Do You Have Brain Allergies?
Do you have brain fog, experience trouble focusing, feel brain fatigue, or feel sad or angry after eating? Does fasting or skipping meals make you feel alert, focused, and clear? If so, something you are eating is eating at you. You may be allergic to your food. But what are food allergies, and how do they affect your brain?
Allergies are an inflammatory response. When you ingest molecules you are allergic to, your body believes a foreign intruder has entered its midst. Never mind that the molecule may not be truly harmfu–it may simply be a food you have eaten–allergies make your body "think" this intruder is out to do you harm.
As a result your body sets in motion a host of inflammatory reactions to try and stop this intruder from harming you. What reactions are set off depends on your individual genetic makeup and can range from mild skin irritation to brain fog to aggressive behavior, anxiety, depression, and more.
What Are Food Allergies Anyway?
There are two main types of food allergies: acute (or immediate) and delayed.
Everyone knows about the acute form (or IgE allergies), because it happens immediately and in a big way. If you eat a peanut and your throat closes, you get hives, and you can't breathe, you will never eat a peanut again. You know you are allergic to them.
But delayed allergies (or IgG allergies) are sneaky. You may eat a piece of bread on Monday and be depressed on Wednesday or have a piece of cheese today and get a migraine tomorrow. You never make the connection, because you don't even realize food can have this kind of impact on you.
This type of allergy is mostly ignored by conventional medicine. Yet addressing this in my practice is one of the most powerful things I do to help people recover from nearly any problem.
Allergic diseases of both types (IgE and IgG) are on the rise for many reasons.
We are becoming hypersensitive to our environments, perhaps because we live in an oversterilized environment and our immune systems don't mature properly. Or because we are eating hybridized and genetically modified (GMO) foods, full of antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and additives, all of which were unknown to our immune systems just a generation or two ago.
Our immune system becomes unable to recognize friend from foe–to distinguish between foreign molecular invaders we truly need to protect against and the foods we eat or, in some cases, our own cells. In third world countries where hygiene is poor and infections are common, allergy and autoimmunity are rare.
But delayed allergies, more specifically, occur because many of our twenty-first-century habits lead to a breakdown of the normal barrier that protects our immune system from the outside world of foods, bugs, and toxins.
That barrier is our gut. Sixty percent of your immune system is right under that barrier. When the lining of your gut breaks down, your immune system is activated by food particles that it misinterprets as foreign invaders, and this sets off a chain reaction leading to inflammation throughout your body, including your brain.
If that barrier is weakened by a nutrient-poor diet high in sugar and low in fiber, by nutritional deficiencies of zinc and omega-3 fats, by overuse of antibiotics and hormones, by exposure to environmental toxins, and by unprecedented levels of mental and emotional stressors, then the outside environment "leaks" into your body (and your brain) and you develop allergies and systemic immune problems. This is called a leaky gut.
In fact, much of what we see go wrong in the epidemic of mood and brain disorders is because of a "leaky brain."
This happens when outside influences from our diet and our environment somehow directly or indirectly cause changes in our brain function that we "diagnose" as neurological or psychiatric problems. There is a breakdown in the normal barrier protecting our brain and it then reacts, leading to brain inflammation. Toxins, small peptides from gluten and dairy, and antibodies we make to food or infections or bugs and the cytokines they trigger all get into our brain.
This is manifested as "brain allergies"–specific responses to the foods you eat that occur inside your brain. These allergies are a little bit like "nasal allergies." It's like you have a runny nose inside your head. But the symptoms show up as fatigue; memory loss; brain fog; or, in more extreme cases, depression, anxiety, OCD, autism, Alzheimer's, dementia, and other "brain disorders."
Most of us accept that small amounts of food, pollen, mold, chemicals, dust, or dander can cause inflammatory reactions in our skin, lungs, and digestive system that give us hives, make us cough or wheeze, and give us diarrhea. But we somehow think our brain is insulated from the inflammation triggered by these allergens.
We now know differently. Food allergies create a metabolic disorder that can lead to a whole host of "mental" symptoms, including fatigue, brain fog, slowed thought processes, irritability, agitation, aggressive behavior, anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, hyperactivity, autism, learning disabilities, and even dementia.1
To learn more about brain allergies, which foods you are allergic to, and whether or not you have a leaky brain, see Dr. Hyman's new book, The UltraMind Solution.
- Hunter JO. Food allergy–or enterometabolic disorder? Lancet. 1991 Aug 24;338(8765):495-6.
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