#073 HOW ADHD, AUTISM, AND FOOD ALLERGIES MIGHT BE LINKED

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Last updated on May 5, 2021

Today is about trusting yourself even when it feels like the rest of the world doesn't believe you. Today is dedicated to all of those moms whose children have autism spectrum disorder, attention deficit hyperactivity disorders, ADD, or ADHD.  You have been asking yourselves a question, "Why does it seem like my child who is on the spectrum or my child with ADHD is allergy prone? Why does it seem like they are the child in my family who seems to get the allergies?  Why?"  

You ask this question to other people, and they tell you, "There's no link.  No!  There's no link between allergies, attention spectrum disorders, and  attention deficit hyperactivity disorders." Well, I'm here to tell you that trusting your intuition can lead you to the right place, and sometimes you just have to wait for the rest of the world to catch on.

Hey, mom! Today's topic is a little bit controversial in the medical community, but I'm there for you. I'm there for all of the mothers who were not believed before.  I'm there for all of the mothers whose children have these conditions and are allergy prone because I want to share the truth.  At least, my version of the truth!  I strongly believe that the newer research studies that are coming out just a link... a link link between food allergies and these conditions.  

I think this is a huge topic because let's say that you have a very young child or a baby. They have all kinds of allergies!  Yet, at this point, you don't think that they have an autism spectrum disorder or an attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.  You just know that they are allergy prone.  

Are there things that you can do early on in development when your child is still young to help ameliorate some of these other medical conditions? I think that you can.  I've built part of my Doctor Evka platform on that premise.  As time goes on and you spend more time on this platform, we're going to have lots of conversation about that.  Of course, I can talk to you about food allergies and feeding challenges in young children.  I know them, but I want to provide you with a kind of crystal ball that allows you to look into the future and make some potential conclusions.  There are no guarantees.  

My story begins with mast cells.  Masts!  M-A-S-T!  Now, there are two types of masts.  I like the masts that remind me of a recent trip to San Diego.  Well, not that recent!  It was a couple of years ago when my husband was working there.  I would come there to visit him even though we officially lived on the East Coast, and I would get to enjoy the bay around San Diego.  One day, I went on a sailing trip.  It was a fun day of sitting on the sail boat and watching the sails.  Yet, the sails would not be able to move unless they were attached to something.  Unless they were firmly held in place partly by masts.

Yet, that's not the kind of masts that I'm talking about today. The type of masts that I'm talking about today are mast cells.  Have you ever heard of a mast cell?  There are a couple of really interesting things about mast cells.  The first really interesting thing is that mast cells are located in just about every organ system.  The immune system?  They're part of it.  The digestive tract?  Yep, part of that too!  The brain?  Well, hello there!  Yes, mast cells are located  in the brain too.  OK... and?  Why am I telling you this stuff?

Let's talk about what mast cells do. The mast cells are part of our immune system.  Mast cells are important in protecting our bodies from many of the microorganisms and other foreign substances that invade us.  They play a role in how our immune systems function.    They help limit the spread of infections. They are involved in the allergic response to a specific trigger food.  They play a role in how the bodies respond to allergens. 

When mast cells get activated, they release chemicals including tryptase and histamine.  (There are other chemicals that get released, too, and there are other functions of mast cells.  However, for my purposes here, let's talk about tryptase and histamine.)   Tryptase and histamine levels in the body tend to be elevated when mast cells are very active.  

What do elevated beta tryptase levels do?  The biological functions of beta tryptase have not been fully clarified.  Beta tryptase is involved in how our airways work and how our body forms blood clots. Beta tryptase helps change the diameter of our blood vessels.  It even helps determine how items move within our digestive tracts.  

What do elevated histamine levels do?  For one thing, elevated levels of histamine can contribute to some of the symptoms that we have when we have seasonal allergies.   Do you remember the last time that there was a high pollen count outside, and you had seasonal allergies? You looked on the internet and saw that the pollen count was high. There was all this ragweed in the air, and you knew you were inhaling it.  You had symptoms like a stuffy nose, sneezing, and itchy, watery eyes.  Many of these symptoms were associated with elevated levels of histamine in your body. 

Let's say that you are sneezing.   You have a runny nose.   You have itchy eyes. What do you do? You go to your pharmacy and look in the "over the counter" section under allergies.  You pick up an allergy medication. You check the list of active ingredients on the other side.   Guess what? You'll see words like  cetirizine, levocetirizine,  loratadine, and fexofenadine.  These are the names of histamine 1 blockers that block the actions of elevated levels of histamine.  

Now you and I both know that respiratory symptoms might not be the only symptoms of allergies. You might get allergy symptoms in other body systems as well.  

Do you know anyone with significant allergies?  Do you know anyone who feels really sick after eating an allergenic food or being exposed to some kind of an allergen?  What do their symptoms look like?  Let's talk about it in terms of various parts of the body.  A person who is experiencing a more severe allergic reaction or perhaps even anaphylaxis might have the following symptoms.

SKIN-RELATED symptoms:  Their skin may be flushed.  They might have a lot of itching.  

RESPIRATORY symptoms :  They might cough and have nasal congestion. Their nose may be runny.  Their asthma might get exacerbated.  They might wheeze.

CARDIOVASCULAR symptoms : Their heart might race fast.  Their blood pressure might drop.

GASTROINTESTINAL symptoms:  They might feel nauseous.  They might vomit. They might have diarrhea.

SYSTEMIC symptoms:  Their thinking might be cloudy.  They might have difficulty concentrating. Their memory might be off.  They might have headaches or "brain fog".  They might develop sensory sensitivities.  They might feel tired.

Now let's talk more about the psychological aspects of having very active mast cells making lots of tryptase and histamine.  Remember how mast cells are located within the brain?  That means that tryptase and histamine can also be found in the brain;   they are secreted by mast cells.  Let's say that you have a condition where mast cells are very active within the body.   That means that they are also very active within the brain.   You can get higher levels of tryptase and histamine in the brain. You can have a kind of "allergic reaction" going on within the brain.

What can happen to a brain going through an "allergic reaction"?  That brain can become inflamed. A person's thinking might become cloudy.  They might feel as if they have a kind of "brain fog". They might have difficulty concentrating.  They might have sensory sensitivites.  Their memory might be off. 

Does this sound like anyone you know?  Do you know of any children who are described as having cloudy thinking with some "brain fog"?  Do you know any children who have difficulty concentrating? Do you know any children with significant sensory sensitivities?   How about children with an autism spectrum disorders or  attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD)? 

Some researchers believe that some forms of autism spectrum disorders or attention-deficit hyperactivity disorders are tied to mast cells.  They are conducting studies to learn more about the relationships between these conditions and mast cells.  They are trying to figure out the entire relationship, but research on mast cells and their roles within these conditions are still in their infancy. There is still so much to learn.  The role of mast cells in these conditions can still feel confusing, and I have just discussed the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we might found out in years to come. 

Three "legal" things:  First, either a male or a female could consider themselves to be a mother.  My job is to serve and not to judge.  Second, although I am a family physician, I am not your doctor or therapist.   Please see your and your child's doctor.  Third, the information presented here is for educational purposes only.  It does not constitute professional medical advice. 

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