Frequently Asked Questions

Symptom questions

Can epilepsy be related to diet?

Have other failsafers reported prostate and other urinary problems linked to food intolerance?

When I drink white wine, it seems to make me really depressed and teary - is it salicylates causing the effect?

I am 71 and sometimes experience urinary incontinence. It is not a consistent problem and I believe it may be related to food additives. Have you ever heard of this, and if so, can you suggest where I might find information about possible culprits?

Anyone get (blurry) vision issues as a symptom of amine/sal intolerance?

Does pyroluria exist?

Can you explain to me why we don’t get sick when on failsafe?

Any ideas for softening stools?

Does a low salicylate diet help with symptoms of menopause, especially hot flushes?

Can you please refer me to an authority linking atrial fibrillation (AF) with sulphites in food?

Is it possible for adults to have ODD (oppositional defiance disorder)?

Are there long term consequences of feeding children foods that they react to?

Do you know of anyone that has been cured of hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) through food/additive elimination?

I’ve got thrush for the first time since going failsafe, should I eliminate sugar?

Could a latex mattress cause extreme skin irritation?

Can chlorine affect failsafers?

Are ear infections related to diet?

Could an adrenaline rush cause a reaction?

Can intolerance to certain foods cause dizziness and vertigo?

Is there an additive or food which may have triggered alopecia (hair loss)?

Can sulphite preservatives cause hyperactivity and/or aggression?

Can you direct me to any research that shows how diet can affect an adolescent with ADHD & ODD?

Can the elimination diet help my children?

Can you tell me how to do the diet for depression?

Can the diet affect menstrual periods?

Is it possible for soy to cause depression or argumentative behaviour?

Can flavour enhancer E635 cause reflux?

Which food groups aggravate arthritis?

Which foods are most likely to affect speech especially stuttering?

Could my young daughter’s sore vagina be due to food?

Which flavours are most likely to cause itchy rashes

Can you tell me what sort of cooking oil I should use to avoid macular degeneration (AMD)?

Does thrush improve on the failsafe diet?

Which ingredient in seafood extender could cause an alarming reaction?

Does failsafe eating help gout?

Can diet cause urinary urgency?

Have you had any reports from people with multiple sclerosis who have responded to the elimination diet?

What could cause our 2 yo’s daughter’s eczema to get worse on the elimination diet?

Is tinnitus related to foods?

Why would garlic be associated with itching?

Could a change of diet help with my daughter’s ‘zoning out’ (a mild form of epilepsy)?

Does diet help bedwetting?

Why would a child get worse on the elimination diet?

What is food-induced colitis?

Has anyone tried failsafe for Lupus?

What causes breathing problems after eating fruitcake or drinking wine?

Could dried fruit cause chronic asthma?

Can MSG cause insomnia?

What are the foods associated with nosebleeds?

Can chewing gum cause stomach bloating?

Does the diet work for Williams Syndrome?

Is there some more information about sulphite preservatives 220-228?

Does failsafe work for people with Aspergers or autism?

Will this diet help Tourette Syndrome?

Does diet help with sleep apnoea?

Is there a link with diet and ADD in adults?

Can food intolerance cause the same symptoms as a heart attack?

Q. Can epilepsy be related to diet?  


A. Yes - epilepsy can be related to diet especially in children who have ANY other symptoms of food intolerance such as headaches, irritable bowel symptoms, skin rashes, insomnia, behaviour or learning problems and many more. See detailed blog with scientific evidence from medical journals, and views from patient groups and readers.

“I took my 4-year-old daughter off all additives, preservatives and colours. In one week she has had a dramatic reduction of mostly myoclonic type seizures, down from her usual 2 - 40 throughout each day before" – Karen from story [565]

Q. Have other failsafers reported prostate and other urinary problems linked to food intolerance?


A. Yes, there are multiple reports and some science from both males and females.

“...(after) eating four non-failsafe foods I hadn't eaten before... within 24 hrs I had symptoms I had never experienced before: extreme pain on starting urinating, frequent night-time urination (nocturia) and constant prostate pain...(when I stopped eating these) the pain disappeared completely ...and has not recurred within the following 14 months - Tom [1600]

See multiple reports from women in [1556]

Prostatitis in men and urethral syndrome in women has been reported as 88% eliminated by a diet without caffeine, alcohol, and hot, spicy foods in 12 weeks. Success was ascribed to reducing “an inflammatory “allergic-like” reaction", in the absence of any knowledge of food intolerance or salicylates in foods. Read detailed blog on Urination issues and food intolerance

Q: When I drink white wine, it seems to make me really depressed and teary - is it salicylates  causing the effect? - Sharon


A: As I never tire of saying, everyone is different and the range of reactions is astonishing. If you are drinking white wine without using SO2GO or PureWine (in most bottle shops, to eliminate the sulphites 220) then you may be reacting to the sulphites which are far higher in white wine than other wines. But it might equally be the salicylates or even the amines in the wine, both of which are high. You can test by seeing whether you react more to white than red, for instance (rose is also very high in sulphite).

Q: I am 71 and sometimes experience urinary incontinence. It is not a consistent problem and I believe it may be related to food additives. Have you ever heard of this, and if so, can you suggest where I might find information about possible culprits? I have thought bread was a problem for some years - I can eat bread happily whenever I have been in Germany with my husband's family, but here I often have problems - May


A: I have not only heard of food-related urinary incontinence, but seen it with my own eyes. When I was doing my study on the effects of bread preservative on children's behaviour, one of the children who had been toilet trained for years turned into a human fountain in front of me while on the preserved bread challenge. There are numerous reports from our readers of food-related urinary incontinence or bedwetting in adults, children and even a dog. Read full blog

Q: Anyone get (blurry) vision issues as a symptom of amine/sal intolerance? – Rachel (facebook group) [1525]

A:  I have noticed I don't see as well when I'm reacting to foods – Ann

I can confirm that when food was making me so I'll that I ended up on steroids (there was a waiting list for the rpah Dr and I didn't know what was going on yet) I got so inflamed from all the histamines released in my body from eating non fs foods that my vision blurred – Jen

They interrupt my motor skills so everything is on slow motion, including the messages to the brain, hence the "blurred' or distorted vision - Amanda

Yes me too! I thought it was just me until I joined this group. Mostly for me it’s like the beginning of an aura migraine where I get a spot in the middle of my vision and just can’t quite see ‘clearly’ all day. It’s so frustrating. This diet has been life changing - Kath

I used to. I had so much constant, thick congestion for 9.5 years. Always a sinus headache/vision and eyes achy at times. For me, going Dairy Free and eating low sals has totally changed my life. Life is so much better now. Remember, what works for one, might or might not work for you – Karen

After eating 2 tamari and some corn chips, woke up the morning had blur vision! Haven't had corn for a while and try to reintroduce back but didn't work & at least know the cause! – Fiona

 Q: Does pyroluria exist?

