Brain Allergies by Dr. William Philpott, Book Review

Philpott, William H., MD. and Kalita, Dwight K., PhD: Brain Allergies: The Psychonutrient and Magnetic Connections, 2nd ed. (Keats Publishing, Los Angeles 2000). First edition published in 1980.

This book is about the proper functioning of the brain and how nutrition affects it. 'Brain Allergies' puts forward the hypothesis that many of our less desirable mental states may be caused by food allergies, chemical insensitivities, and nutritional deficiencies. It presents a very strong and believable argument to this effect. Some of the case studies are completely mind-blowing and one wonders whether they can possibly be real. If they are, it seems that much of the mental illnesses, behavioural difficulties, and other mental challenges could be cured via natural means, or at least via vitamin and mineral supplementation.

This book is a very important read for anyone interested in the health of the human body and mind. It is a must read especially for those involved with undesirable mental symptoms whether personally, socially, or professionally. I would also say that this book belongs in the book shelf of any natural health enthusiast.

"Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine, once said, 'Leave your drugs in the chemist's pot if you can heal the patient with food.' Since the first publication of this book in 1980, a significantly growing number of orthomolecular-ecologic psychiatrists have come to recognize the wisdom of Hippocrates." (p. xiii, Brain Allergies, Dr. William Philpott)

Brain Allergies - Summary

"The proper functioning of the brain is known to require the presence in the brain of molecules of many different substances. Mental disease, usually associated with physical disease, results from a low concentration of any one of a number of vitamins: thiamine (vitamin B1), nicotinic acid or nicotinamide (B3), pyridoxine (B6), cobalamin (B12), biotin, ascorbic acid (vitamin C), and folic acid." Other substances, which are not vitamins, also affect the functioning of the brain when a significant change in their concentration is achieved. Among these substances is glutamic acid, one of the amino acids that is present in proteins. "The concept that a change in behavior and in mental health can result from changing the concentrations of various substances that are normally present in the brain is an important one. This concept is the basis of orthomolecular psychiatry..."
- Linus Pauling in Foreword, pp. ix-x

Dr. Philpott begins the book by explaining how psychoactive drugs have to a large part failed to cure mental illness. He explains that prescription drugs suppress symptoms of mental illness while the disease itself in many cases remains the same. In addition, there are the unpleasant side effects of these medicines to deal with. As a result, he suggests, many psychiatrists are now advocating an alternative approach, which "assumes that a healthy brain is fundamentally based on a healthy biochemical/ nutritional, ecologic, and biomagnetic environment within each and every cell of human body" (pp. xiii-xiv).

"...orthomolecular-ecologic phychiatrists firmly believe that foods, chemicals, and inhalants in the environment do indeed affect human behavior. In fact, they now understand that foods, chemicals and inhalants can change the chemistry of our brain so dramatically that normal human behavior is radically altered. The end result of such a radical alteration of the brain's chemistry is called mental and emotional illness." (p. xiv, Brain Allergies)

As first part of the treatment protocol a four-day rotation diet is suggested. This is an elimination diet where the same food is never eaten more than once in each four-day period. For a food to produce brain allergy symptoms, Philpott seems to suggest that it has to be an allergen which is eaten more than twice per week - a 'four-day rotation diet' thus, would succeed in eliminating all these allergy symptoms. In addition, effort has to be made to identify all foreign chemical stressors and to eliminate them from the person's environment. These may be make-up, leaking gas, petrol fumes, petrochemical products in general, cleaning products, etc.

"Years of deliberate food, chemical, and inhalant testing within the ranks of these physicians have provided convincing evidence that it is the stress of the frequency of contact that produces mal-adaptive, allergic/ addictive reactions to foods, chemicals and inhalants. This is true whether these reactions are immunoglobulin G (IgG) reactions or nonimmunological reactions. Generally speaking, the frequency of contact with an offending food, chemical or inhalant needs to be more than two times per week."

In addition to the four-day rotation diet and removing chemical stressors, strict avoidance of all identified allergy-causing foods is advised. Personally, I would suggest utilising the pulse test, which is a home-based free method of indentifying food allergies/ insensitivities, as an important part of the allergen-identification process.

