alcohol and gluten

beer_champagneBeer (or wine) and Pizza make a classic combination – talk about umami! However that feel good effect may have more to it than the taste and the buzz of alcohol. It may in fact be a sign that opiates are being released into the brain. But how does this occur? And how can a gluten allergy be involved in this?

In my reboot! post mentioned how I was diagnosed with a Gluten allergy. At the time, I was shocked! After all, I did the test to rule out the possibility of a gluten allergy as a cause for my health problems! As such I faced having to give up my hobbies of beer brewing and bread making with gluten grains, so I looked into what could have triggered the allergy. My answer came when I looked at alcohol and below I delve into what I found out.

Allergies and Barrier Integrity

Allergies start when an unusual particle (such as a food molecule) crosses a barrier within the body. These barriers serve to keep out those particles and exist in the Gastro Intestinal (GI) Tract as well as the Brain, and they are formed by molecules that are tightly woven together and allow only particles of a certain size to cross them. Whether the barrier itself has integrity or is in a weakened state making it “leak” is a major health concern. In my studies on Allergies and Autoimmune and Digestive Health I have posted the factors that lead to leaky barriers. Of these factors, stress and alcohol are quite possibly the most important.

Stress in itself draws blood away from the digestive tract, slowing down the breaking down of food and the motility of it through the body. Just think of when someone said something that made you anxious or distressed whilst you ate – what happened inside your gut? Did you feel a tightening, a constriction in the gut and a loss of appetite? This leads to larger than normal food particles that linger in the GI tract. Having partially digested food remain in the GI tract is damaging to it, as we shall see below. And a family of food particles that we do not wanting to have lingering around are lectins, in particular wheat lectin.


Dietary lectins are present both in wheat and in beans and legumes. Like phytates, they serve as protection for plant seeds, such as grains and legumes. Lectins cause damage as they are sticky proteins that bind to other molecules in the body and in the process stimulate an immune response. And this immune response damages barrier lining and widening the junctions in it. Put another way, lectins cause holes in barriers such as the GI tract and allow unusual particles to cross it. [1]

Lectins are broken down and destroyed through sprouting or fermenting, which makes soaking and sprouting your legumes all important! However all too often these grains and legumes are not sprouted, and the lectins are still present in them. Even heating foods containing lectins, such as in making bread does not destroy the lectins in them. Thus even gluten free bread made with bean flour such as Garbanzo or Chickpea Flour contains lectins that can damage the GI lining. [2] And even fermenting (in the case of sourdough bread) almost always only ferments a small portion of the overall grain flour used in the bread. So be aware that eating any food that contains lectins (such as foods made with wheat or beans), damage may be caused to the GI lining making it more permeable.

Leaky barriers and Opiate Highs

A damaged GI wall and intestinal permeability also results from an overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria in gut caused by stress, poor gut motility or diets low in probiotic foods.With a more permeable intestinal barrier, more molecules normally prevented from crossing this barrier are allowed to cross, such as partially digested protein molecules (or peptides). These molecules can then prompt an immune reaction to their appearance leading to an inflammatory response. This inflammatory response can then lead to increased intestinal permeability in turn causing an inflammatory spiral (ie increased inflammation). This sets the stage for the immune system to form antibodies so that it can react more effectively in the future. And in the case of foods with gluten, an allergy or sensitivity to gluten is the result.

Gluten proteins may also be digested improperly and metabolized by pepsin and hydrochloric acid in the stomach into gluteomorphin peptides.  This is the case when people have low stomach acidity which leads to low production of pancreatic enzymes (which itself may be caused by stress). In turn this leads to impaired intestinal wall enterocyte and enzyme function causing problems with digesting protein in food. Most importantly Gluteomorphin peptide breakdown is inhibited[3]

When intestinal enzymes do not break down these peptides, they cross the GI barrier intact. Gluteomorphins can also cross Blood Brain Barrier (BBB) where they bind to opiate receptors in the brain. And opiate receptor binding lead to euphoria, addiction and cravings for more (and appetite stimulation)[3].  This may explain the craving for and happy buzz you get from pizza – an opiate high from Gluteomorphins! However that high and craving could be a sign of both intestinal permeability and a gluten allergy.

Leaky Barriers and Brain Health

Opiate receptor binding of gluteomorphin in the brain also has direct links to schizophrenia, autism and ADHD. In addition, partially digested  peptides crossing the GI barrier inhibit enzymes which break down used protein metabolites in body, such as hormones and neurotransmitters. This is turn leads to increased circulation of them leading to damage to tissues, organs and the brain. Gluten meanwhile is associated with several specific brain health issues[4][13]

  • Encephalopathy (brain disease) and brain destruction that leads to migraines and stroke like symptoms such as loss of use of arm, legs or speech and vision difficulties as well as dementia and peripheral neuropathy
  • Immune related damage to memory and mind, such as temporal lobes, resulting in seizures and epilepsy
  • Cerebellar ataxia caused by the binding of gluten anti-bodies in the brain to Purkinje receptors and brain cell destruction

This ataxia (impaired muscular co-ordination) you may be familiar with – it happens on those occasions when we drink too much alcohol! However alcohol also poses even more dangers. Drinking alcohol even in moderate amounts has been shown in a study to disrupt the GI lining making it leaky[5]. In addition, alcohol has been shown to disrupt and weaken the Blood Brain Barrier (BBB)[6].

