If you have negative reactions to MSG, slowly cooked protein, pressure cooked protein, or fermented foods, you might have glutamate sensitivity. If you have a neurological or psychiatric condition (anxiety, sleep disorders, epilepsy are all examples), you might have glutamate dominance.
In a previous episode, I discussed the possibility that oxaloacetate supplementation could help. In this episode, I discuss five more things to try: GABA, glycine, vitamin B6, magnesium, and electrolytes (salt and potassium-rich foods).
Here is the older episode on oxaloacetate: https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/2017/05/11/oxaloacetate-supplements-help-glutamate-sensitivity/
This episode is brought to you by Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet. Everything you could ever need to know to optimize your nutrition, all in one place. Easier to find and use than ever before. Get your copy at https://chrismasterjohnphd.com/cheatsheet
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Glutamate. Here are five things to try for glutamate sensitivity and glutamate dominance.
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com, and this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
Glutamate sensitivity is a collection of negative reactions to glutamate in foods, which could consist of MSG, or it could consist of glutamate derived from broken-down proteins, either protein-rich foods that are slowly cooked, pressure-cooked, or fermented foods.
Negative reactions to those foods make glutamate sensitivity a possible explanation. In addition, although there’s no term “glutamate dominance” that’s accepted in the medical field, many neurological and psychiatric conditions ranging from anxiety to bipolar to epilepsy, and in the last episode, sleeping problems potentially I mentioned.
A lot of these things may involve an imbalance of neurotransmitters in the brain that favors glutamate at the expense of the neurotransmitters that balance it, such as GABA and glycine. So what can we doin these situations to try to help? Well, here are five things to try. Keep in mind that these don’t have rigorous science behind them. These are based on how does the system work and what might we suggest as possible things to try that might help.
The first of these is GABA supplements. GABA supplements are controversial in terms of whether they make it into the brain and in terms of whether the effects that are demonstrated are a result of acting in the brain or even in somewhere like the gut. Nevertheless, there are doses that have positive neurological benefits ranging from 100 to 800 milligrams per day. It’s probably safe to experiment with significantly higher doses because 3 to 5 grams per day have been used to boost growth hormone levels, and in one very old study that’s in a textbook that I’ve not been able to read, used 0.8 grams per kilogram bodyweight in children with epilepsy.
A 75-kilogram person, which is 154 pounds, would be using over 60 grams of GABA to get the bodyweight-adjusted dose of that. So I wouldn’t recommend using doses anywhere near that, but I think if you start with 750 milligrams a day, which is the typical capsule or tablet on the market, you could try that before bed if you have trouble sleeping, or you could try it before a meal if you react to what might be glutamate in those foods, and I think it’s safe to increase that to a dose of several times a day as well. Always start small with anything and work your way up and pull back if you notice adverse consequences, but there doesn’t seem to be any safety concerns of using several capsules per day.
The second thing to try is vitamin B6. Vitamin B6 helps us convert glutamate into GABA. That reduces glutamate and raises GABA levels. Although it seems like we shouldn’t need more than 5 or 10 milligrams of vitamin B6, there are some people who need higher doses to resolve certain symptoms. The ideal form to take is pyridoxal-5-phosphate, or P5P. I would start at a dose of 5 to 10 milligrams in most cases, but some people need 30 milligrams or more. Some people need as much as a 100 milligrams to get the full benefits. I would not ever go above 100 milligrams without consulting medical supervision. And I would warn that in some cases, the effects of vitamin B6, especially at high doses, sometimes seem to wear off, and I don’t know why that is. So, some of my consulting clients, for example, have used high-dose B6 to get initial benefits for sleep that then they wind up losing after a couple weeks. So it’s not a panacea.
The third thing to try is glycine. Along with GABA, glycine is the other major inhibitory neurotransmitter that is needed to balance glutamate. In some parts of the nervous system,GABA is more important. In others glycine is more important. Pure glycine, it has been used in doses of 3 to 5 grams with each meal to help with blood sugar, in doses of 3 grams before bed to help with sleep, and in doses of 20 grams to help with certain rare metabolic disorders, and in doses of 60 grams to help with schizophrenia. I would not use these very high doses listed at the end without medical supervision in the context of treating a medical condition. But on your own, given those doses, it seems very safe to experiment with levels of 3 to 5 grams per meal. I would again start slow. Start with something like 3 grams per day. If you don’t have any adverse effects, you can work your way up, but see if you get increasing benefit. If you’re responding specifically to glutamate in foods, it makes sense to try the glycine before the meal. If you’re trying to improve your sleep, it makes sense to use it before bedtime.
The fourth thing to try is magnesium. There is a subclass of glutamate receptors for which magnesium is the off switch.That means that for a given amount of glutamate, if magnesium is deficient, that glutamate might turn on all those receptors, but when magnesium is there, it’s the off switch that balances that glutamate, so you get much lower rates of activation than you would in a state of deficiency. For magnesium I would use magnesium glycinate. In most cases you kill two birds with one stone there because you’re getting some extra glycine. And I would limit it to 300 milligrams a day unless you’re testing your magnesium status and verifying that you need more. So ideally I’d spread it out between meals. So for example, 100 milligrams of magnesium per meal and three meals. And if you’re going to use higher doses, I would measure your serum, red blood cell, and ideally also urine magnesium to really assess whether you need more magnesium and to make sure that that magnesium is getting into your cells and to make sure that you’re not peeing out all your magnesium, in which case you might want to address the reason why.
The fifth thing that I would try is electrolytes. Sodium, potassium, and chloride are all important for the balance of these neurotransmitters. They help clear away excess glutamate, and they also help these neurotransmitters fulfill their actual functions in the brain. You can get that by eating a potassium-rich diet and salting your food to taste. Only 2% of Americans meet the RDA for potassium. I’ll do another episode in the future on how to get enough potassium, but for now, I would say focus on potassium-rich foods, not potassium supplements.
And you could track your data in a food tracking app to see where you are in terms of the RDA and try to move closer to the RDA by improving the potassium-rich foods in your diet. Salting your food to taste can be very important because many people are afraid of salt. Some people have a rise in blood pressure in response to salt. If your blood pressure is too high and your blood pressure increases in response to salt, that’s a good reason to not follow this recommendation. But for most people, especially anyone who doesn’t have problems with high blood pressure, salting your food to taste is an excellent way to make sure you are getting enough sodium and chloride into your diet. If you’re worried about blood pressure, just monitor your blood pressure. As long as you’re not getting a rise in blood pressure and you’re not getting any kind of edema, swelling, or water retention, it’s safe to increase salt.
The audio of this episode was enhanced and post-processed by Bob Davodian of Taurean Mixing. You can find more of his work at taureanonlinemixing.com.
This episode is brought to you by Testing Nutritional Status: The Ultimate Cheat Sheet. Everything you could ever need to know to optimize your nutrition all in one place. Easier to find and use than ever before. Get your copy at chrismasterjohnphd.com/cheatsheet.
All right, I hope you found this useful. Signing off, this is Chris Masterjohn. This has been Chris Masterjohn Lite.
And I will see you in the next episode.