WARNING: Graphic content (and she says grinning – NO pictures)
Tuesday, March 29th ~ Hue, Vietnam
The thin door separating our bedroom from the bathroom could not muffle the moans of pain. I knew what he was going through and felt helpless to do anything. When it hits, it is merciless, brutal and wracks him to the core.
Imagine a bad case of the flu, doing a colonoscopy prep and then combining food poisoning and you will have an idea of what happens when a severe reaction occurs. Your body just wants the poison out of your system and will violently do its best to cleans itself with a combination of nausea, extreme stomach cramps and explosive diarrhea.
Thankfully, we know what it is and what causes it. We are also grateful that most of the time when it hits, he is miserable for a short time (1-2 hours), and then it eases up. We know that it will run its course and within a few hours it will be completely over, leaving him exhausted, sore, dehydrated and spent – but OK.
But this time it was one of the BAD ones, and it went on most of the night and into the morning, causing us to stay behind for an optional full day excursion. Thankfully this was not a travel day, and a day here at the hotel to rest and recover will be welcomed.
So if we know what he is allergic to, why doesn’t he just avoid eating it? If only it were that easy!
You see it is not just one item. In fact it is many, many items and has to do not just with an ingredient, but the actual processing of all food as well.
And what is this ingredient???
FREE GLUTAMIC ACID (the key word here is FREE)
And just what is this FREE glutamic acid anyway? For one of the best articles we have seen that puts it into simple understandable terms, click here.
I will try to hit a few of the main points:
“There are two common forms of glutamic acid, L-glutamic acid and D-glutamic acid. L-glutamic acid found in protein is referred to as ‘bound’ or ‘protein bound’ glutamic acid. In real, natural foods amino acids are rarely free. Rather, they are linked or bound in long chains to other amino acids in peptides or proteins.
D-glutamic acid ‘outside of protein’ or ‘free glutamic acid’ is artificially and chemically produced outside of the body. This is what is known as monosodium glutamate or MSG.” ~ EdenFoods.com
Being called MSG (Monosodium Glutamate), is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg, as it can go by a LONG list of names. Here are most common names it can go by and what ALWAYS contain FREE glutamic acid (MSG): (Source Truthinlabeling.org)
Glutamic acid (E 620), Glutamate (E 620), Monosodium glutamate (E 621), Monopotassium glutamate (E 622), Calcium glutamate (E 623), Monoammonium glutamate (E 624), Magnesium glutamate (E 625), Natrium glutamate, Anything “hydrolyzed”, Any “hydrolyzed protein”, Calcium caseinate, Sodium caseinate, Yeast extract, Torula yeast, Yeast food, Yeast nutrient, Autolyzed yeast, Gelatin, Textured protein, Whey protein, Whey protein concentrate, Whey protein isolate, Soy protein, Soy protein concentrate, Soy protein isolate, Anything “protein”, Anything “protein fortified”, Soy sauce, Soy sauce extract, Anything “enzyme modified”, Anything containing “enzymes”, Anything “fermented”, Anything containing “protease”, Vetsin, Ajinomoto, and Umami
Sadly it does not end there. This list of items OFTEN contain or produce processed free glutamic acid during processing:
Carrageenan (E 407), Bouillon and broth, Stock, Any “flavors” or “flavoring”, Natural flavor, Maltodextrin, Oligodextrin, Citric acid, Citrate (E 330), Anything “ultra-pasteurized”, Barley malt, Malted barley, Brewer’s yeast, Pectin (E 440), Malt extract, Seasonings
(1) Glutamic acid found in unadulterated protein does not cause adverse reactions. To cause adverse reactions, the glutamic acid must have been processed/manufactured or come from protein that has been fermented.
(2) E numbers are used in Europe in place of food additive names.
