Even today brain remains a big mystery. We all know kidneys act as body’s filter, our lungs help us to breathe, and heart pumps blood around the body. But it’s impossible to understand the functioning of our brain.
We understand the many areas of brain are generally resilient, but some of its areas are quite sensitive. It acts like a factory that handles thousands of different chemicals and signals. For proper functioning, these chemicals and signals need to be in fine balance.
When there is even a slight imbalance, it leads to common disruptions called excitotoxins. They can accumulate over time and lead to many types of neurodegenerative diseases or disorders such as Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s as well as autism, seizures, and potentially cluster headaches and migraines.
What are Excitotoxins?
Exitotoxins are chemicals that can over stimulate your brain via nerve receptors and neurons. Neurons may fire excessively and may eventually cause nerve cell death. With high amounts of excitotoxins neurons firing continuously, they may last until they exhaust themselves and die. These excitotoxins are also the underlying cause of various neurological inflammation.
This problem takes years to develop and can accumulate over time. By this time, the damage has already been done. For this reason, its very important to limit excitotoxin damage.
Diseases can result from the cumulative death of many glutamate receptors neurons (the type of neurons that exitotoxins attack) in the brain include Huntington’s, Alzheimer’s Disease, and ALS.
These excitotoxins are present naturally in the body, but in the past 60-70 years, they have been further added to our regular food supply in bulk quantities.
Excitotoxns also stimulate taste buds and somewhat distort the real taste. The most common excitotoxins that are hiding in foods are:
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Hydrolyzed Vegetable Protein
All these are used to artificially enhance flavors in the processed and artificial foods that wouldn’t taste as delicious as without them. Natural foods have much better nutritional value and don’t need this type of flavor enhancement.
These exitotoxins in foods overexcite or over stimulate neurons to the point where they rapidly fire in all directions and in continuous fashion and ultimately become exhausted and die.
Many manufacturers who use these exitotoxins have proudly claimed that since glutamate is available naturally and in abundance in the brain, additives such as MSG and aspartame are completely “natural” and therefore not harmful.
This is highly misleading because it doesn’t take into account the fact that glutamate exists only in tiny concentrations in the body. If this concentration level increases about a certain point, neurons can get overexcited and may misfire and perish.
Many individuals may be genetically more susceptible than others. Migraines have been described as abnormally overreactive response to an otherwise normal stimuli. Higher levels of excitotoxins that cause neuronal inflammation and damage have been found amongst those who suffer from migraines. This has already been described as one of the potential causes of migraine in some published studies.
Processed foods contain tons of excitotoxins and should always be treated with extreme caution by all those who get frequent migraines, seizures, hypoglycemia, head injury or other neurodegenerative disease.
A Real Taste Of Things To Come!
Unfortunately, there is practice to hide dangerous excitotoxins in foods and this is completely legal in US. The trend has grown increasingly common since these havoc causing chemicals were first introduced in our food chain way back in 1946.
Jordan Sand, associate professor of Japanese history and culture details the exact pathway of these taste-spiking toxic chemicals after the gradual development of food industry after WW II. That’s when some researchers successfully isolated MSG from the Japanese seaweed kombu. This process involves stripping of all healthy compounds present in kombu, including minerals and enzymes. The resultant MSG is perhaps thousands of times more concentrated than the glutamate that naturally occurs in the seaweed.
Today, you can find MSG in almost all prepared foods, including different types of restaurant foods. This fact is true even for the restaurants where the menu proudly claims that they add absolutely no MSG. that’s mainly because restaurants don’t need to add any MSG-it’s already present in large quantities in the food they get from their suppliers.
Today Americans, and even others around the world, are drowning themselves in MSG, which also happens to be a generous chaser of aspartame, and artificial sweetener derived from the amino acid called aspartate. It is widely used to sweeten diet coffee and sodas-blue and pink packets-and sugarless gum and candies. Since the mid 1980s, Americans have consumed more than 304,000 metric tons of MSG and about 977 million pounds of aspartame. “The amount of MSG consumed by the population doubles every decade. Both are excitotoxins and are mostly found in drinks, foods, medications, fertilizers and even vaccines.
