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(long) very new to this ... connection between seizures & MSG?

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Old 02-06-2003, 05:13 PM   #1
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Posts: 58
twirlygirl HB User
Post (long) very new to this ... connection between seizures & MSG?


i have a bunch of questions and like others have said, i feel like i'm having to fight the M.D.-eities to get some answers.

i'm 36 y.o., have no known personal or family history of seizures. i have mild asthma, MVP, slightly low thyroid, and a history of sinus problems (surgery in 1990 to clear out near-total blockage on the right side).

on 1/18 i had a "spell" in a chinese restaurant where i was having dim sum (appetizer brunch) with my husband and 7 friends. various factors that may or may not be important: when we arrived, i had an empty stomach; i take an antidepressant called "celexa" which increases the amount of serotonin in the brain, and the level had been increased by 50% two days prior; and i ended up getting my period the next day.

the "spell" lasted for a total of about 1-2 minutes. i felt a bit of dizziness (aura?), then a feeling of going away (i may have lost consciousness briefly, like 5 seconds), then i saw my husband wave his hand in front of my face, but i didn't respond. he asked, what's going on, and i said "i don't know." he asked me if i was okay, and i said "i'm not sure." i was fully aware of the conversation around me. i realized that i was staring at the wall, and i turned to look at him, and then turned back to the wall. my hands were clenched and my shoulders were hunched. i started to come out of it, looked at him, and then i felt fine.

on 1/21, i saw my doctor -- well, truthfully, it was the first time i'd ever met her, which might have been an error. her bedside manner was awful -- e.g., at some point she said "i'm going to go look at some things in your chart"; and later i realized that during that time, she paged the neurologist. 'scuse me, i'm a functioning adult and i'd like to know what's going on with my health, too. if you don't know, that's fine; but at least TELL ME!

suddenly i was being told i couldn't drive, had a bazillion tests to go through, etc... "oh, and you can leave your car in the parking lot over night..." ultimately, i had much the same reaction as another poster ... i broke down, started to cry, totally lost it, and felt like i had made a big mistake.

two days later, i saw The Neurologist, who had a bedside manner that was 100x worse than the GP! maybe later i'll repeat some of the things he said to me... fortunately, my husband was with me at the time and so it wasn't me having delusional thinking!

since then, i've had a normal MRI and an "abnormal" EEG which showed "sharp spikes in the left temporal region during the drowsy phase" or something like that. it recommended "clinical correlation" (which i assume means a followup EEG).

anyway, the point of all this: i feel as though my "spell" might have been the result of a number of factors that together lowered my seizure threshold. the EEG tech said that a lot of people who come in for EEGs say they were eating chinese food when, or recently before their episode, and that they are frequently sleep deprived, also.

have others had this experience? it all makes sense to me because (my understanding is that) everyone has a seizure threshold, which is raised or lowered by events, chemicals, etc. i know that MSG can function as an excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, which i think means that it can increase electrical activity. i think about this in conjunction with the 2-day prior 50% increase in celexa (which increases the amount of serotonin, which is also a neurotransmitter).

so i can imagine that the threshold was lowered and that is why i had the spell.

i don't understand the EEG well enough to know how to interpret it, and i don't want to deal with the icky neurologist again (we're going to get a few other opinions).

if anyone has managed to wade through this message and has any thoughts -- comforting, scientific, "i can relate," or what have you -- i would *greatly* appreciate them.

thanks much until later...

twirlygirl (who likes to dance )

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Old 02-07-2003, 04:44 PM   #2
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Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Dayville, Ct. USA
Posts: 765
kayakmom HB User

Yes, MSG is a known seizure trigger! Aspartame is another one and should be avoided. It sounds like you had a horrible GP and Neuro as well. I was glad to read you are looking for a second opinion. I do agree that the other factors you mentioned could have lowered the threshold. Did I miss whether they put you on meds yet? The sudden jump to a Diagnosis was odd with only one "spell" like you described. It does sound like a possible seizure, but often a neuro will wait for a second seizure before medicating. I hope you find much better care! I do not know what part of the state you are in...find a better doctor who wil talk to you and not at you, as well as listen.
The Correlation in the report, I believe means that the spike activity or abnormal activity correlates to what you described as happening. (It backs up the conclusion that you had a seizure, abnormality is consistant with this type of event.)
Best wishes for answers...
mom of 2 teens who have battled seiuzres.

