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.