Since I do a considerable amount of work with food sensitivities and how it relates to our health the recent Lancet study that made headlines came as no surprise to me. However reading the comments section on NPRs coverage had me realize that we are still in the dark ages in terms of food/emotions/health. The saying “you are what you eat” is very true – Whatever we eat has the potential to express certain genes that can have marked effects on our physiology. Food that we may have lost oral tolerance for will cause an inflammatory response that when eaten over and over eventually will cause chronic disease.
Recently I have seen several people that have a histamine intolerance. This is where the body does not have the ability to produce enough doamine oxidase (DOA) enzyme to break down histamine. It can cause a host of symptoms ranging from digestive to skin to emotional. The histamine can be either exogenous – that is the food has high histamine – or it can be endogenous – where the food causes an increase of histamine produced in the body. We deal with the symptoms by changing the diet and removing offending foods as well as providing the enzyme (DOA) to break down histamine during meals. Two adult patients I recently had with a major complaint of anxiety and lack of focus had major revelations when we uncovered that they had a histamine intolerance. They were both on medications for anxiety. They both were able to eliminate their medications once they realized their food triggers.
This had me thinking “how many kids are on medications and have a histamine intolerance?”. Probably a significant percentage. It is sad. The medical establishment is so quick to medicate. These kids do not have a Ritalin deficiency. Many have a food intolerance whether it is a histamine intolerance, or some other loss of oral tolerance causing an inflammatory reaction thereby expressing certain hormones and neurotransmitters in the gut and brain. (the gut accounts for the majority of our bodies production of serotonin – the feel good hormone). Thankfully there are good doctors out there that are testing for food issues and doing the challenging leg work to really help children rather than the quick fix of symptoms with a pharmaceutical.
The aforementioned Lancet article showed that 64% of the children diagnosed with ADHD actually had significant improvements with a well controlled elimination diet. I think clinicians who do this work would agree with close to that number. Colleagues of mine that do significantly more work with food intolerance in children have reported dramatic changes to children labeled on the autistic spectrum.
Food certainly effects behavior. mood and brain function in everyone. I realize there are certainly other mechanisms that may cause a label to be placed on someone. However we cannot ignore the role of diet or give a cursory ‘try’ to see if diet is a factor. (i.e. “I eliminated X, Y and Z for 3 weeks and there was no difference.” ) Finding which foods are the trigger is not easy and requires excellent blood testing such as Signet labs in Florida which I use, or diligent elimination diet record keeping.
Yours In Health,
Certified Nutrition Specialist
Diplomat Oriental Medicine