This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Salicylates, Phenols, and Faulty Sulfation

These are my notes from a webinar by Julie Matthews called "Understanding Salicylates, Phenols, and Faulty Sulfation" (this webinar appears to not be online anymore).  Julie is a nutrition specialist who is very knowledgeable about the various diets used for people with autism and related disorders. 

Here are my notes from the presentation:

-Salicylates are one type of phenol.  Phenols are a common chemical type found in plants.  Salicylates tend to be naturally occurring forms whereas the other phenols that often cause reactions tend to be artificial ingredients such as artificial colors or flavors, many of which are derived from petroleum. Propionic acid is a very highly phenolic additive that is commonly used in bread and dairy foods and may be one more reason why so many people do well on a GF/CF diet.

-Common symptoms of salicylate/phenol sensitivity include red ears and cheeks, hyperactivity, sleep disturbances, aggression, irritability, diarrhea, headache, headbanging and self-injury, hives and rashes, inappropriate laughter, and some types of seizures.

-The two primary diets used to address salicylate and phenol sensitivity are the Feingold Diet and the FAILSAFE diet.  The Feingold diet is less restrictive and is based more on observation of which foods bother those who follow the diet the most, whereas FAILSAFE removes many more foods (including glutamate and amines) and is based more on the amount of a substance in a serving of food obtained in the lab.  Many people follow a "customized" diet that is somewhere in between these two.

-There do not seem to be reliable tests to determine these sensitivities.  The best approach is to follow the chosen diet for 2 to 6 weeks, then systematically test the foods that were removed.  Frequently people react to some but not all of them.  The Feingold Diet tends to recommend that foods are re-introduced one-at-a-time, whereas FAILSAFE also suggests testing foods as a group and in various quantities and combinations to determine tolerance.

-Some common high salicylate foods include-  almonds, apples, honey, apricots, berries, cherries, grapes, nectarines, peaches, tomato sauce, oranges, plums, pineapple, peppers, currants, prunes, radishes, tea, wine, coffee, cloves, curry, chili powder, and paprika.

-FAILSAFE limits additional foods for their salicylate content including avocado, zucchini, broccoli, spinach, cantaloupe, watermelon, dates, watercress, artichoke, eggplant, peanuts, cinnamon, thyme, oregano, rosemary, and turmeric/curcumin.

-Salicylates are detoxified in the liver by glycine conjugation.  In the brain, they are handled by PST (phenol-sulphotransferase).  PST detoxifies phenols and amines by giving them a sulfate molecule.  The researcher Rosemary Waring found low PST levels in people with autism. 

-Levels of sulfate also tend to be low in people with autism.  Sulfate cannot be well supplemented orally.  It is best supplemented with epsom salt baths or transdermally with epsom salt cream.  (Julie didn't mention this, but the trace mineral molybdenum helps the body convert sulfite to sulfate which can help a lot). 

-Sulfate is made from the amino acid cysteine (which tends to not be tolerated well by people with autism if supplemented orally).  Sulfate is important for detoxification and for maintaining the integrity of the gut lining (the gut blood barrier) and the Blood Brain Barrier.  Sulfate is also important to maintain adequate immune function, for digestion,, and for many other important biological processes.

For more information on this topic:

Links to research involving PST, salicylates and sulfation from the Feingold Association.

Epsom salts, PST and phenols from the site EnzymeStuff.

Sulfation and Autism: What Are the Links?  An article appearing in The Autism File

Phenols, PST, and Sulfur Metabolism from the blog Treat Autism Now

Phenol, Salicylate, and Amine information from Dana's View