A doctor friend of mine, who regarded himself as being in perfect health, did some experimental testing on himself to discover whether he had any food intolerances. He uncovered an allergy to wheat and, as a further test, he omitted wheat from his diet. To his surprise, he no longer felt tired at the end of a busy day and woke in the morning with a feeling of exhilaration instead of his usual dread of a heavy day’s work. The doctor suddenly realized that his perfect health was far from being as good as it could be.
When bread, which is usually regarded as the staff of life, disagrees with you, and you are an unsuspecting victim of what is happening as a consequence, you can come to regard health as a mere absence of disease. This is not good enough. A positive sense of well being with plenty of energy always ready for use is what should be regarded as normal health.
An allergy to the food you are eating every day can take the edge off your enjoyment of life, which can cause you to feel under the weather without anything definite to complain about or can be the cause of severe inexplicable illness. But the vast majority of people do not know that this is what is happening to their bodies and state of mind. They simply accept that mystery symptom which comes and goes are just normal.
A huge amount of pathology and suffering, from bellyaches, to strange and inappropriate moods, even violence, is dismissed, even by doctors, as just one of those things. But that’s ignorance, not science. From the early 80s onwards I made it my business to begin to educate the public about the phenomenon of individual food toxicity, including food allergy and intolerance.
How can you have a hidden allergy or food incompatibility?
It is usual to consider allergy in terms of the sort of illness which ends up from an allergy to nuts, strawberries, or shellfish. These foods, however, are not eaten on a day to day basis, and the violence of the reaction when encountered leaves little opportunity for the source of the illness to remain unsuspected.
But there’s a completely different clinical picture when the food to which you’re allergic may be a staple item of your diet that you simply eat a day of your life, perhaps several times each day. Under these circumstances, the body adapts to the allergic process and the reaction disappears to become a masked allergy. The body may continue to adapt to life or this will become collapsed and exhausted at any time under any stress. When the adaptation by the body is complete there are not any symptoms, but if the strain of dealing with the allergy wears down the adaptive process then an entire variety of symptoms may break the surface.
At different times in a person’s life, these breakthrough manifestations of the underlying masked allergy may present themselves in a wide variety of illnesses.
Let us take a typical life story of a person who is allergic to cow’s milk. If bottle-fed as a baby there are considerable feeding difficulties. Baby gets a lot of wind and the mother gets many sleepless nights.
There may be a long period with a runny nose, repeated ear troubles, sore throats, constant colds, and tonsils and adenoids get removed. The adaptive process may become complete from time to time and all symptoms may disappear. The allergic patient may enjoy periods of excellent health when nothing appears to be wrong. But it is quite usual for the patient to have growing pains, to be over or underactive, showing signs of attention deficit disorder (ADD), suffering troublesome headaches, and being highly susceptible to infections, with consequent frequent colds and ’flu-like attacks.
At puberty the patient’s story may take a dramatic turn, all symptoms may disappear completely or everything may get worse. When puberty brings trouble it can come in many forms: migraine, asthma, eczema, acne, depression, and behavior problems. Even vandalism can suddenly turn on as a result of the masked allergy becoming partially unmasked. In girls, all manner of menstrual problems may be a result of an unsuspected allergy to foods or chemicals. It seems as though the body becomes supersensitive to its hormones and any variation in the hormone balance occurring at puberty, at menstruation, during pregnancy, or at menopause may all cause symptoms of varying degrees. These symptoms may be premenstrual tension, heavy painful periods, absence of periods, sickness in pregnancy, toxemia of pregnancy, depression after confinement, and all those unpleasant symptoms commonly associated with the change of life.
Bizarre and protean symptoms
The sheer variety and variability of symptoms caused by hidden food allergy and genetic food intolerance is the main reason that the problem was not recognized sooner. Doctors are convinced that all diseases should fit into set describable patterns or syndromes. Any group of symptoms that is not listed and named in their textbooks is therefore not considered a real affliction but something from the patient’s imagination. The suspicion of hypochondria rises into the red zone when the patient’s complaints keep shifting – headache one week, joint pains another, then bowel trouble, then feeling depressed. Doctors quickly dismiss the patient or send them to see a psychiatrist, with the clear inference ‘It’s all in your mind.’
