Michael R. Lyon, MD
Dear Dr Lyon: My son has recently undergone skin prick testing by a specialis.
Dear Dr Lyon:
My son has recently undergone skin prick testing by a specialist. We were told that he has an allergy to grass pollen and to dust mites but, according to the skin testing, he has no food allergies at all. He is seven years old and over the last year has become increasingly aggressive, fidgety and his teacher reports that he is having great difficulties paying attention in class. Although his teacher has suggested it, I am very reluctant to put him on medication. Do you think that diet could have anything to do with his difficulties?
Most authorities now agree that skin prick testing is not a reliable method for assessing the presence or absence of all forms of food allergies. If meticulously conducted, it is an excellent method to help pinpoint airborne allergies such as those to animal dander, dust mites or mold spores. Skin prick testing helps to prove the presence of one type of allergic reaction known as immediate hypersensitivity (as does the blood test known as radioallergosorbent test or RAST). However, immediate hypersensitivity-type allergies may only account for a small percentage of the various types of adverse reactions that children (or adults) can have to food.
Many children with behavioral or learning difficulties experience a variety of adverse reactions to foods. Based upon a research project that I was involved with two years ago, we concluded that perhaps 75 per cent of children with attention deficit disorder (ADHD) suffer from food allergies or other adverse reactions to foods. Some of these reactions are delayed or slow reacting allergies while others are non-allergic reactions to foods. As well, many children with behavioral or learning problems lack adequate quantities of certain "brain-critical" nutrients.
The first step in evaluating children for potential food allergies is to get the child off junk food. The aim is to convert them to a "whole foods-based diet." Many kids who have been allowed to eat junk food and fast food regularly will respond remarkably by simply improving the overall quality of their diets.
The next step is to remove commonly allergenic foods and to maintain them on a strict "elimination test diet" for a few weeks, observing the changes that then occur. Dairy and wheat are always eliminated on this test diet, along with several other commonly allergenic foods.
In our research, we worked with the parents of 50 children with attention deficit disorder who wanted to help their children without resorting to drugs. When these parents were provided with delicious recipes and healthy snack-food suggestions, they eventually found that transforming the family diet could actually be an exciting new adventure. Not only did this transform the lives of many of these ADHD-affected children, many other family members reported that their health had also remarkably improved. Many of the children who were facing constant discipline or school failure are now happy, healthy "straight-A" students.
The final step in the elimination-test approach is to systematically reintroduce potentially allergenic food groups while carefully documenting the effects of each. If this step is done correctly, most children will be found to have between one and three foods that need to be avoided in their long-term diet. Regardless of the child’s specific food allergies, junk foods, fast foods, all deep fried foods and all hydrogenated oils should always be avoided (don’t worry, french-fry deficiency has never been reported!). As well, nutrients such as essential fatty acids, antioxidants, iron, magnesium, zinc and B vitamins should be supplemented to ideal levels. Lastly, efforts should be made to improve the gastrointestinal health of the child (our research suggests that 50 per cent of children with attention deficit disorder have intestinal parasites and 75 per cent have leaky gut syndrome). If found, intestinal parasites should be eliminated. In addition, supplementing the diet with proven probiotic bacteria (such as Lactobacillus rhamnosus), and providing high quantities of intestinal enriching fibre (oat bran, fructo-oligosaccarides and guar gum) will greatly assist in the restoration of normal gastrointestinal function and microecology.
Medical advisors Dr Michael R. Lyon; Keith Stelling, MNIMH; Jozef Krop, MD; and Stephen C. Malthouse, MD will address readers’ letters from their areas of expertise. If you don’t specify a medical advisor, we will decide which advisor is most appropriate. Please include a cheque or postal money order for $20 made out to: Canadian Health Reform Products Ltd, 7436 Fraser Park Drive, Burnaby BC, V5J 5B9