And this is just the starting point. The following are ingredients suspected of containing or creating sufficient processed free glutamic acid to serve as MSG-reaction triggers in HIGHLY SENSITIVE people:
Corn starch, Corn syrup, Modified food starch, Lipolyzed butter fat , Dextrose, Rice syrup, Brown rice syrup, Milk powder, Reduced fat milk (skim; 1%; 2%), most things “low fat” or “no fat”, anything “enriched”, anything “vitamin enriched”, anything “pasteurized”, Annatto, Vinegar, Balsamic vinegar, certain amino acid chelates (Citrate, aspartate, and glutamate are used as chelating agents with mineral supplements.)
List of hidden names for MSG – (be sure to check out the “reminders” section found on the lower half of this page – helpful information.)
Short of reading EVERY label on EVERY ingredient in EVERY dish that is prepared, it is rather a crap shoot (pun intended), on whether or not it is safe for Tim to eat.
How do we handle this while traveling to so many different countries, especially where we don’t speak or read the language?
Well, it is a very big challenge, and when we are not successful, sadly Tim pays a painful consequence. At home, here is what we try to do:
- Eat as fresh and raw as we can. Think organic fruits and vegetables, peeled, washed in clean water. Salads with homemade dressing. Huge variety of raw, baked or grilled veggies.
- Steamed food with no seasoning. He will add salt and pepper at the table.
- Whole fresh eggs are safe, as is brewed coffee, most wine, and herbal tea (note: NOT decaffeinated coffee and NOT egg beater type mix that comes in a carton as they are processed).
- Fresh fish grilled with a small amount of oil, lemon, salt, pepper.
- Fresh herbs and whole spices are wonderful and safe. I avoid most spice blends.
- Dishes that are made with ONLY whole ingredients. That means almost NOTHING processed, or out of a box or a carton.
- Most baked pastries and sweets are OK, but not ones that contain gelatin.
- Some soft drinks do not have MSG, but many do. He can not have anything “diet”, no 7-up, no beer (fermented). He drinks a LOT of water 🙂
- Some cheese is safe, some is not. Some dairy OK, some is not. We have learned what works through trial and error, reading labels and avoiding ultra pasteurized and “low or no fat” items.
This may sound boring, but the reality is that most recipes can be created using whole ingredients. Some of my best resources are old cookbooks that are based on recipes from before we had all of the processed foods, and of course the Internet is full of choices and information.
When we are traveling with a tour group, we ask our guide for assistance in translating for us if needed at a restaurant. We research online to find dining recommendations that are more “healthy” or vegetarian leaning. When all else fails, Tim may settle for two fried eggs, over well with no seasoning and a plate of fresh fruit.
On a cruise ship, we solicit the aid of our maître d’ when we first get on board. Some times we have very knowledgeable and experienced staff who make sure Tim gets excellent care. They have even had him see a menu the night before each meal, let him choose his selection and they will custom make it for him avoiding anything processed, or offer an alternative.
It they don’t quite “get it”, the buffet line often allows enough choices that Tim can find items he can eat with minimal problems. He avoids sauces, gravy, soups, casserole type dishes, marinated foods.
(A special shout out to Uniworld Cruise line for two weeks worth of happy, healthy cruising with NO reactions!)
And although I do not get the same painful reaction that Tim does, due to the mountain of research we have done trying to keep him healthy, we firmly believe that free glutamic acid is poisonous and harmful to the system and something everyone should avoid. That being said, I try to follow similar eating patterns with Tim.
Here are a few resources for more information:
GRATITUDE MOMENT: Today I am grateful that we know what Tim is allergic to and can (most of the time) avoid it. We are often asked how we figured it out. After years of daily bouts of severe cramping and diarrhea, going to several top doctors and specialists, numerous tests, with diagnosis ranging from Irritable Bowel Syndrome to a bleeding ulcer to nerves and stress, it was actually my mother who simply asked, “Could you be allergic to MSG”, and that started our research, trail and error, diet changes and eventually a solution. Thanks Mom!