First came the chest pains.
"My heart hurt with knifelike pains and jabs whenever I tried to breathe in. I lay on the floor unable to get my breath," recalls Debby Graesser Anglesey, a Kenmore West High School graduate.
The same ordeal happened every three to five days.
No, Anglesey wasn't having a heart attack.
Her doctor asked if "my life and marriage were "OK,' if there were any problems. After all, I was reminded, I'd just had a baby and two other children, and it was likely that stress was manifesting itself this way. I was shocked and embarrased to think that I wasn't able to cope emotionally with the rigors of my chosen lifestyle," said Anglesey, who enjoyed taking cooking classes.
Her doctor suggested that she "get out more with adults."
So Anglesey enrolled in another cooking class. The symptoms continued, and she was looking terrible, losing weight. "I wanted to die, basically," she adds in an interview. Other doctors could not pinpoint the cause.
The culprit, she says, was right in that cooking class.
At the point when she couldn't handle it anymore, she came across some information on flavor-enhancer monosodium glutamate.
"I immediately called my husband at work and told him I knew without a doubt what the culprit was and had been for years."
This mother of four now talks to civic groups and retailers like Barnes & Noble in attempt to warn sensitive individuals with her new "Battling the MSG Myth" guide. She focuses her time and energy on answering hundreds of e-mails as a consumer advocate and vice president of the National Organization Mobilized to Stop Glutamate.
"Both my husband and I are rewarded daily as we hear the heart-warming stories of people whose lives have been completely changed because of the work that we do via e-mail, snail mail or phone." They have recently added a bulletin board to their NoMSG Web site -- www.nomsg.com -- "to help sufferers interact."
Her husband, Mike, states that he's proud of his wife and works "with her in this very time-consuming but rewarding cause" on hidden MSG.
"Little did I know it was in our cereal, catsup, crackers, mayonnaise, tuna, yogurt, diet food, soft drinks, salad dressings, poultry, most fast foods and frozen snacks and meals, seasonings, canned soups and entrees and even most ice creams," says Anglesey, 52.
She concedes that the "FDA may call MSG safe" but adds that "independent researchers estimate at least 30 to 40 percent or more of the population may be MSG-sensitive in varying degrees. Many are unaware of the reasons for their symptoms and are being misdiagnosed, mistreated and are suffering needlessly." She maintains the amount of MSG added to our processed foods has doubled every 10 years and that additives such as hydrolyzed protein and autolyzed yeast can contain as much as 40 percent MSG, yet does not have to be labeled as such.
Since eliminating the ingredient from her diet -- cleaning out half her cupboards and refrigerator a few years ago -- all her symptoms have disappeared, "reappearing only after eating MSG by mistake usually at a restaurant or at parties.
"I feel great, I feel 20 years younger."