Could Food Intolerance be Causing You Problems?

could-your-food-be-causing-you-unwanted-mental-health-symptoms

Gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, glutamate, salicylates, amines… It’s all so confusing, right?

Many neurodivergents do well on a gluten free, casein free diet (GFCF).  Restricting these foodstuffs works to varying degrees to eliminate unwanted symptoms such as irritable bowel, anxiety, depression, hyperactivity, aggravation, general irritability, aching muscles, and headaches etc. However, some neurodivergents often have hyper-reactive nervous systems and may need to, additionally, avoid artificial colours, flavours, preservatives, and many natural chemicals found in everyday fruit and veg.

The food chemicals that people most often react to are: amines, salicylates, glutamate, and sulphur.  Nightshades (a class of vegetable) and histamine can also prove problematic.

 
Peeling Fruits and Veg before eating can eliminate food chemicals that disrupt sensitive nervous systems. Just make sure you’re still getting enough fibre!

Peeling Fruits and Veg before eating can eliminate food chemicals that disrupt sensitive nervous systems. Just make sure you’re still getting enough fibre!

Fruits and vegetables, for instance, have chemicals (salicylates) in their skin to ward off unwanted pests while growing. Nature is truly wondrous!  If you are sensitive to chemicals, it’s always a good idea to peel your fruit and veg. If you are highly intolerant, you may, also, need to avoid the fleshy part of the food, because the chemicals often penetrate within. Ideally, you don’t want to do this for an extended period of time because the skin of fruits and vegetables provide the highest fibre content - essential for a healthy gut!

Meat can also be problematic as it accumulates amines as it ages, and, additionally, during the cooking process.  Buy meat from a local butcher as fresh as possible, and freeze if not eaten immediately.

Glutamate (the opposite of GABA - a neurotransmitter that aids relaxation) fires up your neurotransmitters and can hyper-stimulate the brain.  Many neurodivergents already have an overactive brain, therefore, excess glutamate can be problematic.

Rich, or tasty foods are usually the highest in chemical content and regularly prove problematic for sensitive individuals.  See the list at the foot of this post highlighting the highest sources of food chemicals.

 
Rich and tasty foods have high chemical content and can prove problematic for sensitive nervous systems

Rich and tasty foods have high chemical content and can prove problematic for sensitive nervous systems

“Neurodivergents suffering unwanted symptoms would be wise to test for chemical sensitivities and eliminate any possible reactive foodstuffs.  A strict elimination diet is a scientifically proven way to do this.  There are many elimination diets on the internet so do your homework and find the best one for you.  See below for a suggested medically-researched elimination diet...”

Okay, so here’s what’s really important: it’s all about your food intolerance threshold!  

Chemicals can build up in your body slowly over time, then when your body reaches that individually set threshold you begin to experience symptoms.  Times of stress can affect your threshold level, including hormonal stress. You’ll often find that puberty (both sexes), perimenopause and menopause (females) are periods where you’ll react more noticeably to food because you have a lower threshold.

 

There’s good news, though!  

You can rebuild your tolerance to food chemicals by slowly adding food back into your diet.  

Start with just half a teaspoon every few days of a high-chemical food source.  For example, to test for salicylate sensitivity, add a half a teaspoon of a high salicylate food to your diet and see if you react poorly.  If you react, then cut it back again.  If not, gradually build your tolerance by adding more of that food every few days.  Each time you react, cut it back again.  Make sure the food you choose is only high in one particular chemical, or you will confound your results. More info in the elimination diet handbook listed below.

Food intolerance often runs in families, but affects family members in differing ways.  If, for example, one person reacts to salicylates with hyperactivity, their offspring may react by becoming irritable or developing a migraine.  

Food intolerance can profoundly affect your mental health with issues like anxiety, depression, anger, and irritability

Food intolerance can profoundly affect your mental health with issues like anxiety, depression, anger, and irritability

Please note, scientific research continually shows that each and every one of us should eat a diet rich in nutrients, for optimum health. The information contained in this article is for people who suspect they might have food intolerances and have not found relief through other mental health rescue solutions. All nervous systems differ, therefore, you should try the elimination diet if food intolerance is suspected and consult a clinical dietician or medical professional where necessary.

Try these Food Intolerance books by the Australian Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Unit:

- ‘Friendly Food’. Order it online here.

