MSG by any other name would still be as harmful. When most people hear the name monosodium glutamate, or MSG, they immediately think of Chinese food. And while the chemical is used in many Chinese food restaurants, this brain and nervous system toxin masquerades under many different guises and even within many food additives.

Considering that MSG has been linked to many serious health conditions, including hormonal imbalances, weight gain, brain damage, obesity, headaches, and more, you may be shocked to learn how prevalent it is. MSG is almost always found in processed, prepared, and packaged foods. Even when there is no sign of it on the label, it is still frequently hidden in many prepared foods, so watch out for these 20 nasty names for MSG.

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What's even more shocking is how MSG affects your brain. There is a protective mechanism in your brain known as the blood-brain barrier. Your brain depends on careful control of chemicals to operate smoothly. Even small fluctuations in the concentrations of these chemicals can cause drastic disruptions in brain function. When excitotoxins enter your brain, they literally excite brain cells until they die. MSG is added to foods as a taste enhancer, but it is well established in research as an excitotoxin.

When MSG enters your brain, not only does it kill brain cells, but it also wreaks havoc on brain functions. Some research has even linked it to the progression of Parkinson's disease. According to Dr. Patricia Fitzgerald, a homeopath and the author of The Detox Solution, "ingesting MSG over the years has also been linked with Parkinson's and Alzheimer's."

More: 21 Ways to Feed Your Brain

Many people react within 48 hours of ingesting even minute amounts of MSG, which can make it difficult to trace back to the food source that caused the reaction. The effects can include headaches, hives, canker sores, runny nose, insomnia, seizures, mood swings, panic attacks, heart palpitations and other heart irregularities, nausea, numbness, asthma attacks, and migraines. Many of my clients also report experiencing restless leg syndrome after accidental ingestion of MSG.

Research shows that MSG enters the brain slowly, bypasses the blood-brain barrier, and reaches peak concentrations in the brain three hours after it's ingested. Levels of MSG in the brain remain high for 24 hours after the initial ingestion of the contaminated food.

To combat these frightening effects, make sure you avoid these MSG-loaded foods: 

Baby food

Shocking as it is, baby food manufacturers often include glutamate, one of MSG's many guises, as a flavor "enhancer."

Bottled sauces

Just gotta have your Thai, teriyaki, or Jamaican jerk sauce? Well, most bottled sauces contain MSG.

Infant formula

As terrible as it sounds, most popular brands of infant formula actually contain MSG in one of its myriad disguises.

Protein powder

Many of the protein powders used for weight loss or muscle building, even those sold in health food stores, contain MSG, usually as hydrolyzed protein or hydrolyzed soy protein. 

Croutons

Most croutons are flavored with bouillon, soup base, or "natural" or artificial flavors that contain MSG.

Salad dressings

The salad dressing you choose could negate any of the health benefits of eating salad if you choose a bottled dressing that contains MSG. Bottled salad dressings may contain "natural flavor," "spices," or "seasoning," all of which can legally contain MSG. Solution? Make your own homemade salad dressings to skip the MSG. 

Soups

Most soups, even most homemade soups, contain MSG (even if the cook swears they don't). That's because most soup bases, commercial stocks, and bouillon powder and cubes contain MSG. And few nutritionists and even fewer chefs are familiar with MSG's many names.

Soy "meat" products

Many vegetarian burgers, hot dogs, sausages, and other meat alternatives contain textured vegetable protein, hydrolyzed vegetable protein, or hydrolyzed plant protein, all of which usually contain MSG.

Spice mixtures

Love that Cajun seasoning, Tex-Mex rub, or other spice mixture? Most spice mixtures contain MSG—frequently as autolyzed yeast or yeast extract.

This article originally appeared on RodaleWellness.com.