Other factors, including immune mediators and inflammatory compounds can weaken the BBB leading to neural degeneration and diseases such as Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and epilepsy[7]. And these inflammatory compounds can stem from a leaky gut, which in itself has been shown to contribute to a leaky BBB[8]. In fact, any factor which weakens the GI barrier including stress, the use of pharmaceuticals and exposure to allergy foods and toxins can also weaken the BBB and lead to neurodegeration[9].

A key point involved in this is the additional load of toxins and peptides that are allowed into the body through a leaky gut. These then create metabolic waste as the immune system tries to tackle them. All of this waste then needs to be cleared out by the liver, and the liver shares nutrient resources for its function with the immune and adrenal systems. Thus under increased work load to process this metabolic waste, or if the nutrients it needs are being used due to stress or an immune response, the liver will take longer time to break down this waste leading to damage caused to the body as they keep circulating in it. Thus drinking alcohol will enhance the potential for this damage to the body, for it is also a toxin that the liver deals with.

Alcohol consumption in itself has been shown to have links with the development of Celiac disease[10]. However, whilst it is not clear that alcohol consumption actually causes Celiac disease, what can be assumed is that it plays a mediatory role. This same role has been shown to occur between alcohol consumption and the development of Cerebellar degeneration related to gluten (Gluten ataxia)[11]. The issue here is what triggers the development of antibodies that react both to gluten and to brain tissue. As such alcohol can prime a person for the formation of these antibodies through weakening the GI and BBB as well as through weakening the liver’s ability to process metabolic waste.

A key point to note is that brain degeneration related to Gluten is not always associated with GI related symptoms or discomfort, as studies have shown[12] [13] [14]. These studies postulate that the immune system response to gluten is different between people. Thus an allergic response to gluten could manifest in GI problems with some people and neurological (Brain) related problems with other people. Meanwhile these studies show that avoidance of gluten lowered the onset of GI and neurological problems. A gluten free diet moreover may also prevent these problems occurring at all.


Personally I never had GI problems from eating wheat or gluten grains. However my tests showed I had gluten antibodies in my brain, antibodies linked directly to Gluten Ataxia and Cerebellar degeneration. From looking into this, I see that alcohol and stress played a key role in weakening my BBB and triggering the formation of those antibodies. And I certainly don’t want to lose my muscular co-ordination and ability to exercise due to Gluten Ataxia. Nor do I want the same to happen to you!

So I offer you the following advice:

  • Ensure you are able to relax and be absorbed in good vibrational feelings whilst you eat and that you are not stressed (or distressed / made anxious) by anything. A simple habit or ritual to help with this is to say a prayer of gratitude or grace before eating and to eat mindfully and gratefully (and encourage others who eat with you to join you in this ritual!)
  • Chew thoroughly as this also both stimulates and is a key part of the whole digestion process
  • Be aware that all foods that contain grain and legumes run the risk of causing a leaky gut. This includes all breads, pastas as well as gluten free products made with bean flour. In other words, unless the grains and legumes used in the food are thoroughly soaked, sprouted or fermented to break down the lectins in them, those lectins could be causing a leaky gut
  • A glass of alcohol with food makes the barriers of the brain and gut leaky and a leaky barrier is what triggers an allergic reaction as well as both Gastro Intestinal and Brain damage
  • Love your liver! and start you day with a green smoothie



An excellent article about Lectins, GI health and the benefits of sprouting from the Precision Nutrition

An indepth study on Dietary Lectins and immune response from Laura Power, pH D

A great article about the link between Wheat and brain health from Dr Mercola

An study article about the health problems caused by wheat from GreenMedInfo

Adapted from:


Pierini , C. (no date). Lectins: Their Damaging Role in Intestinal Health, Rheumatoid Arthritis and Weight Loss.

Kharrazian, D. (2013). Why Isn’t My Brain Working? Carlsbad, C.A.: Elephant Press

Perlmutter, D. (2013). Grain Brain. New York, N.Y.: Little, Brown and Company


Campbell-McBride, N. (2004). Gut and Psychology Syndrome.  Cambridge, U.K., Medinform Publishing

Davis, William (2011). Wheat Belly: Lose the Wheat, Lose the Weight, and Find Your Path Back To Health. New York, NY: Rodale

Alcohol and Weakening of the Blood Brain Barrier


Elamin E, Jonkers D, Juuti-Uusitalo K, van IJzendoorn S, Troost F, et al. (2012) Effects of Ethanol and Acetaldehyde on Tight Junction Integrity: In Vitro Study in a Three Dimensional Intestinal Epithelial Cell Culture Model. PLoS ONE 7(4): e35008. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0035008

Haorah, J., Heilman, D., Knipe, B., Chrastil, J., Leibhart, J., Ghorpade, A., Miller, D. W. and Persidsky, Y. (2005), Ethanol-Induced Activation of Myosin Light Chain Kinase Leads to Dysfunction of Tight Junctions and Blood-Brain Barrier Compromise. Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research, 29: 999–1009. doi: 10.1097/01.ALC.0000166944.79914.0A

Blood Brain Barrier

Stamatovic, S. M., Keep, R. F., & Andjelkovic, A. V. (2008). Brain Endothelial Cell-Cell Junctions: How to “Open” the Blood Brain Barrier. Current Neuropharmacology6(3), 179–192. doi:10.2174/157015908785777210

Aristo Vojdani and Jama Lambert, “The Role of Th17 in Neuroimmune Disorders: Target for CAM Therapy. Part II,” Evidence-Based Complementary and Alternative Medicine, vol. 2011, Article ID 984965, 7 pages, 2011. doi:10.1093/ecam/nep063

Forsgren, S. (2008). NeuroImmunology: From Leaky Gut to Leaky Brain. Public Health Alert: 3(12).