A: There is no medical evidence for pyroluria, also called pyrole, pyrrole, kryptopyrole, kryptopyroluria, mauve factor and hemepyrole. There are a huge number of alternative health sites, particularly in Australia, that happen to sell expensive testing kits and offer a range of supplements as a cure. The available evidence does not support the hypothesis that pyrroles are responsible for all the symptoms and conditions ascribed to it. For a detailed thougthful look at the evidence see

      Q: Can you explain to me why we don’t get sick when on failsafe? Something to do with improving your immune system? I practically gloat when everyone around me moans about their colds and flus they have all the time as I don’t get them anymore!! What a relief to not have infections from colds every year now! - Rosemaree (failsafe 8 years), by email

It is common for failsafers to report that they no longer suffer frequent colds, flu and recurrent infections once they are established on failsafe eating (e.g. see stories [874] and [848]) - and yes, there is scientific evidence. Studies have shown that certain artificial colours and preservatives act as immunosuppressants, that is, they can actually suppress the immune system, making us more likely to suffer from recurrent infections. This has been shown in the laboratory by Greek researchers with artificial colours tartrazine (102) and amaranth (123) using small doses normally considered to be nontoxic, and by Brazilian researchers with propionic acid which is part of the group that includes bread preservative 282. As well, a US study with beagle dogs showed they were more susceptible to fatal viruses when fed indigotine (132). Failsafers who are salicylate-sensitive know that although we are constantly told to eat fruit to build up our immunity, for us, it works the opposite way. We are better off eating failsafe vegetables such as cabbage as described in the Myths of Fruit.

Koutsogeorgopoulou L and others Immunological aspects of the common food colorants, amaranth and tartrazine.Vet Hum Toxicol. 1998;40(1):1-4.
Wajner M and others Inhibition of mitogen-activated proliferation of human peripheral lymphocytes in vitro by propionic acid.Clin Sci (Lond). 1999;96(1):99-103.
Hansen WH and others Chronic toxicity of two food colors, brilliant blue FCF and indigotine, Toxicol Appl Pharmacol. 1966;8(1):29-36.

      Q. Any ideas for softening stools? I have found that I am sensitive to amines (migraines). Inadvertently I had not reread all the info properly and had not re-introduced many/any salicylate food however recently I have been suffering with piles to which the doctor and internet immediately reply - FRUIT. So for the last 2 weeks I have introduced rockmelon, honeydew, nectarine, apples, corn and beetroot all of which I have not had for a year or two. Only up to 2 pieces a day between them and hey presto headaches and migraines again (but softer stools, reducing the piles). So to me it looks like salicylates might be the problem but I need something for softening.

A. What you really need for constipation is more fibre and more fluid - in other words, drink more water or decaf and see below for failsafe sources of fibre. As you can see there are plenty of them. All vegetables are good and lentils and dried beans are clearly the winner. See the following recipes - they are delicious: Howard's bean paste and hummus

Failsafe sources of dietary fibre

(fibre in grams, items with salicylates and amines are marked)

71.0 psyllium hulls

15.6 Lentils, cooked 1 cup

12.0 Chickpeas (garbanzos) cooked 1 cup

10.4 Beans, baked, canned, plain 1 cup

8.8 100% All Bran 1/2 cup


5.1 Pear 1 medium

5.0 Oatbran, 1 cup

4.5 Peas, boiled 1 cup (MOD)

4.5 Apple (golden or red delicious),1 large (80-100g) (MOD)

4.0 Oatmeal, cooked 1 cup

4.0 Beans, green, cooked 1 cup

3.9 Corn, yellow, cooked 1 cup (HIGH in salicylates, glutamates)

3.9 Sweet potato, cooked without skin 1/2 potato (MOD)


3.5 Rice, brown, cooked 1 cup

3.1 Carrots, raw 1 cup (MOD)

2.9 Beetroot, canned, 1 cup

2.3 Potato, baked, fresh 1/2 potato


1.9 Celery, raw 1 cup

1.7 Whole grain bread 1 slice

1.6 Cabbage, raw 1 cup

1.4 Melon, cantaloupe 1 cup (HIGH)

1.2 Lettuce, romaine, raw 1 cup (MOD)

0.7 Lettuce, iceberg, raw 1 cup

0.6 White bread 1 slice

0.6 Rice, white, cooked 1/3 cup 0.6

0.0 Meat, milk, eggs

Experts warn it is better to get fibre from natural foods than supplements or laxatives such as bran tablets or powdered psyllium. More information: Anderson J et al. Dietary Fiber, Colorado State University, 2011


      Q. Does a low salicylate diet help with symptoms of menopause, especially hot flushes? – you did mention that  it helped with premenstrual symptoms. I’m already on a low fat diet and it isn’t working. Also, is there any medical evidence?

A. Some failsafers have reported huge improvements in menopausal symptoms due to the elimination diet. This can include hot flushes, restless legs, difficulty falling asleep, frequent night waking and irritability. However, you have to stick to the diet very strictly (avoiding whatever it is that challenges show affect you e.g. salicylates, amines, dairy, additives etc,) and some people find they have to go VLF (very low fat) as well. For medical evidence you can see the diet research for hormonally related symptoms by Dr Neal Barnard (he recommends VLF vegetarian) but many of the symptoms such as irritability, restlessness, sleep disturbance are the same as have been reported for other symptoms with the RPAH diet,  see more in our Women’s Health Factsheet

      Q. Can you please refer me to an authority linking atrial fibrillation (AF) with sulphites in food? I suffer AF after eating sulphites and at no other times. My doctor does not believe me and I am afraid I may be subjected to inappropriate medical interventions.

