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The above diagram illustrates the need to look at mood and behavior disorders from a nutritional and orthomolecular perspective.


Orthomolecular Treatment of Mood and Behavior Disorders (PART FIVE):  Mood and Behavior Disorder Kids with Food Sensitivities, and Vitamin B3 and C Deficiency



A ‘cerebral allergy’, as is illustrated in the brain diagram above, is a sensitivity to an environmental trigger, typically a food item, that imposes great changes on brain function.

Food sensitivities are seen in all age groups.  A major part of a child’s mental health improvement can be achieved by eliminating foods that they are sensitive to.  So often we see kids that do well, sometimes extremely well, by eliminating gluten or dairy, the top two food sensitivities.  Overt reactions typically occur quickly in those with severe food sensitivities and these can be described as cerebral allergies.

Disclaimer: Digestive dysfunction may be sufficient that your health care provider does not recommend dietary treatment changes; these diets should therefore only be introduced as deemed appropriate by a health care professional.  The intent of this article is to provide information, not advice; patient self-prescription is not endorsed.

In clinical practice there is often little need of ordering elaborate food sensitivity testing (e.g. IgG/IgE Elisa) unless the major food sensitivity reactions have been ruled out and a food allergen is still highly suspect.

Most kids can do an elimination diet to determine if they have food sensitivities.  If they improvement on a physical, energetic, and/or mental level then we are on the right track.  It is often easier to introduce these changes slowly as many of these changes to diet are a lifestyle change.  Families can ease into these diets by making gradual changes to the main meal repertoire.  Parents can hone in on what their kids like and determine seven winner dinner meals that are free of the food item/group being eliminated.  While eliminating foods that kids are intolerant to the aim is not to restrict food intake; kids need to maintain calories for growth and proteins for neurotransmitter production.

Re-introducing a potentially intolerant food item after 3-6 weeks of elimination can be a good test of food sensitivity [this should be done under the care of a medical health care professional]; if symptoms remerge then you know a priori that you are sensitive to that food item/group.


Gluten Sensitivity

Diets that are gluten-free are those that eliminate wheat, rye, barley, kamut, and spelt in part by replacing those grains with alternative products but more importantly by eating meals that are naturally gluten-free.  All this requires is a little education on the part of the parents and a little ingenuity.  I suggest avoiding the purchasing of costly gluten-free high-carbohydrate products.  A gluten-free diet is often a high-protein diet and maintaining a 40% protein diet with 20% fat and 40% carbohydrate tends to be a good rule of thumb; meat and/or eggs tend to provide the highest protein quality.  This may not work for all people but a 40% protein diet works well for most kids, with or without mood/behaviour disorders.

Eliminating oats is also important while doing a gluten-free diet because oats contain a protein called gliadin which is similar to gluten.  Rice, corn, and potatoes are good alternative non-gluten starches to introduce more of.  Corn can be problematic for some but corn is typically a well-tolerated alternate grain.  Contaminated products that are manufactured in facilities with gluten (conveyor belt contamination, etc.) can be problematic; so if a label says ‘may contain wheat or gluten’, it should be avoided.

The following blogs are helpful to orient people for the type of lifestyle change required and are not intended for patient-self prescription:

1.)  Gluten-Free Dieting and Gluten-Free Principles

2.)  Gluten Sensitivity in Celiac and Non-Celiac Kids; this blog goes into detail on distinguishing the Celiac subtype, a genetic food intolerant disease with a pure allergy to gluten, not gliadin.  Celiac’s disease occurs in 1% of the population.


Dairy Sensitivity  

Kids that are not breast fed for 6 months are potentially more likely to have a problem with dairy.  In my clinic, I find less overt problems with dairy versus gluten.  Kids with dairy allergies seem to have a dominance of congestive symptoms, headaches, and difficult concentration.  Calcium is high in dairy but most all foods contain calcium and the benefits can well outweigh the risks and, if needed, calcium can be supplemented.

In general, a dairy-free diet is easier to do than a gluten-free diet.  If you eliminate dairy and your child notes improvement at a mental and/or physical level then you are on the right track.  Our blog on dairy-free dieting made simple goes into detail on how to incorporate this diet into your lifestyle.  [Again this information is not intended for patient self-prescription and these diets should be done under the care of a qualified health care professional.]


Other Allergen Sensitivities

Kids can be sensitive to food dyes, MSG, citrus, soy, corn, rice, or environmental allergens, etcetera.  If needed, these allergies can be ruled out with specific lab tests.


Kids with Vitamin B3 and C Deficiency

Vitamin B3 and C are natural anti-stress vitamins.  Deficiency of vitamin B3 and C can be problematic in kids predisposed to schizophrenia and these predisposed kids also have risk of developing a mood or learning disorder without psychosis.  A good read on this topic can be found in Dr. Hoffer’s book on the ABC of Natural Nutrition for Children.74  In predisposed kids,  Dr. Hoffer recommended that the food supply be upgraded with higher concentrations of the B3 amide niacinamide to avoid this problem.

When is it important to consider deficiency in vitamin B3 and C in children?

1)   When there is a family history of schizophrenia, especially with a first degree relative (e.g. a parent).  Note that schizophrenia does not have to present in offspring when one or even both parents have schizophrenia.  It is similarly not uncommon to have identical twins where one is cordant (has schizophrenia) and the other is discordant (does not have schizophrenia).

2)   When signs and symptoms of psychosis emerge.  Note that diagnosing childhood schizophrenia is difficult at best.  Diagnosis requires the skill of a qualified health care professional.  Kids often have an imaginary world that some parents confuse with psychosis.  Hallucinations by definition are bizarre and not based on previous experience so imaginary themes that have threads of context that are related to daily experiences are often normal.  Again, a qualified health care professional can help in this regard.

Hoffer recommends low doses of vitamin B3 and C in such cases and higher therapeutic doses if it becomes evident that there is a problem.

Hoffer also recommends that any parent who positively responds to vitamin B3 (i.e. has greater well-being while doing B3) should see if there kids (first order relatives of the parent) also have the same response.  The same would apply for an identical twin scenario where one is cordant and the other discordant.



Schizophrenia more rarely hits in children but it is not uncommon in young adolescents.  Adolescents with vitamin B3 and C deficiency can present with mood and learning disabilities; described above.  For a review on schizophrenia and the vitamin B3 and vitamin C connection, I recommend you read my review on schizophrenia.75,76


74.  Hoffer, A.  Dr Hoffer’s ABC of Natural Nutrition for Children with Learning Disabilities, Behavior Disorders, and Mental State Dysfunctions.  Kingston, Ontario.  Quarry Press Inc.  1999.

75. Pataracchia, RJ. Orthomolecular Treatment of Schizophrenia (Part One). JOM, 2008; 23(1): 21-28.

76. Pataracchia, RJ. Orthomolecular Treatment of Schizophrenia (Part Two). JOM, 2008; 23(2): 95-105.

I hope that this series has helped parents understand aspects of nutrition that influence kids mental health and well-being.

Raymond J Pataracchia ND  ©  2016