Excitotoxins #4 How MSG Kills Brain Cells

June 14, 2010Excitotoxins #4 How MSG Kills Brain Cells Source:  Excitotoxins by Russell Blaylock MD Competency: Brain Health This sounds really gruesome.  Sorry.  It's what we need to know to understand this mystery.  This might be one of the keys to unlocking the story of why we are having so many neurological diseases in America today.  My immediate family has had one case of Alzheimer’s, one case of Parkinson’s, one case of ALS.  Many of you share this tragedy too. Here are the nuts and bolts of it.  Glutamate is one of our most abundant brain neurotransmitters.  It passes on an impulse from one cell to another.   To function properly, glutamate has to be soaked back up again or else the next neuron keeps firing.  Glutamate, and it's analogs aspartate and cysteine, are excitatory transmitters.  They turn cells on.  When they get turned on too high because of too much glutamate surrounding them they fire and fire and fire, and then die.  But not only do they die, but the cells attached to them die too.  To control that deadly chain reaction, our brain cells are surrounded by nurse cells (glial cells) that soak up extra glutamate and get it out of the synapse space with a pumping mechanisms.  Just like the sump pump in your house, it pumps out the extra glutamate.  Your sump will only work if the electricity is on.  What happens if the electricity goes off?  What happens if your brain becomes low on energy and can’t “pump”.  Try low blood sugar, hypoglycemia.  Disaster! Within about 30 minutes of being exposed to too much mono sodium glutamate, a neuron begins to swell up and die.  This occurs if you expose a nerve cell to a very high dose in a petri dish, or in an animal with the MSG injected into their abdomen.  But what about a lower dose?  Well, the same thing will happen, it just takes a little longer.  For the first two hours, the cell looks normal.  Then, at hour 3-6 it starts to swell and just takes a little longer to die.  It turns out these are two different mechanisms.  the first one is based on too much sodium getting into the cell.  The delayed reaction was based on too much calcium.  Two completely different ways for the cell to die.  No wonder these nerve cells get damaged by glutamate.  Our brains, in becoming the incredibly sophisticated computers that they are, are delicately balanced between the means to run the computer, and toxicity from too much glutamate.  It's the calcium channel that's the most important.  It's that low dose for a long time that jams the calcium channel open and lets calcium just flood into the nerve cell.  The nerve cell can't handle it.  It just slowly wears the cells out, and eventually we can’t replace those dying cells. The implications of this are big.  A low level of glutamate or aspartate will jam open your calcium channels in your brain cells and let calcium flow in.  Your brain cell tries to cope and fights back.  You pump calcium out.  Back and forth, back and forth.  They you get a slight other injury to your brain.  You get a viral infection and a fever.  Your blood brain barrier weakens.  You eat a little less.  Your blood sugar falls.  You don't have as much energy to pump out the extra glutamate.  You go to the store and get some comfort food to feel better while you are sick.  How about some nice chicken noodle soup.  You don’t look at the ingredients on the can label.......  You get a headache and feel awful.  It must be the virus.  You call into work and say you can't come in.  Your thinking doesn't feel right.    Bunches of cells in your swollen hypothalamus couldn't agree more.  They are dying of too much glutamate and calcium.  They don't feel right either.  You didn’t read the label on the can. As cells die in your brain, you release a cascade of events in which you set up inflammation to clean up the dead cells.  You release all sorts of free radicals that are like fire crackers inside the neurons in your brain, firing off and damaging membranes left and right.  There are some chemicals that can help slow down that runaway domino rampage.  Vit C and E are pretty good at neutralizing those reactions.  Magnesium, selenium and zinc seem to help turn off that stuck calcium channel. Not all brain cells.  Just half of your forebrain cells have glutamate receptors.  Just half.  It's just those that get the toxicity.  For those of us who would like to hang onto that half, glutamate toxicity is an issue.  What to do?  How to be safe? WWW: What will Work for Me?  We need to understand our environment, how our brains work.  And then, where are the hidden sources of glutamate.  That's coming.  Do you get a headache when you eat or drink MSG or aspartate (diet soda)?  Have you googled “hidden names for MSG” and printed off the sheet from the internet?  Have you changed your buying habits and not buying any MSG?  How about aspartate? Next week.