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What are Brain Allergies?

By Jennifer Voight
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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Brain allergies are responses of the brain to food or chemical allergens. An allergic reaction occurs when contact with a substance causes the body’s immune system to overreact and release the chemical histamine into the blood, thereby causing allergic symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Reactions that do not involve a release of histamine are called sensitivities or intolerances and usually cause less severe symptoms than an allergy. A brain allergy may result from both types of reactions and usually involves a behavioral or mood response to a food allergy.

Typical allergic symptoms affecting parts of the body other than the brain include skin rashes, hives, and a runny nose. Other symptoms include sneezing, watery eyes, and an upset stomach. Sometimes, allergic reactions can be severe and life-threatening, which is called anaphylaxis.

In the brain, certain foods can upset chemicals and hormones, thereby causing behavior changes and mood swings. Brain allergy symptoms may be present with or without traditional systemic allergic symptoms. Certain foods — usually wheat, milk, or eggs — are the most common cause of symptoms in individuals with brain allergy. These symptoms may include fatigue, irritability, anxiety, depression, manic behavior, dizziness, headaches, hyperactivity, or agitation.

Physicians usually diagnose allergies by administering a skin test where common allergens are injected or scratched onto the skin. The doctor looks for skin reactions to determine if an allergic reaction is present. Not all allergies affect the brain, thereby making diagnosis of brain allergies more difficult than diagnosing traditional allergies. Diagnosis of brain allergy is subjective and depends on observation of symptoms.

Treatment of brain allergies may begin with an elimination diet where a suspected food allergen is eliminated from the diet until symptoms stop. Physicians usually begin by eliminating wheat, milk, and eggs, as these items are the most common causes of brain allergies. Supplements are often used in conjunction with a food elimination diet to treat underlying vitamin deficiencies and further alleviate symptoms. If the food elimination diet is overly restrictive, a four-day rotation may be used where the offending food is introduced only every fourth day, provided symptoms are not too severe for the patient to tolerate.

Brain allergies have been suspected to have existed since Dr. Lauretta Bender conducted studies on emotionally disturbed children in the 1950s. Bender noticed that children with schizophrenia had higher incidences of celiac disease. This autoimmune disease is characterized by a severe intolerance to gluten, which is a protein found in wheat.

In the 1970s, Dr. William Philpott spent several years studying mental patients suffering from psychoses. He noticed a strong correlation between food allergies and schizophrenic, depressive, and manic behavior. His studies found a high correlation between food and tobacco allergies and psychotic behavior. Many medical doctors remain highly skeptical of the existence of brain allergies. Alternative practitioners, however, have embraced the theory as an explanation for many behavior and mood disorders.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By anon950853 — On May 13, 2014

I found out that I have food allergies about seven months ago. I do not have any mental illness, I only had anxiety. Not really bad anxiety, just enough that later at night I would worry about stupid things for no reason. The anxiety started about two years ago.

I have never heard of brain allergies until today when I ran across this site. After two months of eliminating my allergens from my diet, my anxiety went away. I did not make a connection until about six weeks ago. I went onto the internet tonight to see if my assumptions about my anxiety being connected to my food allergies was correct. And now I have conformation. Food allergies are a lot more common that people think. A great deal of people who believe that they do not have an allergy do not know how to recognize the symptoms unless those symptoms are obvious. Getting tested or an elimination diet are the only way to know for sure, and then you will see how much better your quality of life can be.

The elimination diet for those that are mentally ill is not a bad idea. First, it won't hurt anything to try it. Second, even if you only help one person in 100,000, then that is one person who will believe that this is worth it. Doctors 'practice' medicine because they do not always have all of the answers.

By anon947863 — On Apr 27, 2014

What happens when the allergy is caused by hormones and is in the brain? I have a really really really weird condition called Post Orgasmic Illness Syndrome and it sounds like a nightmare, but after sex some hormone is released in my brain and I have intense irritability, mood swings and all of that. What can I do to help that? Can you possibly cure that?

By ImDeity — On Mar 03, 2014

This is a really interesting topic and concept, but sounds like it doesn't hold much weight in the medical community. When Dr. Lauretta Bender and Dr. William Philpott found those correlations, did treating those allergies cure the disorder or vastly improve their patients?

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