Alcohol and Gluten sensitivity

Koivisto, H., Hietala, J., Anttila, P., & Niemelä, O. (2008). Co-occurrence of IgA antibodies against ethanol metabolites and tissue transglutaminase in alcohol consumers: correlation with proinflammatory cytokines and markers of fibrogenesis. Digestive diseases and sciences53(2), 500-505.

Currie, S., Hoggard, N., Clark, M. J. R., Sanders, D. S., Wilkinson, I. D., Griffiths, P. D., & Hadjivassiliou, M. (2013). Alcohol Induces Sensitization to Gluten in Genetically Susceptible Individuals: A Case Control Study. PLoS ONE8(10), e77638. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0077638

Gluten Ataxia

Hadjivassiliou, M., Mäki, M., Sanders, D. S., Williamson, C. A., Grünewald, R. A., Woodroofe, N. M., & Korponay-Szabó, I. R. (2006). Autoantibody targeting of brain and intestinal transglutaminase in gluten ataxia. Neurology66(3), 373-377. This study may be found by copying and pasting the following link into your browser:

Hadjivassiliou, M., Aeschlimann, P., Strigun, A., Sanders, D. S., Woodroofe, N., & Aeschlimann, D. (2008). Autoantibodies in gluten ataxia recognize a novel neuronal transglutaminase. Annals of neurology64(3), 332-343.


Hadjivassiliou, M., Sanders, D. S., Grünewald, R. A., Woodroofe, N., Boscolo, S., & Aeschlimann, D. (2010). Gluten sensitivity: from gut to brain. The Lancet Neurology9(3), 318-330. This study may be found by copying and pasting the following link into your browser:

Hadjivassiliou, M., Aeschlimann, P., Sanders, D. S., Mäki, M., Kaukinen, K., Grünewald, R. A., … & Aeschlimann, D. P. (2013). Transglutaminase 6 antibodies in the diagnosis of gluten ataxia. Neurology80(19), 1740-1745

allergies and autoimmune notes

Allergies and Autoimmune Disorders

by Hugo Allen-Stevens

The difference between a sensitivity, allergy and intolerance
Common Triggers and health issues
Immediate and delayed allergic responses
Physical signs of allergic reaction
Difficulty posed in diagnosing chemical allergies
The relationship between allergic responses and food addictions
The causes of allergies and sensitivities
The relationship between environmental sensitivities and chronic illness, including autoimmune disorders
The mechanism behind autoimmune disorders
The relationship between infection and development of autoimmunity including the role of food allergies
Nutritional support
Key terms


The difference between a sensitivity, allergy and intolerance

  • Allergy: immune hypersensitivity to allergen due to previous exposure and build up of anti-bodies. Re-exposure to antigen results in adverse reactions involving elevated antibodies (mainly IgE), release of inflammatory chemicals and development of various symptoms
  • Sensitivity: non-anti-body mediated reaction to sensitizing agent usually caused by food or chemicals that results in other immunological processes and adverse symptoms
  • Intolerance: absence of chemical or physiological process needed to digest a food (eg enzyme deficiency in the case of lactose intolerance). Not an allergy

Symptoms of IgE mediated reactions and IgG reactions

  • IgE: symptoms occur immediately (eg within 2 hours) and include
    • runny nose, watery / red itchy eyes, itching, skin reactions, flushing, swelling, sneezing, nasal itch, hives
    • excessive mucus, constriction of bronchial tubes / difficulty breathing, anaphylaxis
  • IgG: symptoms usually delayed (several hours to days) and include
    • Lethargy, Fatigue, Mood swings, Insomnia
    • Attention Deficit Disorder, Hyperactivity
    • Itchy skin, Joint inflammation

IgG reactions produce antigen and anti-body immune complexes are usually cleared by phagocytes. However, due to a compromised immune system, the complexes can lodge in tissues causing damage and inflammation. The result can be joint pain, organ damage, arthritis, respiratory distress, skin lesions

Common allergic triggers and food triggers

  • Plant pollen, animal fur, mold spores, chemical products, air pollutants (eg car and tobacco)
  • Yeast, wheat, corn, milk and dairy, eggs, soy, shellfish, peanuts, chocolate, food dyes, additives

Common health issues associated with allergenic and sensitivity responses

Most frequent are allergenic rhinitis / hay fever, arthritis, asthma, bed-wetting, chronic runny nose, diarrhea, ear infections, eczema, fatigue, headache, irritability, concentration problems, hyperactivity, attention deficit disorder

