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BRAIN ALLERGIES 

by Patrick Holford   

 

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President, Institute for Optimum Nutrition (ION)
Blades Court, Deodar Road
London SW15 2NU
Phone: 0181 877 9933

also Director, Mental Health Project
34 Wadham Road
London SW15 2LR
UK
Phone: 0044 (0)20 871 2949
Fax: 00 44 (0)20 874 5003
Email: patrick@patrickholford.com
Website: http://www.patrickholford.com/ 


Janet was diagnosed with manic depression at the age of 15. At times she would become completely hyperactive and manic, and at other times become completely depressed. She was put on three drugs - Lithium, Tegretol and Zirtek. These helped control the severity of her manic phases, but she was still frequently depressed and anxious. Two years later she consulted a nutrition counsellor who found she was deficient in many nutrients, especially zinc, and allergic to wheat. As soon as her nutrient deficiencies were corrected and she stopped eating wheat her health rapidly improved. She was able to stop all medication and, provided she stays off wheat, no longer gets depressed. She is now doing her final degree exams and continues to feel good and achieve well. However, if she has any wheat, even inadvertently in a sauce, she becomes depressed, confused, forgetful and anxious for 3 to 4 days. Her manic phases, however, have never returned.

The idea that food affects the mind is an alien concept to many people. But since the brain is perhaps the most delicate organ of the body, using sometimes as much as 30% of all the energy we derive from food, this should be no surprise. Allergies to food can upset levels of hormones and other key chemicals in the brain, resulting in symptoms ranging from depression to schizophrenia.

The knowledge that allergy to foods and chemicals can adversely affect moods and behaviour in susceptible individuals has been known for a very long time. Early reports, as well as current research, have found that allergies can affect any system of the body, including the central nervous system. They can cause a diversity of symptoms including fatigue, slowed thought processes, irritability, agitation, aggressive behaviour, nervousness, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, hyperactivity and varied learning disabilities. Food intolerance, lack of absorption of food and relief with fasting are three key pointers to the food-allergic patient. These patients usually have a low blood histamine, a fast pulse and food idiosyncrasies which may be expressed as strong likes and dislikes. Favourite foods are often the offending foods so the patients is like an addict, eating the offending food to obtain a psychiatric high.

The allergic child may suffer from the so-called 'allergic-tension-fatigue syndrome' described by Dr. Frederic Speer in 1954 [x], which results in irritability, hyperactivity and impaired concentration, thus adversely affecting school performance. The most convincing evidence that this is indeed so, comes from a well conducted double-blind, placebo controlled crossover trial by Dr Egger and his team who studied 76 hyperactive children to find out whether diet can contribute to behavioural disorders. The results showed that 79% of the children tested reacted adversely to artificial food colourants and preservatives, primarily to tartrazine and benzoic acid, which produced a marked deterioration in their behaviour. However no child reacted to these alone. In fact 48 different foods were found to produce symptoms among the children tested. For example 64% reacted to cow's milk, 59% to chocolate, 49% to wheat, 45% to oranges, 39 to eggs, 32% to peanuts, and 16% to sugar. Interestingly enough it was not only the children's behaviour which improved after the individual dietary modification. Most of the associated symptoms also improved considerably, such as headaches, fits, abdominal discomfort, chronic rhinitis, aches in limbs, skin rashes and mouth ulcers.

Another similar double-blind controlled food trial by Dr Egger and his team was conducted on 88 children suffering from frequent migraines. As before, most children reacted to several foods/chemicals. However the following foods/chemicals were found to be most prevalent: cows milk provoked symptoms in 27 children, egg in 24, chocolate in 22, both oranges and wheat in 21, benzoic acid in 14 and tartrazine in 12.

Yet again, interestingly enough, after dietary modification, not only migraine improved but also associated physical disorders such as abdominal pain, muscle aches, fits, rhinitis, recurrent mouth ulcers, asthma, eczema, as well as a variety of behavioural disorders.

While food dyes or additives may cause the symptoms, the most commonly implicated types of food are milk, wheat, egg, beef, corn, cane sugar and chocolate. A similar syndrome in adults has been called simply 'cerebral allergy'. The allergy often appears in a masked form, in which the individual actually feels better after ingesting a favourite food. However, in a variable number of hours a severe let-down occurs and the patient experiences symptoms which may be diffuse and non-specific and often include headache, depression, nasal stuffiness and sleepiness.

