Food proteins cause allergy and other immune mediated diseases. I will argue
that this is an important but ignored problem in terms of suffering, disability
and cost to the health care system. The prototypic antigenic proteins are found
in wheat, cow’s milk, cereal grains, eggs and soy. Proteins are identification tags
that immune cells recognize. Proteins that trigger immune responses are
antigens. Immune cells make antibodies to bind to antigens. Antibodies are
proteins, so that immune activity can be visualized as complex interactions of
protein molecules with immune cells acting as intermediaries. Diamond et al
reminded neuroscience researchers that everyone likely has populations of B
cells making antibodies that can recognize brain antigens. They stated:"
Although B cells that are reactive with self antigen are normally silenced
during B cell maturation, the blood–brain barrier (BBB) prevents many brain
antigens from participating in this process. This enables the generation of a B
cell repertoire that is sufficiently diverse to cope with numerous environmental
challenges. It requires, however, that the integrity of the BBBs is
uninterrupted throughout life to protect the brain from antibodies that
cross-react with brain antigens. Under conditions of BBB compromise, and during
fetal development, we think that these antibodies can alter brain function in
otherwise healthy individuals."
Food protein antigens make their way through human bodies in a remarkable
fashion. Consider the long and improbable path of milk proteins through a
mother's gut, into her blood, through her liver, out into her breast milk,
through her infant's gut mucosa, finally arriving in the infant nasal mucosa to
cause rhinitis, the infant lung to cause asthma or the infant skin to cause
eczema. There are many potential paths from mouth to target organ for food
antigens to follow. Every tissue of the body can manifest a food allergic
response. Some activity is noticed in minutes; the onset of other activity is
delayed hours to days.(Betty Diamond, Patricio T. Huerta, Paola Mina-Osorio,
Czeslawa Kowal1 & Bruce T. Volpe. Losing your nerves? Maybe it's the
antibodies. Nature Reviews Immunology 9, 449-456 (June 2009) | doi:10.1038/nri2529)
Allergy of the Nervous System
Some old knowledge is very valuable, but is forgotten. Dr. Walter Alvarez, a
well-known physician of the Mayo clinic and popular medical writer for several
decades, provided a personal perspective on food-mind interactions, many years
ago, in his introduction to the text, "Allergy of the Nervous System": "For
years I knew I was highly sensitive to chicken, I suffered from what I called
"dumb Monday," when I was too dull to do much constructive work like writing.
Finally, I discovered that bad Mondays were due to the Alvarez family's habit of
having chicken for Sunday dinner... My most remarkable personal experience with
brain dulling due to food allergy came many years ago when... I ate a whole
broiled chicken. Next day I had severe diarrhea and with this I became so dulled
I could not read with comfort. And that night I had a hallucination of sight,
such as I had never had before and haven't had since."
Alvarez and other astute physicians knew about food allergy and its mental
effects for many years. Food allergy was implicated in depression,
anxiety, hyperactivity in children, epilepsy, migraine, Meniere's syndrome,
Multiple Sclerosis, and Guillain-Barre Syndrome. Unfortunately, this wisdom,
shared by many prominent physicians for many years, has somehow been lost to
subsequent generations of physicians and needs to be renewed.
Immune activity produces mental-emotional symptoms. Anaphylaxis victims are
said to have "panic attacks" if they end up in the psychiatry department.
Children with food allergy may have nightmares, tantrums and fail to learn at
school because of attention deficits. Some of these children grow into troubled
adults with "learning disability". Others remain hyper, moody, and volatile.
Delayed pattern food allergy patients are sometimes described as "depressed" or
"neurotic". Migraine sufferers may have neurological symptoms that suggest a
stroke or a seizure. The occasional patient will have food-triggered epilepsy.
Changes in sensation, motor control, balance and vision accompany food allergy
and may suggest the diagnosis of serious neurological diseases such as Multiple
Sclerosis or Alzheimer's disease.
Important disturbances of brain function occur during immune activity in the
body with the strongest influences on the autonomic nervous system and
mood-emotion circuits. Changes in arousal, mood, sleep-waking patterns,
appetite, thirst and temperature regulation are regularly reported by patients
who have immune mediated disease. The defense against infection features fever,
loss of appetite, general malaise and the tendency to sleep. In patients with
delayed patterns of milk and wheat allergy will report fatigue, progressing to
sleepiness after eating the offending food. They may also experience increased
thirst, frequent urination, hot and cold sensations, and headaches. Immune
activity produces mental-emotional symptoms. Anaphylaxis victims are said to
have "panic attacks if they end up in the psychiatry department.
Children with delayed pattern food allergy may have nightmares, tantrums,
and fail to learn at school because of attention deficits. Some of these
children grow into troubled adults with "learning disability". Others remain
hyper, moody, and volatile. Delayed pattern food allergy patients are sometimes
described as "depressed" or "neurotic". Migraine sufferers may have neurological
symptoms that suggest a stroke or a seizure. The occasional patient will have
food-triggered epilepsy.Often changes in sensation, motor control, balance, and vision are symptoms of
food allergy and suggest the diagnosis of serious neurological diseases such as
Multiple Sclerosis. (Egger J. et al Oligoantigenic diet treatment of
children with epilepsy and migraine. Jour Pediatrics 1989;114:51-8. Epilepsy
precipitated by food sensitivity. Clin Electroencephalography 1981;12:642-4.)
