Feel Good Factors

If there is one thing that is emerging in modern-day understanding of psychological health it is the link between our thoughts, feelings and physical sensations and our body’s biochemistry. What we think changes how we feel, and vice versa. Feelings are accompanied by physical sensations. But all of these are associated with corresponding changes in our internal biochemistry. Biochemical changes affect how we feel and think. Knowing this, the obvious deficits of conventional psychiatry are that a) most diagnoses are only based on the results of questionnaires about psychological symptoms, and b) most treatments are based on giving chemical drugs (hopefully alongside some psychotherapy). This approach doesn’t take into account the biochemical side of the equation where making dietary changes, a more effective, less expensive and less invasive approach, can pave the way to feeling good while avoiding the use of man-made drugs with their often worrying side effects. Sounds good doesn’t it?

When you feel exhausted, depressed, stressed or anxious, the chances are you wouldn’t consider that your digestive system, or a food you’ve eaten, could have anything to do with it. But the gut and our emotions are linked. In the same way that nervousness can upset the tummy, so foods that don’t “agree with us” can upset our mind. Most strong emotional feelings are felt physically somewhere along the digestive tract. We feel them in our gut and often experience them affecting our appetite and our ability to digest properly. The digestive system acts like a second “brain” producing factors that literally “cross-talk” with the brain. Your second “brain” reacts every time you eat a piece of food. The gut lining, which makes up a surface area about the size of a tennis court and the thickness of half of a sheet of paper, is the interface between you and your food, and is programmed to react against anything eaten just in case it is foe.

Most people don’t think of food allergies and food intolerance as having the potential to affect mood and behaviour. Yet it has been known for a very long time that reactions to foods can cause chronic fatigue, tiredness, low mood, poor concentration, anxiety, hyperactivity, panic attacks and lack of motivation in susceptible individuals. 99% of the time, the job of a healthy immune system “which is more active in the gut than anywhere else” is to switch off that reaction so you can enjoy the food you’re eating without your body fighting it.

There are many factors that can contribute to our feelings of wellbeing, but we shouldn’t underestimate the value of healthy eating. Deficiencies in essential fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and amino acids have all been implicated in depression. With nutritional support to optimise your diet and manage any food reactions, you too can pave the way to better health.

    Reader comments

  1. Would you recommend this test for a child that suffers severe ADHD, it seems to me that food intolerances do sometimes cause hyper activity but I can’t find any information about tests for children on your web site. I am thinking of using the ‘First Step Indicator’ for our 12 year old Grandson, please advise.

    by Marilyn Abraham
    2013/02/18 at 6:09
    • Dear Marilyn

      There are clearly multiple influences on attention-deficit and hyperactivity (ADHD) and autistic spectrum disorders, including genetic and environmental factors. Whether different influences impact different groups of children, or whether there is a common underlying component, remains to be determined, however, it is clear though that many children with these disorders are reported to be sensitive to certain food products.

      The main food culprits that are considered to contribute are additives such as colourants and preservatives. However, although children with ADHD can show improvement on additive-free diets, better results are gained through the use of more comprehensive dietary changes. In a controlled trial of 76 children, although artificial colours and preservatives were the most common (and most instant) provoking substances, not one child was affected by additives alone (Egger et al 1985). This trial concluded that the influence of diet on behavioural disorders in children must be taken seriously and it supported the fact that it is the combination of different foods, and not individual foods or additives, that alter behaviour.

      The problem with dietary modification is that first you need to know what to change. One way that this can be done is through a long trial and error process where first one thing then another is removed from the diet. This is like trying to drive from London to Edinburgh without a map and without knowing the route!

      Gut changes in those with ADHD and autistic disorders are widely reported; many children with ADHD have leaky digestive tracts, which means that partially undigested proteins enter the bloodstream and cause the body to react; the reaction is identified by the measurement of food-specific antibodies in the blood stream. Supporting dietary management on this basis, one study has shown that there are higher levels of food-specific IgG antibodies in persons with autistic disorders compared to their siblings (Trajkovski et al, 2008). It has also been proposed that IgG antibodies to foods such as gliadin can cross-react directly with proteins in the brain cerebellum and that these antibodies are raised in autism (Vojdani et al 2004).

      Targeted elimination diets, based on the measurement of food-specific IgG levels can offer carers the ‘route map’ for elimination diet they need to follow. One person who has had experience of the service is five year old Michael’s Mum. Michael was so hyperactive that he was only allowed to go to school on a part time basis. He could not concentrate on anything, was disruptive in class and didn’t socialise with other children. After Michael took the YorkTest test Michael’s Mum discovered that his body was reacting to carrots, kiwi fruit, garlic, and pork. Under the guidance of a nutritionist, Michael followed the elimination diet. The staff at Michael’s school told us that they can’t believe the difference, he now calmly sits and reads books and attends school full time with no bad behaviour.

      Delayed food allergies in children with ADHD / autism are unique to each child; a targeted elimination diet based on measurement of food-specific IgG antibodies may be of help.

      by Yorktest (Author)
      2013/02/25 at 9:48