The fact is, the condition is the same – an allergy to food. It is merely the result of the allergy that shifts. Symptoms can be bizarre, protean, and very subjective. [Proteus was a Greek sea god, son of Poseidon (Neptune), who kept changing his form whenever he appeared.] Symptoms can be very bizarre, such as headache every Monday but no other day (onions with Sunday dinner), epilepsy after eating carrots, drunk after eating potatoes or orange and sexual arousal after eating chicken – these are all true cases from my files. Subjective symptoms seem to create even more hostility with physicians, yet patients sometimes have difficulty describing what they feel: I have heard complaints such as “hot water running down the inside of my skin and seeing myself down at the end of a long tunnel,” or “On some days I feel like there is a heavy stone inside my abdomen.” It is wrong to consider it merely signs of delusion or just a mental illness, which is what the doctor usually falls into. For me, it’s a clear indication and evidence of brain sensitivity or change of perception, which is a desirable topic that we will do or do altered perception, a fascinating topic we shall come to later.
Any bodily system can be upset by a food allergy or genetic food intolerance and in any one patient, one or more systems can be involved. We call this concept ‘target organs’ or ‘shock organs.’
Incidentally, the target system involved can change from one period of life to another.
A child with eczema moves on to asthma, then grows out of asthma and develops stomach ulcers or irritable bowel syndrome. Stress exhausts the body’s adaptive process and exacerbates symptoms.
This often makes it appear as though stress is the cause of the trouble. The patient may need to endure psychotherapy, and when this fails to cure the difficulty, medications may be taken to suppress the symptoms. An inappropriate reaction to food and chemicals seems to guarantee an adverse reaction to the drugs and medicines which may be prescribed to treat the symptoms. The patient tends to get worse and becomes a very difficult case, ending up reacting to almost everything.
In a typical case of masked food allergy, the patient may suffer mainly from the involvement of the central nervous system. Perhaps the most distressing symptom of all is what has been described by patients as the woolly brain syndrome. An inability to concentrate, confused thinking, memory impairment, and a tendency to just sit in an inactive torpor, are all symptoms which cause great distress to a patient who is normally extremely smart, very industrious, and exceptionally competent. Depression is a common and distressing symptom. I have often heard patients with this complaint say that they would kill themselves if they could only bring themselves to do it. Life becomes intolerable.
This state of affairs can put an impossible strain on a marriage. In this condition, the person does not wish to be touched and may turn nasty in response to any sort of advance from the marital partner.
These patients often come to be labeled neurotic hypochondriacs and because they cannot explain or understand their predicament they often come to believe themselves to be insane or going insane. Once these patients are put on drugs and become addicted to drugs the true state of affairs is virtually impossible to untangle and many must be ending their days in mental hospitals.
As I have already said, food can do great harm to you.
I received an email from an old patient, his name is Cliff.
He had been surfing the Internet and found my website and written to me, full of the delights of life and exploring the new technology. He is now 88 years old.
Cliff came to see me in 1985, when he was 69 years old, with a tale of woe. All his life he had been sick and debilitated. He suffered frequently from what lay people called “bilious attacks” in those days: headaches and vomiting. Nowadays we would call them migraine attacks or “abdominal migraine” when the stomach is so upset.
Cliff ’s condition was so bad that on the train ride to the honeymoon destination, he had needed to lie down with his head resting on the lap of His new bride (No, he was not drunk, but he definitely interacted with the food at the wedding, as we shall see).
In 1953 he underwent a partial gastrectomy, on the recommendation of a local professor who had diagnosed a stomach ulcer. It didn’t work. Twenty-one years later he was subjected to a vagotomy (severing the important vagus nerve to the gut). Again the procedure didn’t work – wrong diagnosis and wrong therapy.
