Unraveling the Relationship Between Glutamates and Amines in Oppositional Defiant Behavior (ODD)

Unraveling the Relationship Between Glutamates and Amines in Oppositional Defiant Behavior (ODD)

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Oppositional Defiant Disorder (ODD) is a challenging behavioral condition characterized by a recurrent pattern of defiance, hostility, and disobedience towards their teachers, parents and authority figures. While the precise causes of ODD remain elusive, emerging research suggests a potential link between neurotransmitter imbalances, particularly involving glutamates and amines, and the manifestation of oppositional defiant behaviors. These are found in many common foods.

Most parents have never noticed an effect of food. A few children ‘go ballistic’ soon after eating food colours but for most families, the effects of food chemicals creep up, unnoticed. What most people see is this:

  • Food chemicals can build up gradually, resulting in good days and bad days with no obvious cause
  • When a child eats fast food or spaghetti, he or she might be irritable or have a bad day at school the next day or the day after.
  • Not everyone reacts to the same food chemicals.
  • Some natural “healthy” foods can be a problem.
  • Some families are more sensitive than others.

Understanding Glutamates and Amines:

Glutamate is the most abundant excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain, playing a pivotal role in various cognitive functions, including learning, memory, and emotional regulation. On the other hand, amines, such as serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, are neurotransmitters known for their roles in mood regulation, reward processing, and impulse control.

The Neurochemical Imbalance Hypothesis:

Recent studies have proposed the neurochemical imbalance hypothesis, suggesting that disruptions in glutamate and amine signaling pathways may contribute to the development and persistence of oppositional defiant behaviors. Dysregulation of glutamatergic transmission has been implicated in impulsive aggression and emotional dysregulation, which are hallmark features of ODD.

Furthermore, alterations in amine neurotransmitter systems, particularly serotonin and dopamine, have been associated with deficits in inhibitory control, emotional instability, and reward processing abnormalities—all of which are commonly observed in individuals with ODD.

The Role of Glutamates in ODD:

Glutamate dysregulation has been linked to various psychiatric disorders, including mood disorders, anxiety disorders, and impulse control disorders. In the context of ODD, aberrant glutamatergic neurotransmission may disrupt the balance between excitatory and inhibitory signaling pathways, leading to heightened reactivity to perceived threats, reduced impulse control, and impaired emotional regulation.

Moreover, alterations in glutamate receptor expression and function, particularly within brain regions implicated in emotional processing and impulse control, may underlie the persistent defiance and aggression observed in individuals with ODD.

Glutamate can also cause other health problems such as high blood pressure, headaches, obesity, diabetes, fertility problems and even cancer.

Monosodium glutamate (MSG) is the sodium salt of glutamic acid and is a common food additive. MSG is made from fermented starch or sugar and is used to enhance the flavor of savory sauces, salad dressings, and soups.

Both natural glutamate and monosodium glutamate are metabolized in the body using the same processes. Even though glutamate exists naturally in the body and in healthy foods, if a child has ODD this will need to be explored further and avoiding foods that could exacerbate or trigger ODD type behaviors.

Foods highest in glutatame include the following:

Cheese You will find the highest levels of glutamate in parmesan and Roquefort cheeses. 

Asian Sauces Soy sauce, fish sauce, and oyster sauce all have very high levels of glutamate. Soy is naturally high in glutamate, and soy-based sauces will have concentrated levels of the compound. 

Nuts Walnuts, cashews and peanuts contain high amounts of glutamate compared to other nuts

Processed Meats Cured ham, either canned, frozen, or at the deli counter, should be avoided if you are worried about glutamate. 

Tomatoes Fresh tomatoes, tomato sauce, tomato juice, tomato soup, and tomato-based dishes as well. 

Grape Juice Grape juice contains moderate levels of glutamate. 

Seafood Some fish, like anchovies, have moderate amounts of glutamate and scallops and oysters also contain glutamate.

Mushrooms Dried shiitake mushrooms are very high in glutamate and white button mushrooms contain much less, but those trying to eliminate glutamate from their diets should skip the mushrooms altogether.