Immediate and delayed allergic response

  • Type 1: Immediate hypersensitivity, IgE mediated. Previous exposure to the antigen to B lymphocytes results in creation of IgE antibodies. Repeat exposure to antigen afterwards causes IgE anti-bodies to bind to antigen, causing mast cells to release histamine and other inflammatory cytokines. Results include mucus membrane inflammation, swelling, itching, redness, pain, watery eyes and nose, contraction of smooth muscle in bronchial tract, and capillary permeability – all occur with 2 hours of exposure to antigen. Common conditions associated are Allergic Rhinitis / Hay Fever, Reactive Airway Disease / Asthma, Atopic Dematitis / Eczema, Uticaria / Hives, Anaphalaxis (in extreme cases).
  • Type 2: Immediate reaction normally triggered by food allergens, drugs or incompatible blood. Antigens bind to blood or tissue membranes, causing B lymphocytes to release IgM or IgG antibodies. The antibodies bind to the antigen and release cytotoxins to kill the antigen. If the antigen is bound to blood of tissue cells, those cells are damaged too. This is especially the case in food allergens, whereby intestinal cells are damaged. Other results can include anemia, jaundice and kidney failure.
  • Type 3: Reaction occurs several hours to days after exposure to virus, venom or undigested food resulting from leaky gut syndrome / defaults in the gut barrier function. IgG antibodies attach to antigen forming immune complex which are targeted for destruction by phagocytes. A compromised immune system will allow this complex to build up and circulate, causing damage and inflammation to organs and tissue which results in arthritis, nephritis, respiratory distress, skin lesions, hives, joint pain, headaches , GI disturbances and fatigue. An estimated 80% of food allergies are type 3 mediated.
  • Type 4: Reaction is delayed as this is mediated by T-cells which take 12 to 72 hours to build up in sufficient number to attack the antigen and neutralize it. The normal result is a skin rash / contact dermatitis and triggers include poison ivy, plastics, latex, cosmetics, plants and pharmaceutical drugs. Other manifestations are auto-immune diseases such as allergic colitis, Crohn’s disease and graft tissue rejection. Type 4 is not usually caused by food (though banana, pineapple, papaya, kiwi and avocado are in the same plant family as latex and may cause allergic type 4 response).


The physical signs of food allergies

Symptoms may manifest immediately upon exposure or hours to days after exposure to antigen

  • Head: dark circles, swelling and wrinkles under eyes; headaches, dizziness; fatigue; insomnia
  • Sinuses: blurred vision, watery eyes; ear ache, hearing loss, tinnitus, ear infection; runny nose; sore throat, sinusitis
  • Heart and Lungs: palpitations and arrhythmia; high heart rate; lung congestion
  • GI: mucus and/ or undigested foods in stools, inflammatory bowel disorders (eg Crohn’s), Celiac, Colitis, gallbladder problems, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, constipation, bloating, gas, extreme thirst, coated tongue
  • Skin: hives, rashes, eczema, dermatitis, dry skin, dandruff, brittle hair and nails
  • Disease: diabetes, chronic fatigue, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Urinary Tract Disorder
  • Behavioral: cravings, aggression, addiction, eating disorder, anxiety, confusion, autism, depression, hyperactivity, daydreaming / loss of concentration, irritability, learning disabilities, panic attacks, restlessness, schizophrenia, slurred speech, mental lethargy and dullness
  • Other: auto-immune disorders, fatigue, muscle aches, swelling of hands and feet, weight fluctuation and obesity
  • Children: colic, epilepsy, failure to thrive, growing pains


Difficulty posed in diagnosing chemical “allergies”

  • Skin tests do not identify sensitivities before they become full-blown allergies
  • Symptoms may change after each exposure to sensitizing agent – eg headache one time, nausea the next
  • Allergies can cause or contribute to a wide variety of disorders: arthritis, diabetes, ear infections, eczema, hives, migraines, chronic fatigue, GI disorders, glaucoma, kidney problems, depression, cerebral palsy, multiple sclerosis, autism, ADD and learning difficulties (amongst others)
  • Allergens are varied and possibilities stem from natural environmental sources (eg pollen, dust mites, molds, animal fur, tobacco smoke), to chemical sources (eg cosmetics, perfumes, cleaning agents, clothing fabrics, metals in fillings, toxins in office environments that recirculate and concentrate due to energy efficiency systems)


The relationship between allergic responses and food addictions

  • Common food allergens: wheat, corn, milk, dairy, egg, tomatoes, soy, shellfish, peanuts, food dyes and additives (eg MSG, aspartame, sulfites)
  • Symptoms may be delayed or immediate and include: GI problems – belching, bloating, gas, diarrhea; headaches, lack of mental clarity, fatigue, hyperactivity (especially children)
    • IgE mediated: indigestion, heartburn; headache; asthma, runny nose – within 2 hours
    • IgG mediated: stomach bloat, diarrhea; rashes / hives; weight gain / edema; fits, convulsions, mental disturbance; mouth ulcers, joint / muscle pain, backache – onset of symptoms from 3 hours to 96 hours
  • Allergic reaction may last up to 3 or more days, during which withdrawal symptoms may be experienced that may be relieved or suppressed if more of the allergen is ingested


The causes of allergies and sensitivities

  • Dietary and lifestyle factors that break down immune system and barrier function, as well as contributing to toxic overload
    • Immune imbalance:
      • Toxic overload due to pollution may weaken immune and detoxification systems through using up shared resources (eg glutathione, zinc, selenium, anti-oxidants)
      • Damage to immune function due to vaccination and immunization: especially in children and when immunization is repeated as immune system is overloaded during treatment (common symptoms reveal immune system in fighting / is overloaded: eg fatigue, headache, mental fog, feeling of having a cold)
      • Damage to intestinal flora due to antibiotics, steroids, NSAIDs, birth control medications: these destroy or inhibit key GI defense mechanisms such as immune prostacyclins leading to lack of gut endothelial turnover resulting in infection, faulty absorption and nutrient deficiency
      • Damage to immune function: antibiotics suppressing symptoms and preventing immune recognition and adaptation to antigen
      • Repetitive diet that concentrates ingestion of toxins (pesticides) inside food into the body, as well as contributing to nutritional deficiency (and organ system dysfunction) as well as the possibility of an allergen arising due to the immune system being repeatedly exposed to a potential allergen (eg gluten)
    • Barrier Function:
      • Leaky gut syndrome: Infection, inflammation and malabsorption may lead to increased gut barrier permeability (eg widening of Tight Junction permeability) leading to undigested food particles entering blood system and causing immune response and anti-body formation to that food (and foods related to it by plant family)
        • Causes include alcohol consumption; NSAIDs; viral, fungal or bacterial infection; parasites; nutrient deficiencies; stress; antibiotics; radiation; environmental toxins
      • Air defenses: mucus formation in airway defenses (eg nose, bronchials) may be disrupted due to lack of humidity in air, and excess environmental irritants damaging mucus membranes
      • Skin defense: disrupted due to deficiencies in water and EFA consumption, UV radiation, Hormonal irregularities and stress
  • Toxic overload: causing problems due to shared nutrient co-factors needed for optimal system function (ie detoxification and immune systems) to clear both toxins and allergens. The result of overload on either system as well as lack of nutrient co-factors for optimal function is increased sensitivity to potential food, airborne and chemical allergens. Adrenal stress will furthermore divert physiological as well as nutrient resources from pathways needed for optimal immune function


