The occurrence of psychiatric symptoms that are connected to substances in our environment or substances in the diet is popularly referred to as “brain allergies”. Such allergies could either be immune mediated or they could be mediated by certain nutrients in the diet.
The connection between mind and body
Mental disorders are known to be caused by chemical imbalances in the brain. It is commonly overlooked that what we put into our mouths could actually have an impact on our brain chemistry. Our brains are the organs of our minds and according to a popular saying: “We are what we eat”. This saying could hold a lot of truth as good nutrition is fundamental to good mental health.
Brain chemistry involves neurotransmitters, hormones and neuropeptides that are all made from building blocks obtained from our food like cholesterol and amino-acids. Such building blocks are taken up through the gastro-intestinal tract and the proper functioning of our gut is in turn dependent upon healthy brain chemistry.
Neurotransmitters, hormones and immunology
It has been suggested that our moods and immune systems are linked with brain chemistry being the connection and it seems like neurotransmitters have the ability to regulate immune cells.
Receptors that are present on brain tissue are what bring about immune and endocrine influences on the mind. The blood brain barrier (BBB) plays a key part as far as allergies are concerned. A compromised BBB may leave a person susceptible to the effects of unwelcome substances. It is also interesting that the hypothalamus lacks a blood brain barrier. This is why we develop fever, aches, loss of appetite and a general feeling of not being well when we are sick.
The effects of food allergies on the brain
Foods that are mostly involved in allergies that affect the brain are cow’s milk, chocolate, bananas, beef, sugar and wheat. They may cause symptoms like:
- Specific learning disability
- General co-ordination deficits
- Perceptual-motor deficits
- Emotional lability
- Short attention span
- Neurological signs (for example speech impairment)
- Abnormal EEG
Treatment options of brain allergies
Brain allergies can be managed through:
- Elimination diet
Brain allergies are very complex and certainly deserve attention. Stay positive and don’t stop searching until you find a solution to the underlying problem. Brain allergies may be prevented through stress management, lifestyle changes and healthy nutrition. Don’t wait to fix a problem, rather prevent the problem before it takes over your life.
- Whitford T. The underlying mechanisms of brain allergies. The Journal of Orthomolecular Medicine. 2000; vol. 15: 5-14.
- Shanahan L, Zucker N, Copeland WE, Costello EJ, Angold A. Are children and adolescents with food allergies at increased risk for psychopathology? Journal of psychosomatic research. December 2014; 77(6): 468-73.
- Felten D, et al: Noradrenergic sympathetic innervation of lymphoid tissue. J Immun. 1985; 135.