Cliff was so weak he had trouble shaving, his suffering was so great at the time that he consulted me on. He would lather up then need to rest; then shave a touch and would wish another rest; then on. He was exhausted, very sick, and felt close to his death.
Fortunately, this was an easy case – allergic to beef and dairy products. I told him to avoid anything from a cow and he has never looked back. He and his wife Joan (who was also sick) an elderly couple in the game, are still actively involved in the church and society. Both claim that they feel fitter and happier now than at any stage in their lives. Cliff b, oasts he’s healthier today than he was sixty years ago. That’s the power of diet-wise eating.
One thing I would like to point out, Cliff and Joan illustrate another feature that I discovered in my practice. Strongly bonded couples tend to drift in the direction of each other’s dietary intolerances! It rather echoes the way females cohabitation tends to adopt similar menstrual cycles.
Everyone has toxic foods (including you!)
The hidden or masked food allergy has often been called the hidden enemy, with good reason. It is extraordinarily common and yet little understood or recognized. It’s the real reason why detox diets work.
I’m on record with the BBC as saying that virtually everyone features an allergy (this was years before recognizing genetic food incompatibility as an alternate phenomenon). One can be allergic to anything, even to vitamin supplements. B vitamins are often synthesized from yeast, vitamin C from corn, vitamin E from wheat germ, and so on… A food allergy or intolerance isn’t such a big deal if you are generally well, but it is still very common if you know the right questions to ask. Nancy Wise of the BBC World Service didn’t quite believe me and before interviewing me, she sent a roving microphone onto the streets outside the Bush House in London. No one was more surprised than she when eighteen out of twenty people stopped said, “Sure I have an allergy,” or words to that effect.
It’s a matter of perception. Several of the people interviewed had replies such as “I can’t eat celery, it makes my fingers swell,” “Bananas give me wind,” or “Chocolate gives me a headache.” Most of them never thought of these reactions as a food allergy, much less a genetic intolerance to food.
But of course, that’s exactly what it is. Tracking down and uncovering he hidden allergy effect has probably been one of the single most important medical discoveries of the last hundred years, measured simply in terms of the amount of human suffering now able to be alleviated. Naturally, the public interest is high in this new safe approach to healing. Many people who thought they were destined to be ill for life and perhaps had been told so by doctors who should know better are waking up to the fact that recovery may be attained merely through eating and drinking differently.
Sometimes it happens by chance; you may know stories of this sort. But it is better to have the knowledge and understanding to make discoveries to order; in that way you can help yourself or your family and friends systematically and effectively. I have written this book with that aim in mind.
The allergy epidemic
Little research has been done in this area and we have no factual data to establish either the prevalence of this condition or its cause. Nevertheless, a great deal of circumstantial evidence is available from the histories of patients with proven masked allergies. It is usual to discover that something other than the mother’s colostrum (first sticky milk) was the first material to enter the stomach after birth (such as corn syrup in a pacifier). Breast-feeding, it seems, protects against the onset of allergies and helps ensure a competent immune system in the infant. The onset of symptoms is very often triggered by medical treatment. Patients very often recover when additives and pollutants are carefully eliminated from their food and drink.
It would seem that we have what may fairly be called an allergy epidemic started by a failure of breastfeeding, by pollution of the environment, by the addition of chemicals to our food, air, and wat, er, and to the injudicious use of drugs and medicines.
There is one further very significant trigger that has swung into view: a recent scientific research paper showed the pronounced effects of childhood vaccination in causing subsequent allergies. Even using conventional criteria for allergy (which I believe misses more than 90% of the problem), the Japanese study showed that 25.6% of children who received the DPT (triple) vaccine had asthma, whereas only 2.3% of children who had not been vaccinated were troubled. That’s a well over ten-fold increase. If studies of all atopic disease (bronchial asthma, allergic rhinitis, and atopic,c dermatitis) were combined, the ratio rises to 56.4%, as against 9.3% in the unvaccinated group (a five-fold increase). In other words over 50% of kids who are vaccinated end up with allergy problems! [The effect of DPT and BCG vaccinations on atopic disorders. Yoneyama H, Suzuki M, Fujii K, Odajima Y, Arerugi 2000 Jul;49(7):585-92]
Is the problem hereditary?
