H is for Heartburn

Heartburn /ˈhärtˌbərn/ A form of indigestion caused by acid regurgitation into the esophagus. Also less commonly known as pyrosis (Source: Google definition).

If you’ve ever experienced heartburn then you’d probably agree that it feels like your heart was being thrown into a microwave and set to high power (I take it your silence means you don’t agree, huh?). As your brain struggles to determine whether or not you’re experiencing a burning or cooling sensation in your chest cavity, you instinctively think you’re about to have a heart attack – and why wouldn’t you think so? Your memory has long been traumatized by all those medical TV dramas depicting heart-attack victims holding on to the left side of their chest in sheer agony. Yikes!

By now you’d probably have cleverly deduced that there’s a personal encounter I’m about to share in this paragraph. Two years ago I my employer stationed me at a flagship bank branch in the middle of nowhere (‘nowhere’ in this case meaning ‘not within a mile of an eatery). Since I am a self-confessed foodie I take my lunchtime very seriously no matter where I am. After I eventually got tired of driving out of the office a mile and a few kilometers to the nearest eatery over a period of 2 weeks, I eventually gave in to my second option – the office canteen (Trust me, this is all going somewhere or I’ll owe you precious reading time).

At first my binge started with toasted sandwiches delivered to my desk upstairs until I decided to make my way down to the canteen where I was pleasantly enticed with virtually every mouth-watering Nigerian delicacy known to…well, Nigerians (and expats). I never really noticed any funny symptoms when I began to eat lunch there regularly but as soon as I upped my intake to two meals a day I noticed that I would be out of breath after walking up a short flight of stairs, and my heart rate increased at random intervals. If I got even slightly worked up about a motorist cutting me off in traffic I would start hyperventilating and my heart would literally boil. At the time I was clueless and so were the doctors I consulted. All checks on me were A-okay. It wasn’t until I was watching a fear-mongering food programme that I realized that the caterers were using a salt substitute locally known as A-1 or White Maggi but universally known as MSG (Monosodium Glutamate).

If Cocaine is the white stuff that gets people high, then MSG was the white stuff that got people’s tongues in a state of euphoria. Taste buds were slapped into another dimension of ‘savoriness’ that was so addictive for both consumers and the heartless chefs who cook generously with it (to keep you coming back, of course). Rumoured to be of Chinese origin,  MSG got mixed reviews in Nigeria when such brands as Ajinomoto and Vedan were launched unto the culinary scene. But it’s funny how the bad reviews garner more interest. As a matter of fact a colleague told me a secondary use for MSG was to remove tough stains. Yes ladies and gentlemen…MSG is a pretty good bleach for your whites 😀

So…have you looked at your food labels lately for MSG content? You might want to read this revealing article, bookmark it and refer to it from time to time to avoid sustaining long-term damage. But if you’re not bothered, bon appetit!

7 thoughts on “H is for Heartburn

    • Oh yeah, thanks. I’ve been trying to watch what I eat but when eating outside constitutes part of your daily diet then I can’t deny the hypocrisy. God help us!

  1. Wow! Isn’t that bad that you were affected by msg being put into food. Here in Australia it is listed on the back of products under the guise of various numbers and words such as MSG, flavour enhancer, glutamate, 627, 631, 635 and ribonucleotide. It’s not as widely used in Australia, from what I understand, as it used to be thanks to all the negative media and our strict food standards. http://www.foodstandards.gov.au/consumer/additives/msg/pages/default.aspx

    What a shame you couldn’t buy any more food from the cafeteria. I agree that middle of nowhere can constitute somewhere where food is unavailable in the immediate vicinity!!! 😀 At least you worked out the problem and were able to simply stop ingesting that mucky food additive!

    • It’s a huge relief Yvette; at one point I was short of breath and…having to…pause in…my sentences…like this… lol.

      You’re lucky Australia is keen on protecting it’s citizens. We have a regulatory body (NAFDAC) for this purpose but I don’t have faith in what they do, unfortunately. If they could ban certain harmful products from the port or ban its production within Nigerian then I’d be assured that they were doing something tangible. All I see is NAFDAC numbers on the back of food products and I think to myself, ‘Did the agency really carry out rigorous checks before endorsing or did they just collect a fee and issue out a number code?’ Who knows??

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