Glutamate Toxicity in Neuro Disorders by Mary Anne Matta, MS MA LAC_Meeting Point Health

Glutamate Toxicity in Neuro Disorders by Mary Anne Matta, MS MA LAC

What is glutamate?

Glutamate is an amino acid your body produces naturally. It acts as a neuroexcitatory neurotransmitter in the glial cells of your brain by releasing calcium. It also regulates other neurotransmitters such as:

* Serotonin – made in the gut and regulates mood, digestion, sleep, cognition

* Dopamine – made in the adrenals and helps with a sense of calm and focus

* Norepinephrine – made in the adrenals. Also known as adrenaline which is induced in stress

* Acetylcholine – responsible for things like muscle contraction, memory and focus

How glutamate toxicity works:

Glial cells in the central nervous system, if over-activated, can release proinflammatory mediators such as cytokines, chemokines, interferons, and neuroexcitatory chemicals at toxic levels including glutamate, aspartate, calcium and quinolinic acid.

What activates glial cells?

Over-activation of glutamate receptors in glial cells is implicated in neurological degeneration (neuron death) via acute and chronically injury, drugs, and glutamate consumption.

1. Pharmaceuticals that activate glutamate receptors:

  • Clozaril (clozapine)
  • Seromycin (cycloserine)

2. Certain natural substances are implicated in the activation of glutamate receptors and glutamate production:

  • Aspartate
  • Aspartame
  • Aspartic acid
  • Glutamic acid/glutamate
  • Citric Acid
  • Glutamine
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Cysteine (but not NAC)
  • Homocysteine

3. Injury to the brain can also result in increased glutamate levels include:

  • Traumatic brain injury by impact trauma
  • Chronic infection that crosses the blood brain barrier (like Lyme and Mold)
  • Chronic toxicity from prolonged exposure to neurotoxic heavy metals
  • Chronic toxicity from prolonged exposure pesticides/herbicides such as Glyphosate
  • Autoimmune disorders
  • Brain aging
  • Certain medications and drugs such as clozapine
  • EMFs (electromagnetic frequencies)
  • Neurotoxins such MPTP and 6-OHDA

Examples of Neurological disorders exacerbated by high glutamate levels

  • Post-Concussive Syndrome
  • Chronic Lyme
  • Mold toxicity
  • Anxiety
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome
  • Candidiasis

What blocks glutamate receptors?

1. Pharmaceutical Glutamate Antagonists (NMDA Antagonists)

  • Topiramate
  • Ketamine
  • Memantine (Namenda)
  • Dextromethorphan (a cough suppressant in Mucinex, Robitussin, NyQuil and many other over-the-counter drugs)

2. Supplemental immune regulators that act as antagonists to microglial activation

  • Curcumin, green tea catechins, balcalein, and luteolin
  • Flavanoids such as quercetin
  • Agmatine
  • Huperzine A
  • Zinc
  • Magnesium Threonate
  • Kynurenic Acid (breakdown product of L-tryptophan)

Understanding the relationship between glutamate and GABA

Glutamate stimulates the brain, while GABA calms it down. But the Catch 22 is that your body uses glutamate to produce GABA!

1. Let’s understand the natural amino acid precursors:

  • Tryptophan – converts to serotonin, and serotonin enhances GABA activity (which in turn combats glutamate.) 5-HTP is the supplemental form of tryptophan, an amino acid found in turkey.
  • Glutamine – converts to glutamate. Caution with supplements that contain glutamine or l-glutamine
  • Taurine: This amino acid can alter brain levels of both GABA and glutamate.
  • Theanine – a precursor of glutamate, however it also blocks glutamate receptors while also boosting GABA levels.

Some pharmaceuticals deplete GABA so caution with overuse of these medications:

  • Ativan
  • Xanax
  • Klonapin
  • Valium
  • Gabapentin


Understanding MSG

Savory processed foods are typically high in glutamate. The FDA requires that a food be labeled MSG (Monosodium glutamate) if it contains 99% glutamate. However, if the food contains less than that, glutamates will not be labeled.

