Skip to content

Why Does MSG Cause Headaches?

Last updated on January 6th, 2023 at 12:09 pm


The mechanism or theory behind the headaches caused by Msg is quite complex. Msg or Monosodium Glutamate is a cooking ingredient that enhances flavor in a variety of dishes.

This excitatory type of amino acid proceeds to bind itself to the MNDA receptions of your brain. Here, it causes the nitric oxide to be released, which then causes the blood vessels on our skull to dilate and widen.

Such an activation causes headaches in individuals. Msg is widely used in deli meats, restaurant meals, soups, canned vegetables, and more.

What Does an Msg Headache Feel Like?

man in blue crew neck shirt covering his face


According to popular studies, an Msg headache usually feels like a burning or tightening sensation in your head. Individuals tend to experience a feeling of tenderness in their muscle around their skull as a result of Msg reaction.

And as for migraine sufferers, Msg tends to trigger painful migraine attacks such as a pulsating or classic throbbing headache. Many people, especially the ones with a migraine history admitted to headaches upon consuming food additives like Msg.

However, scientists haven’t succeeded yet in linking headaches to Msg. But at the same time, the headaches are short-lived and doesn’t last for extended periods.

The headaches mostly start within an hour of Msg consumption. But the pain goes away within a time span of 72 hours after consumption of Msg.

Monosodium Glutamate consists of the amino acid’s sodium salt that’s naturally present in our bodies called the ‘Glutamic Acid.’ You can also naturally find it in tomatoes, dairy products like aged cheese, parmesan cheese, and blue cheese.

Red wine and yeast extract also contains naturally occurring glutamate but not as much as Msg. Monosodium Glutamate is also found in food ingredient like soy sauce, salad dressings, and artificial sweeteners.

Plus, it’s also possible to produce Msg by fermenting molasses, starch, and sugar.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of MSG Intolerance?

The U.S. FDA (Food and Drug Administration) classifies and regards Msg as a safe ingredient. But it still requires companies to list Msg on the label because of the debate surrounding its use.

Msg is popular all around the world, especially in Asian countries. You will find it being used heavily in Chinese restaurants.

It is to the point that most people call msg intake the Chinese restaurant syndrome. Over the years, FDA has been receiving numerous reports on the concerning use of Msg.

Most folks have reported these signs and symptoms:

  • Headache triggers.
  • Weakness or Fatigue.
  • Sweating.
  • Feeling nauseous.
  • Flushing.
  • A feeling of tightness or face pressure.
  • Chest pain.
  • Numbness in the face.
  • The face and neck area experiences a burning or tingling sensation.
  • Chest pain, and
  • Fluttering heartbeats.

Msg in particular tends to trigger headaches. Here are some of the characteristics present in headaches upon potential trigger of the Msg:

  • The headache tends to be bilateral, which means that both sides of one’s head is affected.
  • Msg headaches are similar to migraine headache. You feel like your head is throbbing.
  • Intensity of the headache can be mild or moderate.
  • Physical activity can aggravate you.
  • It is accompanied by other symptoms like facial flushing, dizziness, pressure on chest and face, burning sensation in shoulder and neck, and constant stomach discomfort.

MSG Headache Cure

man in black crew neck t-shirt wearing black and white mask


The cure method will depend on the severity of your headache. A proper treatment plan isn’t necessary when it comes to treating mild symptoms.

You can always consume OCT (Over the Counter) medicines. Any of these OCT pain relievers will help in easing the pain caused by the Msg.

Another tactic is to drink sufficient amount of water to assist in flushing out the Msg from your body. Drinking water and staying hydrated will help in lessening the duration of your Msg headache.

If you are suffering from severe symptoms, then it’s always best to visit a doctor. Some of these severe symptoms include rapid heartbeat, difficulty breathing, and swelling of your throat.

Prescription medications like Antihistamine will help in relieving these symptoms.

Does Ginger Counteract MSG?

Yes, Ginger does actually work in counteracting Msg. According to scientific studies, Ginger helps in attenuating the neurotoxic adverse effects of Monosodium Glutamate.

It is able to do so by suppressing the accumulation of β-amyloid and 8-OHdG. Ginger also helps in altering your neurotransmitter levels.