A. No. Other failsafers have reported this but I have searched pubmed extensively and can find no mention of AF related to any food additives other than MSG, see our Heart symptoms factsheet. I would be interested to hear from others with additive-related AF (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.). (March 2011)

      Q. Is it possible for adults to have ODD (oppositional defiance disorder)?

A. Yes. The most important behavioural effect of food chemicals is irritability, which is also the core feature of ODD. There are numerous reports of ODD-type symptoms improving in the father or mother when the whole family goes on the diet to support a difficult child. See the following email:

My husband and I are having severe relationship problems, and I'm not sure how much of it might be due to ODD (oppositional defiance). When he is calm and rational and nothing immediate is happening, he seems normal, mature, etc. Says all the right things. But if a situation arises where he is confronted with a problem he seems to react badly. His behaviour is like that of a child throwing a tantrum. I am finding it very hard to cope and have noticed this comes in cycles. This is really difficult for me because it feels like I have 3 children sometimes, not 2 and honestly, our children behave better than he does, and appropriately for their ages whereas he doesn't. The symptoms that really stood out when reading the ODD factsheet were “deliberately annoying other people” (He says he knows he does this sometimes and to the point where he can't stop himself) “blames me for mistakes or problems related to him” (He is very good at this, most of the time I end up wondering what it is that I have done wrong).

Living with him is like walking on eggshells. I don't know what might set him off - what triggers him one day doesn’t trigger him the next. He keeps putting off responsibilities and either refuses to do them or puts it off so long that I end up doing it or he is too tired to do it and leaves it for the next day. If I remind him or ask him, he often reacts with anger, resentment and refusal. I'm aware of a few food additives such as tartrazine that trigger aggressive moods in him but I feel there are other things influencing his behaviour. His mother told me recently he was a problem child and on drugs for ADHD.

An adult like this will do better on failsafe eating or even just cutting down – if they are prepared to stick to it. Additives and salicylates are likely to be the biggest culprits, but everyone is different.

      Q. Are there long term consequences of feeding children foods that they react to? My son becomes cranky, tantrum-throwing and obnoxious after eating certain foods. Does it matter if he reacts but we all manage somehow, or is there something else going on at a deeper level that is best avoided altogether?

A. Most parents think it is OK to keep their children on a diet that restricts their obvious behaviour to what the family can live with. However, the obvious behaviour (cranky, obnoxious) usually covers an underlying inattention – although parents aren’t aware of this so much. Every time a child is inattentive it is likely to cause a day's learning delay - if this happens once a week or more, or worse still, every day, you are probably looking at a child whose long term school results will be affected. The well-known Southampton University study concluded that food reactions may cause long term psychological harm because children with early behaviour or reading problems are more likely to miss out on higher educational and employment opportunities and to suffer from depression as adults. Of course if your children are already top of the class then it may not be so important if they are obnoxious - although it could interfere with their ability to make friends. Another little recognized effect of food intolerance is frequent illnesses such as colds, flu and infections.

      Q. Do you know of anyone that has been cured of hyperhidrosis (excessive sweating) through food/additive elimination? I have suffering from this for at least 15 years and it seems to be getting worse. Typically this would affect the hands and feet, but mine is mostly the back, thighs, chest etc. Recently I’ve spent over $1000 on Chinese Medicine and acupuncture and it did nothing. I’ve tried all the obvious things like deodorant, wearing cotton clothes, not eating hot or spicy food to no avail.

A. As with any food intolerance symptom, everyone is different. One reader reported ‘I have eliminated most things that contain salicylates - which is basically everything I eat – and I have stopped sweating ...’ and another failsafer found her excessive sweating was due to dairy foods. A three week trial of the elimination diet would show whether it would work for you.

      Q. I’ve got thrush for the first time since going failsafe, should I eliminate sugar? I’ve been failsafe for two years and have got the stage where I can tolerate some high salicylates but

A. From the RPA point of view, thrush is just one more food intolerance symptom - it means that the diet needs fine-tuning. It does NOT mean you need to eliminate sugar and yeast - the so called candida diet is not scientifically proven. When failsafers develop thrush it usually means they have reintroduced too many salicylates, and in your case, it would seem to suggest that you can’t tolerate as many high salicylates as you think you can – remember that symptoms can change – you don’t necessarily get the same symptoms that you did on your original salicylate challenge. See more in the Women’s Problems Factsheet.

      Q. Could a latex mattress cause extreme skin irritation? My food intolerant teenage daughter has had extreme skin irritations with weeping, red, scaly and flaring spots all over body since purchasing a latex mattress. She is a responder to bananas, strawberries and avocadoes.

A. Sensitivity to those fruits can indicate latex allergy and people with latex allergy should avoid latex as it can develop into life-threatening anaphylaxis. Update: the daughter’s skin improved within 2 days of removing the latex mattress. For more information:

• latex allergy -

• natural bedding alternatives - (10% off if you mention the Food Intolerance Network).


      Q. Can chlorine affect failsafers? My asthmatic daughter (asthma normally controlled by diet) started back at school swimming today and has come home very blue around her mouth. It looks like someone has punched her in the face and she has two black eyes. Could this be a chlorine allergy - we have found that she does react to chlorine but not to this degree. She said that she thought that they had only put chlorine in the day before or that morning.


A. Chlorine levels can vary alarmingly and could be particularly high if they had just dosed the pool. There are many children in our network who cannot tolerate chlorinated pools and who react with a variety of symptoms including asthma, eczema and behaviour problems. Chlorine-induced asthma is now well recognised in medical journals, see Swimming Pool–Induced Asthma (2011) and what to do about it in the following story:

Chlorine is as nasty as salicylates for my son, and I mean REALLY nasty His chlorine reactions are similar to his salicylate reaction except that he skips the usual initial silliness and hyper behaviour and goes straight into tantrums/anger/out of control behaviour. The first one we noticed (his first swimming lesson) was delayed 12 hours, he woke up the next day grumpy and irritated and was like that for a couple of days and settled down. A week later with the next lesson, grumpy again the next day but during that week descended into tantrums/swearing. The next few weeks followed the same pattern, but the behaviour got worse with no good days at all in the end. Obviously it was building up with each lesson and when he stopped it took another week for him to settle.

We now have a salt water pool, where the chlorinator runs in the middle of the night only, so that by the time he swims during the afternoon, there is no smell (my husband has set the filter up so that we can run it when we are actually in the pool during the day without the chlorinator being on). – update to story [466]

      Q. Are ear infections related to diet? My son who has just turned 4 has just been diagnosed with his 54th ear infection. He has had 13 perforated ear drums with bleeding. His speech is affected and his hearing. He has had two operations: the first for grommets and the second for grommets and adenoids removed. I'm at the end, I cry all the time, he cries in pain and keeps us up at night. He is just such a sad boy. He has these really loud naughty outbursts that take their toll on the whole family. Please help me.