This is a question that is often asked, and the answer must be guarded until more exact knowledge becomes available. Certainly, the problem, ems do run in families, but that does not point to a gene inheritance per se. A problem can run in families without being caused by genes: if parents tend to eat poorly and make themselves ill due to maladaptation to foods, the chances are they will do the same to their offspring. The youngsters will tend to pick up the same cooking and eating pattern and pass it on to their children, and so the trend continues. Thus allergies may appear to be inherited without actually being so. The picture is further complicated by the fact that a great many babies are now being born with allergies already apparent. In many cases, this is due to exposure to allergenic foods in utero, but that is not the same as ‘inherited’ in the exact meaning of the word.
I believe the tendency is inherited. Statistics suggest that if one parent is affected by allergies the child has a somewhat higher than fifty percent chance of being affected also. If both parents are cases, that likelihood rises to about eighty-five percent – approaching certainty. Exactly what those allergies are, however, depends largely on what you come into contact with, not on what your parents reacted to; thus if a mother has a milk allergy and avoids milk while pregnant, this is unlikely to become her child’s allergy. Similarly, the resultant illness may be different: one parent may have asthma, another eczema, and yet the child has, say, colitis.
I had one family constellation who were all allergic to wheat, yet the symptoms varied greatly: one had migraines, another skin rashes, the mother had colitis, a child had behavioral disturbance, and so on. It was even possible to look back through the generations. The maternal grandfather had schizophrenia. Following the work of Dr. F. C. Dohan, it is possible to suspect that his mental illness was also the result of very wheat intolerance.
You will read later about ‘target organs’ and why there is so much variation from one person to the next, even with the same condition, or more baffling until you understand the reasons for it even from day to day in the same person.
It isn’t all about allergies. Intolerance of foods may be simply a reaction to substances contained in the foods, and individual reactions depend on genetic makeup. Nature has seen fit to endow several plants with the capacity to synthesize substances that are toxic to humans and other animals. Farmers and veterinarians have known for years that animals become sick if they graze on certain types of ants. Just to name a few, the bull becomes angry if he ate locos – being Spanish for madness. Many plant substances are toxic to humans in quite small quantities, including deadly nightshade, acorns, and hemlock. Ricin, the toxic principle in castor bean (Ricinus communis), is one of the most poisonous substances known: a minute drop on the tip of a needle was used in an infamous political assassination on the streets of London in 1978: the slaying of Bulgarian dissident Georgi Markov (who coincidentally worked for the BBC World Service at Bush House!).
The fact is that all plants, including edible ones, contain quantities of poisons. Carrots, for example, contain a nerve toxin: cardiotoxin. One of them once admitted that if the cabbage had to undergo the tests now undergoing the medication before it was declared suitable for humans, it would not pass. Lathyrism, a sort of nerve paralysis, may be a disease once widespread in India, thanks to eating the Lathyrus bean, a relation of garbanzo or chickpea. Another bean, Vicia Favia, causes favism or hemolytic anemia in sensitive individuals living around the Mediterranean Sea.
The edible nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, capsicums, chili peppers) are especially rich sources, but cabbage, peppercorns, pulses, and many other foodstuffs are not far behind. Outbreaks of food poisoning due to solanine (from potatoes), tomatine (tomatoes), and Dioscorides (yams) have all been reliably observed in either humans or domestic animals. Death due to poisoning by plants is fortunately uncommon in humans; in Socrates’ case (hemlock) it was deliberate murder by the state. But sensitive individuals subclinical poisoning occurs all the time. This book aims to teach you facts you didn’t dream of and your doctor does not suspect. Just because the majority of people can eat food without any apparent symptoms doesn’t mean everyone is genetically programmed to do so. Toxicity may be a matter of degree but that’s little comfort if you’re one among the sensitive individuals.
