Headaches after eating were a fairly common occurrence for me a few years ago. I didn’t really think much of it. I didn’t connect it to food. I’d pop some ibuprofen and move on with my day. My mom was the one who thought maybe I was reacting to something in the food I was eating.
She began doing some research, and, over the course of several months of reading, thought I may be allergic or have a sensitivity to MSG (Monosoduim Glutamate). There’s no way to diagnose this, but an elimination diet can provide some insight. My mom read as much as she could on the topic and we began the elimination diet.
The tricky thing with MSG is that is can go by so many different names: yeast extract, autolyzed yeast extract, hydrolyzed anything, and more. Soy sauce can cause a reaction because of the way it’s processed.
The elimination diet was hard.
I really like food. I really like celebrating every little thing with food and people. And I really like a lot of foods that have MSG in them. All of the sudden my favorite salad dressings, soups, dips, and so much more had to be cut out of my diet.
The good and bad news?
It worked. The longer I was off the MSG, the less headaches I got after eating. Of course, I now had to find replacements for some of my favorite foods and eating out became extremely difficult.
Once the MSG was out of my system, we also realized I was feeling relief from other symptoms I hadn’t previously identified: becoming extremely tired after eating and an elevated heart rate.
I didn’t always get it right. I cheated at times. Some of those foods were just too hard to resist.
Until that day in December.
On that day we went out to eat with family at a national burger restaurant. I threw caution to the wind and ate exactly what I wanted. All the seasonings, all the ranch dressing, all the things I knew had MSG in them. I went back to my parent’s house to help make some Christmas sugar cookies, but all I could do was lay on the couch. I had no energy and a splitting headache. I realized then that if I wanted to be a full participant in life, I had to stick to the diet. I couldn’t cheat anymore.
My food story was being rewritten.
Since that day, I’ve learned a few things. Things that have helped me on this new-to-me food journey.
I can still enjoy food and the company of friends and family.
Just because there are certain foods I can’t eat, doesn’t mean I can’t sit down to a meal with friends and family. It does mean I have to be more creative sometimes. It also means that I may have to say no to some of my favorite foods if they weren’t prepared in a way I can have them.
I may have to bring a more filling dish to a potluck. Or bring along my own salad dressing. It may mean having friends over to the house more often and going out to eat less often.
I’m eating healthier.
I’m eating foods with less chemicals. Foods that are more natural. Food that isn’t as processed. Food that is more God made than man made.
There are replacements for most of my favorite foods.
While I may not eat them as often, there are replacements for many of the foods I had to cut out. Now I view them as a treat rather than everyday food or I make many of them from scratch.
I enjoy being in the kitchen.
I can combat MSG most effectively when I’m cooking for myself. I’ve found products that I can use and I make things from scratch. I buy cook books by the dozen. Experiment and adjust recipes.
I can’t always control food choices.
Since my sensitivity isn’t life threatening, I don’t always make a big deal about it. If I go to a wedding, I eat what’s there. If there’s nothing else at a family get together, I make the best choices I can. Sometimes life happens and I don’t have as much control over my food choices as I’d like.
I’ve learned so much more as my food story has been rewritten. That’s what I hope to share with you through the food portion of this blog. Products I’ve found. Recipes I’ve tried. Resources I’ve used. And how I’m still learning to navigate how I eat.