A special word of warning is given about gluten - I will summarise these points in a separate chapter.

The second part of the treatment protocol concentrates on adequate nutrition for the body.

"Orthomolecular-ecologic psychiatrists suggest that the treatment of mental diseases should include varying the concentration of 'right molecules' - that is, vitamins, minerals, trace elements, essential fatty acids, enzymes, amino acids, and hormones - that normally occur in the human body. This right molecule, or orthomolecular, approach to medicine includes the compensation for, as well as the correction of, any nutritional deficiencies that might be present in their patients.

"The list of nutritional substances needed by the human body for optimum mental as well as physical health includes the following:

"Essential fatty acids: linoleic acid, linolenic acid.
Amino acids: argine and histidine (essential for children), isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, valine.
Vitamins: Biotin (B1); Cobalamin (B12); Folic Acid (B9); Niacin (B2); Pantothenic Acid (B5); Pyridoxine (B6); Riboflavin (B2); Thiamine (B1); Vitamins A, C, D, E, K.
Minerals: Calcium, Chlorine, Chromium, Cobalt, Copper, Fluorine, Iodine, Iron, Magnesium, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Phosphorus, Potassium, Selenium, Silicon, Sodium, Strontium, Sulphur, Vanadium, Zinc."

(pp. xvi-xvii Brain Allergies)

A periodic laboratory assessment is recommended by Dr. Philpott to determine levels of nutritional deficiency. Also, elimination of all toxic minerals, such as lead, mercury, arsenic, cadmium, and the like from the patient's body is included as an important part of this second part of the treatment protocol.

"Orthomolecular-ecologic psychiatrists are now seeing extremely positive results when their patients are treated at the cellular level with biological weapons (i.e. nutrients) that nature has provided in her own structure of defense since beginning of life." (pp. xvii-xviii)

The third treatment tool recommended in the book is biomagnetic therapy. I will write more about this in another chapter below.

"According to [Dr. Theron G.] Randolph - and my experience bears this out - more than half of the so-called psychosomatic reactions are in reality undiagnosed allergic reactions." (p. 13)

"We should be diagnosing paranoia caused by a wheat allergy, dissociation as a manifestation of a sensitivity to eggs, catatonia as a manifestation of mold or hydrocarbon allergy, and so forth [...] Induction allergy testing, rather than deductive reasoning, I believe, is the method that will allow psychiatrists to function not as philosophers but as true scientists." (p.15, Brain Allergies)

brain allergies, natural mental health

"Our peculiar cultural preferences for eating only a few types of foods, heavy consumption of refined carbohydrates, and the chronic use of alcohol and tobacco add materially to a developing state of nutritional deficiency with its corresponding multiple-symptom production in our body-tissue systems. Also, our nation's propensity to consume nutritionally deficient 'junk foods' furhter increases the defective tissue states in the human body." (p. 17)

Other treatments are also mentioned throughout the book, such as meganutrient therapy, enzyme therapy, fasting for four days and then food testing...

"The emotional symptoms evoked on exposure to foods and commonly met chemicals range from mild central-nervous-system symptoms such as weakness, dizziness, blurred vision, [to] anxiety and depression, paranoid delusions, and visual and auditory hallucination."

A list of some of the other unpleasant mental symptoms/ mental illnesses mentioned in the book as examples of possible brain allergy symptoms:
Headaches, dizziness, unsteadiness, inability to read or write, neuritis, myalgia, arthralgia, tension, hyperactivity, weakness, sleepiness, tachycardia, gastritis, diarrhea, colitis, constipation, hypertension, hypotension, itching, hives, psoriasis, seborrhea, schitzophrenia, delusions, behavioral problems, neurotic tendencies, phobias, feeling drugged, insomnia, catatonia, mania, dulling of the brain, emotional reactions, mental confusion, tension, paranoia, neurosis, confusion, spaced-out feeling, hyperactivity, children's tantrums, autism, tardive dyskensia, manic-depression, learning disabilities, hyperkinesis, agitation, compulsions, anger, trembling...

