Anxiety, Palpitations, Perimenopause and MSG.

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If you read my last post about Chef’s hospitalisation, you’ll know that I wasn’t feeling too good. I’d even asked at the pharmacy for Xanax, I felt that bad. I was experiencing palpitations, shortness of breath ( probably through anxiety), headaches, hot flushes and a few other things that I didn’t mention. All these symptoms could easily be explained by perimenopause, something I most certainly am in the middle of. We have another post on experiences of travel during perimenopause. This post is about MSG and how I think it made my symptoms worse.

Nothing here is medical advice, this post is about personal experience and how I cope.


I’m generally in good health for a 47 year old, I had bloods done recently for thyroid, diabetes, cholesterol, all that was good and an ECG 2 years ago was fine. It’s not long ago that I was running half marathons for fun. So this was weird.

Do I have anxiety? Yes, diagnosed a few years ago. I was prescribed medication but a second doctor advised me to not take it, so I didn’t. In travel there is a lot of anxiety, I try to manage it through breathing and my mantra – ” Right here, right now, everything is fine.”. It works. It works mostly for flying, even those terrifying flights into Lukla, it works for scary suspension bridges, sometimes. It helps not much with my packing anxiety.

I’ve been fighting these symptoms as best I can, with exercise, relaxation, good diet, all those things that Oprah would tell you to do. I’m not a fan of doctors but if things hadn’t improved, I would have gone.

I thought back to a couple of weeks ago, I was totally relaxed, felt great, no problems. One of the differences was, we were eating in a different place. I thought maybe the lovely view and relaxation of those long lunches would help, so we’ve switched back to eating in that restaurant ( My Way).

I began to feel better. This morning I noticed something on the menu.

We do not use MSG in the preparation of your food.

Could that be it? Could I be MSG sensitive?

I Googled. All of the symptoms I have been experiencing could be down to MSG intolerance. ( Side effects of MSG here) Including a very weird numbness and tingling in my face and scalp that I’ve had a few times this week.

I’m not 100% better since we switched back to eating at My Way, but I’m 85% better. I’ve been hiking up a very steep hill every morning, that could be helping too. It could be coincidence, but I just wanted to put it out there. MSG is widely used in Asia, particularly in Thailand and Vietnam and could be causing you problems. I used to believe that people who fussed over MSG were a bit paranoid, it’s a naturally occurring substance. Maybe I was wrong.

UPDATE : We hit MSG problems again in Vietnam. There’s more on this in our Hoi An section. We got to know which Hoi An restaurants didn’t use MSG fast.

What do you think.  Anybody else had weird symptoms while travelling?

No more posts about being sick for a while I hope! Lots of fun to come. Once Chef is back on his feet we’ve got Malaysia, Legoland and Sri Lanka to look forward to and now I’m well I’m enjoying Ko Phangan again. What a crappy week we’ve had!

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About the author
Alyson Long
Alyson Long is a British medical scientist who jumped ship to chase dreams. A former Chief Biomedical Scientist at London's West Middlesex Hospital she started in website creation and travel writing in 2011. Alyson is a full-time blogger and travel writer, a published author, and owns several websites. World Travel Family is the biggest. A lifetime of wanderlust and over 6 years of full-time travel, plus a separate 12 month gap year, has given Alyson and the family some travel expert smarts to share with you on this world travel site. Today Alyson still travels extensively to update this site and continue her mission to visit every country, but she's often at home on her farm in Australia.

24 thoughts on “Anxiety, Palpitations, Perimenopause and MSG.”

  1. Always avoid MSG. It accumulates in your brain and kills brain cells, and weakens and injures your nervous system. Search up Medical Medium and MSG or here is link for Medical Medium info on MSG

  2. Yes , i get anxiety from msg. One time i ate at jack in the box and i went home and flipped out. I was pacing like a dog at the pound! My pupils were huge . And the next day i was at a chinese restuarant and suddenly felt so gnarly like i was under demonic possesion it was obvious to me what it was. Couldnt sleep for a week. So i have started avoiding any fast food places and i still get normal anxiety but after a few deep breaths it goes away. But msg causes a long sorrowful feeling. I hate it. Last week i ate a roast beef sandwich and im still detoxing. I dont care what anyone says, this stuff is junk and probably contributes to why the world is mad, anxious and aggressive.

    • I don’t know if I put it in the post yet but I was talking to a Vietnamese woman and she said there are different kinds of MSG. The good stuff doesn’t affect her but the cheap stuff from China does. I’ve not had it in a long time, we check everything for MSG these days.

  3. Just saw this post. I am sure you are feeling better now, Alyson! Otherwise, lots of fluids, rest and let it pass out of your system as quickly as possible.

    I am Asian and my family are all sensitive to MSG. I can tell it’s in a dish or not from just one bite. My family (my husband and I with two kids) just spent 2 years traveling the world to 30 countries and the first phrases we learned in every new language was always “Please do not add MSG”! Don’t worry, even some Asians can’t tolerate MSG. And it’s bad anyway. So just ask.

    • What I do now Annie is just use a translator app on my phone and type in something like ” If I eat MSG I will die!!!” Very handy in Vietnam 🙂

      • What a good idea. I have gotten suoer bad anxiety from tumeric. I read some 1 star reviews on amazon and i am not the only one. Turmeric is worse than msg.

  4. Hi Alyson,

    After feeling good for two weeks in Thailand, I am experiencing similar symptoms now that we are in Luang Prabang. I had recalled you wrote about this and found your entry. So yeah, heart palpitations, nervousness, my teeth feel weird….sort of tight. My hub thinks it’s from slight dehydration which I admit to falling prey to very easily, but I’m not sure. I saw the woman making my omelette put some kind of powder into it so I’m thinking it’s pretty common. All I know is how uncomfortable this feels. Upping my water, electrolyte powders and coconut waters and will see if this helps. Also may have to stay away from street food…sigh….here’s to feeling better for all of us.

  5. Thank you so much for this post. I just came across it via one of your other posts and clicked through. We are in Phuket now and I also started feeling nauseas, headaches, rash you name it and didnt know what it was then one of the russian locals told me they dont eat the Thai food because of a chemical they put in, I quickly found out it was MSG.

    My problem now is this, I cant eat any Thai street food because I dont know how to tell them to leave the MSG out. What do they call it here ?

    Or what do we do now food wise, it gets expensive only eating western food ? Bianca

    • I’ve found many Thai restaurants that say ” MSG free” or similar on the menu. We don’t eat a lot of street food, I’d rather sit down, but when we do I’ve not had any problems. I guess because , if it’s there, it’s a little bit, not in every meal, every day for weeks on end. Last year in Thailand, for 6 weeks, I had no problems at all. Our favourite place to eat in Chiang Mai was MSG free, but I ate everywhere else and never even thought to check to be honest. It’s by no means in everything, your Russian is wrong.

  6. Magnesium! I have all of these things too and Magnesium fixed me up! Also Iron too.

  7. Anxiety doesn’t come out of the blue. When you have anxiety attacks, it’s often because your mind has a tendency to spiral into negative thoughts often without your control. Sometimes you can control this anxiety by keeping these thoughts at bay, and learning to dismiss triggers that cause you anxiety.

  8. Hello – I don’t know what to think of it. In 2006, when traveling with our three children in Brasil I suddenly got panic-attacks. I didn’t know what was happening – my husband and I were freaking out and I thought I was going to die… When we came back to France the neurologist said it was common anxiety. We never really knew why this happened to me, but we felt it was somehow related to what I ate. We thought it was the hormones in the meat – but having read your post, I wonder whether it is not MGM. It still happens to me every now and then …
    Anyhow, I love your blog. I could share some of our experiences too : we have travelled the world with three kids (they are teenagers now) on a tight budget. We swapped houses a few times and loved it. It is easier to swap houses with westerners though – the common cultural background makes it easier to understand eachother!

  9. Wow, that’s interesting. I’ve heard people complain about MSG but never knew exactly what it did. So glad you’ve discovered the cause of your symptoms and it’s turned out to be an easy fix. How’s the chef feeling?

  10. I get headaches from MSG and could tell as soon as it was in the food.
    The biggest surprise to me was my return to the USA and found that I was gluten sensitive. I felt so much better on the trip in parts of the world that use little gluten. When I returned home and began feeling sick the doctors quickly spotted gluten as a trigger. If it had not been for travel we wouldn’t have noticed it so quickly.

    We are a society that is so far removed from what is natural that it’s hard to spot what can effect us. One of the added benefits of traveling is that it can highlight these things that might go unnoticed in day to day home life. Glad you started feeling better.

  11. Wow! Thanks for sharing this. I also have facial numbness and tingling as well as palpitations. MSG would never have occurred to be (or my neurologist it seems!) I don’t eat chinese often, and this is the only place I have heard it mentioned. A quick google for a food list has me amazed at how many have MSG in them! Definitely worth taking a look. Thank you for sharing. I hope you start to feel better.

  12. Interesting. I have had reactions similar to what you’ve described, including facial numbness, heart palpitations and asthma, in the past to ‘severe’ MSG used in some Chinese restaurants when I lived in Vancouver. But we too used to eat almost nightly in the same restaurant on KPN that you did and didn’t experience any of those symptoms. Have they changed the cook recently??

    • Jess I know you know this place, so I can tell you that when certain people are on, the food is terrible. My Way is way better. We’ve eaten here solidly for 2 weeks so we can see a difference.

  13. My mother has the exact same allergic reaction to MSG (flavour enhancer 621) The first time was on a flight between Singapore and Schipol, another siting in a restaurant in Bali and another serious one in a restaurant in Perth, not to mention others along the way. The most recent one in Perth had us take her to the hospital as the symptoms were very much like a cross between an anxiety attack and a heart attack. Since putting two and two together and avoiding MSG the attacks have deminished. Good luck!!

    • Strange you should comment now as I’ve just, for the first time in years, started having MSG problems again. This time in Vietnam, again, we’ve been eating at the same restaurant for weeks. It’s certainly a thing and makes my husband and I feel unwell.

  14. I’ve not had anything that can be explained by MSG, having had a quick look at your link. My metabolism was all over the place when I went home (to the UK from Malaysia) for a week (my daughter had a baby so went to play grandmas) – but two months after that it all fell apart – glandular fever, severe enough to send me home.


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