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Why Chinese Food Makes Me Sick: Understanding the Culprits

Many people experience feelings of nausea, stomach pain, and other digestive issues after eating Chinese food.

This phenomenon is commonly known as “Chinese Restaurant Syndrome,” and it is often attributed to the presence of monosodium glutamate (MSG) in Chinese food.

However, there is no scientific evidence to support the claim that MSG is the sole cause of these symptoms.

In fact, many other factors can contribute to feeling sick after eating Chinese food, including the use of certain oils, spices, and cooking techniques.

Identifying the Culprits

To understand why you might feel sick after eating Chinese food, it’s essential to identify the potential culprits.

Some common causes of digestive issues after eating Chinese food include:

American Chinese Food

  • MSG: While MSG is not the sole cause of these symptoms, it can contribute to feelings of nausea and stomach pain in some people.
  • American Chinese dishes are often deep-fried, which can result in a heavier, greasier texture than stir-frying or steaming, which are more commonly used in traditional Chinese cooking.
  • American Chinese restaurants may use lower-quality cuts of meat, such as chicken breast instead of chicken thighs or legs.

Chinese Food in China

  • Oil: Chinese cuisine often uses vegetable oil or soybean oil, which can be heavy and difficult to digest.
  • The restaurant adds 2–3 times oil in the food than familiy made.

  • Spices: Certain spices used in Chinese cooking, such as ginger and garlic, can irritate the digestive system in some individuals.
  • If you cannot stand spicy Chinese food, maybe you can try food from southeast China, which is famous for its sweet favor. 

  • Cooking techniques: Stir-frying and deep-frying are common Chinese cooking techniques that can increase the fat content of the food and make it harder to digest.

The Myths and Realities of MSG

  • MSG is a seasoning that’s added to many popular foods like hot dogs, canned goods, and crisps, as well as Chinese food.
  • While the US FDA says it’s safe to eat, some people experience what’s called the MSG symptom complex, which can cause headaches, thirstiness, and feeling weak or sick.
  • Even though it’s a natural substance found in foods like cheese, meat, fish, mushrooms, tomatoes, and walnuts, when it’s used as an added flavoring, it can have negative effects on some people.
  • Interestingly, the medical community used to refer to this set of symptoms as “Chinese restaurant syndrome,” but now it’s called the MSG symptom complex.
  • Unfortunately, avoiding foods with MSG can be tough because it’s so common, but there are some things you can do to feel better if you experience symptoms.

I am sure you have more "WHY"questions about China. For example:
Why Chinese eat everything? 
Why Chinese always drink hot water? 
Why Chinese eat so many eggs?

Tips for Overcoming Chinese Restaurant Syndrome

If you are prone to feeling sick after eating Chinese food, there are several steps you can take to minimize your symptoms.

Here are a few tips to help you enjoy Chinese food without feeling sick:

  • Choose your dishes wisely: Some Chinese dishes, such as hot and sour soup, are more likely to contain MSG than others. Be selective in your choices and opt for dishes that are prepared with fresh ingredients and lighter sauces.
  • Request no MSG: If you are sensitive to MSG, you can ask the restaurant to leave it out of your dishes.
  • Avoid deep-fried foods: These foods are high in fat and can be harder to digest.
  • Drink plenty of water: Drinking water can help flush out toxins and aid digestion.
  • Take digestive enzymes: These supplements can help break down the food and aid digestion.
  • Drinking peppermint or ginger tea to soothe your stomach. Ginger tea has been known to alleviate nausea, and peppermint tea can help break down fats and relieve nausea.
If you experience severe symptoms like difficulty breathing or chest pain, seek medical attention immediately!


Feeling sick after eating Chinese food can be a frustrating experience, but it is not necessarily caused by MSG.

By understanding the potential culprits and taking steps to minimize your symptoms, you can enjoy Chinese cuisine without feeling sick.

We hope that this article has provided valuable insights into Chinese Restaurant Syndrome and offered practical tips to help you overcome this problem.


Is Chinese food hard on your stomach?

Chinese food that contains a lot of oil can cause increased acid production in your stomach, leading to discomfort.

This is because oily food takes longer to digest, causing irritation to the lining of the intestines and producing more acid in the stomach.

What is the best Chinese food for sensitive stomach?

Chinese delicacies such as steamed dumplings, wonton soup served warm, and stir-fried rice are examples of dishes that are less likely to cause stomach upset.

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