A. The answer for this child – as for many others with frequent ear infections – was dairy foods. The child improved so much on dairy avoidance that the mother was able to cancel the next grommet operation. After a week-long dairy challenge the problems recurred. While dairy food seem to be a major culprit with food intolerance-related recurrent ear infections, other common culprits (e.g. salicylates, additives) can be involved, depending on individual sensitivity.

On the other hand, a NSW study with indigenous students by Dr Raymond Jones found that regular fresh fruit and vegetables could prevent frequent ear infections when vitamin C deficiency is present.

      Q. Could an adrenaline rush cause a reaction? My husband gets severe eczema from amines. A couple of months ago he was watching an action movie with Harrison Ford in it. Lots of fighting, guns etc. He doesn't normally watch these sort of movies. By the end of the movie his skin had gone red, weepy and very itchy. Within a half hour of the movie finishing his skin had settled back down.

A. Yes. Adrenaline is a biogenic amine, though produced by the body rather than absorbed through food. Further reading:

      Q. Can intolerance to certain foods cause dizziness and vertigo? My daughter suffers from dizzy spells. Specialist testing, from MRI scans to epilepsy, has found nothing. I was wondering if intolerance to certain foods can cause dizziness, I am at my wit’s end as my daughter cannot even close her eyes sometimes at night because her head starts to spin.

A. Dizziness and a spinning head (vertigo) can be related to chemicals in foods and medications. The most likely culprits are: synthetic salicylates in medications such as aspirin, nurofen and other pain killers or anti-inflammatory medications, acne cleansers, wart medication, sports liniments and medicated lotions; artificial colours and preservatives in foods and medications; natural salicylates in most fruit and some vegetables - particularly high in tomato sauce, juice, broccoli, grapes and citrus fruits - (see the Salicylates factsheet). If avoiding salicylate-containing medications doesn't help, the best way to find out if foods are your daughter's problem would be to do a 3 week trial of the RPAH elimination diet, supervised by a dietitian. Write to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. for our list of supportive dietitians.

      Q. Is there an additive or food which may have triggered alopecia (hair loss)? My 3 yo daughter suffers from eczema and around the age of about 10 months she went completely bald from Alopecia areata (she lost all hair on her head, eyebrows and eye lashes), but fortunately the hair started to grow back around 19 or 20 months. However, we are very disappointed to discover the alopecia appears to be returning.

A. Alopecia areata (patchy baldness) or totalis (total hair loss) has been associated with coeliac disease and may respond well to a very strict gluten-free diet, see Alopecia factsheet.

      Q. Can sulphite preservatives cause hyperactivity and/or aggression? After eating a lot of dried fruit we noticed our sons’ behaviour worsened as well as asthma.

A. Yes, but they are not the only problem with dried fruit - most dried fruits very high levels of salicylates and/or amines. While sulphites in dried fruit would be a first suspect for asthma - and everyone is different - salicylates in dried apricots or sultanas would be a first suspect for behaviour problems.

      Q. Can you direct me to any research that shows how diet can affect an adolescent with ADHD & ODD?

A. Superintendent Peter Bennett from the West Yorkshire police did a diet trial with 12 chronic juvenile offenders (aged 8-16) who had an average arrest rate of more than once a month. All improved. Those who remained on the diet did not re-offend. These were children whose ODD had progressed to Conduct Disorder, see citation below. You can see this study on our DVD. It is very difficult to do diet with adolescents unless 1) they themselves want to try it and 2) they get support from the community (e.g. school etc). The participants in the Shipley Project had to stay at home in the care of their parents for the first three weeks of their elimination diet. Further reading: Bennett CPW and others, The Shipley Project: treating food allergy to prevent criminal behaviour in community settings, J Nutr Envir Med 1998;8:77-83.

      Q. Can the elimination diet help my children? • a four year old girl who can be quite defiant when asked to do something she does not want to do, blames others for her behaviour (mainly her six-year-old brother), is very loud and chatty, and sings all the time when she is not chatting • a three year old boy son is very defiant, answers back "no", won’t listen to instructions, almost shouts when he speaks and wakes early (5.30am) in the foulest mood?

A. Diet can almost certainly help with those classic symptoms of food intolerance - if you get the diet right. The main behavioural effects of foods are exactly what you describe:

• irritability (defiant, blaming others, saying no frequently, foul mood)

• restlessness (sings all the time when she is not chatting)

• inattention (seems not to listen) and

• sleep disturbance (wakes early).


Loud voice (very loud & chatty, almost shouts when he speaks) is not mentioned in the medical literature but that was the main symptom parents reported as improving during my bread preservative study.


      Q. Can you tell me how to do the diet for depression? I have a severe anxiety/depression disorder which has been really bad for many years ( i'm really desperate to find out what's going on).

A. Using the diet for severe depression is not easy, but it is possible. It is best to do the strict RPAH elimination diet under the supervision of a supportive dietitian (ask for our list of dietitians who have had success with depression: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) If your symptoms include suicidal thoughts or tendencies, make sure you have some supports in place, as these symptoms can return in the first two weeks due to withdrawals. I recommend you read Fed Up – it’s not only for children, despite the cover, and see our Depression factsheet.

      Q. Can the diet affect menstrual periods? I know that failsafe eating is meant to help with PMT, but my almost 15 year old daughter who has had monthly cramps but no period for 4 years suddenly got her period. We have been on the elimination diet for 3 weeks. Is this a coincidence?

A. As well as an improvement in PMT, failsafe women have reported reductions in period pain, postnatal depression and clots during menstrual bleeding. There have also been several reports of overcoming infertility - in other words, a pregnancy within months of starting failsafe after years of trying. So your daughter’s experience is possibly not a coincidence, see our Women’s Health factsheet for the effects of diet on conditions that are considered to be hormonally related.

      Q. Is it possible for soy to cause depression or argumentative behaviour? Due to my daughter’s allergy to cows milk, we have trialled soymilk several times, but it makes her depressed, intrusive, argumentative and very negative (feels the whole world is against her). She seems totally unaware of this occurring, even when pointed out. Is this a reaction you are aware of?

