You Are What You Eat: The Brain & Allergen Connection

By Dr. Judy Thompson
12 min read


It is commonly known that allergies from food or other substances can cause signs and symptoms (S/S) of hay fever, asthma, and hives.

However, the brain – the most intricate and biochemically complicated organ – can also be affected by allergies. Body allergies and brain allergies often go hand in hand. Mood altering foods are tough to diagnose, but for many who have unexplained emotional swings, it could be the missing piece of the puzzle to some long-standing psychological problems.

In persons with known allergies, who suffer from depression of unknown origin, treatment of allergies in many cases can relieve depression. Allergy testing should be considered in everyone who for no obvious reason suffers from signs and symptoms. Allergies have also been known to be a common cause of unexplained fatigue in children. When the allergen is removed, everything changes.

The worst allergy offenders are usually common foods we eat every day! This is where allergies get confusing and complicated, as our food options seem endless and there are many conflicting opinions.

SOME COMMON OFFENDERS!
Believe it or not…Milk, eggs, peanuts, gluten, wheat, citrus, corn, certain fruit & vegetables, nuts & sugar have all been proven to be allergens in people.

In these examples, it’s important to note that these foods can disguise themselves in other forms. For corn, it is just not the corn on the cob that can hurt us. It can be corn starch, corn syrup, corn oil, etc. 

S/S of certain foods may take up to 4-5 days to present themselves. The egg you ate yesterday morning can cause S/S the next evening. This is where it gets challenging. Sometimes you don’t react to a known allergen and the next time you will. It’s called the “allergy threshold.” Think of it like this: Water is filling a barrel. All is ok until the water reaches the brim and the next tiny drop overruns the barrel and the allergy S/S appear. Rotating allergic foods or completely avoiding the food can help S/S from reaching a critical point. Become aware of your body’s reaction and how you feel.

HOW DO I KNOW WHAT TO AVOID?
Keep a food diary diet for 1-2 weeks.
1. List all ingredients in the dish.
2. Check-in with yourself every morning. Any increase in weight, increase in thirst, decreased urine output, tightening of shoes? The tightness of rings on your fingers are signs of edema (fluid retention) and are common food reactions.
3. Note any foods you crave.
4. Keep track of how you feel throughout the day. Are there any new/ different things you are feeling?

Any S/S within:
1 hour: hives, runny nose, asthma, heartburn, sleepiness, etc.
2-4 hours: abdominal cramps, gas pains, headache
6-12 hours: delayed hives 
12-15 hours: weight gain, water retention 12-24 hours: depression, confusion, forgetfulness, inability to concentrate, other mental S/S 
3-5 days: cold sores, aching joints, muscles and back pain, etc.

The diary can help recognize food problems and patterns. Make a list of all the foods you feel well on, and list of all the foods on days you had symptoms. Compare the lists, cross out all the foods that appear on both sides, and the foods left on the second list are “prime suspects!”

Elimination Diet… One Food At A Time!
1. It’s a self-test!
2. Avoid “prime suspects” in all forms for 3 weeks and see how you feel.
3. Eat your food in several meals, with generous portions.
4. Observe your symptoms.

In the first 4-5 days, you may feel worse, but by day 5 or 6 you should feel better. After 2-3 weeks on your elimination diet, try the excluded foods. The best time is a day free of symptoms, until lunch, then eat various forms of food for 3 consecutive meals. If the meal provides symptoms, you’ve identified the allergen.  Allergies can also be caused by food additives – not by the food itself. For example MSG, BHT, BHA, sulfur, food dyes, etc.

Become a label reader! As a rule of thumb, consider this: If you can’t pronounce the additive, it’s probably not good for you. Try to eat as much “organic” food as possible to avoid ingesting chemicals used in production practices. Allergic reactions can occur from these chemicals.

You Are What You Eat!

Dr. Judith C. Thompson is a graduate of Cleveland Chiropractic College in Kansas City, Missouri with a Doctorate of Chiropractic Degree and a graduate of Park University in Parkville, Missouri with a BS in Clinical Nutrition. She currently lives in Wichita, KS.


For more nutrition and fitness tips, check out the following BroglieBox articles below:
The Gut-Brain Connection: What You Need to Know​
3 Essential Health Practices when Sheltering in Place
3 Tools to Manage Emotional Eating
Omega-3 Fatty Acids & Mental Health
5 Tips to be Healthy, Fit, and Happy!
You can also find some great Mood Food Recipes here!

The above curated BroglieBox is for the ultimate Wellness Warrior. Ideal for managing stress, combating anxiety, elevating your daily lifestyle, or just keeping healthy on this roller coaster of life. 

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