• Ann Taylor

Becoming a Food Detective

I share here a TedTalk video that I urge you to watch and hear. Dr Katherine Reid (PhD in biochemistry) talks about how she normalised her daughter’s neurological behaviour with dietary changes to eliminate excess free glutamate, an amino acid that functions as an excitatory neurotransmitter. See the videos that validate this story.

In brief, Dr Reid did her research and implemented changes in three phases:

First, using supplementary multivitamins, minerals and probiotics advised to compensate for nutritional deficiencies. These were soon replaced by real food nutrients in a nutritious smoothie.

Second, excluding all gluten and casein containing foods i.e. wheat, rye, barley and dairy products for six months. Gluten and casein have a higher percentage of glutamate amino acid in their protein structure than other foods. This GF/CF diet helped in some significant ways, but not with disordered sensory perceptions.

Third, after further research into glutamate dysfunction, she eliminated foods with added MSG (monosodium glutamate) AND all processed food. This processing includes: ultrapasteurisation; fermentation; fat removal; acid hydrolysis; enzyme modification; processes that break apart the protein chains of different amino acids and release free glutamate, which is then able to activate cell receptors controlling body functions in biochemically abnormal ways i.e. triggering sensitivity reactions. These can manifest in many adverse physical or mental symptoms.

Her daughter’s digestive sensitivities stopped. Her sensory perceptions normalised. She no longer needs special care.

This image is a snap shot of the TedTalk slide listing some of the different names for MSG or free glutamate that you might see on processed food labels. She says there are at least 50 different names, not all shown here. Also, that food processers are only mandated to report added MSG; they are not required to disclose levels of free glutamate in the finished food product. This excess glutamate “fakes our brain into thinking food tastes good”, leading to addiction to processed, artificially flavoured foods, leading to mood-, behaviour- and potentially intellectual dysfunction and learning disabilities.

Understand though that excess free glutamate can be associated with all kinds of other health issues, not just autism, because there are cellular receptors in various body tissues, including our digestive tract, not just brain tissue. Excess glutamate activates our nervous system, affecting for example gut motility and brain stimulation, leading to sensory overload, anxiety and potentially development of neurological diseases.

I’m reminded of a person who insisted they could not eat A, B or C foods because of adverse sensitivity reactions, yet when I helped them source fresh ingredients and prepare a home-made version of A, B or C – they had no reaction – and relished the meals!

I’m thinking about how my digestive system reacts adversely to foods made with tofu, a highly processed soy product. I do seem to tolerate tempeh, which I like to have sometimes in stir fries or with brown rice (note I ONLY buy organic tempeh to avoid genetically modified soy), but not the silken tofu that was the main ingredient in a vegan-friendly tofu cheesecake I made recently, as delicious as it tasted.

I do read labels and avoid packaged foods with long lists of ingredients that are clearly not real foods. Yes, this eliminates most of what is on supermarket shelves, and does make eating out less appealing. But instead there’s the joy of shopping at farmer’s markets, being able to ask questions of the food producer, supporting businesses with integrity and relishing the taste of real food and feeling nourished and well.

Clearly we cannot rely on food manufacturers or government policy and regulations to prioritise human health or integrity. If we have health concerns and are wanting better health more naturally, we need to become more self-aware and knowledgeable, become food detectives, seek out trustworthy sources of real food and advice and take on more self-responsibility for being healthy.