Foods Migraineurs should avoid:
- Sources of MSG
- Sodium caseinate or calcium caseinate
- Hydrolyzed protein or hydrolyzed oat flour
- Autolyzed yeast or yeast extract
- Glutamic acid
- Monosodium glutamate
Higher excitotoxin levels in the body can cause neurological inflammation. Inflammation occurs due to the release of some inflammatory mediators such as CGRP (calcitonin ene-related peptide). Neurological inflammation occurs due to over stimulation of nerve pathways and neurons in the nervous system and brain.
Excitotoxins are not the only contributors to neurological inflammation as many other factors come into play, but they do play a big role. Other factors are:
Gentics that inhibit optimal performance
- Infectious agents such as bacteria or viruses
- Certain environmental factors, including chemical or metal toxicity in the body
Neurological inflammation symptoms include:
- OCD behaviors
- Disturbing thoughts
- Lack of concentration “Brain fog”
- Loss of memory
- Poor judgment
- Anger mood swings
- Poor problem-solving
- Depressive disorders
Common neurological inflammation disorders include Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, MS (Multiple Sclerosis), ALS (Amyotrphic Lateral Sclerosis), Myasthenia gravis, Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE), and autism. Migraine headaches are also directly linked to mild to intense neurological inflammation.
The moment these types of excitotoxins first hit the market, many research scientist have been sounding the alarm. In the first truly damning study way back in 1957, where a set of curious researchers conducted experiments to see if glutamate could help treat a diseased retina. They fed glutamic acid to rats in the form of MSG. the results shocked them. The retinal cells were wiped off as if they were hit by a thunderstorm. These findings were reported in an obscure opthamology journal, where nobody paid attention and everything was quickly forgotten.
Despite this issue being silently swept under the medical rug, these opthamology studies were in no way trivial. On the contrary, they were mind blowing, and should have been show-stoppers.
“Initial studies carried out on mice showed that MSG quickly destroyed the cells in the retina of the rat’s eyes,”. Further studies in this topic showed that this applied to the entire brain. One MSG dose could quickly destroy sensitive cells based in hypothalamus, which is a small organ in the brain vital for hormonal function and directing many other processes in the body.”
Many experts don’t believe that excitotoxins are directly responsible for some neurological diseases like Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, but research does shows that excitotoxins do increase one’s susceptibility to them. Furthermore, some research shows that excitotoxins can cause seizures, migraines, blurred vision, neurological disorders, overeating, increased appetite, reproductive disorders and infertility, cancer, impaired brain function, and even heart and cardiovascular damage. And some researchers speculate that up to 87 percent of migraines could be directly linked to exposure to excitotoxins and many other additives, and to some other food allergies.
Infants, children in utero, and young kids who’re in development phase are more prone to damage from exposure to excitotoxins. The younger the child, the higher are the chances of damage. This is particularly significant when you consider the number of pregnant women who get these kinds of chemicals in the processed food items they eat.
FDA has turned a Blind Eye, Deaf Ear
Despite so much of truly shocking research and tireless efforts of many, the FDA has been staunchly resisting taking any action against MSG or aspartame. In fact, FDA has even resisted any effort to require better food labeling for excitotoxins. Even after the research showed the harmful effects of excitotoxins, the food companies continued to use MSG, and FDA took no steps to halt the potential damage to the babies….until Congress intervened. So now companies don’t use MSG, but hydrolyzed vegetable protein instead.
This means most food companies know the truth and are deliberately adding these types of harmful chemicals to their food to somehow stimulate your hunger and disturb your natural appetite control. And they’re doing all this with the full complicity of the FDA, the agency that has the responsibility of protecting the public from this kind of health-harming and profit-driven manipulation. Yet, it’s a reality that research against these excitotoxins is too longstanding and too compelling to be ignored.
Dr. Carolyn Dean is a nutrition expert, medical doctor, and also an author of Future Health Now Encyclopedia. She feels the root cause of the problem is the mindset of American food industry. It’s impossible for them to discard excitotoxins in the food. Instead, they tell us and the FDA that excitotoxins are completely safe for us. Unfortunately, most of the research on excitotoxins in the United States is fully funded by the companies that use excitotoxins in ther products, a clear conflict of interest. Some critics are convinced that FDA itself is strongly influenced by these blatant Food industry’s lies.