The relationship between environmental sensitivities and chronic illness, including autoimmune disorders

  • Exposure to environmental toxins causes body to defend itself through immune and enzymatic  processes: the duration of the process depends on the toxicity of the toxin and the length of exposure, as well as the toxic load of the body
  • As toxic load increases, the body’s ability to clear them through the key systems of the lymphatic, immune and liver detoxification systems, as well as the Gastrointestinal system becomes compromised and so does the functionality of those organ systems
  • Enhanced toxic load places the immune system in an enhanced, hyperactive state whereby it attacks the body’s toxic load, diverting energy and resources from essential activities of fighting bacteria, viruses and other microbes. If the body’s immune resources are lowered and diverted in this manner, the effect is immuno-suppressive which raises the risk of chronic health and auto-immune disorders
  • If the fight against toxins drains cells stores of nutrients, then cellular function becomes compromised and the body is less able to assimilate key nutrients
  • Toxic overload or disease lead to toxins accumulating in the blood and stored in fat, the brain and other tissues, which can damage enzymes and upset metabolism
    • Toxins stored in the central nervous system give rise to Parkinson’s, nerve damage, shaking and seizures
    • Toxins in muscles and cartilage give rise to Arthritis
    • Carcinogenic toxins cause mutations in cellular DNA and enhance cancer risk
    • Toxins disrupt hormone activity and makes the body too acidic

Causes of environmental sensitivities

  • Heredity / Genetics – predisposing a person to allergy or disease which can begin the process toward immune hypersensitivity and toxic overload
  • Poor Nutrition – refined and processed foods and are rich in toxins and nutrient deficient deprives the body of the nutrients it needs to defend and detoxify itself, as well as increasing exposure to toxins and free radicals. The result is increased risk of cellular damage, especially to the GI tract, and a compromised immune system disposed to allergenic and heightened immune response
  • Infections – allergen sensitivity can be enhanced following severe infection, such as bacterial, parasitic, viral or fungal. Chronic inflammation or irritation of the GI tract can lead to leaky gut, whereby partially digested foods, bacteria and partially digested foods are able to cross the intestinal barrier into the blood causing allergenic or immune responses
  • Chemicals – air pollution both indoors and outdoors; pesticides, herbicides, petro-chemicals (eg packaging) and additives in food. These add to the toxic load of the body that leads to the development of allergenic response. Furthermore, when an individual becomes sensitized or allergic to one chemical due to toxic overload and chronic low level exposure, the individual can become sensitive to a number of related chemicals that never before prompted reactions: Multiple Chemical Sensitivity (MCS). Furthermore, symptoms in MCS can switch and differ from exposure to the same chemical
  • Stress – emotional and physical stress both diverts nutrients and body resources from the immune and detoxification system as well as causing upregulated inflammatory compounds and free radical production
  • Other factors – medications (eg steroids and anti-biotics); hormonal changes (eg menstruation, aging, surgery); glandular disorders (eg hypo-thyroid, hypo-adrenal); physical trauma (eg surgery, accident); dental amalgams; electromagnetic disturbances (eg electronic devices)


  • Involves identifying possible allergens and sensitivities and removing exposure to them (elimination diet). It also involves key nutrient support for liver detoxification pathways (eg anti-oxidants)
  • Clears the body of toxins circulating in the bloodstream and embedded in soft tissue and fat, toxins that can lead to toxic overload, organ (eg liver) dysfunction, immuno-suppression and hyper-immune reactivity, as well as chronic and auto-immune disorders
  • Clearing can be done with dietary juices, special diets as well as with bodywork, lymphatic drainage, anti-oxidant and herbal support, as well as exercise and mind body therapy to ensure positive emotions and reduced stress – it is important to note that detoxification enhances stress as toxins are released from soft tissue and fat for elimination, and also due to addictive withdrawal symptoms from allergenic foods


The mechanism behind autoimmune disorders – Over-reaction and Under-reaction

The Immune system responsible for repairs at a cellular level and clearing dead and damaged cells out of circulation, as well as defense