A. Some people do have behavioural reactions to soy milk e.g. ‘instructions in one ear and out the other, deliberately annoying, disobedient’, see more in Story [702].

      Q. Can flavour enhancer E635 cause reflux? For at least 2 years now I have constantly suffered from reflux and could never work out what was the common ingredient. After seeing the 635 TV segment I found that 635 was a common element in the foods in our cupboard. As an experiment I stopped eating foods that contained it and after two days the reflux disappeared. About three weeks later I suffered another bout of bad reflux and looked at what had changed. That night I had eaten some BBQ chips that contained, you guessed it, 635. Are there other people for whom 635 has had this effect?


A. Yes! People react differently to food chemicals so any food chemical can cause any reaction. While 635 is often associated with itchy rashes, it can also be associated with any other food intolerance symptoms including reflux and children’s behaviour. On our DVD, one woman talks about itchy rashes, swelling of the lips and tongue and extremely painful spasms of the oesophagus due to 635. “I thought I was going to die“ she says. Although food regulators claim consumers are protected by food additive labelling, in our experience both consumers and their health care providers are usually unaware of the effects of food additives, resulting in years of unnecessary pain and medication.


      Q. Which food groups aggravate arthritis? My father is suffering from arthritis in his feet. He has already noticed that when he eats tomatoes and also dark chocolate, his feet are a lot worse for the next few days.

A. Salicylates, amines, additives, dairy and wheat/gluten – any or all of these can affect arthritics. Chocolate is like an amine challenge, tomatoes contain both amines and salicylates, so it could be both affecting him. See our Arthritis factsheet.

Q. Which foods are most likely to affect speech especially stuttering?

A. It depends on the child. For some children, the answer can be avoidance of one or two additives such as nitrates in ham, benzoates in drinks or the bread preservative, for example:

Our two and a half year old son had difficulty with stuttering for a few months. After my sister-in-law, a nurse, told us about the potential dangers of nitrates for children, especially contributions to developmental delays, we removed all nitrates (249-252, in preserved meats such as ham, bacon and hotdogs) from our son's diet and within about a week the stuttering was gone. Yesterday, our son went on an outing to the zoo with my mother. Strangely, his stuttering returned full-force today. I called my mother to ask what he had ingested for lunch and dinner yesterday. The glaring answer: a HOTDOG. – from story [396]

Other children may need to do the full elimination diet. See our factsheet on stuttering and other speech anomalies, and factsheet on speech delay, loud voice, vocal tics and silly noises.

      Q. Could my young daughter’s sore vagina be due to food? Most afternoons my little darling cries her eyes out, I have been putting it down to not wiping properly or very concentrated urine as she does not drink huge amounts, but could it be connected with salicylates? She only drinks water and nothing else but she adores fruit, especially canteloupe, watermelon, grapes and apples. The doctors are saying it is sensitivity to urine and is common amongst small girls.

A. You're right, sore vaginas are often related to salicylates - although the problem can be due to other food culprits - and generally improve when families go failsafe. And it isn’t only young girls, see story below.

I react to salicylates with pain in my joints, also I get very tender, raw skin in my genital area and intercourse becomes very painful. I saw you mention sore vagina in children - makes me happy to know I'm not the only one - I have always felt like a freak - so thank you for your books - they have helped me tremendously! – from story [982]

See also our Womens Health factsheet.

      Q. Which flavours are most likely to cause itchy rashes? I was watching the story on Flavours on TV last night. One of the pictures they aired was of a person with a red rash on the body. I have been getting a rash like that, as well as swelling on the eyes and mouth for the past three years and doctors, allergists and skin doctors can not find the problem. Could you please tell me what flavours are most likely to cause this reaction?

A. Flavour enhancer 635 which is a combination of 627 and 631 was the additive featured on that program. See a similar story below.

Thank you so much for your story on TV regarding the flavour enhancer 635. I am a 33 year old mother of two. I woke up one Sunday morning with an angry red blotchy rash all over my body and my legs were burning. I asked my husband to call an ambulance as I nearly fainted and felt like vomiting at the same time. A doctor put me on Prednisolone tablets for a week. I also took antihistamines and smothered myself in Calamine lotion but nothing seemed to ease the rash which turned to severe hives all over my body. I couldn't sleep and would be awake in the night clawing at my skin for some relief. I ended up bathing in Pinetarsol Solution which eased the itching. I was told that looking for the cause of the reaction was like "looking for a needle in a haystack" and I could not think of anything I had done differently. So to see your story on TV was fantastic. I am sure my reaction was from eating Continental Oriental Fried Rice packet mix on Friday night and also Saturday night for tea. I had a slight rash on my stomach on Saturday afternoon but it wasn't until Sunday morning that the severe reaction occurred. I checked my cupboards and 635 was also in Continental Macaroni Cheese as well. Thank you, and let's hope it can be removed from foods before someone has a fatal reaction. – from story[259]

For more information, see our Ribo Rash factsheet .

      Q. Can you tell me what sort of cooking oil I should use to avoid macular degeneration (AMD)?

A. A recent review in the Medical Journal of Australia found that the evidence regarding dietary fats and AMD is conflicting regarding saturated, polyunsaturated or monounsaturated fats; that US studies on dietary fats need to be interpreted cautiously before applying them to an Australian diet because there is a much higher level of trans fats in US margarines (Nuttelex contains negligible trans fats); that an Australian study found omega-3 fatty acids to be protective for early AMD (canola oil is a good source of omega-3); that the only proven modifiable risk factor for AMD is smoking ); that three out of nine studies found a diet rich in dark green or yellow vegetables helpful and that a low fat healthy diet with vegetables is probably a good idea. See the full details at

      Q. Does thrush improve on the failsafe diet?

A. Yes. Several failsafers have reported that they find the failsafe diet much easier to stick to than the candida diet and their lifelong severe thrush problems have cleared up, see our Womens Health factheet.

      Q. Which ingredient in seafood extender could cause an alarming reaction? I recently ate Seafood Salad in mornay sauce at my father’s house for lunch. There was some left over so I took it home and ate it again for dinner. A few hours later I started feeling strange, my face went red and my eyes started swelling alarmingly. I was scared I was going to get worse so I rushed to hospital where they treated me with antihistamines. I’d like to know what caused it, because I don’t want to go through that again.