Allergies Run in Families

Allergy runs in families and so does cerebral allergy. The allergic diseases have many presenting symptoms and common names so that the infant who cannot tolerate cow's or goat milk may be starting a life long fight against allergies called colic, eczema or croup. Lack of breastfeeding may predispose the infant to allergies because the infant does not get the needed immune bodies from the mother. Colic may progress into coeliac disease wherein the food goes through the intestinal tract unchanged. If a sample of the intestinal wall is studied, it can be seen that the finger-like villi that absorb the food are missing and the intestinal wall is smooth and scarred. Asthma may occur and alternate with the other allergic diseases. Children eating food dyes or food naturally high in salicylates may develop hyperactivity.


Do you have cerebral allergies?

Do you have disperceptions and

1. A history of infantile colic
2. A history of infantile eczema
3. A history of coeliac disease (malabsorption)
4. A history of asthma, rashes or hay fever
5. Favourite daily foods
6. Excessive daily mood swings
7. Frequent rapid colds
8. Seasonal allergies
9. Relief of symptoms with fasting
10. Intolerance to foods such as wheat or milk.

If a majority of the above apply you may benefit from:

o Methionine, 500mg, am and pm
o Calcium 500mg, am and pm
o Zinc 15mg, am and pm
o Manganese10mg , am and pm
o B6 adequate for dream recall (no more than 1,000mg)
o Vitamin C, 1000-2000mg, am and pm
o plus a basic supplement programme (see page xx)

as well as testing for, and avoiding allergens

Adults are also affected by food and/or chemical allergy. When Dr. Philpott, a US allergy expert, examined 250 emotionally disturbed patients for a possible presence of food/chemical allergies, using elimination and challenge diet, he found that the highest percentage of symptoms seemed to occur in patients diagnosed as psychotic [x]. For example, out of 53 patients diagnosed as schizophrenic, 64% reacted adversely to wheat, 50% to cow's milk, 75% to tobacco and 30% to petrochemical hydrocarbons. The emotional symptoms caused by allergic intolerance ranged from mild central nervous system symptoms such as dizziness, blurred vision, anxiety, depression, tension, hyperactivity and speech difficulties to gross psychotic symptoms. At the same time, the individuals also experienced various adverse physical symptoms such as headaches, feeling of unsteadiness, weakness, palpitations and muscle aches and pains.

These studies are prime examples of how problems created by allergies often produce a multitude of physical and mental symptoms and affect many body symptoms. They not only can affect the central nervous system and the brain, but also usually affect the whole body in various ways. Furthermore these allergies are very specific for each individual, i.e. the same foods/chemicals hardly ever produce the same symptoms in different people. Therefore the diagnosis can only be made individually by using a so-called elimination and challenge diet, where specific foods and/or chemicals are first eliminated for a period of time and then carefully re-introduced. If reactions occur, the diagnosis is positive. It should be noted that this elimination/challenge diet test should always be done under expert supervision, particularly if symptoms include epileptic fits, asthma, schizophrenia or severe depression. 

Here are a few examples of how this elimination and challenge diet have been used safely and effectively in treating people suffering from various mental health problems. 

Experimental double-blind study:

Thirty patients suffering from anxiety, depression, confusion or difficulty in concentration were tested, using a placebo controlled trial, as to whether individual food allergies could really produce mental symptoms in these individuals. The results showed that allergies alone, not placebos, were able to produce the following symptoms: severe depression, nervousness, feeling of anger without a particular object, loss of motivation and severe mental blankness. The foods/chemicals which produced most severe mental reactions were wheat, milk, cane sugar, tobacco smoke and eggs.

Experimental control study:

Ninety-six patients diagnosed as suffering from alcohol dependence, major depressive disorders and schizophrenia were compared to 62 control subjects selected from adult hospital staff members for a possible food/chemical intolerance. The results showed that the group of patients diagnosed as depressives had the highest number of allergies, i.e. 80% were found to be allergic to barley and 100% were allergic to egg white. Over 50% of alcoholics tested were found to be allergic to egg white, milk, rye and barley. Out of the group of people diagnosed as schizophrenics 80% were found to be allergic to both milk and eggs. Only 9% of the control group were found to suffer from any allergies.

Experimental double-blind study:

Routinely treated schizophrenics,, who on admission were randomly assigned to a diet free of cereal grain and milk while on the locked ward, were discharged from the hospital about twice as rapidly as control patients assigned to a high-cereal diet. Wheat gluten secretly added to the cereal-free diet abolished this effect, suggesting that wheat gluten may be a cause of schizophrenic symptoms in susceptible individuals. 

Two recent reports estimate that 2 in every 10 people now suffer from allergies. The young developing nervous system seems to be particularly vulnerable to any allergenic or toxic overload, leading frequently to various behavioural disorders such as hyperactivity and learning disabilities. A further survey estimates that at least 1 child in l0 may react adversely to some common foods and/or food additives.

