7 Facts About PANS/PANDAS Diet You Might Not Know

Home » 7 Facts About PANS/PANDAS Diet You Might Not Know

Written by Michelle McKeon

August 22, 2023

A PANS/PANDAS diet can be a helpful factor in the recovery process for a child when implementing specific nutritional choices and lower inflammatory foods.  Dietary changes can also improve the gut microbiome which can play a huge role in regulating the immune system.

PANS (Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome) and PANDAS (Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections) are complex autoimmune conditions that affect children.

These disorders are characterized by the sudden onset of neuropsychiatric symptoms, some of which include obsessive-compulsive behaviors, anxiety, tics, mood swings, and other cognitive impairments.

PANS can be triggered by infections, pathogens, and toxins, and PANDAS can occur specifically from streptococcal infections. These pathogens can create inflammation in the brain contributing to encephalitis and neurological symptoms.  

1. Incorporating Anti-Inflammatory Foods

Inflammation plays a huge role in autoimmune disorders like PANS/PANDAS. To combat this, individuals with PANS/PANDAS can include plenty of anti-inflammatory foods in their diet. Anti-inflammatory foods can be rich in omega-3 fatty acids such as salmon, mackerel, sardines, flaxseeds, avocados, and chia seeds.

Foods high omega-3 fatty acids not only reduce inflammation, but also support brain health.  Incorporating foods that have higher choline levels, such as eggs (especially duck eggs) can help with mitochondria support and cell membrane repair.

Increasing antioxidants through fruits and vegetables can combat inflammation and support overall well-being. Berries are rich in polyphenols that have neuroprotective effects, potentially aiding in symptom management for those with PANS/PANDAS.

Almonds with Milk - A possible PANS/PANDAS dietary restriction

2. Exploring Gluten and Dairy Sensitivities With The PANS/PANDAS Diet

Research has shown that some individuals with PANS/PANDAS may have sensitivities to gluten and/or dairy products. Gluten, a protein found in wheat and related grains, and dairy containing casein and lactose, can cause immune responses in susceptible individuals.

These immune responses may lead to increased inflammation and worsen neuropsychiatric symptoms. Considering a gluten-free and dairy-free diet may be beneficial to assess whether eliminating these elements can lead to improvements in the individual’s condition.

At The Lyme Specialist we can run specific tests to clarify if gluten and dairy are potential inflammatory factors for each person and how well the body digests these products.

3. Prioritizing Gut Health and Selecting the Right Probiotics and/or Prebiotics

Maintaining a healthy gut microbiome is crucial for individuals following the PANS/PANDAS diet. It can significantly impact the immune system and overall health. Probiotics, which are live beneficial bacteria, can help improve gut health by restoring the balance of good bacteria in the digestive system, especially if the individual is battling a condition known as leaky gut.

However, sometimes children with PANS/PANDAS can have a gut condition known as SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), and certain probiotics or fermented foods that we would think would be beneficial for the gut, can flare up symptoms. 

Testing the gut with a GI MAP test through Diagnostic Solutions Laboratory or Genova Diagnostics Laboratory can help navigate what specifically is going on in the gut microbiome.  The tests covers good and bad bacteria, opportunistic infections, parasites, and candida. 

It also includes markers to look into leaky gut, inflammation, gluten intolerances, and markers that could be indicative of SIBO or MCAS (mast cell activation syndrome) which can go hand in hand with autoimmune conditions. Running a Trio Smart SIBO Breath test can be beneficial as well to see if a low FODMAP diet may be helpful when looking at the diet.

Mom and son preparing food for PANS/PANDAS diet

4. Identifying and Avoiding Trigger Foods

Individuals with PANS/PANDAS may experience an influx of symptoms when exposed to certain trigger foods. While trigger foods can vary from person to person, common culprits include artificial additives, preservatives, and high-sugar or processed foods.

Keeping a food diary and tracking symptom flare-ups can help identify potential trigger foods. Eliminating or reducing the intake of these foods may lead to improvements in symptom management and overall well-being.

5. Emphasizing Nutrient-Dense Foods

A well-balanced and nutrient-dense diet is essential for individuals with PANS/PANDAS. Lean proteins, such as chicken, turkey, and tofu, provide essential amino acids necessary for various bodily functions. Whole grains like quinoa and brown rice offer complex carbohydrates and fiber, providing sustained energy and supporting digestive health.

A variety of fruits and vegetables ensure an adequate intake of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and fiber to support overall immune function and bowel movements.  It is crucial to add in foods that will help move an individual’s bowels, as that also rid the body of toxins that likely are also contributing to inflammatory symptoms.

Certain nutrients like vitamin D, B vitamins, zinc, and magnesium are particularly important for individuals with autoimmune conditions. These nutrients play essential roles in immune regulation, neurotransmitter function, and cellular processes.

In addition to foods rich in these nutrients,  considering supplements, if needed, can be beneficial for managing symptoms and supporting overall health.

6. Hydration and Its Importance For The PANS/PANDAS Diet

Proper hydration is often overlooked but plays a significant role in maintaining overall health. Staying hydrated helps flush out toxins from the body and supports immune function. For individuals with PANS/PANDAS, adequate hydration may help reduce the burden on the body’s systems and contribute to better symptom management.

We encourage individuals to drink an adequate amount of water throughout the day and limit sugary beverages, which can contribute to inflammation. Incorporating liquid minerals and electrolytes in certain drinks and smoothies can also help the body stay balanced.

Child hydrating for PANS/PANDAS diet

7. Mindful Eating and Stress Reduction

Stress can exacerbate symptoms in individuals with PANS/PANDAS. Encouraging mindful eating practices and stress reduction techniques can be beneficial for overall well-being. Mindful eating involves paying attention to the taste, texture, and aroma of food while eating slowly and savoring each bite.

This practice can help improve digestion and reduce gastrointestinal discomfort.  Additionally, stress reduction techniques, such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, and spending time in nature, can help manage stress levels.

Chronic stress can impact the immune system negatively, making stress management crucial for individuals with PANS/PANDAS.

Find Relief With PANS/PANDAS Diet

The diet of individuals with PANS/PANDAS should be approached with careful consideration of their unique needs and sensitivities. While diet is only one piece of the puzzle for this condition, making conscious choices about the foods they consume can play a role in symptom management and overall health improvement.

A balanced diet that emphasizes anti-inflammatory foods, supports gut health, and addresses potential sensitivities can complement medical treatments and contribute to a better quality of life for those living with PANS/PANDAS.

With proper dietary support, individuals with PANS/PANDAS can optimize their overall well-being and potentially find relief from some of the neuropsychiatric symptoms associated with this challenging condition.

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