  • Continuous, excessive demands of the immune system lead to the deferral of cell and tissue repairs
  • Chronic deferral of repairs leads to disruptions within cells
  • Cell damage makes it harder for the immune system to function effectively
  • Toxins accumulate and add to the body’s immune load
  • More repairs are deferred as more immune resources are used up
  • Further cell disruptions occur which lead to more serious tissue problems
  • Immune dysfunction and illness develop
  • Under-reaction: failure to correctly identify a threat and launch the appropriate response due to down-regulation. Causitory factors can be excessive demands and lack of immune resources as well as nutrient deficiency and stress. Immuno-suppression and down-regulation the cause of chronic and recurrent infections, AIDS and cancer (cancer cells occurs to every person and become diseases due to escaping detection by immune cells, or due to insufficient immune support)
  • Over-reaction: immune system fails to regulate or suppress an appropriate response or makes a hypersensitive response. An up-regulated immune system can lead to immune dysregulation and the development of auto-immune disorders and allergies. Excessive TH-1 helper cells involved in cellular immunity as well as TH-2 helper cells involved humoral immunity are mediated by cytokines such as IL-6: stress can up-regulate IL-6. Other factors up-regulating immune response could be insufficient clearing of antigens by TH-2 or production of auto-anti-bodies. Essentially, excess TH-2 mediated anti-body production can to lead hypersensitivity in which anti-bodies misread surface proteins on cell membranes and generate an antigen / allergen immune tagging / identification and response to cells that normally do not warrant such a reaction. Upregulated TH-2 is seen to be the causitory factor in this, and up-regulating TH-1 (or down-regulating TH-2 to modify the TH-1 to TH-2 ratio) is the solution – possibly in order to allow clearing of cellular debris and harmful cells by TH-1, in doing so prevent an excessive TH-2 response to those same cells (?)


The relationship between infection and development of autoimmunity including the role of food allergies

  • Causes of auto-immune mis-identification: cellular identification performed by cellular receptors. Immune cells do not lock onto the whole chain of proteins on cell surface used for identification – they use only a small portion (epitope). Immune cells may thus misread self-cells, confusing them for antigens
  • B cells may be up-regulated (eg following infection) and not properly suppressed by T cells, due to possible suppression of suppressor T cells. The result is excess anti-bodies, leading to increased chance of antigen misidentification / hypersensitivity and allergenic response. Thus a food which normally causes no allergenic reaction could, under the circumstances of excess exposure to the body (ie continual eating of same food) and excess B-cells in the body, lead to allergen identification of that food – due to immune hypersensitivity
  • Anti-bodies produced as a result of infection and allergenic response may cross react with self cells due to similarities between allergen and infectious cell surface proteins and self-proteins. Examples include lactose and pancreas cells (diabetes), herpes and Epstein Barr viruses and nerve cells (multiple sclerosis)
  • Up-regulated cytokine production is inflammatory and can lose regulatory control (eg due to stress and up-regulation of IL-6) – the result can be self-damage in the inflammatory process (eg due to ROS production and damage) leading to chronic inflammation, down-regulation of T suppressor cells, and sustained B-cell numbers. The trigger for the initial inflammation may be infection, the result may be allergenic reaction and auto-antibody production
  • T-cell production can be inflammatory and cause excess inflammation (and collateral damage). Killer T-cells cause upregulated IL-6 and in themselves cause disease (eg un-regulated psoriasis lesions) 

Areas of the body that are attacked in auto-immune disorders

  • Multiple Sclerosis: sheaths around nerves
  • Lupus: connective tissue
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis: joints
  • Hashimotos’s: thyroid
  • Crohn’s: colon
  • Diabetes: pancreas
  • Celiac: villi of small intestine


Nutritional support for allergies

  • Dietary recommendations include:
    • Elimination diet (remove allergens)
    • Rotation diet (vary nutrient intake, decrease exposure to individual foods that may become allergens due to overexposure)
    • Whole foods diet (decrease modern processing of food that the body has not adapted to)
    • Food Combining diet (digestion may be optimized noting absorption of different foods and combining to enhance nutrient intake and GI function)
  • Zinc and Vitamin A: vital co-factors in production of IgA (secreted in mouth and cells of GI tract and binds to allergens preventing absorption). Deficiency increases susceptibility to allergies and allergenic response. Zinc is also a co-factor in production of Stomach Acid (HCl) needed for proper chemical breakdown of food for absorption and it aids immune function by activating the thymus gland. Vitamin A is needed for healthy skin, mucuous membranes and epithelial membranes and useful for treating and preventing allergenic symptoms (eg eczema) as well as conditions that may result (eg asthma, IBD, Auto-immune disorders such as Rheumatoid Arthritis)
  • Bioflavonoids: support free-radical neutralization, needed during immune response and liver detoxification. Identifiable: responsible for colors of fruit and flowers.
    • Functions:
      • Biological response modifiers, altering body responses to allergens, viruses, carcinogens
      • Anti-inflammatory, anti-allergenic, anti-viral, anti-carcinogenic
      • Increase Vit A levels within cells, decrease leakiness and breakages of small blood vessels, protect against free-radical damage, support joint structures
      • Collagen saviour
      • Shown to reverse plaques of arthritis and atherosclerosis and inhibit formation and secretion of inflammatory compounds that produce allergic response
      • Quercetin (from wine, tea, onions, apples, berries, lettuce) acts to stabilize mast cells and is powerful anti-histamine
  • Vitamin C: powerful anti-oxidant and also stimulates phagocytes needed to seek out and destroy food allergens as well as clear IgG immune compounds from blood before they cause organ and tissue damage. Vit C also a powerful anti-histamine and counteracts inflammatory responses in allergenic response (eg hay fever and asthma)
  • Probiotics: needed to optimize intestinal bacterial balance which is often out of balance during allergenic response
  • Digestive enzymes:  such as Bromelain (Pineapple) and Papain (papaya) needed when GI digestive function and permeability is compromised during allergenic or chronic immune response
  • Omega 3: needed for skin health, optimal cell membrane function and production of anti-inflammatory prostaglandins. Specific types: EPA, DHA and GLA
  • Herbal medicine:
    • Immune enhancement / strengthening weakened immune system: Echinacea, Astralagus, Goldenseal, Pfaffia paniculata (or Suma / Brazilian ginseng)
    • Anti-inflammatory: Stinging nettle, Gingko Bilboa, Licorice, Feverfew
    • GI healing of mucuous membranes: Marshmellow, Slippery Elm, Cabbage Juice, Okra, Fenugreek, Aloe Vera
  • Saturated fat: should be minimized due to effect in promoting inflammatory prostaglandins
  • Toxic and nutrient poor foods: foods with additives, trans fats, high pesticide levels, lipid peroxides as well as processed and refined foods should be minimized due to effects in increasing toxic load and providing insufficient, incomplete and unnatural nutrients