It is an interesting fact that a great number of drugs used in today's psychiatry are very similar in composition to antihistamines, which are commonly used in the treatment of allergies. For example tricyclic and related antidepressant drugs, such as imipramine (Tofranil) and Amitriptyline are also known to suppress brain histamine receptors. In addition, the following drugs used in the treatment of psychosis and related disorders are also known to inhibit brain histamine production: phenothiazine derivatives, such as chlorpromazine (Largactil), promazine (Sparine), Thioridazine etc. Furthermore promethazine, which is used in the treatment of anxiety and related disorders, is also commonly used in the treatment of allergies59. The fact that antihistamine-like drugs are widely used in the treatment of various mental disorders suggests that some mental problems could indeed be allergenic in origin. This being the case, it would surely be prudent to suggest that, before any medication is prescribed, all individuals suffering from mental health conditions should always be screened for a possible food/chemical intolerance.

Nutritional treatment is the Answer

Several vitamins are noted for their effectiveness in reducing allergic symptoms. Vitamins C and B6 are probably the most effective. Dr. William Philpott has used both of these vitamins intravenously to turn off allergic symptoms provoked by testing for allergies. the patient on adequate vitamin C will have fewer allergic symptoms. B6 should be given to the point of nightly dream recall and the minerals calcium and potassium should be in plentiful supply in the diet. Zinc and manganese are also needed by the allergic patient. Elimination of the offending foods may be needed for several months. For multiple food allergies, in which this approach would severely limit the diet, a four-day rotation diet in which each food is eaten only once every four days should be tried. If this approach is unsuccessful, intradermal allergy testing to determine the degree of allergy and the neutralising dose of each allergen is recommended.

Testing for Allergies

Intradermal testing, which is the method we use at the Princeton Bio Centre, is based on reliable skin testing procedures that are controlled, sensitive and effective methods of diagnosing food and/or inhalant allergies. Diagnosing a specific allergy consists of an intradermal injection (under the top layer of skin of the upper arm) of the food or inhalant extract in varying dilutions to determine the exact degree of sensitivity. Mild symptoms may or may not be provoked by this method. However, allergic symptoms can be reversed by a subcutaneous injection of the neutralising or desensitising dose. The individual would then receive neutralising injections twice a week and would be allowed to eat foods that had been tested. For the multiple-allergic, a combination of neutralising injections for the severe allergies and a rotation diet for the less severe is often the most practical approach.

Many different kinds of tests exist for allergies, one of which is to test the levels of proteins called immunoglobulins in the blood. Traditionally, allergy tests measure the levels of IgE produced when the immune cells are exposed to a particular substance. This immunoglobulin is responsible for classical and immediate allergic reactions. However, more and more scientific attention is being focussed on IgG reactions which are thought to be behind delayed reactions and possibly accounting for the majority of allergies. Tests now exist to measure the quantity of IgG antibodies produced to different foods. These tests may prove to be even more reliable that previous intradermal testing [x].

Most patients with food allergies also tend to have pyroluria, a stress phenomenon associated with excess pyrroles in the urine which bind vitamin B6 and zinc. Some allergies, such as those associated with wheat, are accompanied by damage to the intestinal mucosa (coeliac disease), resulting in the malabsorption of zinc and/or B6, as well as other nutrients. When the gut wall becomes more leaky this increases the chances of incompletely digested food proteins getting into the blood and causing allergy. Healing the digestive tract is therefore a prerequisite to dealing with allergies.

Reactions to Everyday Drugs

Allergic patients may react adversely when exposed to food dyes, aspirin, foods with salicylates, food additives, food preservatives, and the insecticides used to reduce spoilage of food. Organic food eating is therefore recommended and carefully chosen vendors become most important. Was insecticide used? Were crops sprayed? Was a preservative added? The members of one allergic family were literally driven from their home in Connecticut when the government officials decided to spray the whole landscape to kill the gypsy moths. Air deodorants and perfumes may also be offenders. In air travel one can smell the surge of deodorant wafting through the cabin at regular intervals, to the dismay and discomfort of those allergic to petrochemicals.

The ultimate outcome of careful diagnosis and treatment of the allergic patient with cerebral symptoms may be excellent. The patient must, however, watch for new allergies and follow the carefully prescribed diets and routines of avoidance.

Our Deadly Bread

Hidden sensitivity to one's daily bread may well be the cause of compulsive and ritualistic behaviour, impaired speech development and mood and behaviour changes. Not everyone can digest wheat, rye and other cereal grains. This condition is known as 'coeliac disease', and secondary symptoms may result. In coeliac disease, food may go through the gut undigested. Recent studies have indicated that coeliac disease may be responsible for many cases of 'schizophrenia'. Evidence is accumulating which links various psychiatric disturbances with malabsorption caused by cereal grains, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that for many individuals, daily bread is much less than a blessing.

