As we have seen in great detail (in my book, Nourishing Hope), many individuals with ASD and other neurological and immune system disorders appear to have faulty sulfation and cannot process phenols well. This protocol reduces phenols in the diet. The Phenol Protocol is an approach that I put together that includes several components: 1) a low phenol diet, in most cases, the Feingold Diet, which is a low salicylate diet, 2) supplements and substances that add sulfate to aid sulfation, and 3) enzymes to help break down remaining phenols. There is no way to eliminate 100% of all phenols, so this diet is not an all or nothing program. There are other low phenol diets such as the Failsafe diet, Sarah’s diet, Some people may need to be keep phenols very low, while others may only need to reduce phenols by avoiding the high phenol foods such as apples and grapes. This protocol is often used in conjunction with other diets.
The Feingold diet eliminates all artificial phenolic additives and certain salicylates. If you see a discrepancy between a salicylate list (Appendix XI) and Feingold (Appendix XII), it is because Feingold does not eliminate all salicylates, only the ones they have found children (and some adults) to be most reactive to. This means that some foods that have higher salicylate values are allowed on Feingold such as watermelon.
Common symptoms of phenol intolerance: Dark circles under eyes, red face/ears, diarrhea, hyperactivity, impulsivity, aggression, headache, head banging/self-injury, impatience, short attention span, difficulty falling asleep, night waking for several hours, inappropriate laughter, hives, stomach aches, bedwetting and day wetting, dyslexia, speech difficulties, tics, and some forms of seizures.
When to use this diet: Use of these “phenol diets” can be tricky to determine. There is no test to determine faulty sulfation. As I have mentioned, I use several factors to make this determination: 1) reaction to phenolic foods, 2) reaction to Tylenol or acetaminophen and artificial ingredients, 3) levels of sulfate in the blood and urine, 4) test results from phase II liver panel and sulfation capabilities, and 5) family history of neurological disorders including ASD. If self-injurious behavior is present I work with the individual’s physician and strongly suggest considering the implementation of a low phenol diet, especially if a GFCF diet has been implemented with no relief.
Pitfalls: At times, these diets can be challenging to implement in conjuction with other diets, because several other diets (especially SCD) limit many foods and rely on fruit for sweets. As fruits are so high in phenols, the limitation of fruits can be very restricting with certain diet combinations.
Clinical Experience: This diet is fairly easy to implement, as it does not remove any food categories completely only certain fruits and vegetables, and particular foods from a food group. The negative food reactions often happen within a short time, around 30 minutes, making it easier to spot reactions. Over time, many of my clients seem to be able to handle more phenols. I assume it is from working on methylation, building up sulfate reserves, reducing the body’s burden of toxins, improving digestion and detoxification, and other positive changes that happen over time from supplementation and diet intervention. One or two parents have told me that a diet high in natural food enzymes (a high raw food diet) seemed to allow their child to consume small to moderate amounts of phenols with no reaction. Other parents have reported that phenol intolerance disappeared after chelation. It appears that once you get the system functioning better, phenols are not as much of a problem.