Phenols are present in food dyes, artificial flavors, preservatives and in highly colored fruits and vegetables, in bioflavonoids, and in cartenoids (carotene, lutein, lycopene, xanthophylls, and zeaxanthin). Almost all foods have phenols, but in varying amounts. Salicylates are a subgroup of phenols. Salicylate is a group of chemicals related to aspirin. There are several kinds of salicylate, which plants make as a natural pesticide to protect themselves. Foods high in natural salicylates are tomatoes, apples, peanuts, oranges, cocoa (chocolate), red grapes, coffee, all berries, peppers (bell & chili) to name a few.
Symptoms of PST/sulfate deficiency(problems with phenols/salicylates) are reddened ears, hyperactivity, inappropriate laughter, night sweats, black under eyes, excessive thirst, eczema, facial flushing, trouble falling to sleep, disturbed sleep and odorous bed clothes. Your child doesn’t have to exhibit all of these symptoms in order to have trouble with phenols. My son gets most of these symptoms and he not only becomes very hyper, but he starts to stim and he has trouble with emotion regulation.
One very important sulfotransferase enzyme is the one that attaches sulfate to phenol compounds, called phenol-sulfotransferase (PST). The PST is under active in the majority of autistic children. Without the PST enzyme working properly, the liver will have trouble eliminating the phenols in food. PST is a Phase 2 liver enzyme that detoxifies leftover hormones and a wide variety of toxic molecules, such as phenols and amines that are produced in the body (and even in the gut by bacteria, yeast, and other fungi) as well as food dyes and chemicals.
Dr. Rosemary Waring found that most children on the autism spectrum are very low in sulfate due to a deficiency in the PST pathway. This detoxification pathway processes other phenolic compounds including salicylates (salicylates are a subset of phenols), artificial food colorings, artificial flavorings, and some preservatives. Besides requiring PST, research has found the salicylates further suppress the activity of any PST enzyme present, making matters worse. Food dyes also have been shown to inhibit the PST enzyme.
The problem can be two- fold: there may be a lack of phenol-sulfotransferase enzymes, or there may be a lack of the sulfates (due to the absence of or to the poor absorption of amino acids in the diet, or due to a failure to metabolize them into sulfate form). Dr. Waring believes the lack of sulfates is the primary problem. Since sulfur intake is low, and its oxidation is slow in many autistic children, phenols and salicylates that requires or uses up sulfate ions during its metabolism, will make the situation worse. Tylenol is phenolic and one or two minutes after a dose of Tylenol, the entire supply of sulfate in the liver is gone!
Eliminating the yeast overgrowth may also reduce the burden of phenolics on the body. Yeasts and fungi in the intestines can produce phenolics. Therefore, eliminating the yeast, and avoiding the phenols, salicylates and in food may reduce the strain on the PST enzyme. Making sure there is enough magnesium should help the functioning of the PST enzyme. Yet you must be careful with the B6. Too much coenzyme B6 can suppress PST. However, Dr. Waring found that this effect is mitigated if more magnesium is given.
There is a digestive enzyme product made by Houston Nutraceuticals that might help. Their No-Fenol product helps the body remove carbohydrates from phenolic compounds and this may make it easier for the liver to remove these phenolic compounds. This is their website, www.houstonni.com and their phone (866) 757- 8627. My son has trouble processing phenols and this enzyme has made it possible for him to enjoy phenolic fruits and vegetables. Kirkman Labs also sells one called Phenol Assist.
There are two ways you can relieve the toxic load in the PST pathway. One is reducing the amount of phenols and toxins entering the body. This is the basis of the Feingold Program. The second method of enhancing the detoxification process is to supply more sulfate. This increases the amount of toxins processed out. Sulfate ions may not be absorbed well from the gut, so simply giving more sulfur directly by swallowing supplements may not produce satisfactory results. Some people have seen improvements by supplementing with the sulfur-containing amino acids cysteine and taurine, or MSM (methysulfonylmethane), or by using one of the many commercially available MSM creams. However, others have not found this tolerable. This may be because their body is unable to convert the sulfur to the needed sulfate form.
My son does well with Taurine and Epsom salt baths because the form of sulfur in the Epsom salts is already sulfate and readily available to the body. Epsom salts are magnesium sulfate and are available at most local grocers or health food stores, Costco, Wal-Mart, or inexpensively in bulk at agricultural supply stores. Be sure to purchase U.S.P. (United States pharmaceutical grade).
When given an Epsom salt bath, the magnesium and sulfate in the salts are absorbed into the body through the skin. Because the sulfur is already in the sulfate form, it does not need to be converted like other forms of sulfur do. Sulfate is thought to circulate in the body up to about nine hours. Any Epsom salts left on the skin may continue to be absorbed as long as it is still on the skin, offering continuous ‘timed-released’ input into the bloodstream.
I put 1.5 to 2 cups of Epsom salts in hot bath water to dissolve and then add the cold water to balance the temperature. My son will soak for about 15 minutes before I use natural soaps or shampoos. Others add baking soda and lavender oil to enhance the relaxation effects. I give my son an Epsom salt bath at least 5 nights a week, others do less. It really soothes and calms him for bedtime.
For more detailed information on salicylate sensitivity, symptoms and foods, visit Karen DeFelice’s website Enzymestuff at http://www.enzymestuff.com/conditionsensitivities.htm and click on “list of salicylates in food and products.