Thursday, January 5, 2012

Migraines

I have a very big pet peeve.  As a teenager, I would occasionally get migraines - BIG migraines - go-to-the-emergency-room migraines.  The visual disturbances (gaps in vision and squiggly, flashing shapes) would start and last a half hour.  Then the headache would start.  The headache was always unbearable.  After a couple of hours of blinding, unrelenting headache, then came the vomiting.  Generally, this was a 10-hour ordeal, followed by two days of sensitivity to light and noise, and a very sore cranium.  I would DREAD the next migraine, but they would typically not recur until five or six weeks had passed.  I never put two-and-two together that the cause may have been the large amounts of chicken bouillon my mother incorporated into the Sunday dinner gravy.  Thankfully, after I moved out, the migraines stopped.

When I had my first big migraine again at 30, a friend asked me if I ever ate Monosodium Glutamate (MSG).  I didn't know what that was, but I soon learned.  I had been unwittingly adding it to my scrambled eggs occasionally (it is sold under the brand name "Accent").  This discovery was a huge blessing.  MSG is added to a large number of food products - Ranch Dressing, Bouillon, Schilling gravy mixes, Cream of Chicken/Mushroom soups, Doritos, flavored potato chips, many types of Asian food, etc.  It is a synthetic chemical manufactured by a Japanese company and sold in the U.S. by the ton.  Some people are fooled into thinking it is a "preservative".  HARDLY !!!  MSG is a "flavor enhancer" (which is also a deception).  In truth, MSG does not enhance a food's flavor, it simply flares the little taste buds on your tongue - which causes the experience of tasting food to be intensified.  It also flares the blood vessels in your head.  MSG does not really have a flavor of its own, but it adds a certain spark or tang to the food.  What's more, I think it sends a message to the brain that the affected food is REALLY YUMMY!  That can serve as an inducement to buy it again and often.

Clearly, a certain percentage of the population is bothered by MSG.  The rest seems not to care.  Those whom MSG irritates must go to great lengths to avoid it.  So what is the connection between MSG and headaches?  I am no biochemist, so you can take the following information with a grain of salt.  MSG is poisonous.  If you put poisons in your body, eventually your liver will have to process them.  The liver has a certain capacity to get rid of toxic garbage.  If you overload it, it will eventually stop cooperating.  The process involves what are called "conjugate molecules".  Whether it is alcohol, gasoline or paint fumes, or artificial flavor enhancers, the body does a miraculous job of creating conjugate molecules - molecules whose sole purpose is to "wrap" around a poison molecule and transport it to the liver, where it can be dismantled and broken into smaller components which can be turned into fuel or excreted as waste.  The body cannot, however, produce an unlimited supply of conjugate molecules.

When the liver reaches its maximum ability to dispose of the accumulation of these contaminants, it basically gives out and "refluxes" the poisons back into the bloodstream.  This is when the crisis starts.  When the blood is now carrying a higher poison load, it must also circulate through the brain.  Since the brain does not want to die from pollution, its first response is to dilate certain blood vessels around the eyes and temples (this causes the weird vision symptoms).  After about 30 minutes, and after this has resolved nothing, the brain decides then to constrict those blood vessels - thus triggering a MASSIVE headache.  If this is followed by vomiting, it is the body making a frantic effort to rid itself of those poison chemicals in the most efficient way it can find.  This may not be the mechanism in EVERY migraine, but I believe that MOST migraines can be prevented if we simply refrain from consuming MSG.  I can NEVER eat even a few Doritos chips without getting a 12-hour headache.

The food producers have found a clever dodge - they know that MANY people have figured out the MSG scam - a way to make people think otherwise bland food is worth eating.  So now they have developed some alternatives.  If you read the labels on the packages, you may notice some products (e.g. Campbell's soups) that boast: "All natural", "Reduced Sodium", "No MSG".  You will probably  find the following two ingredients: Disodium Inosinate and Disodium Guanylate.  Both of these chemicals are "flavor enhancers" which act just like MSG.  Clever, huh?  Both of them give me the same sick headaches, so now I have to read the labels even more carefully.  I must give praise to LAY'S brand potato chips - they recently introduced several new chips flavors with no flavor enhancers - Garden Tomato and Basil, Tangy Carolina Barbeque, Sour Cream and Cheddar, and more.

When eating at Chinese restaurants, I always ask if they use MSG.  Problem is - many Asian waiters have no idea what MSG is.  I learned that Chinese for MSG is "WAY-JIN".  They will tell you they don't use WAY-JIN, but they often don't realize that the bulk chicken broth crystals they use when making soups and sauces have MSG as the #1 ingredient.  Diner beware !!!!

I was at an all-you-can-eat restaurant recently and ran into a friendly heart surgeon who was as disgusted as I was at the "sugar-free" vanilla pudding.  He commented that the two biggest causes of all the cardiovascular problems he sees are MSG and the chlorine in our tap water.

Sadly, all of the people who feel unaffected by MSG are still just as poisoned by it as I am - they just consume it blithely and obliviously, unaware of the toxicity it inflicts on their bodies.

Spread the word, you may save someone a lot of suffering.
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All is not lost, however.  A few years ago, I decided to try a homeopathic product made by Natra-Bio. here is a photo of the package: 

You can purchase it here (very inexpensive).  The little tablets are flavorless, and you just melt two or three of them under your tongue when the migraine starts.  If you do this immediately, the visual symptoms do their usual thing for 30 minutes, but then you don't get the ferocious headache.  My guess is that the product provides extra conjugate molecules to the bloodstream and helps the liver do its job.  I have tried this product on several other people, and all of them swear by it.  Another important key is to drink at least a quart of water also, so that the poisons can rinse out of your system faster.

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