Plants may also contain hormone-like substances. Estrogen precursors are found in yams. Goitrogens are substances causing goiter (swollen neck due to thyroid enlargement). Soya bean extract includes significant amounts and goiters have been seen in human infants fed with soya milk (iodine appears to counteract this effect, so infant soya ilk are fortified with iodide as a precautionary measure). Goitrogens are a common constituent of plants belonging to the Crucifer family (cabbage, turnip, swede, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts, rape, and mustard seed).
Hypertensive substances are amino compounds such as serotonin and noradrenaline (norepinephrine), which constrict blood vessels and thereby elevate the blood pressure. These substances occur in chocolate, fruit juice, avocado, alcohol, and cheese.
This is by no means an exhaustive list but sufficient to make the reader realize that there may be a problem, even if nobody has told you before. The real mystery is not so much why people are sometimes made ill by food toxins, as why isn’t everyone made ill, all the time? (I’ll give you one important answer further down.)
Poisoning may come into food indirectly. An endemic goiter seen in Tasmania is probably due to milk from cows fed on kale and turnips. A disease known as milk sickness, characterized by weakness, nausea, and collapse, has occasionally reached epidemic proportions in certain parts of the USA (it probably caused the death of Abraham Lincoln’s mother). The name derives from the fact that the disease is brought on by drinking milk from cows made ill with a disease known as the trembles. This was eventually tracked down to the consumption, by cattle, of a plant known as snakeroot (Eupatorium rugosum), containing the chemical timezone. Along the same lines, a poison in lupin has been known to be transferred to human beings via goat’s milk.
One very important group of plant chemicals are the alkaloids. These are small organic molecules, usually comprising several carbon rings with side chains, one or more of the carbon atoms being replaced by nitrogen (which confers the alkalinity).
About seven to ten percent of all plants contain alkaloids, of which several thousand are now known. Famous alkaloids include caffeine, nicotine, quinine, strychnine, ergotamine, and atropine. The less toxic ones, such as caffeine, are used for pleasant social effects or as hallucinogens (cannabis and peyote).
The action of alkaloids on the nervous system is generally to disrupt electrochemical transmission at nerve junctions (synapses), either preventing transmission (as in the case of the plant extract curare) or enhancing it inappropriately (as, for example, physostigmine). Probably the most fascinating study of all is that of psychogenic substances in plants. Best-known s the psychedelic substances such as those in marijuana and peyote cactus; the coca plant gives rise to cocaine and the opium poppy is notorious for its forbidden juices. But there are opium-like substances, called exorphins, found in many plants. Xorphins are morphine-related peptides derived from milk, cereal proteins, and partially digested legumes. Pharmacologicallytheybehaves, when tested on isolated tissues, considerably like endorphins, hence the name (endorphins, in turn, remember, are natural calming body substances named for his or her morphine-like properties). In people whose intestinal digestion is incomplete, exorphins are absorbed and have the effect of a small dose of an opiate drug. This may be one of the main reasons that some people find food very soporific and tend to fall asleep after a heavy meal. Finally, think of the caffeine family (known as methylxanthines). It is commonly overlooked that caffeine and theobromine (which occur in tea, coffee, and chocolate) are toxic substances. Taken in sufficient quantities they can cause cerebral edema (so-called ‘water on the brain’), convulsions, and even death, though no one has ever been able to establish tissue damage caused by chronic ingestion at normal levels. However, I know from my work that methylxanthines are a potent cause of chronic mastitis in women, sometimes called fibrocystic disease of the breasts – sore “lumpy” breasts. This complaint gives rise to a great deal of anxiety and sometimes leads to complications. The cure is very simple and satisfying: cut the coffee and chocolate! Let me just conclude here by saying that the animal kingdom does not escape this wide sweep of food toxins: consider the pufferfish or fugu. The tetrodotoxin from its liver is so potent that a tiny trace contaminating a knife can kill a man. In Japan, where eating fugu is a macho-bravura cult, chefs must be specially licensed and trained to handle this delicacy safely. Nevertheless, there have been many unfortunate deaths due to this cause.