FAILsaf02 September 1998
Newsletter of the Food Intolerance Network of Australia
FAILSAFE (formerly the Dietpage) supports families using the low-chemical elimination diet recommended by the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital - free of additives, low in salicylates, amines and flavour enhancers - for health, behaviour and learning problems.
I've recently returned from a tour promoting my new book in Sydney, Melbourne and Canberra. It was wonderful to meet so many longtime readers and see a food intolerance support group established in Melbourne (details below). My hope is that Fed Up will help families to find answers to their problems, and alert medical professionals to the potential benefits of the elimination diet. Reader comments suggest that both of these are happening.
Also in this issue, research about the role of sulphites in irritable bowel syndrome, more about autism and gluten research, and a possible connection between 'epilepsy' and the bread preservative.
- Sue Dengate, editor
Sick of preservatives?
Virtually unknown in primitive cultures, irritable bowel syndrome is now thought to affect 15-20% of Westernised populations, and there is an increase in serious inflammatory bowel diseases such as ulcerative colitis. Symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome may include bloating, a feeling of fullness, mild stomach discomfort to severe pain, colic or reflux, diarrhoea or constipation, a feeling of incomplete evacuation, sluggish bowel syndrome and so-called sneaky poos. These symptoms generally clear up within days when people try an elimination diet. But what is the mechanism that causes the problem?
In a rather quirky study, volunteers were locked in a small airtight room for 36 hours while researchers measured the types of gases they gave off through farting or belching.
The results of this study led scientists to suspect the high levels of sulphur in the Western diet may be somehow implicated. Sulphur in the human gut comes from the most commonly used group of preservatives, sulphites (220-227, in fast foods, processed fruit, drinks, sausages, fast food, salads and many others) as well as large quantities of meat. Several studies have now linked a high number of sulphate-eating bacteria in the gut of ulcerative colitis sufferers and an Australian abdominal surgeon has shown that exposure to sulphides inhibits the ability of colon cells to use a vital fatty acid. These bacteria might only contribute to the maintenance of the disease rather than causing it, and there may be other factors, but researchers at the Dunn Nutrition Institute in Britain are now looking at the amount of sulphates and sulphites ingested with an average Western diet. Although reactions to food additives are known to be related to dose and there is an Acceptable Daily Intake, never before has there been any systematic monitoring of the quantity of additives we actually eat.
Further reading: New Scientist, 8 Aug 98, p26-30. Thanks to Marion Leggo and Damien Howard for sending copies of this article.
Autism and gluten
Last month we featured recent research about gluten which suggested that gluten intolerance is far more common than previously thought. Previous prevalence studies ranged from 1 in 5000 in the USA to 1 in 300 in Europe, but some recent studies suggest more - up to 14% affected in one Down's syndrome study. (Duggan, MJA, December 1997). Hot on the heels of Duggan's review comes a four-page spread in New Scientist about an autistic child and his biochemist father. Dr Paul Shattock gave up his lectureship at the University of Sutherland in Britain and survived by selling fund-raising booklets and doing locum teaching to research the peptide poisoning theory of autism. This theory suggests that some of the proteins in milk and wheat are broken down into peptides which mimic neurotransmitters in the brain. In autism, the peptides are thought to leak through the gut wall and permeate the membrane which surrounds the brain, causing damage to the brain's development. So far, Shattock has found that 90 per cent of the autistic children studied had abnormally high levels of certain peptides in their urine. Comments New Scientist: 'attitudes have softened towards the "crackpot" idea that dietary peptides cause autism'.
Further reading: New Scientist, 20 June 1998, p42-45
Consumer attitudes to additives
The majority of consumers (66%) considered the additive content of food when buying or consuming it, but nearly all (97%) found food labelling confusing, according to a survey by Darwin secondary student Aisha Mahmood. Suggestions to improve this situation included: greater clarity of labelling eg. hydrolysed vegetable protein contains high amounts of naturally occurring MSG which is currently not made clear on the label (41% in favour); highlighting of potentially dangerous additives (40%), and listing of full additive names as opposed to numbers (31%). Aisha was awarded 19/20 for this Independent Research Report. Markers' comments included 'brilliant work' but 'recommendations impractical'. Why? Here's hoping Aisha gets to be the head of our national food authority one day.
Memory lapses and 282
Thanks to the many readers who have written or emailed about my new book, Fed Up. I was particularly pleased with this comment from Dr Anne Swain of the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital Allergy Clinic: 'We are most impressed with your book and would like to introduce patients to it when they visit the Allergy Clinic'.
