FOOD INTOLERANCE NETWORK SYMPTOM DISCUSSION

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Trichotillomania

What is it?
What causes it?
Reader reports
Scientific references
Further information

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   What is Trichotillomania?

Compulsive hair pulling, can also be eyebrows, eyelashes or any other body hair.

   What causes it?

Medical experts have no idea. 'A chemical imbalance in the brain' has been suggested.

Members of the Food Intolerance Network (8000+ families) have reported trichotillomanic episodes related to food and environmental chemicals known to cause other behavioural problems, see reports below.

The 3 week elimination diet that we recommend avoids 50 additives, three natural chemicals (salicylates, amines and glutamates) and if symptoms are severe, dairy and gluten. See Scientific references below and our introduction to food intolerance 

   Reader reports

[1377] 160b: compulsive hair pulling or trichotillomania (January 2016)

I have been aware for a few years that my daughter's behaviour is severely affected by annatto (160b). She becomes loud, aggressive and irrational (cries and tantrums at the drop of a hat and cannot be reasoned with).

The past few months she has been becoming very anxious and has been developing a habit of pulling her hair out, and running it through her teeth, numerous times a day. It has been increasing fast, and I could see she was unable to control it.

I was starting to stress about it and think about the impact this may have on her life, long term. Then I had a lightbulb moment- annatto- it had slipped back I into her diet.

I immediately talked to her about this, cut it from her diet and within a couple of days it had drastically reduced. It has now been a week. Still reducing. She is much more relaxed and just generally calmer in herself - Carla

[1074] Depression, compulsive hair pulling (trichotillomania) due to food intolerance (December 2011)

I have been on anti-depressants and a mood stabiliser in the past. However, if I stick to failsafe eating, there is no problem with any of that stuff - see story [963].

If I cheat, boy do I pay the price!! The first sign of reaction is hair pulling, followed very rapidly with other reactions. By the next day, I feel absolutely horrid. I don't want to live, I don't even want to see anyone, including family. I feel like I have the worst hangover ever. I actually feel sick enough to be in hospital. My husband and adult daughter know straight away if I've cheated.

It still blows my mind to think that food can have such an impact on sensitive individuals. It has happened every time I've cheated, so I definitely know it's a food reaction. It's also like an addiction. If I get a taste of prohibited foods, I can't stop myself. All I can think about is the wrong foods, even though I know how rotten I will feel. My system is so sensitive, I will know if a food smells strong and I feel sick from the aroma, I can't eat it. I have tried soda bi-carb in water as an antidote. It works sometimes and I will have bi-carb baths. The last resort is to water fast. By the next day I feel myself again. Liz, NSW

[1075] Annatto 160b: headbanging, rage, trichotillomania (hair, eyelash, eyebrow pulling) (December 2011)

When my daughter was 12 months old she had a head banging reaction to annatto in yoghurt. The next week she had another episode of screaming, tantrums and banging her head repeatedly on the metal frame of her bed. The very next day my mum saw a story on ACA or similar program with yourself mentioned, and thought the 4 year old kids on the segment sounded like what we had with our 12 month old ... so we looked up your website. I looked back at food she ate and I had given her a kids Heinz apricot bar and sure enough it had annatto too. This was all I needed to prompt me to look at what she, and we, were actually eating!

My daughter is now 6 1/2 and we still have the occasional uncontrollable outburst and know she's had something. We actually had an incident last weekend with her and the wicked 160b. She was at a friend’s place Saturday night and they thought they were doing the right thing when they gave her jelly snakes 'preservative free, no artificial colours'. I didn't know about the snakes but Sunday saw her at her worst. She woke in a rage and was lashing out, hitting, biting, screaming, indecisive about trivial little things and completely and utterly beside herself. When in this state (the worst lasts for about 4-6 hours) she cannot control any aspect of her being. She even goes as far as plucking all her eyelashes and eyebrows out with her fingers (trichotillomania) if left alone. I went to the friend’s house and began quizzing them! A peek at the ingredients on the snakes proved me right yet again when I saw the number 160b. (fyi they were Aldi brand).

After an annatto reaction is somewhat over, she 'sleeps it off' and will often then sleep up to 15 hours (say 6pm til 9am!!). She had a horrific day and finally fell asleep at 11pm Sunday night. She slept it off and woke close to 10.30am Monday morning. She was fine Monday and Tuesday ... But Wednesday evening saw her showing (relatively mild this time) annatto signs again. I asked her about school (started back on Tuesday) and she was hesitant to tell me her little friend had bought a lemonade 'spider'. I went to the canteen today and sure enough... Annatto in the ice cream!!!!