Key Terms for Allergies and Autoimmunity

Allergy – IgE or IgG mediated antibody response involving humoral B cells and upregulated TH-2

Sensitivity – adverse reaction to sensitizing agent that is not anti-body mediated but may involve cellular T-cell immune response and upregulated TH-1

Atopy – genetic predisposition toward IgE mediated allergic hypersensitivity

IgE – anti-body involved is immediate allergenic response. Symptoms of response include release of histamine in the resultant inflammatory process (following IgE antigen identification) that leads to redness of skin, excess mucus production, swelling and itchy eyes – within 2 hours of exposure

IgG – anti-body involved in delayed allergenic response, usually resulting from exposure to food antigen, and taking 24 to 72 for response to occur and symptoms to be felt. In the process, tissue cells may be damaged due to binding of antigen to tissue cells (cytotoxic allergies), or due to formation of Circulating Immune Compounds (CIC) leading to inflammation and organ dysfunction

Mast cell – play key role in allergenic IgE mediated response as IgE anti-body / antigen complex attaches to mast cell resulting in production of histamine and other inflammatory cytokines

Immune complex – formed in some IgG anti-body responses whereby an immune complex composing IgG anti-body and antigen is formed (as opposed to being destroyed via cytotoxic IgG response). The complex then awaits clearing by phagocytes. However during immuno-suppression, these complexes may circulate (CIC) leading to organ damage (eg arthritis, respiratory distress, skin lesions)

Antibody – B-cells produced by plasma cells following antigen identification. They take up to 5 days to build in sufficient number after primary response / initial exposure. During secondary response / repeat exposure, anti-body production by plasma cells is intense and fast, leading to peak production of anti-bodies within 24hrs (they stay in the blood for weeks after). IgG is the most numerous in the body, followed by IgA (which are important for GI protection). IgE is least numerous

Asthma – IgE mediated antigen response resulting in bronchioles becoming inflamed and flooded with mucus, contraction of bronchial smooth muscle and obstruction of airways. The resulting symptoms of an “asthma attack” range from difficulty breathing to wheezing and coughing accompanies by mucus excretion

  • The time of day is associated with worsening of asthmatic symptoms
    • Late night and early morning due to lung function being at its lowest due to circadian rhythm and hormone release fluctuations
    • Days preceding menstrual cycle due to low levels of hormone estradiol that causes deceased lung function

Celiac Disease – auto-immune disease involving destruction and flattening of villi of the small intestine. Inflammation and destruction lead to poor digestion and absorption of nutrients leading to symptoms of fatigue, bloating, gas and undigested food in stool. Gluten is the main trigger for Celiac.

Histamine – inflammatory chemical released by mast cells upon anti-body / antigen binding. Release causes the blood vessels to widen, enabling more fluid into body tissues, resulting in swelling. It also triggers smooth muscle to contract (in lungs, blood vessels, heart, stomach, intestines, bladder). Resulting symptoms include runny nose; hot, swollen and tender body parts; skin flushing.

Cytotoxic allergy – immediate response to antigen identification by B-cells. Antigen binds to tissue cells, whilst IgG or IgM antibodies are replicated in number to neutralize antigen. Antibodies then bind to antigen and inject cytotoxins to kill them. However, if antigen have invaded or are attached to tissue cell, collateral damage to those cells occurs. Typically this occurs when antigens invade blood cells (resulting in antibody destruction of those cells and anemia) or GI cells

Antigen – substance capable of mobilizing the immune system and generally are large molecules that are recognized as being nonself, or foreign to the body. When an immune response is activated, the immune system:

  • Recognizes and acts against specific particular pathogens or foreign substances
  • Is systemic in involving the whole body and not being restricted to the initial infection site
  • Has memory, whereby initial exposure to an antigen primes the body to react more vigorously against those same antigens when it identifies them in subsequent meetings

Leaky gut – involves permeability of GI barrier (or Tight Junction Permeability) caused by inflammatory / immune response to toxins, medications, antigens. The result is that larger food molecules and toxins cross the GI barrier and enter the blood system causing immune mediated responses to those food molecules and toxins. This places a strain on the immune system and weakens it, allowing other pathogenic viruses and yeasts to multiply, further compounding the load on the immune system. Added, antigen / antibody CIC complexes which result whenever an antibody attaches to a food substance or toxin can become embedded in body tissues and the immune system then may attack those same tissues to which the CIC is attached – which may well be the GI tract, further compounding the leaky gut, as well as triggering auto-immune disorders.