MSG Headache Myth

This flavor enhancer is a frenemy to the global population because of the mixed feelings people have towards it. There are instances when people enjoy Chinese food, but they start having headaches the minute they get home.

It’s more than a coincidence since it does happen to a lot of people and not just a few. Folks instantly deem this product as the culprit and that’s where this flavor enhancer starts to get a bad rep.

However, there are no scientific proof that shows how Msg sensitivity is directly linked to headaches. So, it’s hard to debunk whether Msg is the reason behind headaches and migraines.

But Msg is classified as a causative headache substance in the ICHD-III Beta (International Classification of Headache Disorders 3rd Edition). It is classified in that way regardless of an absence of comprehensive review of studies surrounding this topic.

There have been human studies done where the relationship between the consumption of Msg and headache was monitored and studied. Tests were done but the result didn’t display any significant difference of Msg with and without food.

However, these tests weren’t blinded properly, which led to inconsistent findings. Hence, further studies are needed to really understand if the weight falls more on it being true or a myth.

Is MSG a Neurotoxin?

Msg does work as a flavoring agent with its delicious characteristic. However, it does come with certain toxic traits that may be harmful to our health.

Monosodium Glutamate does act as a strong neurotoxin. It affects the hippocampus’ chemical composition, which is responsible for activating the neurodegenerative pathways.

How Long Does MSG Headache Last?


An Msg headache can kick in usually after an hour of its consumption. The headache can last for a couple of hours depending on the severity of the situation.

In extreme situations, the headaches can last for over 72 hours. For people with Msg sensitivity, the side effects tend to appear after 20 minutes.

The amount of Msg that you take also plays a factor in the duration and severity of the headache. So, it’s important to always be mindful and read food labels at all times.

Can Msg Cause a Headache the Next Day?

Yes, Msg can cause a headache the following day as well depending on the severity of the situation. Some people have headaches that last a couple of days by consuming this ingredient in meals.

However, the effects happen in minutes or hours depending on person to person.

How Long Does MSG Stay in Your System?

Msg can stay in your system for a period of 48 hours to 72 hours at most. You will know it’s getting flushed out of your system when the symptoms start to lessen.

But if the headache and other side effects persists, then we strongly advise you to approach your healthcare provider. There could be a greater problem at stake here that requires immediate medical attention.

We advise you to reduce the consumption of foods like hot dogs, alcoholic beverages like beer and red wine, certain vegetable protein, citrus fruits, smoked fish and artificial sweeteners.

These foods won’t just lead to weight gain but has excess Msg that could harm your health if consumed regularly. Plus, the American Migraine Foundation strongly oppose these foods for people with migraine history.

What Does MSG Do to Your Stomach?

If you consume Msg in excessive quantities, then you will end up with a condition called the “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome.” It leads to adverse health effects such as gastritis, duodenal ulcers, and gastric.

Since Msg pose a threat to your stomach’s secretory capacity, you should always reconsider its quantity before consuming it. If not, then you put yourself at risk.

Consuming healthy foods instead is one of the best ways for having a clean stomach.


Can MSG Actually Cause Headaches?

There is no scientific proof that Msg actually causes headaches. However, there are many instances of people who reported having headaches after consuming it in restaurant foods.

It’s important to realize that excess consumption of Msg does become unhealthy and this could lead to headaches and other problems. So, we should be mindful of the number of foods that we eat.

How Do You Get Rid of an MSG Headache?

You can take over-the-counter medication to instantly get rid of the headache. Plus, drinking enough liquid helps to ease the pain.

How Long Do Headaches from MSG Last?

If you are having a bad headache from consuming too much Msg, then you can expect it to fully go away by 48-72 hours. But taking medication can help provide instant relief as well.

Does Msg Make Headaches Worse?

Msg can make headaches worse, especially if you are sensitive to it or consume in large quantities. It already has the rep of being a trigger for headaches, so it’s best to avoid taking a chance.

We advise you to stay away from foods with excess Msg content. These include:

  • Instant Noodles.
  • Fast Food.
  • Condiments.
  • Snacks and Chips.
  • Processed Meats.
  • Specific Seasonings.
  • Certain Soups, and
  • Frozen Foods.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *