The Long List

For a long time, I’ve been sending people to the hidden sources list of MSG, or free glutamic acid (FGA), foods.  Even for me, that list is quite overwhelming, and there are items on there that we’ve never had issues with, or have never seen in the United States.

How do you know how strict to be? What ingredients you have to watch out for depends on how sensitive you are. For my son, however, this is the list of things I watch for, roughly in order of severity.  As I’ve written previously, I look for certain words first, and I’ll put those at the top of the list with some of the most common examples.

One idea I’ve heard that I like a lot is the “word a week” diet, where each week, you start paying attention to one more item on the list.  (It’s almost like looking for red cars — much easier to spot when you are focused on just one).

Ingredients containing Free Glutamic Acid

  • Anything “glutamate”: MSG, glutamic acid (sometimes found in supplements)
  • Carrageenen (some people avoid guar, vegetable and other gums, but they don’t bother us)
  • “Yeast”: Autolyzed yeast, Yeast nutrient , Yeast extract, Yeast food, and plain “Yeast” unless it’s bread/pizza
  • any “Protein” on a label: Hydrolyzed protein, Textured protein, protein isolate, soy protein, whey protein
  • Maltodextrin
  • L-Cysteine (dough conditioner usually found in bagels, breads even by specialty bakeries)
  • Other “malts”: Barley malt, Malt extract, Malt flavoring, Malt syrup
  • Modified starch
  • Evaporated or condensed milk
  • Natural Chicken, Beef, or Pork Flavoring
  • Boullion, “broth” (homemade stock is ok for us, but more sensitive people react)
  • Anything “caseinate”
  • Disodium anything
  • Hydrolized anything
  • Aluminum (technically doesn’t contain FGA but makes FGA reactions much, much worse)
  • “Wheat Gluten”
  • “Spice”, “Seasoning” – This is a tricky one and can be just a grouping for real herbs and spices, or deliberately hidden FGA. If the label lists a bunch of herbs, then later lists one of these, I’m highly suspicious; after all, if it listed oregano, paprika, garlic, sage, followed by, “spices”, what’s left?  I am particularly suspicious if it is singular.
  • Soy sauce — unless the ingredients are separated out, we don’t use soy sauce.  Many people say all soy sauce has FGA, but we don’t see a reaction to Kikkoman or other brands that list their ingredients as “soybeans, wheat, water, salt”.  It’s only when other ingredients, such as soy protein, are added that I’ve seen a reaction.
  • * Caramel color
  • * Dextrose, Dextrates
  • * Milk Powder, Dry Milk Solids, Whey, Non-fat milk
  • * Natural flavor in savory foods, such as chips, crackers, etc
  • * Malted Barley Flour (found in many white flours that you might think are wheat)

* These are ingredients that “build up” for us so a little can be tolerated infrequently.

All Artificial sweeteners

  • aspartame/Nutrasweet
  • sucralose/Splenda
  • acesulfame K

Items we don’t avoid, but probably should…we just haven’t seen acute reactions to them, and haven’t had the energy to remove them entirely:

  • Protease enzymes, Anything enzyme modified
  • Ultra-pasteurized dairy products
  • Flowing Agents
  • Natural flavor in non-savory foods
  • Artificial flavor
  • Pectin
  • Annatto
  • Gums (guar and vegetable)
  • Citric acid
  • Corn syrup, rice syrup
  • Gelatin — we haven’t seen FGA reactions to gelatin by itself, but as a food, it messes with blood sugar, and hypoglycemia makes FGA reactions worse.  The list above says gelatin always has FGA; here’s another opinion: .

Note: Sugar doesn’t interact with FGA, but low blood sugar does. Hypoglycemia increases the FGA reaction.

One more note…I have to get this pet peeve off my chest. There is a trend toward listing a “sanitized” ingredient list on the front of the package of natural foods, wheras the real ingredient list is on the back in small print. I recently saw crackers that said something like, “Organic wheat flour, baking powder, and salt with a touch of rosemary,” but on the back it had both wheat and white flour as well as three different hidden FGA ingredients.  Don’t be fooled!


  1. Eating That Elephant » Blog Archive » Eliminating Excitotoxins:

    […] The Long List – All the glutamates and excitotoxins we avoid […]

  2. Lynne D'Agostino:

    Have followed your posts on Yasko board. I, too, have been sick for a long time without a definitive diagnosis. Psychiatric problems intertwined with physical. I am COMT ++. I have just read some of your blog. Beautifullly set up with some helpful and inspiring messages. I also love horses and used to ride. But have been too sick to do much outside the home. I would like to follow your blog and set one up for myself(just to get some of my feelings out) Perhaps you could give me some pointers if time allows.

    Metta(which means I am sending you loving kindness)


  3. Lisa:

    Hi Lynne,

    Not sure if you will see this but there is a “subscribe” link in the right sidebar. To set up your own blog, try – it’s pretty easy.

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