Brain Allergy Case Studies

There are many fascinating case studies William Philpott's book. Some of these are discussed below.

Although these, and similar case studies in other health-related books, can be extremely inspiring, as well as good indications of the power of the techniques discussed, I find that it is good to keep in mind that these are extreme cases, and probably 99% of people would not have as extreme results. From my personal experience, as I read many inspiring health books, I tend to get excited about one method, then expect amazing results, and then get a little disheartened when the results are not extremely dramatic. In reality, however, my opinion is that doing many techniques at once will give the best results, and even then the progress will be gradual. Of course in some cases the results may be dramatic, but probably in small minority of cases. On the other hand it is a shame that many powerful natural and holistic remedies get dismissed by people because the gradual changes are deemed not worthy. These gradual, seemingly subtle changes, however, can have, and often have, life-changing consequences. Our awareness is only occupied with such a small part of reality, yet a subtle change in yourself can make all the difference in others or in your body. The cells don't seem to give us too much direct feedback but new habits over time will show results. Thus instead of expecting instant results it is best to go slow with changes, and keep building the methods up into your daily rhythm over time - speaking generally about natural health and holistic remedies, not only regarding brain allergies. And definitely, keep a diary, so as to periodically focus your mind on noticing your progress, from all the many things in daily life keeping your mind occupied. From this diversion - into some powerful orthomolecular-psychiatry results:

"Approximately one-third of my patients react to various chemicals common to our environment. Some react to the insecticide spray residues on fruits and vegetables and thus must eat fruits and vegetables that have not been sprayed by insecticides if they are to remain sane. Some react to preservatives and additives in foods; others react to the noncaking substance in table salt and have to use sea salt. Another surprise was the number of people reacting to chlorinated water; several developed ulcerated colitis. I had never heard of chlorine as a cuasee of either ulcerated colitis or psychosis but my empirical observations made me a believer.

"There were many other patients who manifested a variety of severe maladaptive reactions to foods and chemicals. A twenty-year-old paranoid schizophrenic became symptom-free by the fourth day of a fast on spring water only. When test smoking a cigarette he became disoriented and delusional and defied anyone to come near him. It took four men to subdue him and place him in a seclusion room. He had been well until two years before when he began smoking. A fifty-two-year-old woman with a neurotic depression was tested for wheat. She developed a stiff neck and tighness in the chest and throat; even worse, she felt like hitting or punching someone. She was so frightened she might act on these compulsive urges that she went to a room by herself until the reaction subsided.

"A twelve-year old boy diagnosed as hyperkinetic had the following symptoms on testing for spinach: he became overtalkative and physically violent, had excessive saliva, was very hot, develope a severe stomachache, and cried for a long time. Watermelon made him irritable and depressed; cantaloupe made him aggresively tease other patients. Once he avoided the incriminating substances in his diet, his hyperkinesis symptoms diminshed dramatically.

"Pineapple evoked irritability, blocking of thought, dizziness, and a severe headache in a thirty-six-year old psychoneurotic woman. Oranges made her violently angry, and she fought with her son; her mind functioned so poorly she could hardly carry on a conversation. Rice brought on uncontrollable giggling followed by crying.

"A four-year-old boy diagnosed as hyperkinetic had a variety of reactions. Sting beans made him hyperactive, and he wanted to fight with everyone. Celery gave him a severe stomachache, after which he cried and became grouchy. Strawberries made him angry and hyperactive and caused a great deal of coughing. Unrefined cane sugar caused him to be irritable, after which he coughed and developed a stuffy nose.

"A fourty-year-old schitzophrenic woman responded to a sublingual test for petrochemical hydrocarbons using glycerinated exhaust fumes by trying to find a way to kill herself. She had a history of attempting suicide by opening the door of the car and trying to jump out while her husband was driving. She would act normally when starting on a ride, but within a few minutes she would try to hurl herself from the car and have to be restrained by her husband. He later discovered the car had a faulty exhaust system, which had been leaking fumes into its interior."
- Brain Allergies, pp. 23-24
brain allergies, natural mental health, orthomolecular psychiatry

There is also a case study of a woman, who was infertile and overweight but after fasting for four days, eliminating her allergen foods, and supplementing with vitamins, minerals, amino acids and enzymes she found it easy to lose weight and became fertile again and was able to have a baby! Other troublesome symptoms she was suffering from disappeared as well.