A. From your symptoms, I would expect the culprit to be flavour enhancer 635 (or its components 627 and 631). I visited our local fishermen’s co-op to check. They sell several brands, a ‘seafood extender’ sold unlabelled, and two frozen packets “Seafood Salad” and “Seafood Sticks” both from Thailand. The ingredients lists are similar (white fish, egg white, crab extract, crab flavour, tapioca starch, salt, wheat starch, sugar, natural food colour 120). Allergic reactions to natural colour 120 (cochineal, made from beetles) are increasing, however, the delay in your symptoms until the next day doesn’t sound like a true allergy to either cochineal or seafood. ‘Crab flavour’ contains additives 631 and 627 as well as MSG 621 according to the label on the crab sticks, but nothing on the Seafood salad. I am guessing your problem could be unlisted flavour enhancers in the crab flavour. See our Ribo Rash factsheet.

      Q. Does failsafe eating help gout? My husband’s gout has improved since our family went failsafe. He’s not really on the diet but eats a lot of our failsafe food

A. It is common for families to report an improvement in gout when they switch to failsafe eating. People with gout can be affected by a number of food chemicals that failsafers also have to avoid - such as strong tasting meats and seafood (these tend to be high in both purines and biogenic amines); most alcoholic drinks; some fruits or vegetables (such as tomatoes); fruit juice and many commercial soft drinks, and some flavour enhancing additives. See Sue's detailed blog post on gout.

      Q. Can diet cause urinary urgency? I have an overactive bladder with urinary urgency and frequency. I am on Detrusitol but find that it has unwanted side effects and is very expensive. I heard that some foods may cause this condition.

A. Food intolerance can be strongly associated with urinary urgency in both adults and children, as I saw with my own eyes when I did my bread preservative study. Two of the children in particular regressed to bedwetting and day time incontinence during the preservative 282 challenge.

Everyone is different, and basically any food chemical can cause different symptoms in susceptible individuals. In my experience, the food chemicals and foods most likely to be related to urinary urgency, incontinence (and bedwetting in children) are salicylates, amines, propionate bread preservatives (280-282), other additives, and dairy products. You could try switching to preservative-free bread and drinking only water. This works for some people. Or you could try the elimination diet with challenges to find out exactly which components of your diet might be affecting you, as in the story below:

I have a nine-and-half-year-old daughter who has a day and night time bladder problem (urinary urgency) since the age of 3. I have seen all the specialists, psychologists, and natural helpers available. By the age of 8 she was, as it seemed, growing out of it. But after reading your book, Fed up, I linked it to preservatives, flavours and colours. Coincidently I was cutting down after our son had behavioural problems, and I heard you speak around that time. I took your advice and cut out the bread preservative first and then other things, but I didn't take salicylates seriously yet, especially with our daughter because she is so thin and a fussy eater. Her bladder problem seemed to creep back when Grandma was buying strawberries for her alone, as she knows our son could not have them. Then when her brother was doing the salicylate challenge she was indulging in all these foods too, and of course her bladder problem is so evident now.. From story [793]

      Q. Have you had any reports from people with multiple sclerosis who have responded to the elimination diet?

A. Yes, see reader report below:

I was diagnosed with MS 13 years ago. In retrospect, I think food intolerances have been with me since childhood. The MS symptoms I experience day to day are mostly sensory symptoms plus fatigue. The sensory changes mostly relate to feelings of cold particularly in my legs (not cold to touch but I perceive them to feel like ice blocks). This sensation changes from being really noticeable (both my legs feel cold 8 on a scale of 1-10) to not much at all (limited to the smallest spot on one leg but hardly noticeable - 2 out of 10). Early last year I went 100% failsafe after a period of not being so strict and after 4 weeks my cold sensations had reduced dramatically to about 1- 2 out of 10.

I have discussed my experiences with my allergist and he said other people with MS he has treated have had positive changes in their symptoms when following the RPAH elimination diet. I certainly notice a difference in sensation and fatigue when being failsafe. It has taken me years to finally accept this because I, like so many, kept thinking how can a meat and potatoes type diet be good for me?

All research into MS says to eat heaps of fruit and vegies, follow a low saturated fat diet and supplement with fish oils. After years of eating a mostly vegetarian diet, popping heaps of evening primrose oil and fish oil, I can now say that being failsafe is helping me the most. In fact, I follow failsafe eating principles but make sure my diet is low in saturated fat.- from our MS factsheet.

      Q. What could cause our 2 yo’s daughter’s eczema to get worse on the elimination diet? We started the diet for her eczema a week ago. There was no improvement and the eczema has spread each day until now the only parts of her body not covered with this lumpy raised itchy rash are her feet and her upper back. Please help!

A. This problem for this family turned out to be salicylates, including herbal creams containing salicylates. The mother wrote:

I am trying so hard to do the right thing by her, only I seem to be making it worse. We have creams and oils that I put on her at least 3 times a day and even in the night when the itch wakes her up.

A girl with a similar eczema problem was using a doctor-prescribed cream containing methyl salicylate. Salicylates in medications and herbs are well-absorbed through skin and must be avoided during the elimination diet.

      Q. Is tinnitus related to foods? I have not found references to tinnitus as a symptom in your Cookbook yet increased tinnitus is a sure sign of a food reaction for me. What do you think?

A. Sorry, that is an oversight. Tinnitus (the sensation of sounds in the ears in the absence of an external sound source) is a well documented side-effect of salicylates in drugs and foods, and can also be caused by food colours and preservatives, see story below.

I've known for 30 years that I am salicylate sensitive since suffering temporary hearing loss - and the top of my head felt numb - after taking one regular full day’s dosage of aspirin (8 tablets in 24 hours) prescribed by my doctor. My symptoms cleared up in several days after I stopped the aspirin. But it is only recently that I put two and two together and got four - food salicylates may have played a big role in my steady hearing loss and increasing tinnitus over the years. I discovered this when I started taking noni (noni juice, a Polynesian dietary supplement) this year and my hearing loss accelerated, I got terrible tinnitus, and my head felt "funny". Then I discovered noni may be high in salicylates. – from story [350]

      Q. Why would garlic be associated with itching? I wrote to you early this year about my son's skin ('incessant picking/scratching at his skin. It's as though his whole body is alive and crawling and he just can't keep his hands off it. At night in bed he scratches non-stop until he finally drifts off to sleep'). When I couldn't link it to any particular food, you suggested garlic. You were right. Not one of the numerous doctors and other health professionals we saw mentioned that. How on earth did you know?

