Soy Sauce (Free Glutamate) and Hypomania

Before our food journey, sometimes both of us would get horrible migraines at the same time soon after eating out. We thought it must be too much MSG and would avoid the place thereafter. We learned a bit more about ourselves and about MSG when we started a food chemical elimination diet.

The main thing being while MSG (monosodium glutamate) is the artificial form, there are plenty of natural sources of free glutamate, which act identically in the body. This might be why sensitivity to MSG by itself has not been proven.

At the end of the elimination diet we did a free glutamate challenge, actually a soy sauce challenge in our case. We each had a tablespoon with our meal. Mate had a headache for a couple of days. I was expecting migraine as well but instead I felt my whole body was abuzz, pulsing as if I’m running. I didn’t get a wink of sleep that night, wasn’t even tired. Next day still going and barely two hours of sleep, the third day still less than four hours of sleep, finally by the fourth day I came back to somewhat normal. I slept just six hours in three days with no bowel movement either. Suspiciously like hypomania.

I thought about why I didn’t get migraine as I expected. Most of my migraine episodes happen after exercise or watching a movie. And with the elimination diet they mostly disappeared. So it seems the combination of allergen and overstimulation (by exercise etc.) was the main cause for me. So without any allergen I only felt the overly stimulated body and brain. Free glutamate as excitotoxin explains the parallels to exercise induced allergy symptoms.

Additional Info on Migraine

General migraine info:

Book: Heal Your Headache, David Buchholz, M.D.

Migraines can alter brain structure permanently


Migraine as food allergy:

People with migraines had reactions to food allergens, the most common reaction was to wheat (78%), orange, eggs, tea, coffee, chocolate, milk, beef, corn, cane sugar, and yeast. When 10 foods causing the most reactions were removed migraines fell precipitously, hypertension declined. (Grant EC (1979). “Food allergies and migraine”. Lancet. 1 (8123): 966–9.)

A specific instance attributed to wheat. (Pascual J, Leno C (2005). “A woman with daily headaches”. The Journal of Headache and Pain. 6 (2): 91–2.)

Could a hidden allergy be causing your migraines?

In accordance with my own experience, researchers could not trigger migraine with bright light by itself. I also observed that bright sun light is not itself a trigger but would make throbbing pain worse once the migraine already started.


And a random case I read. Christine H. Lee’s tiny hole in her heart caused her migraine, which was discovered when it caused her stroke.

I Had a Stroke at 33

The hole, or more accurately a flap, is called a patent foramen ovale, or PFO. All fetuses have a hole in their heart between the left and right chambers, to bypass the lungs as they take oxygen from their mother’s blood. Once born, that flap fuses. And once born, nearly a quarter of humans have holes in their hearts that don’t completely close. For some, the hole is severe and needs to be closed immediately. For many others, the hole is undetected. Maybe like I used to, you get migraine headaches, or have altitude sickness at 5,000 feet instead of 10,000 feet, or find yourself panting while doing a slow jog, no matter how often you train.

Migraine Mysteries

Many years ago, I once went to the doctor with complaints about my headaches. He prescribed pain killers and gave a lack luster talk about perhaps keeping a diary to try to find my triggers. It might have been an off day but he just seemed exasperated.

Unfortunately this is a pretty common experience for migraine sufferers. It doesn’t seem that our pain is taken seriously. Well, we now know that migraines are not harmless and can cause long term brain damage. More reason why we shouldn’t just stop at symptom control. There is an underlying cause, though it may be different from person to person, therefore requiring quite a bit of detective work.

Available trigger lists are a starting point but the answer is highly individual.

From casual observance I knew I was likely to get migraine after moderately intense exercise, watching a movie at the theater, and a few random cases after eating out. Generally symptoms were somewhat worse around my period and once migraine starts pain intensified under sun light. I usually had to lie down in a dark quiet room until the next day.

Mate’s cases usually happened after eating out.

In my case, migraine after exercise reduced by nearly 90% when I went gluten free. The other 10% or so disappeared when I eliminated tree nuts, soy, some seeds, and some beans (all seeds of plants, is there something to this??).


In summary our migraine triggers:

Me: food allergies (wheat, tree nuts, soy), combined with exercise/ free glutamate/ other highly stimulating environments (movies at the theater)/ hormones and/or NSAIDs.

Mate: amines? (tyramine, histamine?) mold? (Suspects are fermented soy, fish sauce…)

Both: fresh baked yeast bread

Exercise Woes in the Past

All throughout my teens and twenties jogging caused abdominal pain. I could feel my intestines painfully juggling inside me quite frequently leading to diarrhea. If I jogged everyday, it seemed my body adapted the best it could so this problem would reduce. But, if I even skipped a couple of days the pain would come right back.

Occasionally this led to nearly passing out and vomiting. Understandably some companions were spooked and never asked me to work out together again.

Any exercise with enough intensity to cause me to sweat would make me itch all over.

Uphill hiking, moderate to intense, more than an hour long, would cause additional problems. I would become swollen, pale, and nauseated. At first I thought I was weak and didn’t have endurance, but the odd thing was that I wasn’t out of breath and I was entirely fine the next day when others who seemed fine on the mountain might be suffering from muscle aches and fatigue.

In the recent past, 1/4 of the time I did not feel well enough to exercise, either due to hormones and/or use of NSAIDs*. Out of the 3/4 of the time I could exercise, 1/3 of the time I suffered severe migraine immediately after and 3/3 itchiness.

All these symptoms became a thing of the past once I became aware of my allergies, which truly brought back the joy in moving my body.

* NSAIDs: NonSteroidal Anti-Inflammatory Drugs such as aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), naproxen (Aleve).

Fresh Yeast Attack

This was funny because five people ate the same thing. I made a sweet flatbread, gluten free, leavened with yeast.

After just a couple of bites to taste while frying them up a horrible crushing headache hit so I had to retreat to bed in a dark room even before the others had really started eating. Another person had the worst gas for two days along with headache, blowing our minds about how much gas production is possible from a human being. The other three people had no problem whatsoever. We all have no noticeable problem eating commercial gluten free yeast bread, which most likely were baked more than a few days ago and sometimes even frozen.

I wonder what the mechanism is and haven’t been able to find one yet. If anyone has an explanation for this please share. Some migraine trigger lists have fresh baked yeast bread on it, less than a day old. There must have been enough people with anecdotal evidence for this to be on these lists, to which we are adding our little episode as well.