Gluten Addition and Gluten Allergy as a Cause of Mental Illness

"After years of observing maladaptive mental reactions to foods, most orthomolecular-ecologic psychiatrists would agree that gluten is the most frequent and severe symptom reactor of all foods. As a result, gluten is the most likely food substance to evoke physical as well as mental symptoms. [...]

"Common physical reactions to gluten include gastrointestinal problems, such as celiac disease, Crohn's disease (gluten enteropathy), jerking muscles (Tourette's syndrome), and headache. Emotional and mental symptoms caused by reactions to gluten range from mild tension, anxiety, phobias, depression, obsessions, compulsion, and so forth to severe psychotic depression hallucinations, and delusions.

"In addition to being the most reactive food substance in tems of immunologic and nonimmunologic maladaptive reactions, gluten is the most addictive of all food substances. Gluten is split in half during the first stage of digestion, which occurs in the stomach by a combination of hydrochloric acid with the enzyme pepsin. This splitting of gluten produces an active narcotic called exorphin. This narcotic becomes addictive when it is absorbed through the small intestine without further digestion by pancreatic enzymes, sodium and potassium bicarbonate."

(Brain Allergies, p. xvi)

"Classic vegetarians are heavy users of cereal grains and often rely on wheat gluten as a basic source of protein; this leaves the vegetarian who may be genetically programmed as a reactor to wheat in a vulnerable position, since she is more prone to use wheat and other gluten-bearing cereal grains. In my studies, wheat is seen to be the highest maladaptive reacting substance, especially in evoking mental symptoms. In vulnerable persons, I have clinically evoked full-blown psychosis with a test of gluten steaks." (p. 215)

"Schizophrenics sufficiently ill to be locked in a ward, who had cereal grains and dairy products removed from their diets, were compared with a similar, equal-sized group allowed cereal grains and milk. Those with cereal grains and dairy products removed from their diet were released from the ward in half the time required for those not so treated. When gluten from wheat was secretly added to their diets, these patients became ill again." (p. 20, Dr. Philpott referring to a study by F.C. Dohan in 1973)

Cereal Grain Psychosis

"Henry, seventeen years old, had been mentally ill for three years. Prior use of tranquilizers, psychotherapy, and electric shock did not succeed in helping him appreciably. He believed that people were out to kill him, and he often had to be placed under restraint because of his attacks on innocent children and adults. He was placed on a fast from all foods and given spring water only. He remained mentally ill until the fourth day, at which time his symptoms cleared; he was released from his restraints. He telephoned his parents, saying: "I love you. Please come and see me." On the fifth day of the fast he was fed a meal of wheat only. Within an hour, he began to feel strange and unreal; within an hour and a half, he thought people were going to kill him. He telephoned his parents, saying: "I hate you. You caused my illness. I don't want to ever see you again." Further testing confirmed the fact that when specific foods were withheld, his symptoms cleared, and when given wheat again the same paranoid reaction occured consistently." (pp.19-20)

The Degenerative Disease Process Starts from Addictions and Allergies

"In summary, the degenerative disease process develops in the following manner: chronic addictive reactions and their counterpart allergic reactions to foods, chemicals, and inhalants are the central stress factors, along with nutrient deficiencies in the diet that produce the pancreatic-deficiency disease process. Once the pancreas begins to function poorly, we encounter an acute metabolic acidosis occuring in the small intestine. This reduction of pancreatic bicarbonate destroys proteolytic enzymes; a lowered proteolytic enzyme level in the small intestine creates amino-acid deficiencies while the low proteolytic level in the blood allows a continual rise in kinin-inflammatory reactions to occur in various tissues and organs. Moreover, a pancreatic insufficiency is responsible for a lowered lipse activity. A lower level of this enzyme appearing in the blood may cause metabolic activity at the cellular level to react in a more sensitive fashion to allergic foods and chemicals. The degenerative disease process now begins, and if it continues for any protracted period, these multiple deficiencies feed upon one another and add to the additional metabolic stress that finally breaks up the entire biochemical balance needed for health.

