Are You Really Lactose Intolerant Or Are You Allergic to MSG?

I’ve personally known dozens of people in my lifetime, who’ve categorized themselves as lactose intolerant.  For a time, I believed I was as well.  For me, my allergic reactions to much of the dairy I was eating, turned out to be due to an MSG allergy.  I am extremely sensitive.  What if it were possible that most of the people who believe they are lactose intolerant are actually allergic to MSG?  My thinking is that if MSG were removed from all dairy, we would see a drop in the number of people experiencing allergic reactions from dairy, and probably a drop in those identifying themselves as lactose intolerant.

I received an email from Brynna in New Zealand, a wonderful, regular reader of this blog, asking why non-fat milk should never be consumed by anyone with an MSG allergy?

Parmalat milk  is ultra-pasteurized and should never be consumed by anyone with an MSG allergy.

Let me begin by saying that most MSG-allergic individuals consider the term, “MSG” to include any and all glutamic acid that has been freed from protein through a manufacturing process, or through fermentation, because they experience the same adverse reactions from such glutamic acid as they do from the processed free glutamic acid found in the food ingredient “monosodium glutamate.”

MSG is, simply put, processed free glutamic acid.  In my previous post, “Yogurt: Vindicated?,” I told you about how nearly all yogurt products contain MSG.  Notice, you won’t find the words, “monosodium glutamate” on a yogurt package, but there are other ingredients there that can be categorized as processed free glutamic acid.  The cleaner the label — meaning the lack of flavorings, sweeteners, preservatives, colorings, etc., — the less likely you will find processed free glutamic acid.


Chart showing various pasteurization methods.

To answer Brynna’s question — the reason why anyone with an MSG allergy should avoid non-fat or reduced milk is because many, but not all reduced fat milks are made from powdered milk.  Powdered milk includes processed free glutamic acid (MSG) as a result of the way in which the powder is manufactured.  Also, if a milk does not meet state requirements, a dairy will fortify its milk with a powdered milk to bring it within state requirements.  This is most common in California, a state with very high milk standards, particularly during heat spells when cows tend to drink more water.

organic milk
The process used to make organic milk produces high amount of MSG.

Some dairy products are processed through a pasteurization process identified on product labels as ultra pasteurized.  The higher heat used in this process appears to break down more of the milk protein than occurs in normal pasteurization, resulting in a level of processed free glutamic acid (MSG) that may cause adverse reactions in MSG-sensitive people.  The popular shelf-milk, Parmalat is ultra-pasteurized and should be avoided by anyone with an MSG allergy.  Also, stay away from organic milk.  It is also ultra pasteurized.  Anytime milk is heated above 150 degrees, it is dangerous to your health — whether you are allergic to MSG or not.

Many MSG-sensitive people find that they suffer adverse reactions from domestic cheeses that use pasteurized milk in place of raw milk, and enzymes instead of rennet.  The dairy industry has introduced new, more powerful enzymes that break down more of the milk protein than was the case in earlier years.

Something else to note:  The most common problem for MSG-sensitive people in dairy products appears to be the use of a food ingredient identified on food labels as carrageenan.   In my previous post on yogurt, I noted that one of the surprising ingredients in the yogurt brand Activia, is carrageenan.  Carrageenan interacts with the milk protein in dairy products or may act independently, resulting in some processed free glutamic acid (MSG).  Carrageenan is found in most whipping cream, chocolate milk, buttermilk, cream cheese, cottage cheese, sour cream, and ice cream.  Carrageenan is found in many other food items — even cereals — and should be avoided by anyone allergic to MSG.

The takeaways:

  • Non-fat and low-fat dairy should be avoided by anyone with an MSG allergy.
  • Avoid anything that is ultra-pasteurized – the very high level of heat used in the process creates a greater amount of free glutamic acid (MSG).
  • Carrageenan interacts negatively with milk protein and is found in most dairy products.
  • Powdered milk contains free glutamic acid.


**I’ll be doing an in-depth post on MSG and powdered milk products, and another one on MSG and cheese in the next few weeks.


Knowledge is power!



NEXT: The Menace that is Maltodextrin




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