2021: The Link Between Allergies and ADHD, There’s More Than Meets the Eye

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Allergies typically call to mind common symptoms like runny noses, itchy rashes, red eyes, cough, wheezing, etc. However, it turns out allergies can manifest in a variety of ways and may profoundly impact a person’s behavior and ability to focus and learn.

In other GetzWell articles we’ve shared how Dr. Getzelman is leveraging 23andMe genetic data to get at the root cause of her patients’ conditions, and how her discoveries often link ADHD symptoms to genetic predispositions and underlying allergic reactions. (see: Could Gluten be to Blame for Your Child’s Behavioral Issues?)

In this post, we’ll bring to you yet another inspiring account, this time of a young boy named Josh who got a new lease on life – and school! – as a result of Dr. Getzelman digging beneath the surface to treat his ADHD symptoms.

Let’s Meet Josh from San Francisco:

Josh was a very clever boy with a high IQ. However, he long struggled with planning and following through on tasks. He was consistently spacey and angry, inflexible and easily triggered by change at home and in school. He was either hyper-focused or distractible – with no equilibrium in between.

By the time Josh reached the age of nine, his parents had taken him to see numerous learning, behavioral, ADHD, and developmental specialists in the San Francisco Bay Area and farther afield. They had utilized occupational therapy, physical therapy, vision therapy, psychotherapy, and tutoring of multiple subjects. He was labeled ADHD inattentive type, and he had tried various Ritalin type stimulants, as well as Strattera, with poor results that subjected Josh to mood lability, extreme sadness, and what appeared to be tranquilizing effects but none had helped his school performance, flexibility and planning or his difficulty finishing tasks.

After a long and unsuccessful experience with mainstream medicine and drug interventions, Josh’s parents were excited to learn of Dr. Getzelman’s work with genetic testing and her commitment to ADHD treatment without medication. Much to their relief, Dr. Getzelman was able to offer the family safe and meaningful solutions.

Dr. Getzelman’s Findings:

Using 23andMe genetic analysis and data from environmental allergy, food allergy, stool, and neurotransmitter tests, Dr. Getzelman gained a comprehensive understanding of the many factors contributing to Josh’s learning and behavioral challenges. The following is a summation of her findings:

  • Glutathione polymorphisms (SNPs) and low levels of glutathione. (Glutathione, aka “the mother of all antioxidants,” is produced naturally in the body and works as a master antioxidant and detoxifier. It is essential for immune function and controlling inflammation. Some of us, however, can’t make adequate amounts and need supplementation.)
  • Methylation issues which relate to Josh’s body’s ability to use B12 to generate building blocks for dopamine, a neurotransmitter that allows us to focus and stay on task and also helps to control the brain’s reward and pleasure centers.
  • Extremely high immunoglobulin E (IgE). (IgE is an antibody found in the blood that is a marker for allergies. People with elevated IgE levels also have high histamine, which makes us both edgy and spacey.)
  • Environmental allergy panel revealing multiple allergies to dust mites, local grasses, and trees.
  • Food allergy tests revealing adverse reactions to corn, egg, and soy.
  • Specialty stool testing showing a gluten sensitivity (non-celiac gluten sensitivity or “NCGS”).
  • Neurotransmitter testing suggesting high glutamate levels, which is very inflammatory to the brain and nervous system. (Josh’s glutamate was likely elevated due to sky high histamine, which by itself can make us feel both out of it as well as angry and/or agitated.)

What’s so fascinating about Dr. Getzelman’s comprehensive testing is that it uncovered a number of allergies that Josh and his parents never knew he had and therefore never thought to seek treatment for. This is understandable considering Josh exhibited no overt allergy symptoms like runny nose, sneezing, cough, watery, eyes, asthma, eczema, food allergies, anaphylaxis, etc. Instead, Josh’s allergic reactions manifested in his mood and behavior.

While other mainstream specialists tried to diagnose him on a surface level, Dr. Getzelman was able to get at the root causes of his behavior and ADHD diagnosis.

Dr. Getzelman’s Treatment Plan:

Given her knowledge of Josh’s particular allergies and genetic polymorphisms, Dr. Getzelman was able to create a customized supplementation, dietary, and lifestyle plan him that included the following:

  1. Glutathione supplements to support Josh’s detox pathways and activated/methyl B12 to enable dopamine production.
  2. Elimination of gluten and all other foods he was allergic to.
  3. Education about how to change elements of Josh’s bedroom to decrease the dust mite burden.
  4. Other treatments for food and environmental desensitization that are ongoing and will take more than a year.


After just 1 month of Dr. Getzelman’s customized treatment plan, Josh’s parents were astounded by the results. Josh became a more flexible, focused and happier kid. He began making friends more easily and for the first time was able to thrive in a mainstream class and school.

Josh’s meltdowns came to a halt and he started pushing himself to try new things, a sure sign of his new flexibility. He was also able to stay on task to create and carry out plans.

Josh’s parents were so impressed with Dr. Getzelman’s work with Josh that they even came to her for their own 23andMe analysis – a request that many of her families have sought out as well. We’ll cover this extension of Dr. Getzelman’s services (to adults!) in a future blog post.

Let GetzWell get to the heart of your child’s condition.

By revealing the unique manifestations of Josh’s allergies, Dr. Getzelman was able to make ADHD treatment without medication a reality.

Josh’s story is further proof that there’s more going on beneath the surface than we realize. We are all products of the unique interaction between our genetic makeup and our nutrition, lifestyle and environmental exposures, which makes a one-size-fits-all approach to treatment suboptimal at best and impossible at worst.

So let us help. If your child has been diagnosed with or is exhibiting signs of ADD/ADHD, anxiety, depression, or other mood disorders, please contact our San Francisco offices at 415-826-1701. We’d love to help you find the answers to address your child’s unique needs, even virtually. https://getzwell.com/contact-us/

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