It’s a fact that way back in 1981, the FDA’s own doctors recommended that aspartame should never be approved based on the conclusions of studies of mice that exhibited brain tumors. Dr. Adrian Gross (former FDA toxicologist) has testified before the Senate on the aspartame issue, “It’s clear from the tests that aspartame has induced cancer in laboratory animals.” Unfortunately, his testimony didn’t make any difference and all his recommendations fell on deaf ears.
Today, this toxic substance, just like MSG, is perfectly legal in the US.
A Close Look at the Toxins in the foods
According to world famous retired neurosurgeon, Russel Baylock, also the author of “Excitotoxins:The Tate That Kills” excitotoxins such as aspartame and MSG are widely used in liberal quantities different types of foods.
In the US, over 137 million people use different types of sweeteners daily. Headaches is also the number one complaint. Many companies make fortunes using these ingredients quickly formed Glutamate Association to keep MSG and many other sweeteners on the market. This association has been highly successful in lobbying and the situation is that today they don’t even have to list MSG on the labels unless they are using pure MSG! Anything that is mixed with MSG can be hidden from the ingredients list. Many natural flavorings, spices, and artificial flavorings contain up to 65 percent MSG without telling you!
Many foods contain these toxic ingredients at the levels which can quickly become toxic for your body. It’s not possible for you to eliminate every exictotoxn source. However, we do need lower levels of glutamate for optimal brain function. Its higher levels needs to be stopped to prevent excessive inflammation, stimulation, and risk of various neurodegenerative diseases.
Excitotoxic food ingredients
- Autolyzed yeast
- Autolyzed anything
- Autolyzed yeast extract
- Calcium caseinate
- Carrageenan (or vegetable gum)
- Chicken/pork/beef “base”
- Disodium guanylate
- Disodium caseinate
- Chicken/pork/beef “flavoring”
- Dough conditioner(s)
- Disodium inosinate
- Guar gum
- Hydrolyzed anything
- Hydrolyzed plant protein
- Hydrolyzed oat flour
- Hydrolyzed protein
- Kombu extract
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Malt extractMalt flavoring(s)
- Malted barely flour
- Malted anything
- Malted barley/barley malt
- Soy protein
- Soy extract
- Soy protein concentrate
- Soy sauce
- Soy protein isolate
- Spice mixes that contain glutamate or MSG as an ingredient
- Whey protein isolate
- Whey protein
- Textured protein Vegetable gum
- Whey protein concentrate
- Yeast extract
- Meat flavorings (chicken, beef etc.)
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Natural flavoring(s)
- Natural flavor(s)
- Plant protein extract 1-cysteine
- Seasoning(s) or spices
- Seasoned salt
- Smoke flavoring(s)
- Soup base
- Sodium caseinate
Protect Yourself From This Toxic Excitement
If you love natural foods, you may be thinking you’re avoiding exposure to harmful excitotoxins, but that’s just not the case.
Today, there are more than 75 excitotoxins used in most processed and packaged foods, including sauces, soups, frozen dinners, gravy mixes, beverages, diet foods, chips, and fast foods. The main culprits are aspartame, MSG, hydrolyzed protein, cysteine, and aspartic acid.
Unfortunately, there are more than 30 different names of MSG on food labels, including the simple and harmless-sounding word, “spice”. You can easily find list of hidden excitotoxin names on the Internet.
So, for now, it’s impossible for us to rely on these so-called “watchdog” agencies like FDA to keep these excitotoxins out of food and out dinner tables. It’s best to actively screen your purchases. This can happen only with compulsive label reading to quickly spot excitotoxins in all their guises, including harmless-sounding “natural flavoring” listed on many popular organic vegetable stock brands, and upscale, natural salad dressings.
Once you start reading the labels, it becomes easy for you to avoid these chemicals. And remember, the way we spend our money is often the best form of protest.
Production depends on consumer demand and if that nosedives, so does the production. That means, you can force a change. But if you feel that kind of change is not possible, you can still try to protect yourself and your loved ones.
By far, the easiest way to avoid excitotoxins is to avoid all kinds of processed foods and keep reading your labels obsessively. Once you identify the offending products, you can easily cross them off your shopping list and turn to better alternatives. For instance, stevia or raw honey is a good sweetener, and you can easily bring them with you when you eat out.
