For years, Genene Cote, 72, suffered from migraines and severe fatigue at least twice a month — frequently after meals at restaurants. When over-the-counter medications didn’t help, she consulted a naturopath, who suggested she keep a journal of what she’d eaten when a headache struck. Though she loved Chinese food, she knew it was a trigger. Potato chips also precipitated headaches. Eventually, she discovered a common ingredient: monosodium glutamate (MSG).
Some doctors believe that MSG is an excitotoxin, which is a substance that can overstimulate neurons in the brain, causing them to become exhausted. In rare cases, this can create inflammation and trigger headaches.
Although there is mounting research suggesting MSG may not be as harmful as was previously thought, Cote’s naturopath recommended she avoid it entirely. She doubted, however, that this would be possible: MSG appears in many different foods.
Is there a natural remedy for these headaches?
Cote conducted her own research, reviewing both verified and unverified medical claims. In the latter group, she found testimonials from a handful of doctors who claimed that taking a taurine supplement could help counteract the inflammation and pain caused by MSG and other excitotoxins, like aspartame. She confirmed with her doctor that taurine was safe for her to take, then bought 500 milligram taurine capsules online. The next time she felt a migraine coming on after eating, she took a pill. Her headache was gone, she says, within an hour.
What are other potential uses of taurine supplements?
Taurine may have other benefits for the body beyond easing MSG headaches, though further research is needed. Note that taurine affects some medications, especially for blood pressure, so always check with your doctor before starting a new supplement.
- Prevents blood pressure spikes. Research in the journal Hypertension found that daily taurine supplements may reduce levels of stress hormones, taming high blood pressure surges.
- Beats menopause mood swings. Estrogen helps the brain produce the happy hormone serotonin, so when estrogen levels plunge at menopause, women can struggle with mood fluctuations. Some research suggests that taurine may have “an antidepressant-like effect.”
- Quiets ringing in the ears. Taurine feeds nerve cells that help the brain convert sound waves properly instead of the jangled signaling that tinnitus triggers. Research from a Southern Illinois University School of Medicine animal study suggests a possible link between increased taurine levels and reduced ringing in the ears.