Peas Compared to most other vegetables, peas contain more glutamate. If you must indulge, keep your portion size small to avoid overconsumption of glutamate.

Starchy Vegetables Corn and potatoes contain relatively low amounts of glutamate, but may be problematic for some people. 

Processed foods such as Pringles, Chinese foods, instant noodles and canned soups. So check the labels when purchasing

Artificial sweeteners such as aspartame is high in glutamate


The Influence of Amines on ODD:

Serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine play crucial roles in modulating mood, behavior, and cognitive functions. Dysregulation of these amine neurotransmitter systems has been implicated in various psychiatric disorders characterized by impulsive and aggressive behaviors, including ODD.

Serotonin, often referred to as the “feel-good” neurotransmitter, regulates mood, impulsivity, and aggression. Reduced serotonin levels or dysfunction in serotonin receptors have been associated with increased aggression and irritability, traits commonly observed in individuals with ODD.

Dopamine, known for its role in reward processing and motivation, has also been implicated in ODD. Dysregulated dopamine signaling may contribute to deficits in reward processing, leading individuals with ODD to seek gratification through oppositional and defiant behaviors.

Norepinephrine, regulates arousal, attention, and stress responses. Dysregulation of norepinephrine levels or signaling pathways may exacerbate emotional dysregulation and impulsive aggression in individuals with ODD.

Foods high in amines include: aged cheeses (e.g., cheddar, parmesan), processed or cured meats (e.g., salami, pepperoni), soy sauce, tomato-based products (e.g., tomato sauce, ketchup), spinach, avocado, eggplant, canned or smoked fish (e.g., tuna, mackerel), fermented foods (e.g., sauerkraut, kimchi), yeast extract (e.g., Marmite, Vegemite), vinegar and vinegar-containing foods (e.g., pickles), chocolate, strawberries, pineapples and certain nuts (e.g., walnuts, peanuts)

What’s more, browning, grilling, charring and overcooking food can also increase amine levels

Implications for Treatment and Future Directions:

Understanding the neurochemical underpinnings of ODD, particularly involving glutamates and amines, holds promise for the development of targeted interventions. 

In conclusion, the interplay between glutamates and amines in the pathophysiology of oppositional defiant behavior represents a complex yet promising avenue for research and therapeutic development. By unraveling the neurochemical underpinnings of ODD, we may pave the way for more effective interventions and improved outcomes for individuals affected by this challenging disorder.

The SAG diet has been developed to address Oppositional Defiant behavior and this includes a combination of low salicylates, amines and glutamates. For more information on this please check out this article.

For more information on nutrition strategies to help manage  your child’s aggressive behavior check out our other article on 4 nutrition strategies to manage Oppositional Defiant Behavior.

If you would like to book a consult with one of her clinicians with training in SAG diet and ODD please click here.




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As the name implies, these diets remove salicylates, amines and glutamates for the die . It is common for people with compromised biochemistry function (particularly a detoxification pathway called sulfation) to have food intolerances to salicylates, amines and glutamates. Conditions associated with poor sulfation include ADHD, autism, microbiome imbalance, or autoimmune conditions such as lupus. As the name implies, this diet remove salicylates, amines and glutamates for the diet.

BioIndividual Nutrition Institute created the Low Salicylate, Amine and Glutamate (Low SAG) Diet based an amalgamation of multiple diets, research, and clinical experience. These diets remove the natural food chemicals that overwhelm certain people’s systems and cause symptoms.


A low SAG diet may assist children that have Autism that experience these common symptoms:

  • Hyperactivity
  • Red cheeks and ears
  • Irritability
  • Defiant behavior
  • Self injury
  • Aggression
  • Sleeping issues – night waking or terrors
  • Skin rashes
  • Respiratory issues
  • Diarrhea
  • Cries easily
  • Bedwetting
  • Urinary urge/ incontinence
  • Other indications for this diet include cravings for high salicylate, amine, or glutamate foods, or reactions to these foods

Poor sulfation causes difficulties metabolizing and detoxifying these natural food chemicals and can result in a variety of physical, neurological and behavioral symptoms. This diet removes/minimizes foods that are most difficult for a person with these biochemical imbalances to process. It reduces the burden on the body and decreases, and often eliminates, symptoms.

