As we approach the warm Summer months, I’m reminded of just how much my diet has changed since discovering my allergy to MSG in early 2014. Prior to that, it was standard operating procedure for me to turn to cold sandwiches — and avoid cooking on days when the temperatures would often soar above 90 degrees here in New York City. It’s amazing to me now that I was poisoning myself the entire time.
Most of the processed meats we buy at the deli are loaded with fillers — soy, being the most popular (in the form of soy protein isolate and soy lecithin), which of course is MSG. In addition, the flavor enhancing Monosodium Glutamate is added along with artificial flavors and colorings, and seasoned with spices and bouillion.
MSG can also be found in processed dairy cheeses such as Swiss and American cheeses.
Hot dogs and bacon should also be avoided. It should be noted that even if Soy or MSG is not included in the ingredients, they will always contain nitrates, and be high in saturated fat and sodium. On occasion I do enjoy a small amount of each. But I know that unless they have “clean” ingredients, I will pay the price for having indulged the next day.
When I consumed processed meats and cheeses regularly, my physical symptoms included extreme lower back pain, along with leg pain/stiffness and soreness and swelling in my feet. A walk to the store or to the park became a painful task — often requiring me to rest for minutes at a time on a bench, because the lower back pain was so bad, and would last from 3-4 days. It wasn’t until I started researching and writing this blog that I was able to link them to processed meats and cheeses. Surprisingly, the only reaction I didn’t have when eating processed meats, (unlike all the other ways I’ve been exposed to MSG) was migraine headache.
I should note that I recently enjoyed hot dogs on a trip to Costco and I experienced NO reaction whatsoever. They serve their Kirkland brand and they were absolutely delicious. My best friend and I were shopping there over the weekend, and we decided to check the ingredients and were happy to find no ingredients containing Soy. They are however, high in sodium, so you should watch out for that. But I was very happy to finally be able to enjoy a hot dog (it had been two years since eating one) without experiencing debilitating pain for days afterward.
Avoiding processed meats and cheeses is a lot harder to do during the Summer months — picnics, barbecues —– it’s very hard to avoid them. Your best bet is to stick to freshly baked meats. But keep in mind that while many supermarket chains will offer store-baked alternatives, they will likely use seasonings that contain MSG. For that same reason, I also advise avoiding rotisserie chickens unless you’ve made them yourself.
It’s important to pay attention to your body. Having aches and pains out of nowhere for no reason can signal an allergy of some kind.
When you’re enjoying that company or family picnic this summer, you may want to steer clear of the cold cut and cheese platters and the freshly made sandwich platter, straight from the deli.
My Summer diet of cold cuts and deli cheeses has been replaced by fresh fruits and vegetables, fresh chicken and seafood, whole grain crackers and hummus — and yes, the occasional hot dog.
NEXT: To Yogurt or Not To Yogurt