Food-provoked symptoms are not "psychological" as many physicians have
claimed. Adverse immune reactions to foods or "food allergies" have a
physiological basis and can be explained by insightful medical biology. Dr. Aas,
a Norwegian allergist and researcher, remarked at the Marabou symposium on "Food
Sensitivity" : "In my institute I am the only experimental monkey that we have
and from several passive transfer experiments on myself, with occasional rather
severe reactions, I am the first to admit that allergic reactions are
accompanied with intellectual and emotional disturbances. If you have not
experienced that, I ask you to be a volunteer in my laboratory."
The concept of allergy as reacting defensively to foreign materials can be
extended to the nervous system which also reacts with defensive procedures. Both
immune and nervous systems interact when things go wrong at the level of
molecules and cells. The molecular-cellular mechanisms are monitored (but not
controlled) at the level of consciousness. The experience of symptoms is the
monitor image in consciousness of problems at the molecular-cellular level. In
technical terms, we can speak of information and noise in the system of person
and environment. Information noise is the disorder and chaos in experience that
confuses or interferes with a successful relationship with our environment, the
achievement of our goals with associated peace of mind. Molecular noise is the
disorder or chaos created by substances flowing through our body-brain.
Information noise is equivalent to molecular noise. At the level of equivalence
we cannot tell the difference between a molecular problem and a personal
problem. As noise increases, the system becomes more unstable or hypersensitive.
This instability is expressed as emotional disturbances associated with physical
Cow's milk contains many antigenic proteins. Patients of all ages with
gastrointestinal tract disease may have difficulty digesting these proteins and
may absorb them as antigens. Casein is the most commonly used milk protein in
the food industry. Lactalbumin, lactoglobulin, bovine albumin, and gamma
globulin are other protein groups in cow’s milk. There are at least 30 antigenic
primary proteins in milk. Digestion probably increases the number of possible
antigens to over 100. Milk proteins tend to stay intact as milk is converted to
dairy products of all types. While lactose intolerance may not be an issue with
yogurt ingestion, for example, milk protein allergy remains. Many patients have
been fooled by health claims for lactose-free or lactaid-fixed milk and continue
to have symptoms from milk allergy when they ingest these products. Digested
fractions of each of the milk proteins may induce the production of IgE, IgA,
and IgG antibodies and may trigger complex, variable immune responses. Skin
tests with whole milk proteins are therefore misleading. Type 1 responses do
appear regularly on skin tests showing IgE activity against intact proteins, but
secondary antigens are not detected. Milk antigens tend to get through the
mucosa intact and are responsible for a host of delayed immune responses that do
not depend on IgE and do not show up on skin tests. The role of milk proteins in
triggering the most serious pathology usually goes undetected. Cow's milk
allergy can play a role in causing asthma, rhinitis, eczema, urticaria, serous
otitis media, pulmonary alveolitis (hemosiderosis), milk-induced enteropathy in
infants, eosinophilic gastroenteritis, gastrointestinal bleeding with iron
deficiency anemia, migraine headaches, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder,
Crohn's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and insulin dependent diabetes mellitus.
Immune responses to gluten, the proteins found in cereal grains are a common
cause of disease. Often, an assortment of related whole-body problems
accompanies celiac disease. We think the related problems are typical of delayed
pattern food allergy and use celiac disease research information to create a
model of food allergy. Celiac patients have increased gastrointestinal
permeability and demonstrate the whole-body effects of food allergy, including
brain dysfunction, arthritis, and inflammatory lung disease. Diabetes, thyroid
disease, purpura, anemia, rheumatoid arthritis, sacroileitis, sarcoidosis,
vasculitis, lung disease, myositis, eye inflammation, and schizophrenia are all
linked to gluten intolerance. These associations suggest a tendency to immune
hypersensitivity diseases and a role for food antigens in causing systemic
Celiac disease may present as a vague illness, even a mental illness.
Patients complain of dysphoria with fatigue, difficulty in concentration, loss
of recent memory, irritability, loss of pleasure and interests, often with sleep
disturbances. Sleep and dreaming are influenced by food problems. Most people
eat their major meal in the evening and snack at night. This food is digested
and absorbed during the night and symptoms often emerge as you sleep. Some
allergenic effects tend to peak at night - asthma, migraine, body pains, and
itching are often at their worst. Sleep disturbances include difficulty falling
asleep, frequent waking and nightmares. Celiac disease in adolescents has been
associated with an increased prevalence of depressive and disruptive behavioral
disorders. A significant decrease in psychiatric symptoms was found at 3 months
on a gluten-free diet. (Pynnonen PA. et al. Gluten-free diet may alleviate
depressive and behavioral symptoms in adolescents with celiac disease: a
prospective follow-up case-series study. BMC Psychiatry 2005, 5:14)
Listen to Food Allergy and the Brain
You are viewing the Brain Mind Center at Alpha Online.
Understanding the human brain is essential to become a well-informed, modern
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