A. A friend was told by his medical specialist to avoid garlic because it can cause the itching that plagues so many people with hepatitis – yet I’ve never seen it mentioned on the internet. Although garlic is listed as low in salicylates and amines therefore suitable for the strict elimination diet, in the 2009 RPAH Handbook there is now a warning ‘small amounts only”.

      Q. Could a change of diet help with my daughter’s ‘zoning out’ (a mild form of epilepsy)? My daughter was diagnosed last year with petit mal, the mildest form of epilepsy, when I noticed that she was 'zoning out' every now and then. I didn't think too much about it but when I mentioned it to the pediatrician, he said this form of epilepsy is common in young children and ordered tests. She has to take medication twice a day. If she misses one day of medicine, she doesn't 'zone out'. But after about 3 days, it starts back up again.

A. A number of families have reported similar 'zoning out' to the bread preservative (282) but epileptic seizures can be related to any of the usual culprits. Everyone is different. If there is a history of food intolerance such as migraines in the family, diet is worth a try, see Epilepsy factsheet.

      Q. Does diet help bedwetting? When we challenged MSG, my daughter's bedwetting returned. Is this a typical characteristic of MSG?

A. As with other food intolerance symptoms, children are different and can be affected by any of the usual culprits. The elimination diet followed by challenges can show which food chemicals are causing the problem. Dairy foods are also implicated in some cases.

      Q. Why would a child get worse on the elimination diet? My ten-year-old son's behaviour, concentration and bedwetting have improved on the elimination diet but seems to have a reverse effect on my 4-year-old daughter. She has become quite out of character - very disruptive at preschool and even to the extent of being rude to the teacher. She has also had bouts of teariness.

A. When children get worse on the diet it means that diet will work for them but that they have started eating a lot more of an item that affects them, often such as dairy foods or wheat, or a new item such as soymilk. See the checklist of common mistakes. You are welcome to send a list of everything your daughter eats in a day for me to check for possible culprits.

      Q. What is food-induced colitis? My daughter is extremely food intolerant. She recently had an endoscopy/colonoscopy with the results being food-induced colitis. I was wondering if you have heard of this before? Is it a fancy way of saying food intolerance?

A. Your daughter is lucky to have this diagnosis. It is much more common for people to contact us with colitis for which they have been advised to take sulpha-based drugs - which sometimes make them worse - and told to eat whatever they like. When these people discover for themselves that they can control their symptoms by diet, they are usually very pleased.

      Q: Has anyone tried failsafe for Lupus?

A: Yes, the Illawarra failsafe group reports great success with both Lupus and arthritis. See Arthritis factsheet.

      Q: What causes breathing problems after eating fruitcake or drinking wine? Sometimes I have this uneasy feeling when I breathe, it is as if I am on a plane flying at 40 000 feet and having that dry feeling in your throat and eyes. I keep thinking that it must be something that I eat or drink. I have had it after a fruitcake and also from raisin bread. My daughter avoids cask wine for the same reason.

A: For breathing problems within 15 minutes of food or drink, suspect sulphites (220-228). Raisins and dried fruit such as cherries and artificial cherries in fruit cakes etc may contain sulphites. Wine is the other most common source of sulphites. Asthmatics who see an occasional reaction to sulphited foods are probably affected more than they realise.

      Q: Could dried fruit cause chronic asthma? A few months ago, I developed a cough and tight chest which got worse and now I have been diagnosed with asthma for the first time in my life (I am 35). I am on a weight loss diet and have been snacking every day on a mixture of dried fruit and nuts. I saw your factsheet about asthma and muesli bars.

A: Dried fruit such as apricots, apples, coconut and sometimes grapes can contain very high levels of sulphur dioxide (220 also called sulphites). Sulphites are strongly associated with asthma. It is possible for some people to develop chronic steroid-dependent asthma simply by eating dried fruit in muesli bars or trail mix nearly every day. If cutting out the trail mix doesn't help, you may need to investigate the effects of other food chemicals, see our Dangers of Dried Fruit factsheet, and the Asthma chapter in Fed Up.

      Q: Can MSG cause insomnia? I am 5.5 months pregnant and have had chronic insomnia since being pregnant. I have gone to a sleep clinic and am beginning to think that my insomnia is closing related to MSG. I have been keeping a sleep diary and it appears that on the nights after I go out for lunch or dinner I may not sleep at all or only get a few hours sleep. Just recently I bought Woolies BBQ chicken not realising this would contain MSG, both nights after these chickens I did not sleep at all. Ever since becoming pregnant I have been going out to lunches an awful lot, so I can look back and say 'yes 3 times a week, no sleep, yes could MSG be the problem here?' I find I am thirsty, have nightmares, have developed a rash on my calves and do not fall asleep. It is very hard to find out which restaurant foods may contain MSG. Do you have a list?

A: Yes, MSG and other flavour enhancers can cause insomnia in some people. We have received numerous reports of people eating e.g. MSG flavoured instant noodles or packet soups who have been affected by insomnia. Since you also developed a rash after eating Woolies chicken, I would also suspect ribonucleotides (flavour enhancers 635, 627 and 631) as well. See reader story below.

•I have recently discovered an intolerance to food preservatives and MSG which result in bad insomnia. Since I realized what was causing my problem I have mostly had really good nights' sleep but occasionally I get caught out and eat something with preservative or MSG without realising. It was probably easier for me to identify the connection between preservatives and insomnia than for most people as we live on a farm and butcher our own meat, hence sausages and mince with little else added – from story [282]

See How to avoid MSG in our MSG factsheet and Ribo Rash factsheet If avoiding these additives doesn’t cure the insomnia you may want to do the full elimination diet. Some people find that a reaction like this seems to trigger food intolerance.

      Q. What are the foods associated with nosebleeds? The front page of your website lists frequent nose bleeds as an FI symptom. Under what conditions do these nose bleeds occur and what foods seem to be implicated? My wife gets unexplained nosebleeds fairly often. Her doctor can find nothing as a cause.

A. Food chemicals and medications can contribute to nosebleeds. In my experience, dairy foods are a big contributor, but everyone is different so you would have to consider the usual culprits (additives, salicylates etc). Several failsafers have mentioned that there can be other factors involved e.g. dairy foods can set up a chance of nosebleed but they only happen during summer or when overheating.

