I'm off to China and Japan on business and can't afford to offend my hosts by being a picky eater. However, I react badly to monosodium glutamate, which is widely used in south-east Asian food. The migraines and vomiting that MSG induces are intense, leaving me in bed for 48 hours. How can I minimise or control an MSG-triggered attack, other than starving for the duration of the trip?
This is a difficult one. Your severe reaction makes it almost impossible to prevent or treat, apart from avoiding foods containing MSG. You can take prescription drugs for migraines and the gut reaction, but they're not as effective as we'd wish. I think your best plan is tactfully to explain your food-triggered reaction to your hosts. I've found Japanese and Chinese hosts very understanding and willing to provide sufferers with MSG-free meals. Indeed, they will be pleased, usually, that you've had the courtesy to mention it in advance. There are plenty of MSG-free dishes in Chinese and Japanese cuisine that you can safely eat.
I'm 16, and of average height and weight. I've been getting moderate to severe lower left abdominal pains for more than a year, and have been rushed to hospital several times in the last year. I've had a pelvic ultrasound scan. Why am I still getting these pains? What can so many medical professionals have overlooked?
Do these pains coincide mostly with your mid-menstrual period times – say around 14 days before your next period? If so, these pains may well be mittelschmerz: this is a pain that arises on the surface of the ovary when the ovum breaks free from its surface to start on its journey to the womb. It's relatively common, but that said, it is unusual to experience such a severe variant of it. An ultrasound scan wouldn't pick it up, though. Painkillers are your best solution. One clue is that it is always on your left side – this suggests to me that it is this ovary that is affected. Unfortunately, mittelschmerz can be a long-term problem, although I've found in practice that it often eases as women enter their later 20s.
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