I have been thinking about PANS and diet.
When I am sick with pneumonia, I have to keep my carbohydrate intake as low as possible, or I get much much worse. I am attributing this to the lysoganglioside antibody. I have been puzzling about the lysogangilosides because a conference last year says that in some children with PANS/PANDAS, the antibodies cross the blood brain barrier and then macrophages appear to be killing ganglion brain cells. They described a truly awful case. I completely understand children refusing to eat or only eating one or two things when they are having a flare. And everyone may have different food issues because we all make different antibodies. This makes it darned tricky to sort out.
But back to ganglion cells. These are the “nerve” cells. They make up the brain but there are also nerve cells all over the body. And more recently we have started calling the gut, the digestive system, as second “brain”. This is because the gut turns out to have tons of ganglion cells.
So, my lysoganglioside antibodies do not appear to attack my brain. But something attacks my gut. It could be any or all of the antibodies, actually. Ganglion cells in the gut would have receptors for dopamine, the gut has smooth muscle that is powered by tubulin and my understanding of lysogangliosides is that they clean up dead or damaged ganglion cells and should not bother healthy ones. Studies of patients with lyme disease are showing the same four antibodies with a rising baseline for people who have more infections, so my guess is that my baseline has risen enough that I do not tolerate gluten. I may try it again, because my good news is that my muscles feel normal again. No more tubulin blocking antibodies, so I have fast twitch muscles again. They are weak but functional. I am starting to exercise them. Hoorah! If I am super lucky, whichever antibody screws up gluten for me has also dropped, but it may not have. The antibodies do not all do the same thing at the same time. This flare started for me when I had my influenza vaccine and then 5 days later, my fourth Covid-19 vaccine. The shots SHOULD get an antibody response but it was annoying to have the muscle dysfunction again. I managed to avoid getting pneumonia, so the response is shortened, about two months. I had very little of the dopamine 1 and 2 effects, so it was a relatively mild effect. The annoying bit was that I was improving in exercise at pulmonary rehab and the vaccines knocked me back down.
When I have pneumonia, eating carbohydrates makes my breathing worse. That’s weird. Well, not really. This fourth go around I realized that I could mitigate the effect of rising blood sugar as I improved by drinking bicarb with each meal. Sodium bicarbonate, baking soda in water. Why did that help?
Bicarbonate is a base. If it helped the symptoms, then it was balancing out an acid. Rising blood sugar was making me acidotic. When we are acidotic, our bodies will try to increase bicarbonate by speeding our breathing. If I have pneumonia and am hypoxic anyhow, then additional pressure on breathing is definitely not a good thing. So adding a glass of water with a teaspoon of baking soda reduced the acidosis. Then food did not affect my breathing.
Would this help all children with a pandas flare? Again, everyone has different antibodies, so the answer is probably NO. I think it is enormously important to listen to children with a PANDAS/PANS flare and give them an assortment of simple foods to choose from. No pressure for a balanced diet at the height of a flare, because some food or food group may make them feel terribly ill and actually may affect their acid/base balance and MAKE them more ill. I would offer something mostly fat: avocado or bacon or a high fat salami or cheese. Some steamed or raw vegetables, ranging from the high carbohydrate to low. Peas are high, kale is low. No sauces or dressing. Some protein sources, chicken breast or meat or beans. A grain or grain source. Offer fruit but do not push. Let the child figure out what they can eat and roll with it. Try to find more things in that food group. Remember that the main food groups are fats, proteins and carbohydrates. There are a bunch of different carbohydrates, which are sugars. Glucose, fructose (in fruit and corn syrup), lactose (in dairy), maltose, dextrose and others. I would avoid junk food and anything prepared. When I am sick I do fine with lactose, but all of the other carbohydrates make me feel very very ill and mess up my breathing. This is individual and will differ from person to person. If eating makes you feel very very ill, it’s easy to understand why some children stop eating. The obsessive compulsive traits are understandable too: if you suddenly don’t tolerate the foods you love and you do not understand what is happening (and your adults don’t either), you might try to behave in ways to bring back the good old days. Do everything the one right way and maybe things will return to normal. It’s a terrifying illness for children and for parents, but I have hope that my experience will help other people.