scientist I’m not. What is confusing about MSG is that most people believe you can only get it in Asian cooking but MSG is also used to enhance the flavor of gravies used on meats and other non-Asian foods. And some restaurants offering salad bars soak their lettuce in it to keep it from turning brown.  After playing through his allergic reaction (which I’m assuming it was) he said: “It wasn’t easy. I fought hard. It’s all I had.” A reaction to MSG is often misdiagnosed as a flu symptom, but it’s not. And for Tiger to have shot a 3-under-par 69 and to be even after 54 holes while suffering from “MSG food poisoning” is an amazing achievement.

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I read in today’s newspaper that New York Giants Quarterback Eli Manning missed part of Wednesday’s practice session with an illness that coach Tom Coughlin called “a stomach bug, hopefully a 24-hour deal.” Though it’s possible Eli has some kind of flu bug, it’s also possible that he is allergic to MSG (monosodium glutamate) and doesn’t even realize it. There was a long period in my life when I was suffering from a similar illness off and on and my friends had told me that it was “nerves” but it was only by chance I figured out that I was allergic to MSG. (A rocket scientist I’m not) ☺

There are many cases on file where high profile athletes (including Tiger Woods) suddenly came down with a “flu like symptom” and never realized the cause. In Tiger’s case he was dating his future wife, Elin Nordegren (now his ex-wife) and while living in Florida one day he became so ill that he vomited on the golf course and Elin was taken to the hospital. Later, it was revealed that she had fixed Tiger a meal of noodles and I wouldn’t be surprised if she used Accent to flavor it. Accent, in its original form, is almost entirely MSG, which is why in the last few years Accent has put out a companion product which is clearly marked on the label “No MSG.”

For those of you reading this who are not familiar with MSG, it’s a flavor enhancer and food preservative used by many restaurants and home chefs. The National Food & Drug Administration requires labeling on products containing MSG sold in supermarkets and other retail outlets, but there is no labeling requirement at restaurants since laws affecting restaurants are generally state imposed.

Most people know that MSG is often found in food served in oriental restaurants, but few are aware it is also used in food preparation in other types of restaurants as well. For example, lettuce for salads found on salad bars is sometimes submerged in a MSG solution to keep it from turning brown. MSG can also be found in gravies on steaks as a flavor enhancer, in soups and many other non-Asian foods.

The symptoms for having an allergic reaction to MSG are similar to those of being diagnosed as having the “stomach flu” or “flu-like symptoms” or migraine headaches. And it’s important to remember that if you should feel yourself having a migraine-type reaction to MSG, do not put a cold compress on your forehead. The reason for this is that when you have MSG in your system the capillaries in your brain become contracted, causing severe headaches and nausea. It’s important to expand them in order to increase the blood flow and the best way to do that is by taking a hot shower or placing a warm compress on the top of your head and on your forehead.

Some of the research has also found that pregnant women should be especially cautious since it’s possible that MSG can have a damaging effect on the fetus.

Hardly a day goes by that I don’t read in the newspaper where an athlete somewhere was unable to compete in his or her event due to an illness with flu-like symptoms. Those flu-like symptoms could actually be the result of digesting monosodium glutamate that may have been in the athlete’s food preparation the night before competing.  An awareness of  MSG at the federal level is not a problem since the law requires that it be listed on the label of any product under “Ingredients.” But unfortunately those federal regulations have no control over state laws, very few of which ban the use of MSG in foods served in restaurants. Most state legislatures are hesitant to ban MSG at the state level in restaurants since the Restaurant Associations are generally major contributors to their campaign funding, and the last thing a restaurant owner wants is for his or her customers to know they use MSG in some of their food preparation since this is generally a sign of an attempt to enhance the flavor of a low grade quality of meat; or when used on lettuce in a salad bar, is designed to give the lettuce longer life before turning brown since MSG is also a preservative. There are many older people and lower-income people in this country who are having a reaction to MSG and believe they are suffering from migraine headaches, which is not the case at all. MSG symptoms are very similar to those for migraine headaches.  To find out more, I invite you to Google Monosodium Glutamate

Most coaches and athletes don’t realize it but hidden away in many foods (and not just Asian restaurant foods) is monosodium glutamate, a preservative and flavor enhancer that, in some people, causes an allergic reaction that is often categorized as a “flu-like” symptom. MSG is found in salad bars (some restaurants submerge their lettuce in water with MSG in it to keep it from turning brown), some restaurants use it in gravies and soups, some as a seasoning and a host of other ways.  And restaurants are not required to inform their customers which of their dishes include MSG.  Therefore, you never know if you’re eating it.  In today’s USA TODAY (“Sick Call”) there was an article about Alabama’s All-America linebacker Rolando McClain and backup defensive back Rod Woodson who both missed media day activities because of a “stomach virus.” Linebacker coach James Willis said McClain, the Butkus Award winner as the nation’s top linebacker, was fine and joked that he might have just wanted to skip the interview session. McClain “ate something wrong last night or whatever,” Willis said. Hey coach! That “whatever” might have been MSG! Check it out!


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