- ‘RPAH Elimination Diet Handbook’. Order it online here

A brilliant website for further information is www.fedup.com.au

 

HIGH SOURCES OF FOOD CHEMICALS 

HIGH SALICYLATES


Avocado

Dates

Grapefruit

Kiwi fruit


Oranges

Mandarins

Raspberries

Passionfruit


Grapes

Plums

Prunes

Broad beans


Cauliflower

Eggplant

Gherkins

Olives


Apricots

Apples

Berries

Blackcurrant


Cherries

Nectarines

Peaches

Strawberries


Lemons

Figs

Broccoli

Spinach


Silverbeet

Mushrooms

Tomatoes

Alfalfa


Artichokes

Capsicum

Chilli

Corn


Cucumber

Onion

Radish

Pumpkin


Watercress

Courgettes

Processed meats, such as salami, luncheon meat, sausages

Fruit juice


Coffee

Tea

Cola

Cordial


Wine

Liqueurs

Brandy, Port, Rum, Sherry

Beer


Cider

Jam

Liquorice

Honey


Peppermints

Spices

Soy sauces and pastes

Vinegar


All sauces

All stock cubes

Yeast extracts

Copha


Coconut oil

Olive oil

Sesame oil

Walnut oil


 

 HIGH AMINES


Avocado

Broad beans

Cauliflower

Eggplant


Gherkins

Olives

Broccoli

Spinach


Silverbeet

Tomatoes

Mushrooms

Mandarins


Dates

Grapefruit

Kiwifruit

Oranges


Passionfruit

Pineapple

Raspberry

Grapes


Prunes

Plums

Lemons

Figs


All fish and fish products

Processed meats, such as bacon, salami, luncheon meat, sausages

Chicken skin

Chicken livers


Ham

Pork

Cheese

Miso


Soy sauce

Cocoa

Chocolate

Cola


Orange juice

Beer

Cider

Wine


Liqueurs

Brandy, Port, Rum, Sherry

Vegetable juices

Soft drinks


Sunflower seeds

Sesame seeds

Almonds

Coconut


All nuts

Copha

Coconut oil

Olive oil


Sesame oil

Walnut oil

Stock cubes

All sauces


Vinegar

Soy sauce and paste

Yeast extracts

 

 

  HIGH GLUTAMATE (free and bound)


MSG

Broccoli

Spinach

Mushrooms


Silverbeet

Tomatoes

Grapes

Plums


Prunes

Processed meats, such as salami, bacon, luncheon meat, sausages

Tasty cheeses

Miso


Soy sauce and paste

Peas

Vegetable juices

Gravy


Wine

Liqueurs

Brandy, Port, Rum, Sherry

All sauces


Stock cubes

Yeast extracts

 
 

 

 HIGH SULPHUR


Cruciferous vegetable – cabbage, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, kale, cauliflower

Eggs

Allium Vegetables – garlic, onions, leeks, chives

Fish


Poultry

Nuts

Legumes

Pineapple


Sesame seeds

Sunflower seeds

Milk

Cheese


Sour cream

Coconut

Bananas

Watermelon


 

 NIGHTSHADES


Potatoes

Tomatoes

Eggplant

Mushrooms


Capsicum

Most spices

Hot sauces

Curry powders


 

  HIGH FRUCTOSE


High fructose corn syrup

Honey

Sugar alcohols

Colas


Most soft drinks

Plums

Bananas

Blueberries


Blackberries

Plums

Cherries

Figs


Kiwis

Pears

Grapes

Mandarins


Mangos

Rockmelon

Grapefruit

Pineapple


Raspberries

Dried fruit

 

 

 HIGH HISTAMINE


All seafood

Fermented foods, such as kimchi, yoghurt, sauerkraut

Vinegar

Fermented drinks (particularly kefir, kombucha, wine, liqueur, beer)


Aged cheeses

Processed meats, such as salami, bacon, luncheon meat, sausages

Pickles

Olive


  

References

Churnin, B. (1989). A study of the relationship between food intolerance and behaviour in children (Doctoral dissertation, ROYAL PRINCE ALFRED HOSPITAL).

Medical News Today.  Retrieved from https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322543.php

Nearchou, M., Loblay, R. H., Swain, A. R., Chan, C., Ray, K. L., & Stuart-Smith, W. (2015). Nutritional adequacy and diet quality of adult patients with food intolerance before and on the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Elimination Diet. Unpublished Data), 1-34.

Swain, A. R., Soutter, V. L., & Loblay, R. H. (2011). RPAH elimination diet handbook: with food & shopping guide. Allergy Unit, Royal Prince Alfred Hospital.

 

Mel from Swimming with Goldfish posts about the ins and outs of having ADHD, depression, and anxiety. Check her out on Instagram.