"The far-reaching chain reaction of metabolic malfunctions set in motion by this disease process is staggering to contemplate. Kinin reactions in the brain alone have been clinically observed to fall into the classic psychiatric degenerative diagnostic categories of schizophrenia, manic depression, psychotic depression, hyperkinesis, autism, learning disabilities, hallucinations, delusions, and a host of others."
- p. 127, Brain Allergies

"... frequently eaten foods usually are the most obvious stress-producing factors. If the frequency of foods eaten is too great, so as to establish allergic-addictive reactions, or if the nutrient quality is inferior, so as to establish deficiencies in vitamins, minerals, trace elements, amino acids, and so on, the pancreas (along with other parts of the body) suffers from the stress load, and malfunctions occur in the equipment. The names commonly used to refer to these malfunctions in the pancreas are hypoglycemia and diabetes. These two seemingly separate metabolic problems are basically only different stages of a more fundamental disease process..."
- p. 124, Brain Allergies

Food Addictions

It is often said that we develop addictions to foods that we are allergic to, or vice versa. William Philpott explains in Brain Allergies why this may be:

"There are many maladaptive, allergy-like reactions, including central-nervous system reactions, which do not manifest antibody formation and, therefore, do not fit the immunologist's narrow definition of allergy." (p. 5)
"Addiction is described as a state involving withdrawal-phase symptoms of any kind occuring hours or days (up to three days) after contact with a particular substance. Similarly, these withdrawal-phase symptoms can often be stopped - sometimes only partially - by continued contact with the addictive substance. Foods of all kinds, as well as chemicals, qualify as much as addictans as do narcotics, tobacco, coffee, and alcohol. [...]

"Adaptive addiction can be described as a state of relative freedom from symptoms, occasioned when the addictive substance is contacted frequently enough and the biological homeostatic state is in good repair. It is, however, a state of chronic stress, precariously balanced, and paves the way for the emergence of an 'illness' - an acute allergic reaction previously described - upon the addition of stress of any kind. Such last-straw stresses may be:
- an overload of the allergen
- the addition of seasonal allergens such as pollens or other environmental stresses
- physical stresses such as excessive cold, heat, or fatigue
- harbored infections
- emotional stress

"The person suffering from adaptive addiction may be likened to one walking a tightrope, from which he may easily fall at any time. [...] However, if the basic addiction is handled, he then has a broad base from which to handle all stress - he is on firm ground, so to speak, and off the tightrope."

- pp. 28-29 Brain Allergies

I wonder how often allergies and weakened adrenal glands combine as parts of the same problem? And which one comes first? The adaptive addiction tightrope-situation sounds very similar to exhausted adrenal glands - and both allergies and adrenal glandular weakness are extremely common problems in society today, some sources suggesting that more than 50% of adults suffer from each. This is what Dr. Lawrence Wilson's page has to say about this:

"When the adrenals are fatigued, it is more difficult to produce the additional amounts of cortisol necessary to adequately counteract the inflammatory allergic reactions.* People going through times of adrenal fatigue may notice that they seem to have more allergies or their allergies seem to get worse.* Conversely, the more histamine released, the harder the adrenals have to work to produce enough cortisol [and] the more fatigued they may become. It is therefore not surprising that people with food and environmental allergies commonly tend to experience adrenal fatigue as well.* This can set up a vicious cycle of reduced cortisol allowing histamine to inflame the tissues more, leading to deepening adrenal fatigue as well as to bigger allergic reactions."
- Adrenal Function in Allergies

The way to overcome these allergic addictions, Philpott suggests in Brain Allergies, we have to change allergy reactions from chronic to acute, in other words we have to remain from eating anything for four days - water fast - and afterwards introduce one food at a time and monitor our reactions. I would suggest that the pulse test may be a useful additional tool: book review and free download link to Dr. Coca: The Pulse Test - book.