• There seems to be increasing medical acceptance of food intolerance. One GP phoned during my talkback segment with the ABC's Angela Catterns to say 'Some GPs know about this diet'. Canberra support group reports that 'a paediatrician has told the newsagent near his rooms to buy in a number [of Fed Up] because he will be recommending it to his patients' .
• A doctor who has tried psychotherapy, parent counselling and medication with her ADHD son and still has 'lots of problems' observes: 'I had understood from many current books that the diet approach to ADHD had been thoroughly discredited and hadn’t really considered it until I came across your book ... but I am struck by my son’s similarity to many of the kids described.'
• This mother described her 6 year old daughter who has been 'full on' since birth, and had started to wet her pants at school every day. The doctor found no infection and recommended bladder training: 'However, my daughter says her bladder doesn't tell her. After reading your book, I have already started cutting out preservatives and sticking more to failsafe foods. In the 2 weeks since starting this she has only wet the bed twice, has had dry pants for all but 4 days, has been ready for school 15 minutes early most mornings and, according to the teacher "has settled down and isn't talking as much". On the weekend she was out with friends and had a sausage roll, tomato sauce and juice for lunch. She wet her pants that day, bed that night and pants again the next day. Today the school was having a fundraiser selling banana cake. She had one piece of cake and got in the car complaining and arguing and has been cheeky and defiant all afternoon ... these two incidents have more than convinced me of the benefits of the diet, and we haven't even started it properly.'
• From the father of a two year old: 'Since trying just a few of the ideas from your book, the change in our son has been incredible. He is sleeping all night and is more keen to socialise with other children. His development is still behind, but he is already starting to speak more. My wife said that one day she may write a book about her experiences and the run around we got from various doctors. Nobody wanted to believe there was a problem, it was always "let's just wait another month and see". The problem with that is that they didn't have to put up with sleepless nights and a tired, unhappy child. It put extreme pressure over our marriage also. All I can say is that it has all changed.'
• and this story arrived in three episodes, with a happy ending: 'My 14 year old daughter has had a general unwellness for several years. This includes chronic headache - wakes with a headache, is woken by headache, they don't seem to ever leave her, just vary in intensity. Other conditions include frequent nausea, lethargy and mood swings with associated depression ... she has been through all the traditional medical testing without any light being shed ... [three weeks later] We have been on the restricted diet for 21 days now ... It's only been the last few days that our daughter has thought that her headaches have been less in severity, although always present ... [two days later] A breakthrough even as we sent our last message!! Our daughter, for the first time for years, said "At this moment I don't have a headache". She has now gone almost two days without a headache ...
The US National Academy of Science estimates that about 15% of the population suffers from Chemical Sensitivity. Multiple Chemical Sensitivity is recognised as a legitimate complaint and covered by civil rights protections in the US. Schools such as Bonville Primary on the NSW North Coast have switched to more user-friendly cleaners as a result of parental concern. For more information, write to the North Coast Environment Council, Ravens Access, Grassy Head NSW 2441, or phone Ann Want, 02 6653 4531.
Support in Melbourne
Melbourne food intolerance group will have their first meeting on Wednesday 2nd September at the Eltham Community Health Centre. Several dietitians are helping to get the group started, and there is a now a Melbourne paediatrician who supports this diet. Phone Marina on 9439 4167, or Jenny on 9740 5645 for more information.
Crunchy potatoes This traditional Danish recipe makes a quick and easy snack4 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced into rounds the thickness of chips2 tablespoon canola oil 2 tbspn sugar OR 2 tbspn chopped shallots (optional)
Microwave or steam potatoes. Heat oil in a heavy-based pan and add shallots or sugar when hot. Stir until shallots are cooked or sugar is dissolved then add potatoes and stir and turn until browned on both sides. Sprinkle with sea-salt if liked. Serves 4.
500 gm minced chicken
1 tbspn chopped parsley (opt)
1 clove minced garlic (opt)
1 cup rice bubbles, crushed
sea salt (opt)
oil for frying
Form chicken, garlic and parsley into balls, dip in egg and coat in crushed rice bubbles with salt. Shallow fry in oil.
Thanks to Margie Turner, Ashley & Kerry, Damien Howard, Marion Leggo, Marina, Jenny and Alison
© Sue Dengate, 1998