Old 02-08-2003, 05:16 AM   #3
Join Date: Feb 2003
Location: Massachusetts, USA
Posts: 58
twirlygirl HB User

hi kayakmom,

it's releiving to know that this isn't "all in my head." as i'm going along these past few days, i notice things that i do that may, or may not be symptomatic of seizures. it's amazing how it can start to drive you nuts. i'm second-guessing everything i do, e.g. my finger twitches -- it's a seizure. i feel light headed (having not eaten anything yet) -- it's a seizure. yikes! it's a wonder i have gotten any work done at all!

just to clarify -- i haven't been diagnosed with E yet, to my knowledge. i haven't heard from the neuro-dude (and i don't want to, at this point). i'm not on any meds -- just making firm plans to begin getting better sleep, and improving our diets a lot starting today. oh, and re: the "correlation" -- i re-read it, it says "clinical correlation is advised." i'm not sure if that means that i will have to have another EEG, or if he's going to try to match up what happened to the EEG, or what. the tech said that the report makes it sound like the EEG was a bit inconclusive. who knows...

i'm really enjoying reading this bulletin board...


Old 02-08-2003, 05:34 PM   #4
Senior Veteran
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Dayville, Ct. USA
Posts: 765
kayakmom HB User

Sounds like a great plan to get plenty of sleep and eat better. It will help you out alot. I hope you do not need to end up on meds. Hard to deal with the thought of seizures, but harder still when you get such a lousy doctor!!
It is hard not to make too much over every little thing. I have had this as a mom. I did find that one symptom I ignored a long time was the "buzzing" noise he complained about alot. It turned out to be simple partial seizures. ( Learned about them for my daughter's Science fair project when we were reading up on seizures and brain function. Read the symptoms and we both new what Sam had toalked about!!0
Hang in there.....

Son, 11 with Epilepsy
mom of 2 teens who have battled seiuzres.

Old 04-02-2003, 01:52 AM   #5
Join Date: Apr 2003
Location: spain
Posts: 1
barkin HB User

i'm 31 now and a couple of years ago i spent over a month travelling in china and naturally ended up eating chinese food most of the time, in fact it's hard to avoid unless you like kfc or mcdonalds which i don't. my travelling companion once accidentally got sweet and sour dog instead of duck and didn't find out until after he'd eaten it, but that's another story. so we took the train up from hong kong to shanghai and when we arrived went for a few beers and back to our hotel.
the next day, not feeling particularly hungover, we went off to buy some tickets to an acrobatics show. suddenly, while walking down a busy street in the middle of shanghai i get a sensation of deja vu, shortly followed by a feeling of detachment. everyone starts to look like cardboard cutouts and it feels like i'm coming up on mushrooms, but fast, within a minute i'm flying and i'm telling andy that i've been spiked, i look at the sky to try and focus on something that isn't freaking me out and then loose consciousness. i come round to a sea of chinese faces staring at me on the ground, one of them helpfully offers to give me a lift to the hospital on the back of his bicycle but i'm too drained to even stand up. andy manages to flag a taxi and they take me to a hospital where i'm flopped into a wheelchair and taken through a hospital that's best described as the last scene from the film jacob's ladder. horrific! anyway, a quick ct scan later and the doctors, happy that i don't have a tumour or anything, but without any further tests instantly prescribes me tegretol, 400mg a day!! bloody quack!
anyway, to cut a long story short, after some pretty scary episodes of feeling like a zombie and other chinese quacks suggesting i double the dosage, i went to the british consulate who sent me to a proper western clinic. they immediately told me to stop with the tegretol and then they started with some proper tests. i had an eeg that read abnormal but then i was sent back to the uk. another eeg this time read normal and an mri scan came back normal so my neurologist couldn't make a proper diagnosis. he said it was possible that the msg combined with alcohol could be a possible cause but he wouldn't commit himself. regardless, i decided to never eat chinese food again, which is a shame because i really like it (except for the sweet and sour puppy) and laid off the booze for about six months (not easy going down the pub with your mates and having to drink tea all night) i still occasionally get, what i can best describe as deju vu followed by lightheadness and feelings of detachment but i seem to be able to control them to an extent (just sit down and focus on something and just wait till it passes). these sometimes happen when i've been out on the beers the night before but sometimes it happens when i've been doing some physical exertion (like walking up a hill). anyway, i haven't taken any tegretol or anything (no more drugs of any description except booze) since i was in china about 2 years ago and except for only occasional mild 'episodes' maybe once a month, haven't had anything like that seizure i had in shanghai. still, i've never had a sniff of chinese food since so maybe that was the real cause. and if anything like this happens to you in china, for god's sake, don't mess around with any chinese hospitals, get to a western clinic straight away.

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