MSG, Migraine, and New Treatments

A new study is giving us further insight into the migraine-MSG connection, and may be another step to better migraine treatment in the future.

Recently we talked about a non-traditional migraine treatment – ketamine. Ketamine is a NMDA (N-methyl-D-aspartate) receptor antagonist, which means that it blocks a certain receptor that plays a part in the migraine chain-reaction. Memantine is another example.

Migraine is actually a complex web of cause and effect. So various treatments attack various parts of the migraine system.

MSG: Why does it trigger migraine attacks?What does all this have to do with MSG? MSG, or monosodium glutamate, is a common additive to foods which seems to trigger migraine symptoms in some people. Researchers in Canada decided to investigate further. In a report published in Neuroscience in October, they explained that MSG given to rats actually activates peripheral NMDA receptors, leading to migraine symptoms.

This may be another bit of evidence telling us to avoid MSG, but it’s actually much more than that.

It further confirms what scientists have suspected for many years – the NMDA receptors can play a key role in migraine disease. And so it may be that NMDA receptor antagonists are worth more serious research.

While older drugs like ketamine may help some patients, the side effects put them a long way down the list for most people. But if we could develop a similar drug with fewer side effects, it could help a lot of people who, up to this point, have not found a good treatment.

For more interesting information about NMDA receptors, and the connection between epilepsy and migraine, see Common Pathophysiologic Mechanisms in Migraine and Epilepsy. For more on how to spot MSG in foods, see The 12 Top MSG Offenders.

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