Approximately 1 in 5 adults and children, as well as probably 1 in 3 humans with behavioural problems observe or are sensitive to allergic reactions to common foods such as wheat, milk yeast or eggs. We have been aware that these foods and chemicals can adversely affect mood and behaviour in children, however it has been ignored for a long time.
In the 1980s, researchers found that allergies can affect any system in the human body, including the Central Nervous System, and this has been confirmed by recent tests. Symptoms as a result of allergies include fatigue, irritability and agitation, aggressive behaviour, decreased processing speed of thought, nervousness, anxiety, depression, autism. ADHD, hyperactivity and certain learning disorders.
Sometimes an ImmunoglobulinG (IgG) food allergy test can identify the type of food or culprit that once removed from the daily diet will reduce the symptoms. Changes to the patient may include a greater level of sociability, a facilitation of digestion, a more regular bowel function and a removal of stomach aches.
Such symptoms in susceptible children can be attributed to common foods and food additives. Some children particularly those suffering from hyperactivity or Attention Deficit disorders such as ADHD may react to salicylicates – a typical component of many healthy foods. The most convincing evidence of the widespread effects of allergies on children was a crossover study, double-blind and placebo-controlled, conducted by Dr. Joseph Egger and his team, who studied 76 hyperactive children, in order to find out if their diet could contribute to behavioural issues. The results revealed that 79% of the children tested, reacted adversely to artificial colourings and preservatives, especially to tartrazine and benzoic acid, which produced a marked behavioural deterioration.
However, Egger noted that no child reacted solely to one allergen. In fact, they discovered 48 different foods that produce symptoms in the children tested. For example, 64% of children tested reacted to cow’s milk, 59% to chocolate, 49% to wheat, 45% to oranges and the list goes on. An interesting point was the discovery that it wasn’t only behavioural changes that occurred in the children once the foodstuff was removed or reduced in the diet but physical symptoms too. Symptoms that decreased considerably included headaches, abdominal discomfort, chronic rhinitis, pain in the limbs, skin rashes and mouth ulcers. Other studies have shown similar results.
These studies are good examples that the problems created by allergies often produce a variety of physical and mental symptoms and affect many different body systems. Furthermore, allergies are specific to each individual as are the symptoms they cause.
So what is the difference between a food allergy, food intolerance or food sensitivity, which commonly are used interchangeably.
An allergic reaction is essentially an exaggerated response to a substance. The immune system has the ability to produce “markers” for substances it dislikes, the classic example being named IgE antibody. When food containing the allergen is digested, it enters the bloodstream as the marker IgE, triggering the release of chemicals commonly histamine. It is this that causes the classic symptoms of allergy – skin rashes, hay fever, rhinitis, sinusitis, asthma, eczema and anaphylaxis in extreme cases.
Food intolerances and sensitivities are reactions to foods in which there is no measurable antibody response. Examples include lactose intolerance, where the child lacks the enzyme to digest milk sugar (lactose) leading to abdominal discomfort or diarrhoea when drinking milk.
Any food can cause an allergic reaction, but the most common are wheat and other grains with gluten, milk, eggs, seafood, foods containing yeast, nuts, garlic and soy. Wheat is likely to be the most prevalent allergy as it contains a substance called gliadin that irritates the intestinal wall. Gliadin is one type of gluten, a sticky protein that allows pockets of air to form when combined with yeast. Therefore eating too many wheat based products is not good for anyone and especially not for children who have developed an allergy. The link between wheat allergy, autism and ADHD are well identified. Rye, Barley and Oats contain much less and differing types of gluten, hence children that are allergic to wheat may not be to rye, barley or oats. At the same time, some children who are allergic to wheat, rye and barley can tolerate oats, since this does not contain gliadin.
Dairy products, including cheese and yoghurt have been known to cause allergic reactions in many children. Some seem to tolerate goat’s or sheep’s milk. Allergic symptoms include a stuffy nose, indigestion and bloating , fatigue, earaches and haedaches.
Of all links that have been investigated, the relation between behavioural problems and allergies is the most referenced. If your child is hyperactive or has a tendency to inexplicable mood swings, it maybe of value to perform an allergy test. We shall consider various options.
If your child has a history of infantile colic, eczema, asthma, ear infections, hay fever, seasonal allergies, digestive problems (including bloating, diarrhoea and constipation), frequent colds and any behavioural problems or learning disabilities, then there is a valid reason to suspect a delayed food allergy reaction and you should attempt a test to identify the culprit. The best test is the IgG ELISA, using a blood sample (a simple finger prick, which can be made with a home kit).
The test is best conducted under the observation of a nutritional therapist or specialist in allergies, which can then define a diet that will remove all products causing the allergy and include appropriate alternatives.
An alternative method to identify food allergies is the elimination of specific dietary elements and screening. This involves removing all likely culprits from the diet for a certain time period (usually between two weeks to three months), and observing any behavioural, mental or physical changes. The food can be reintroduced, in a controlled manner, while checking the state of health.
The intestinal factor
Digestive problems are often the underlying factor in a delayed food allergy reaction, or IgG. Many children have digestive tracts that are to permeable, meaning that partially undigested proteins enter the bloodstream, consequently causing allergic reactions.
This permeability may develop due to frequent use of antibiotics or aspirin, gastrointestinal infections, fungal infections such as candidiasis, or due to a deficiency in essential fatty acids, vitamin A and zinc. Therefore, identifying and avoiding what we are reacting to is only half the problem with respect to a food allergy IgG. The other half is to return to a healthy digestion. A child with food allergies symptoms, such as ear infections or frequent respiratory infections, has a good chance they will be given antibiotics by your doctor. This can increase the intestine’s susceptibility to allergies and deteriorate, leading in turn to more antibiotics and a vicious cycle developing. It is clearly better to deal with the underlying cause of the symptoms, identifying the allergenic food and removing them from the diet, instead of relying on antibiotics for short-term relief and long-term worsening of the problem.
There are several ways to try and reduce the allergic potential:
• Remove all dairy and wheat based foods for a month or more to observe its effects. In any case, try to limit these dietary food groups, by not eating them every day.
• Improve digestion in food including plenty of fresh fruits, vegetables, seeds and fish, which contain essential fatty acids and zinc.
• Minimize the use of antibiotics as they damage the digestive tract.
• If you suspect you may have a food allergy, perform a IgG ELISA food allergies test and see a nutrition specialist. Both of these methods can identify what you are allergic to, define a course of action to reduce your allergic potential and ensure that the diet remains balanced and healthy when excluding the problematic aliments.
At the Akashic Science Centre, we provide a wide range of health care services to patients, from routine check ups to full treatments.
Our Therapists work under the supervision of Dr Nuno Nina to provide high-quality care at a reasonable cost.