Tweaking the Diet: Phenol Removal

A couple of months ago I stumbled across a website that talked about phenol intolerances. I couldn’t believe how much of it described Brian to a tee. Here is the list of symptoms they said an individual would have if they couldn’t tolerate phenols:

Some typical symptoms indicating your child may have a phenol problem are [not all of these need be present]: dark circles under the eyes, red face/ears, diarrhea, hyperactivity, aggression, headache, head banging or other self-injury, inappropriate laughter, difficulty falling asleep at night, and night waking for several hours.

I’ve taken the liberty to underline the symptoms that Brian shows. Not only does he show a lot of the symptoms but he also craves, really craves, a lot of high-phenol foods, especially apples. In fact Brian has always had a sordid affair with apples- giving him diarrhea, throwing up, red cheeks, cranky. We’ve had to remove them from his diet on several occcasions and then slowly add them back into it. I said when I found this site that I was going to test it out and remove phenols from Brian’s diet. Well I didn’t. It’s always a big step to, yet again, remove more from your child’s diet. Especially when they are usually very limited to what they’ll actually eat.

Then I checked out yet another gluten-free cookbook from the library- always trying to find new ones for new recipe ideas. This one was The Kid Friendly ADHD & Autism Cookbook by Pamela J. Compart, M.D. and Dana Laake, R.D.H., M.S., L.D.N. Yet again I found another little segment in this book describing Brian and lo and behold, it was titled, “Phenol Intolerance- Phenol Sulfotransferase (PST) Deficiency”.

This book was able to describe the science to me in better terms for me to understand it. As a lot of scientists, and certainly a lot of parents, believe most children with ADHD and autism have many inefficiencies in metabolic enzyme function and deficiencies in nutrients. Enzymes depend on nutrients to function properly in our bodies. When the enzymes are “lazy” a sort of traffic jam happens in their bodies. Metabolites that result from normal metabolic pathways get backed up. The “traffic” starts causing problems on other enzyme pathways. In the body, the only way to solve this gridlock is to reduce substances that must use certain enzymes and providing the nutrients to make the enzymes work better.

Phenols are naturally occuring compounds found in a lot of foods that are good for us. Fruits, vegetables, some grains and nuts- as well as flavorings and spices. Phenols have antioxidant qualities and protective functions- so they are mostly beneficial and good to consume.

The enzyme, PST, is an important part of the detoxification pathways. When that enzyme is deficient phenols are not well-tolerated and the traffic jam starts up. So the phenols are not bad, they are beneficial, it is the PST deficiency that is the problem.

The book also gives a list of symptoms- the same as I mentioned before as well as adding night sweating, wetting the bed, anger, and also large variations in functioning ability. All symptoms that Brian shows- especially after eating a whole bunch of apples in one day.

So long story short, we are going to be starting this change in the diet this Wednesday. To fix phenol sensitivity we need to remove the culprits. The biggest load on a PST Deficient child is, you guessed it, artificial colors and flavors. Also sulfites, nitrites, nitrates, MSG, HVP, and corn syrup. He doesn’t get much of these- but he does occasionally. Everything on that list is now going to be an absolute zero tolerance at our house. The second biggest culprit are high-salicylate foods- which are apples, tomatoes, oranges, cocoa, red grapes, and milk. We will be making sure Brian starts back up on some vitamins we slacked on a while ago- including magnesium, B6, Vitamins C & E, and glutathione. We’ll also be using Phenol Assist from Kirkmans Lab. These are all proven to help improve PST function.

I’m hoping to see some positive changes! Keep your fingers crossed!

For more information check out these sites:
* Studies on Phenol
* Behavior & Diet Studies
* Improving Detoxification Pathways

Heather Nelson

About Heather Nelson

Heather resides in Rockland where she is busy juggling life as a newlywed, a mom to two boys (one of which who has autism), a part time job in direct sales, and a full-time job as a pediatric occupational therapy assistant. She has a love for live music, karaoke, and cheering on the underdogs.