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Can Chinese Food Cause Diarrhea? Ever had that moment where you’re excitedly digging into your Chicken Chow Mein, only to find yourself dealing with a sudden bout of diarrhea afterward?
Have you ever experienced this? You sit down, excited about your long-awaited Chicken Chow Mein, and it lives up to your expectations. But soon after, you’re dealing with a bad case of diarrhea. Is the Chinese food to blame?
Blaming monosodium glutamate (MSG) has been a thing since 1968, with upset stomach and diarrhea labeled as the MSG symptom complex. However, research hasn’t confirmed this link, leaving some to question it again.
Despite the lack of scientific support, some folks insist there’s a clear connection between Chinese food and extra time spent in the bathroom. So, if it’s not MSG, what in Chinese food causes diarrhea for some people? Let’s explore.
The Culprits in Chinese Cuisine
Which ingredient in Chinese food might be behind your bout of diarrhea? Even if we narrow down the potential causes of food in general, the sources of your stomach upset could be numerous. The truth is, that several ingredients commonly found in Chinese food can lead to diarrhea in individuals with specific sensitivities.
Before pointing fingers at Chinese cuisine, rule out some obvious non-Chinese food-related suspects. According to Medical News Today, if your diarrhea contains blood or pus, is accompanied by a fever, or persists for an extended period, it’s unlikely to be related to food intolerance. Also, before blaming your meal, consider any recent changes in medication, like taking antibiotics, as they could be a contributing factor.
Now that we’ve covered the basics, let’s explore some potential culprits among the ingredients in Chinese food that might be causing diarrhea. And, we’ll begin with the most notorious one.
1. MSG (Monosodium Glutamate)
Monosodium glutamate (MSG) has a history of being associated with a condition known as “Chinese restaurant syndrome,” which was first brought to public attention by Dr. Robert Ho Man Kwok in 1968 through a letter to the New England Journal of Medicine. Dr. Kwok described symptoms he experienced after consuming Chinese food. Subsequently, other doctors reported similar symptoms after eating Chinese cuisine, prompting further investigation by the medical community.
The common symptoms attributed to what is now known as the MSG symptom complex, as identified by Healthline, include:
- Numbness, tingling, or burning sensations in the mouth, throat, and face.
- Facial pressure or tightness.
- Chest pain.
- Skin flushing.
It’s important to note that despite initial concerns and ongoing public perception, scientific research has not been able to conclusively establish a direct connection between MSG and these symptoms. Many studies have failed to replicate the reported reactions consistently.
Nonetheless, some individuals continue to believe that they are sensitive to MSG and associate various symptoms with its consumption. Some individuals who claim to be sensitive to MSG have reported diarrhea as one of the main symptoms, as indicated in comments related to discussions on the topic.
For those who suspect they are sensitive to MSG, Healthline suggests avoiding not only MSG itself but also some other common food additives that companies may use instead of explicitly listing MSG on labels. These include:
- Glutamic acid.
- Soy protein isolate.
- Yeast extract.
- Textured vegetable protein (TVP).
- Autolyzed yeast.
It’s essential to be aware of these alternative ingredient names if you are trying to avoid MSG in your diet. However, it’s worth noting that the majority of people do not experience adverse reactions to MSG, and it is generally considered safe for consumption by regulatory agencies such as the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization (WHO)
Surprisingly, sugar might be the quiet troublemaker. Heavy sauces in Chinese dishes can pack a sugary punch. Ingesting over 40 to 80 grams of fructose per day, common in these sauces, could lead to diarrhea, as Dr. Norton Greenberger suggests.
3. Spicy Fare
Chinese cuisine, especially Sichuan and Hunan dishes, is known for its spiciness. Capsaicin, found in chili peppers, can irritate your stomach lining, causing a laxative effect and potentially diarrhea.
4. High Fat
Not all Chinese dishes are created equal. Some favorites, like General Tso’s Chicken and Fried Rice, are high in fat, a known stomach disruptor. If your beloved Chinese dish made the Web MD list of high-fat foods, it might be a culprit.
5. FODMAPs (Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides, and Polyols)
Certain carbohydrates, known as FODMAPs, can be tough to digest for some. Onions and garlic, high in fructan, a type of oligosaccharide, can be found in Chinese dishes and contribute to diarrhea, especially for those sensitive to FODMAPs.
Gluten, found in wheat, spelled, rye, and barley, can trigger reactions like diarrhea in those intolerant to it. Many Chinese dishes, from noodles to soy sauce, contain gluten. If nothing else seems to explain your discomfort, gluten sensitivity might be worth exploring.
Before You Point the Finger at Chinese Food
Before blaming that tasty dish, consider ruling out other factors. Check for signs like blood or pus, fever, or prolonged diarrhea, which might signal non-food-related issues. Also, reflect on recent medication changes, as antibiotics, for instance, could be a contributing factor.
In conclusion, the term “Chinese restaurant syndrome” faces scrutiny due to insufficient evidence linking MSG to its symptoms. Exploring alternatives like sugar, spice, and high-fat content might be the key. So, next time you hit the all-you-can-eat buffet, factor in the quantity and keep an open mind about what’s causing your digestive distress