We have been at a loss regarding our three-year-old son's frequent nosebleeds, lack of sleep, temper outbursts and all of the other problems associated with a 'normal' toddler's wellbeing. When reading in depth Fed Up With Asthma we now realise this was probably caused by Singulair Tablets. When our new doctor took him off these he sleeps!!!! and a lot of the other symptoms have subsided. - from story [311]

      Q. Can chewing gum cause stomach bloating? In the last 2 or 3 months, my stomach has been almost continuously bloated. On occasions the amount of gas in my stomach is so extreme that I have to force myself to burp to relieve the pressure in my stomach. I doubt that my diet is a problem as my wife and I eat low fat and very healthy. I am an otherwise healthy 31 year old non smoker and very mild drinker. However, I have recently begun chewing 'x.cite' chewing gum several times a day, ingredients: maltitol, gum base, flavour, thickener 414, emulsifier (322, from soy), colour 171, sweeteners (951, 950), glazing agent 903, antioxidant 320.

A. Maltitol can cause the problems you mention. Sugar alcohols including maltitol, sorbitol (420), mannitol (421), xylitol (967), glycerin (422) and hydrogenated glucose syrup (965) are used in 'sugar-free' chewing gum and candies and in low joule or carbohydrate modified food including icecreams and jams. Although sugar alcohols are chemically related to sugars, they are not as sweet, don't cause tooth decay and are poorly absorbed into the blood stream. This poor absorption means they can work their way through the digestive tract, causing bloating, abdominal pain and severe diarrhoea. The FDA requires a warning about 'laxative effects' on foods containing more than 50 grams. The trouble is, consumers are affected by a lot less than that. In 1999, the Centre for Science in the Public Interest ( petitioned the FDA to require foods containing more than one gram or more to bear a label stating: 'This product contains sorbitol (or whatever) which may cause diarrhoea, bloating and abdominal pain…'. No response from the FDA yet. See more on our Sugar free factsheet.

      Q. Does the diet work for Williams Syndrome? My 5 yr old son has Williams Syndrome and what I have read on your web page sounds like my son since birth. He has a learning disability but we have also experienced behavioral, sleeping and feeding problems and he never relaxes even while watching TV.

A. It is possible to have food intolerance by itself or in association with a number of conditions. If your child's behaviour is related to food intolerance, then the failsafe diet will help. There are failsafe families using the diet successfully for children with Fragile X Syndrome, Prader-Willi syndrome, Porphyria and Down Syndrome as well as ADHD, PDD (pervasive developmental disorder), learning disabilities, autism, ODD (oppositional defiant disorder) and CD (both conduct disorder and coeliac disease). The diet will take care of the food-related symptoms but you may need other inventions such as behaviour management, special education, speech or motor-sensory programs. Parents usually find that other interventions are much more effective once the diet has kicked in. See the Introduction to Food Intolerance.

      Q. Is there some more information about sulphite preservatives 220-228? My daughter is allergic to sulphites, and we have had some very scary and life threatening moments. She is being treated at the allergy clinic but I can't seem to find any detailed information on sulphites.

A. See "how to avoid sulphites" in the Sulphites factsheet.

      Q. Does failsafe work for people with Aspergers or autism?

A. Yes, but you need to do the full elimination diet (glutenfree and dairyfree as well). Then do your challenges, see more on our Autism factsheet. There are a number of ASD children in our network. Some have come to us already doing an GFDF diet. They usually find it is worth looking at salicylates and amines as well, for instance, this mother:

My daughter is on a gluten/dairy free diet for her autism. I had been cooking coconut bread (from a recipe given to me from the USA). You told me about coconut being a 'no-no' because of the salicylates. Well I decided to challenge. Wow, what a difference. Things keep on getting better. I still have a lot to learn!!!

      Q. Will this diet help Tourette Syndrome? My son is now 8. He was diagnosed with ADHD when he was 5. He has been on Dexamphetamine, Ritalin, Catapres, Melleril and many others. He has not been on any medication for some time now. He developed tics at about the age of 6, which he still has. Will this diet also help? All the doctors and specialists I have seen told me that the elimination diet does not work. Well, after what we all have been through, I am at the point where I feel the doctors aren't helping us at all.

A. Tics are definitely food-related in some people. Families in this network report that tics reduce and may go away altogether while on failsafe foods but will return when children break the diet, or late at night when very tired, see our Tics factsheet.

      Q. Does diet help with sleep apnoea?

A. We have received reports of sleep apnoea disappearing completely while on failsafe foods, and returning during transgressions, see reader story below and our Sleep Apnoea factsheet.

A nine year old boy from the NT suffered from snoring and sleep apnoea. The elimination diet revealed that a few food additives were responsible sunset yellow (110), the bread preservative (282) and MSG (621). When he later developed the problem while avoiding his food triggers, fumes from a new mattress turned out to be the cause. – from Story 821

      Q. Is there a link with diet and ADD in adults?

A. This question was asked recently on our email discussion group. A surprising number of members responded that yes, they were ADD adults controlled by diet, see reader story below and many more in Success Stories.

I bought your book recently at a dietician's recommendation after being diagnosed to have sensitivity to salicylates and amines. It is really easy to read and contains a wealth of information. The dietician was especially enthused about your recipes - she felt they were easy recipes and it was therefore easier for people to comply with the limitations on food types. I agree totally. In my case, the initial symptoms included tiredness and lack of concentration, so it took a while for me to even begin to seriously consider looking at recipes - I started with a fairly standard and uninteresting diet that did not require any mental effort (rolled oats, golden syrup on toast, boiled egg sandwiches, stir fried vegetables). Now, after a couple of months, I am much more alert and awake, and interested in things … see more in Story [030].

      Q. Can food intolerance cause the same symptoms as a heart attack? My husband sometimes gets pains in his left arm, spreading up to his shoulder and in the region of his heart. Of course, the first thing we considered was heart attack but when he goes to hospital they can't find anything wrong.

A. There is a report of an incident like this 30 years ago during a study of the effects of MSG (Schaumberger, 1969). One of the volunteers who was a GP took himself to hospital with a possible heart attack. He later realised his symptoms were triggered by MSG. We have received similar reports of emergency trips to hospital hours after dinner in a Chinese restaurant, only to find nothing is wrong, and see our Heart palpitations, chest pain & atrial fibrillation factsheet.