Beware of the following ingredients as these still contain 15-70% MSG:

  • Anything labeled glutamate
  • Anything called hydrolyzed or Autolyzed
    • Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
    • hydrolyzed protein
    • hydrolyzed plant protein
    • hydrolyzed oat flour
  • Gluten and malts
    • malt extract
    • malt flavoring
  • Citric Acid/Citrate
  • Ambiguous additives such as;
    • natural flavoring
    • seasoning
    • enzymes
    • spices
  • Ambiguous protein labels such as:
    • whey protein concentrate
    • textured protein
    • plant protein extract
    • All protein powders and shakes, even plant-based ones
  • Binders and Gums such as:
    • carrageenan
    • Xantham gum
    • Guar gum
    • Corn starch
  • Animal product such as:
    • natural beef or chicken flavoring
    • Gelatin
    • Bouillon
    • Broth or Stock
    • Collagen
  • Soy
    • soy protein concentrate
    • soy protein isolate
    • Soy sauce
    • soy substitutes including tamari, gluten-free soy sauce, Coconut amino, Bragg’s aminos
  • Yeast
    • Yeast extract
    • Nutritional yeast
    • Brewer’s yeast
    • autolyzed yeast
  • All Dairy
    • Whey
    • Casein
    • Sodium caseinate
    • calcium caseinate
    • Lactose free dairy
    • Low fat or fat free dairy
  • Maltodextrin
  • Vinegars

However, even some natural foods can contain high levels of glutamate:

  • Seaweed
  • Tomatoes
  • Mushrooms
  • Broccoli
  • Peas
  • Corn
  • Grapes
  • Parmesan and other aged cheeses
  • Potatoes
  • Walnuts
  • White Rice (but not black)

Always check your labels and be extra careful with the following!

  • Check spice mixes for any of these
  • Cold cuts/processed meats like hot dogs and sausages
  • Slow cooked meat and broth preparation increases glutamate (bone broth is okay if cooked quickly)
  • Power drinks, protein powders and shakes
  • All GMO and non-organic foods will have glutamate as they are sprayed with herbicides and pesticides that contain it

Increase Serotonin to Combat Glutamate Levels

Healing the gut is paramount and a foundational approach in the healing of neurological disorders or those with mystery illnesses marked by hyperactivity and hypersensitivity of the CNS.

Important things to keep in mind in these types of conditions:

  1. Supplement ingredients that normally work in gut healing can be neuroexcitatory such as glutathione, collagen, gelatin and glutamine.
  2. Foods that typically benefit gut healing such as slow cooked bone broth increase glutamate. Only use quick made broth,
  3. Focus instead on diet and mucolinic herbs that coat the lining of the gut such as marshmallow root and aloe.


Avoid supplements with the following:

  • gelatin
  • glutamine
  • rice
  • glutathione (but not NAC)
  • casein
  • High levels of Vitamin D (raises calcium levels which is neuroexcitatory)
  • Calcium

Supplements and herbs that combat glutamate activity or increase GABA in the brain:

  • Lithium Orotate
  • magnesium, especially threonate
  • omega-3 fatty acids
  • Valerian root
  • Lemon Balm
  • Chamomile
  • Gotu Kola
  • Bacopa

Supplements that generally reduce brain inflammation:

  • Vitamin C
  • Vitamin E
  • Zinc Picolinate
  • NAC (but not glutathione)
  • Green tea (ECGC)
  • Bioflavonoids and polyphenols such as quercetin
  • B vitamins, especially B2 and B6

Peptides that reduce brain inflammation:

  • Melanotan 2 (MSH stimulating peptide)
  • Dihexa


Limbic System Retraining

While diet and supplementation are foundational in healing the nervous system, lifestyle changes must align to start the healing cascade. One of the best ways we do this is through limbic system retraining. There are several programs we recommend including:

  • Annie Hopper’s Dynamic Neural Retraining System
  • My Vital Side Limbic Retraining
  • Accessing the Healing Power of the Vagus Nerve by Dr. Stanley Rosenberg

Apps that target breathwork, meditation, prayer and vagus nerve retraining that we like:

  • Tapping Solution
  • Calm
  • Headspace
  • Pray as you Go
  • ACT


Neuroscience of Brain Trauma!/content/book/3-s2.0-B9780323642613000607

Plant Medicine for Immunotoxicity and Neurodenerative Disorders

Glutamate Toxicity in Neurodegenerative Disorders

Low Glutamate Diet

Glutamate Excitotoxicity

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Medically reviewed by Dr. Stephen Matta, DO, MBA CAQSM and Mary Anne Matta, MS, MA, LAC

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