I'd also be willing to bet my husband reacts to annatto... he gets very moody at times and also his sleep patterns are all over the place. Some nights he will be up all night on the computer and just not tired, then other days/nights he too will sleep for 15+ hours. - Skye, NSW

[352] ‘So much calmer’ (November 2004)

First of all let me tell you how wonderful it was to find your website and help our 4 1/2 year old son (and the rest of us) lead a much more ‘normal’ life. He's had horrible symptoms of terrible mood swings, off and on stuttering, biting, spitting, banging his head against the wall, excessive bedwetting, an extremely loud voice that he couldn't control, big ‘saucer’ eyes with clenched teeth while running at me to kick and bite me, would go into hysterics when I would ask him to do the simplest of tasks such as dressing himself, pulling his hair hard enough to yank it out of head (and his 14 month old sister's), screaming every name at me he knew, running behind me from across the room gaining momentum to head butt me as hard as he could in the back and spine and as we give him a much needed nap during the day he can't fall asleep until 11:00 pm or midnight!

I’ve ordered your book but until it arrives I've been making some really wonderful meals and snacks for my son just from the info on your website… Since introducing the new diet, he's been basically a new, happier little boy and the mood around the house is SO MUCH CALMER. - by email, USA

[1008] Fragrance: Our sensitivity to perfumes and fragranced products (March 2011) COURAGE AWARD

I’ve become increasing sensitive to perfumes and fragrances. For me it triggers an intense, immediate burning headache, dizziness, nausea, and a reflexive instinct to want to get away. The longer I’m exposed to the smell, I find it hard to look up, hard to make eye contact with people, my heart rate speeds up and I feel hot and a bit shivery. I feel like I have to keep an eye on the ground to know where it is, have trouble telling where objects are around me, and kind of lose my sense of where I am in space.

Background noise seems to become louder as well, and I feel a rising panic and need to escape. I had a ‘brain episode’ about 3-4 yrs ago, some kind of massive seizure that had symptoms similar to a stroke. Since then, my problems with perfumes have increased dramatically, though I think I’ve always had a slight problem with scents. In March 2009 I was prescribed Methotrexate (an immuno-suppressant) as my psoriasis had become so severe it almost landed me in hospital with a life-threatening version. This has side effects of nausea, vomiting, diarrhoea and dizziness, which have gradually lessened over time, but still rear up at least a couple of times each week. Since being on this drug I find it particularly difficult to cope with perfumes. From what my two ASD boys have been able to tell me, I think their responses are fairly similar, but they have difficulty describing the sensations, and they tend to go into Autistic withdrawal / blocking behaviours.

A couple of weeks ago we took the boys to a cinema to watch Despicable Me. A teenage girl entered with a small group of friends and sat in the row in front of us. The perfume smell was so strong I had to shift the four of us back 3 rows to escape it, and still left the cinema with a headache.

The worst places for the boys and I to enter are public toilets with automatic fragrance sprayers. One was introduced to our local shopping centre, and we were caught unawares. I sat down on the toilet, and was suddenly sprayed by a fountain of this horrible scent – it triggered of a bout of vomiting which meant I was stuck in there with the scent. When I finally escaped, I found that hubby had encountered the same problem on taking the boys into the Men’s toilet. The elder was biting his hands and pulling his hair, and the younger was bouncing and squirming uncontrollably. We abandoned the idea of grocery shopping and went home to recover. Now we make sure we go to the toilet at home before we leave.

Windex and whiteboard cleaning spray have an appalling effect on my elder son, trigger out of control behaviours, self harm, high temperatures, headaches, vomiting and diarrhoea. Perfumes and body sprays such as Impulse are awful, incense sticks are a nightmare, car and toilet deodorizing products are the worst, possibly due to the confined, airless space. – by email

[1076] 'pulling out her hair and eye lashes' (December 2011)

We have an escalation of my daughter's behaviour since an increase in Maccas and Hungry Jacks (thanks to hubby which I am not happy about). She is pulling out her hair and eye lashes also but I am not convinced it is strictly OCD.

   What the medical journals say

Nothing!

   Further information

Introduction to food intolerance

The diet recommended on this website is the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital (RPAH) elimination diet which is free of colours, preservatives, synthetic antioxidants and flavour enhancers; low in salicylates, amines and natural glutamates; and avoids perfumed products. See failsafe eating.

www.fedup.com.au

The information given is not intended as medical advice. Always consult with your doctor for underlying illness. Before beginning dietary investigation, consult a dietician with an interest in food intolerance. You can see our list of experienced and supportive dietitians http://fedup.com.au/information/support/dietitians

© Sue Dengate update January 2016

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