Rotation Diet – advised in order to avoid allergenic response to a food which the body is constantly exposed to, especially when immune hypersensitivity may spark that allergic response. Added, rotation is advised to vary the source and supply of nutrients needed by the body, eating a variety of different foods and eating the same food only once every 4 days

Elimination Diet – involves identifying and removing allergenic foods and food sensitivities. Identification may best be performed with blood tests and cross reactivity food tests. Initially, all common food allergens should be removed – including gluten, dairy, eggs, soy, citrus, corn, beef and peanut. Lectins and nightshade family foods should be removed, especially in auto-immune disorders. Foods should be removed for 60 to 90 days, as should common sources of chemicals – such as pesticides in non-organic foods and antibodies and nitrates in non-organic animal foods. Removal of foods may cause symptoms of addictive withdrawal which may last up to 5 days. Foods may be re-introduced on a trial basis to examine immune response to possible reactive foods – the reaction, if it occurs, should result within 3 days of exposure to the food.

Environmental medicine – chemical toxins in food, air, water, the home or place of work can enter the body causing toxic imbalances resulting in immune suppression and / or immune hyper-sensitivity. In addition, medications and dental fillings may to the same. The result is chemical sensitivity as well as food sensitivity and allergy, with resultant symptoms that can range from fatigue and minor mental problems to chronic disorders and organ dysfunction, as well as auto-immune disorders. Environmental medicine takes note of these underlying dietary and environmental causes and contributory factors when addressing a health problem.

Autoimmune – antibody mediated immune response that mistakenly identifies the body’s own tissues and cells as targets for destruction. The cause can be mis-identification and confusion caused by similarities of antigens to body cells. Equally it can be hyper-sensitivity caused by an up-regulated circulation of TH-2 antibodies.

Xenobiotics – substances and chemicals that are foreign to the body and are not normally expected to be present in it, thus causing an immune reaction as the body identifies, isolates and removes them. Medications are classed as xenobiotics, as are pollutants.

Endotoxins – toxic substances produced during and as a result of the body’s own metabolic processes. Examples can include Free radicals produced during ATP energy production and carbohydrate metabolism, as well as free radicals produced during immune inflammatory processes. Equally, liver detoxification reactions produce harmful endotoxins during phase 1 and phase 2 reactions. And the immune system produces potentially harmful substances to the body’s own tissues (such as CICs) during its work

Toxic load – concerns the body’s detoxification system, principally the liver, and the load put on it to remove xenobiotics, endotoxins as well as hormones. An excess in toxic load leads to toxic overload with a consequence of loss of homeostasis

Autoantibodies – antibodies that react to the body’s own tissues, targeting them for destruction. Misidentification is typically caused by a hyperactive immune system; however antigens also may bear similarities to body cells (such as lactose to pancreatic cells) thus when antibody targeting of those antigens is triggered, those same antibodies target the body’s own cells

Adapted from:

Kail, K., Lawrence, B. & Goldberg, B. (2000). Allergy Free: An Alternative Medicine Guide. Tiburon, Ca., Alternative Books

Goldberg, B. (2002). Alternative Medicine: The Definitive Guide(2ndEd.). Berkeley, Ca., Celestial Arts.

Bock, Kenneth & Sabin, N. (1997). The Road to Immunity. N.Y.: Pocket Books



  • Brain Synchrony: Mood and anger regulation
  • Temperature regulation: affects Thyroid and metabolism
  • Sleep regulation: converted to melatonin
  • Appetite: carbohydrate stimulates production, present in Gastro Intestinal (GI) tract and affects GI motility
  • Pain modulation
  • Vasoconstriction
Food habits and Weight Management
  • Controls rhythm and tiredness – via conversion to melatonin and leads to proper rest and recuperation
  • Controls hunger – low serotonin leads to increased Ghrelin which controls feelings of hunger
  • Low serotonin leads to carbohydrate and salty foods cravings
Hormonal interactions
  • Interacts with Progesterone, Growth Hormone, Pregnenolone, Leptin, Aldosterone
  • Serotonin controls T3 production and TSH release
  • Thyroid hormones determine serotonin levels (low TSH, T4 or T3 leads to low serotonin)
  • Serotonin primes estrogen receptors
  • Loss of coordinated development affects mind-body connection, causing headaches, backaches, insomnia and depression
  • Anger and aggression
  • Depression and guilt, OCD, Bipolar, Anxiety
  • Migraines, food issues and IBS
  • Tinnitus, Fibromyalgia
  • Intense religious experiences
  • Self-esteem: shyness, inferiority complex, nervousness, vulnerable to criticism and fear of being disliked, fear of social contact
  • Excess may be caused by estrogen dominance
Symptoms of deficiency
  • Loss of pleasure in hobbies, interests and favorite activities and loss of enjoyment of life, friendships and relationships
  • Overwhelm and feelings of too many ideas to manage
  • Inner rage, inner paranoia, depression
  • Unable to fall into deep sleep (due to melatonin deficiency); SAD
Causes of deficiency
  • Inflammation and chronic health issues
  • Gluten sensitivity affects serotonin receptors
  • Insulin surges
  • Low nutrients: B6, Zinc, Magnesium, B12
  • Low protein and sources of tryptophan in diet
  • Excess caffeine and stress
Food modulators
  • Carbohydrate rich meals
  • Shrimp, Halibut, Salmon
  • Chicken, Turkey, Beef, Liver
  • Mushrooms, Pumpkin seeds, Soy and Tofu
Herb and supplement modulators 5HTP, St John’s, Wort, SAMe, Inositol

Adapted from:

Braverman, E. (2009). Younger (Thinner) You Diet. New York, N.Y.:Rodale.

Kharrazian, D. (2013). Why Isn’t My Brain Working? Carlsbad, C.A.: Elephant Press