In addition, nutritionists — including Lippman — recommend several natural supplements you can take to increase your body’s ability to protect itself from excitotoxins, including magnesium (500-700g daily), omega-3 fatty acids, red clover, and, of course, antioxidants. One-eighth or one-quarter teaspoon of good sea salt in every 18 ounces of water that you drink is best because that gives you a good amount of 75 trace minerals.
Even if you’re raising your voice for some political action, and still no one is listening, you should never give up. You can at least control what you can choose to buy and ingest. Money definitely speaks, and so do your intentions. The best way to stop this flood of excitotoxins from your food supply is by withholding your dollars from this toxic marketing scheme.
Foods You need to avoid as they can damage your nerves
- Enzyme modified foods
- Fermented foods
- Protein fortified foods
- Ultra-pasteurized foods
- Vitamin enriched foods
- Foods that contain corn syrup
- Foods with milk solids
- Barbeque sauce
- Some baked goods from bakeries
- Body building protein mixes
- Any kind of Boullion
- Bottled spaghetti sauce
- Canned soups (some brands)
- Canned refried beans
- Oysters, Canned and smoked tuna, clams
- Canned, frozen, or dry potpies and entrees
- Candy bars/Chili sauce Chocolates
- Certain brands of hot dogs/cold cuts
- Corn chips (some brands)
- Dough conditioners
- Citric acid (when its processed from corn)
- Flavored chips (certain brands)
- Flavored teas, sodas
- Whey powder or dried milk
- Egg substitutes
- Fresh and frozen pizza
- Flowing agents
- Frostings and fillings
- Fresh produce that is sprayed with Auxigro, instead you should choose organically grown produce
- Fried chicken from all fast food sources
- Gravy Master
- Instant soup mixes/Stocks Kombu extract
- Low-fat Diet foods
- Many salad dressings/Croutons
- Most salty, powdered dry food mixes
- Non-dairy creamers
- Parmesan cheese
- Powdered soup and sauce mixes (certain brands)
- Salted peanuts (few brands)
- Some bagged vegetables and salads
- Some peanut butter varieties
- Processed cheese spread
- Ramen noodles
- Skim, non-fat, 1%, 2%, or dry milk
- Supermarket chicken and turkey (injected)
- Some spices
- Soy sauce
- Some table salts
- Tofu and other fermented soy products
- Stewed tomatoes/tomato sauce
- Whipped cream topping substitutes
- Sausages/cold cuts/processed meats
- Restaurant gravy from food service cans
- Restaurant soups made using food service Soup base
- Seasoned anything
- Worcestershire sauce Xanthan gum/other “gums”
What’s the Best Brain Nourishing Diet for you?
Any diet that helps in reducing the excitotoxin levels and nuroinflammation will help. Even with the long list of foods that contain excitotoxins, you can still find many natural and organic foods which you can eat. It’s all about choosing the right ones.
The decision to alter your diet depends on you. But if you want to improve your health you will have to eliminate all these foods. The main reason is that they cause over stimulation leading to host of medical issues that can become difficult for you to handle. There is no need to completely eliminate the foods on the above mentioned list. It’s simply not possible. Just choose wisely, is my advice.
Our brain runs on a highly delicate biochemical balance. Exitotoxins can disrupt this balance when you consume them in excess. All those who get migraines (including risk groups) are prone to neuronal “excitability” so they need to choose what they should eat as this can affect their migraines.
Start by reducing excitotoxin intake for about 5 weeks in a row. See how well you feel. Use dietary resources and cookbooks available online to plan your meals for the next 3 weeks and see what difference it makes for you.
Blaycock, Russell. “Excitotoxins: The Taste That Kills.” Sante Fe, New Mexico: Health 1997.
Yasko, A. “Autism: Pathways To Recovery”. Neurological Research Institute. 2004.
Peroutka, Stephen J. (October 2005). “Neurogenic inflammation and migraine: implications for the therapeutics”. Molecular Interventions (Mol Interv.) 5 (5): 304–311. doi:10.1124/mi.5.5.10. PMID 16249526.