One of the earliest observations of the relationship between cereal grains and schizophrenia was reported by Dr. Lauretta Bender in 1953, when she noted that schizophrenic children were extra-ordinarily subject to coeliac disease[x]. By 1966 she had recorded 20 such cases from among more than 2000 schizophrenic children. In 1961 Graff and Handford published data stating that during one year, four out of thirty-seven adult male schizophrenics admitted to the Institute of Pennsylvania Hospital, Philadelphia, had a history of coeliac disease in childhood[x]. These early observations greatly interested Dr. Dohan of the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He noted the these data indicated that 'schizophrenia' occurs far more frequently than chance would predict in children and also in adults with coeliac disease. Dohan believes that an inherited susceptibility to both coeliac disease and 'schizophrenia' may indeed exist and that one may contribute to the development of the other.

The Signs of Wheat-Gluten Sensitivity

The clinical symptoms of coeliac disease and 'schizophrenia' bear marked resemblance. Both physical and psychiatric symptoms are present in children and adults with coeliac disease, although the incidence of 'schizophrenia' is greater in children than in adults. Coeliac disease results in part from an impairment of food absorption from the intestine. Coeliac patients are classically very thin and have a protruding relaxed abdomen. Bowel movements are frequent and are fatty, loose, large and foul. Facial expression is typically shrivelled and drawn, suggesting a state of melancholy. In fact, the psychiatric picture of the coeliac child is not unlike that of the schizophrenic child. Both are dissociated from the world, weepy and introverted. Coeliac patients are also subject to mood disorders such as extreme depression and anxiety. These mood behaviour swings occur after cereal grain is eaten and subside when such food is carefully avoided. In adults, large blisters may occur on the skin on the back of the hands (dermatitis herpentiformis).

The toxic element high is responsible in coeliac disease is gluten, a protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oats. The mechanisms that produce gluten intolerance have yet to be fully determined. The theory is that intestinal enzymes cannot digest the gluten and accumulating toxic material irritates the lining of the intestinal wall, causing chronic indigestion and malabsorption of all nutrients. Yet another theory suggests that exorphins' found in gluten compete with the body's endorphins which are vital brain chemicals involved in mood. Removal of wheat gluten and similar gluten proteins found in other cereal grains has been shown to improve digestive processes, promote weight gain, and to alleviate mood and psychiatric symptoms.

The importance of considering gluten sensitivity is well demonstrated in a study by Dr. Dohan in 1969[x]. He randomly placed all men admitted to a locked psychiatric ward in a Veterans Administration Hospital in Coatsville, Pennsylvania, either on a diet containing no milk or cereals, or on a diet that was relatively high in cereals. (Milk was eliminated from the diet because some people do not benefit when only glutens are removed). All other treatment continued as normal. Midway through the experiment 62% of the group on no milk and cereals were released to a 'full privileges' ward while only 36% of those patients receiving a diet including cereal were able to leave the locked ward. When the wheat gluten was secretly placed back into the diet, the improved patients relapsed. 

The same results were found in a study by Drs Mohan Singh and Stanley Kay, at the Bronx Psychiatric Centre in New York[x]. Fourteen schizophrenics were kept on a gluten-free diet for 12 weeks and given a special drink, containing, among other ingredients, either soy protein for the first four and last four weeks or wheat gluten in the middle four weeks. During the four weeks in which they consumed wheat gluten there was marked deterioration in almost all behavioural yardsticks measured. 

These studies indicate that, at present, diet is the crucial factor in treating gluten-sensitive schizophrenics. Therefore, wheat-gluten sensitivity should be considered in the pathogenesis of the 'schizophrenias' and once diagnosis has been made, patients should understand and employ a diet free from milk and cereals.

Recognizing wheat-gluten sensitivity is frequently difficult because classical symptoms are often absent. When either the doctor (or nutritionist) or the patient is even vaguely suspicious of gluten sensitivity, a special diet can be undertaken for a trial period. Weeks or months may be required before a marked improvement appears after wheat, rye, barley, oats and milk are removed from the diet. Re-introduction of these grains and milk into the diet usually produces a relapse in months, days or even hours! It is important, then, to maintain a strict adherence to the diet and to be aware of the exact ingredients of many foods.

With removal of the offending foods, irritability, mood swings, compulsive behaviour and other psychiatric disorders will subside. Dr. Dohan suggests that elimination diets should be tried for at least six months to a year. Further investigation is needed to determine how long the milk and cereal free diet must be followed to determine the possibility of developing a 'gluten tolerance' which would permit careful re-introduction of these foods into the diet.

"This article is the copyright of the author and may not be reproduced, except for printing for personal use, in any format without the prior permission of the author." For details about Patrick Holford's work visit www.patrickholford.com

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