So, as some of you know, I suffer from migraine headaches. I mean, we're talking down-for-the-count, totally-incapacitated, and unable to accomplish anything when I get hit by one. I've had them at least since 3rd grade.
Luckily, I have discovered the triggers that cause them. It took years of pattern analysis, mainly by tracking what I ate immediately prior to getting the headache. The two biggest culprits for me are MSG and Splenda (which, I found out the hard way is sometimes listed as "sucralose" in ingredients).
The way I figured out the MSG was when we were in Monterey, there used to be this little Thai food cart that set up in the courtyard outside Root Hall. I developed a very noticeable pattern there that every time I ate the Thai food, I had a raging headache by the time I went home in the afternoon. I tied that together with the fact that I frequently got headaches after eating Chinese food, and finally I figured it out it was MSG.
Also luckily, the docs finally found a drug that works pretty well. If I take Imitrex when I start feeling the pre-cursors (sensitivity to light and sound,and this weird feeling or "aura" around my head), then the Imitrex usually does the trick and either stops it from ever manifesting or gets me through it in 30 minutes or so. The problem I have is when I have something for dinner not realizing there was MSG in it and I go to bed, then I wake up with a migraine, and then it's too late and I'm suffering and miserable all morning.
Not-so-luckily, I have been finding MSG appearing in more and more types of food, and Splenda is becoming more and more popular in diet sodas and other "healthy" eating alternatives. As a result, I have started seeking things that actually use sugar so I know it's not splenda, which in turn means I'm consuming more calories than I used to - not exactly helping my "culture of fitness" battle.
On the shore side, most places when I ask if they have MSG in the food or Splenda in their Diet Coke, the waitress will look at me like I've got three heads. I've found that (a) it's not worth the hassle of asking them because they never know the answer, and (b) it's not worth the risk when they tell me the wrong answer (intentionally or not) and I end up knocked out of commission for a half a day.
I used to love going to Jamba Juice all the time in San Diego, and I was really excited to find Jamba Juice here in Hawaii... but I think they must have Splenda in the non-fat frozen yogurt they use, because I've gotten a headache most times I've gone there since arriving in Hawaii. Once I suspected it, I asked someone at the store if they had Splenda in it, and the girl behind the counter said no, but I still got a headache. Bye-bye Jamba Juice. :-(
It used to be safe on the boat. I went an entire 6-month deployment without a food-induced migraine (the worst headache I had in Chin Hae, Korea, came after a night out with a Korean submarine wardroom, but that's another long story). When I got on the MSP though, I spent like three days in total agony. It really pissed me off and I went to the Chop and the CSC (chief cook) and said, "Look, SOMETHING you guys are cooking with has either MSG or Splenda in it. FIND IT!" Well, wouldn't ya know it? Both the beef base and the chicken base they were using for ALL the soups and many of the other things they cooked had MSG in it. Plus, you know how the CS's (Culinary Specialists - formerly known as MS or Mess Specialists) take the leftovers from lunch and/or dinner and mush them together into some casserole for midrats? Yeah, they use the beef base or the chicken base to sort of add moisture and hold the stuff together, so most midrats were off limits for me. Luckily, once we identified that, the CS's were very good about briefing me at the beginning of each meal on which items they used the beef or chicken base so I wouldn't eat them. Once or twice it resulted in me only getting to eat cake and ice cream for dinner because there wasn't anything else that didn't have MSG in it. (Once again, oh-so-helpful in my "culture of fitness" battle).
As a result though, the guys on the boat now refer to MSG as "XO Kryptonite." At least one of my JOs (Mark) has learned to recognize the facial expression I make when I'm in agony and battling through a headache. It has even become the theme of our next official wardroom function. The Captain is hosting an MSG party. That is to say, a "MSP Social Gathering." The theme is everything MSG except for monosodium glutamate. The Captain plans to serve MSG's, or Mai-Tai's in Small Glasses. I was thinking about making some Mango San Gria. Given my affinity for Mexican food, I suggested we have Mole Salsa and Guacamole. Or maybe some Mini Steamed Gnocci? Anyone got any other good "MSG" ideas for the party?