Allergy and addiction
I find myself talking about allergy and addiction more than almost any other subject! Addiction started as a biological innovation to guide us to eating the right foods. We now have a whole range of psychoactive substances which give us a short term buzz and we eat, drink, inhale and inject these to the exclusion of all else! Allergy and addiction can almost be used synonymously. The common addictions change through life, often starting in childhood with sugar but progressing onto caffeine (coca cola, tea, coffee), chocolate, alcohol, nicotine, solvents (glue sniffing), cannabis and hard drugs.
The Addict's Ladder
The patterns of food addiction are often similar. People often have great likes and dislikes within food groups. For example, a young mum may say about her little boy "he loves fresh milk and drinks it all the time but hates cheese". Symptoms from food allergens change through life and therefore the diagnosis is never made because the parent of a child with some complaints is told "he will grow out of it". He does. But only to develop another set of symptoms. For example, the typical dairy allergic starts life with three month colic and/or projectile vomiting; progresses to toddler diarrhoea, the catarrh, recurrent infections and glue ear, headaches, "abdominal migraine" or "grumbling appendix", "growing pains" (who thought of that stupid diagnosis?!); with irritable bowel syndrome and mood swings setting in later on in life.
Allergic Psychological Syndrome (APS)
In children APS is diagnosed as hyperactivity; in adolescents as antisocial behaviour, often resulting in criminality; in adults as depression, mania or other such psychiatric disturbances.
Let us once more go back to our evolutionary past, which helps us to explain so much. Primitive man did not consciously know what was good for him and what was bad. So it was necessary to develop pleasure and pain centres in the brain in order to point him in the right direction. He would soon discover that leaving his foot in a fire caused pain and taught him not to repeat this experiment. He also learnt that some foods gave him a feeling of well being, which encouraged him to seek them out - these foods would have been those rich in calories to help him get fat and protect against times of starvation.
Our pleasure centres continue to be stimulated by foods and this is what constitutes a feeling of satisfaction after a good meal. It is a very normal state of affairs. This feeling of satisfaction is mediated by endorphins, which are the body's own natural opiates.
The stages of APS
Stage 1- identifying your "comfort foods"
People unconsciously learn which food causes maximum stimulation of their pleasure centres and start to consume that particular food more frequently in order to feel well. Soon they become hooked on that particular food. The commonest foods which do this are sugar, alcohol, tea, coffee, wheat, milk, chocolate. People then discover that drugs such as caffeine, nicotine and other such drugs of addiction have similar effects. Most people who are honest with themselves can identify the "food" which they go for if they feel they want a lift. Not all of these "foods" cause their symptoms through allergic mechanisms. Sugar has a direct effect on gut hormones causing a release which has a direct opiate effect on the brain. (Gut hormones are very closely related to brain neurotransmitters). Alcohol and drugs of addiction act directly on the pleasure centres of the brain.
Stage 2 - being hooked on the comfort foods
The sufferer is hooked on his particular food so that if he misses a dose, he starts to get cravings and withdrawal symptoms, the commonest being irritability, exhaustion, headache and influenza-like symptoms. If he stays off his food, then withdrawal symptoms may persist for 4 - 14 days. There may be other symptoms, but cerebral (brain) symptoms are the commonest manifestation of allergy and addiction.
Stage 3 - mental fatigue as a symptom of chronic allergy
In this stage the sufferer experiences extreme mental fatigue so he feels he cannot think straight. He needs enormous will power to accomplish simple tasks. He is forgetful and makes silly mistakes. He is becoming incompetent but doesn't know why. These symptoms are called brain fog. Unfortunately, these people are commonly misdiagnosed as depressed - this is wrong, because not only does this not make any sense to patients, but they do not respond to antidepressants.
Stage 4 - deepening distortion of personality and behaviour
Now when sufferers are exposed to their addictions, they become inappropriately aroused. They feel tense and agitated. Some sufferers panic and become aggressive, some burst into tears or develop bizarre symptoms, some go into coma. Some become manic, others have outbursts of aggression or criminal behaviour.
This is a continuation of Stage 4 but with social degradation - the sufferer loses his job and often family too.
Missing out on proper nutrition
A further problem of addiction is that people cease to bother about eating foods which are nutritionally good for them. This means that through self-neglect they develop a whole host of nutritional deficiencies which make the problem even worse. For example, depression is thought to be partly due to a deficiency of 5-HT (5-hydroxy-tryptamine). 5-HT is made from an amino acid, tryptophan, using enzymes which depend on vitamin B6, magnesium and zinc to work. People with allergic psychological syndrome (APS) do not even consume the right foods to help them escape from their problem - they are in a vicious circle. Female sex hormones (often prescribed for all sorts of bizarre reasons) further inhibit this enzyme conversion.
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