One of the surprising results of trialing diet in symptoms such as ADHD, migraine, gut pain, and allergic symptoms was that parents and individuals reported changes in mood. There were differences in the type of mood change and in the amount of change, and differences in children and adults. And there were different types of mood change:-
Irritability, touchiness and crankiness
While dietary intervention in ADHD showed changes in the core symptoms of inattention, impulsivity and restlessness, the symptom that changed most with diet was “irritable, touchy and cranky”: that is a change in mood. This change was found by researchers in different centres throughout the world. The Canadians called it ‘whiney’. Parents often say that on the diet their child is “much easier to live with”. Mood changes are less extreme, and they calm down from over excitability faster. I remember asking one 10year old boy how he felt on the diet he said “I just don’t feel angry any more”.
Worry, anxiety even panic
Many children seen for diet investigation are “worriers”, some are even anxious and some seem to panic they are so distressed. Little ones cling to their mothers and cry easily. Parents report that some distressed children who wake perhaps after a night terror, cannot be comforted. Adults have reported wondering if they are going psychotic after night mares. It is not uncommon for patients to report being awake around 2am after eating a not-tolerated food. Some are just awake, some worry, some get anxious, and I have had patients report that after a suspect food they wake at 2am with a panic attack. Diet responders report the symptoms decreasing on the diet, and returning with challenges reactions that produce other symptoms.
Sadness and depression
Many food sensitive children before diet are reported to say things like “I’m no good, I won’t be able to do it”, “I am not pretty [ or good looking]”, “I won’t have any friends” and adults say similar things like “I should not have taken that on, I’ll never manage it” “Other people won’t consider what I say [perhaps about my food sensitive child at his school, or in their work place]” “ I look in the mirror and l look yuk”. Some are already being treated for depression. On diet parents often report that the child has now got “some new self confidence” which of course gives them great pleasure. Adults often report feeling generally “calm” with other symptom improvement on the diet.
What can we say
There can be a mood component among food sensitivity symptoms. You can note it in the RBRI questionnaire that parents can fill out before and after the diet trial for ADHD or ASD kids. Your dietitian can help or see Are You Food Sensitive? for the RBRI and managing all aspects of behavioural problems, including the ideas in Chapter 11 under ‘Medication, mood and behaviour’. If you are an adult you can note the ideas mentioned here and note changes in yourself, especially after reactions when testing foods. It is important to remember that withdrawal symptoms during the first week on the diet can involve considerable worsening of mood in both children and adults, so if you expect that you can cope in your own way.
If you suspect depression as an adult
A wise psychiatrist once said that if you ask yourself if you might be depressed and you answer “yes” then tell your doctor and get the help that is available. Diet investigation is not the way to go here.
The main message – there is a mood component in diet investigation.
Some people wisely tease me about quoting dramatic reactions when these are usually not as clear or strong in many food sensitive people. But the dramatic reactions remind us to monitor the milder ones that often occur and may be an important part of the improvement with diet investigation.
For more detail see the article “The role of diet in mood”, and much more in the chapters in Tolerating Troublesome Foods that talk about ‘What to expect when you are reacting”