"Dr [Theron G] Randolph has clinically demonstrated that when there is a break in exposure to addictive sunstances of any kind for at least four days (it seems to take at least four days for any food or chemical to be entirely eliminated from the human system), then the addictive-adaptive reaction is converted to an immediate reaction with an allergic-like quality upon renewed exposure to the substance. This is in fact not a new discovery: Hippocrates reports in his writings the knowledge that if a food was avoided for as much as four days, a reexposure to that food might create a severe reaction in certain people. And this point cannot be overemphasized: All addictions display this pattern, whether they are narcotic, alcohol, tobacco, food or chemical in source. In our clinic, we have observed that removing the patient for four or more days from contact with any suspected food or chemical addictive substances, and then selectively reexposing him to one substance at a time has produced the emergence of every shade of symptom described as schitzophrenic, neurotic, or character neurotic, plus a ost of common somatic symptoms often classed as phychosomatic. Such allergic-like reactions can either excite or inhibit any organs and tissues in the body." (p. 29, Brain Allergies)

This explains a lot about my own experiences. Since I have been trying out very different and sometimes quite extreme diets I have noticed an emergence of certain symptoms when returning to my normal junk-vegetarian diet. I was always wondering whether I just noticed it better, how bad I had felt on my normal diet, after I had been on a very 'pure' diet for a while. I think this may account for much, but also, I do believe that somehow my body didn't want to tolerate certain foods as well anymore after coming out of a raw food diet or a juice fast.

Very specifically, however, I seemed to have developed an allergy to carrots only after eating raw food diets and juice fasting. It is possible it got triggered during the juice fast - that's certainly when I noticed the bouncy heart, chest pain, achy left arm and anxiety symptoms developing in response to drinking one of my many home-made organic carrot juices. Now I am thinking that perhaps the juice fast helped to bring this chronic symptom to surface and make it acute. In any case I am very glad to have discovered it. People are very surprised and curious when I tell them I have an intolerance to carrots, even organic ones! It may be because carrots are quite a domesticated plant, or it may just be that an allergy can develop to anything when the body is out of balance.

I have also noticed that certain types of processed cheeses seem to trigger dizziness in me. I have not confirmed this by the pulse test or any other tests but it seems likely. Also, certain types of wheat-flour breads, breadcrumbs and pastries seem to break the membrane of the back of my mouth, so that I can taste blood quite soon after eating them, and also sometimes make me irritable, anxious and produce chest pain.

Many people, even naturopaths, have a hard time believing me when I tell them this. My hair mineral analyst suggested that I 'try again' to include carrots in my diet. And the live blood analyst included carrot in her list of recommended foods for me to eat. But the symptoms are clear, I have tested these foods many times over and the always produce the same symptoms.

However, I wasn't aware of any of this before I started my health journey in earnest. I had many problematic health symptoms though, including waking up at night with a bouncy heart and unable to go back to sleep. But I certainly didn't have the same bouncy heart and chest pain symptoms during the day time. I know believe that on the journey of unpeeling and healing layers of disease and imbalance in the body, new symptoms will rise up for healing. On the other hand, the allergy reactions which Philpott explains can appear after fasting make a lot of sense as well.

"If a person maladaptively reacts to a food when occasionally eaten, he is aware of this and hence does not like the food. Such reactions to infrequently eaten foods are rare and obviously are not associated with the chronic addictive state. A food has to be eaten two or more times a week to be addicting. The more frequently a food is eaten, the more likely it is to be incriminated in addiction. However, even though a food is infrequently eaten, it may belong to a family of which a member is frequently eaten, such as legumes, squash-melon-cucumber, dairy products, and gluten-bearing cereal grains (wheat, rye, oats, barley, corn). One member of a food family eaten frequently predisposes a person to maladaptive reactions to other members of the same family, even if infrequently eaten." (p. 32)

Other Topics Discussed in Brain Allergies

Biomagnetic therapy, megavitamin therapy (especially vitamin C), diabetes and hypoglycaemia, the desire to smoke as an allergy symptom, typical allergies, etc.

Philpott states that: "Tobacco is close to being a universal allergen for the human race." (p. 107)

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