When nutrients are replenished and other contributors like microbiome are balanced, the food tolerances often improve. Working with a practitioner can help address supplementation and lifestyle factors.


To implement a low SAG diet, certain foods are eliminated (or limited), typically short term for 3-6 weeks, then tested back. During the elimination phase, observe and record any change or improvement in symptoms, until ready to start testing back foods, by category, to determine tolerance or intolerance.

Testing back phases can vary. Some strategies add multiple servings of very high foods per day for one week, adding large amounts to make a reaction more obvious. Others use a more subtle approach, as they are highly sensitive and/or suspect these food intolerances, and are attempting to determine personal threshold. Even if quite restrictive at the start, it is not intended to stay that way, unless someone is truly sensitive. The objective is to re-introduce as many foods as possible back to ensure a balanced and healthy diet. Work with a nutrition practitioner for help.

If you want to explore implementing this diet with you child please give us a call we would love to help in the meantime if you want a SAG meal option check out our Cashew Butter Pancakes or our Banana Coconut Ice Cream

At Koru the best clinicians to book an appointment to explore implementing the SAG diet would be Thera Ip and Kylie James (both have experience in working with children on the spectrum).

Kylie James is a registered OT and a certified nutritionist as well as completed her Individual nutrition training in the states. Thera Ip is not only a nutritionist but also is a homeopath which provides a gentle motality that can help kids on the spectrum. Thera also has a child on the spectrum.

To book with one of them please go to our online booking page.

How to Prevent, Reduce and Manage Migraines

How to Prevent, Reduce and Manage Migraines

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Migraines affect millions worldwide, disrupting daily life with throbbing headaches, sensitivity to light and sound, and nausea. While medications can help manage symptoms, nutrition and supplements offer a complementary approach to alleviate migraines and possibly reduce their frequency and intensity. Understanding the role of certain nutrients and supplements can empower individuals to adopt holistic strategies for managing this debilitating condition.

Nutrition Recommendations:

  1. Hydration: According to the American Migraine Foundation, about a third of people with migraine report dehydration as a migraine trigger. Optimal hydration, achieved through regular water intake, can help prevent headaches. Aim for at least 8-10 glasses of water per day and increase intake during hot weather or intense physical activity.
  2. Balanced Diet: A well-balanced diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats provides essential nutrients that support overall health, including brain function.
  3. Some specific diets that have shown promise in managing migraines include the anti-inflammatory diet, the Mediterranean diet, or the low histamine diet. The National Headache Foundation also suggests trying a low-tyramine diet. It may not be for everyone, but research shows that a keto diet may help reduce migraine attacks compared with a standard diet. This means eating foods that are low in carbohydrates and high in fat, like seafood, non-starchy vegetables, and eggs. For more information on any of these diets please reach out to us at Koru we are happy to help you minimize your migraines.
  4. Balance blood sugars: Avoid skipping meals, as irregular eating patterns can trigger migraines in susceptible individuals. Food cravings and hunger may be the real root of the trigger. When people have food cravings due to low blood sugar, by the time they eat something, it’s often too late — a migraine attack may already be coming.
  5. Identify Food allergies and sensitivities: Foods that you may be sensitive to can trigger headaches and migraines and should be avoided. This can subtle and sometimes hard to detect so the best way to see if this is an issue for you is to complete the food elimination diet or complete food allergy testing with your health practitioner. If you would like to get this tested please reach out to us and we can book you in with one of our naturopath doctors.
  6. Magnesium: Magnesium deficiency has been linked to migraines. Incorporate magnesium-rich foods such as almonds, spinach, avocado, and legumes into your diet. Alternatively, consider magnesium supplements under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Ideally magnesium threonate as this crosses the blood brain barrier. Designs for Health has Neuromag which we have seen great results with managing migraines and headaches. To get this supplement please go to our online dispensary.
  7. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2): Studies suggest that riboflavin supplementation may reduce the frequency and severity of migraines. Good food sources include dairy products, eggs, lean meats, nuts, and leafy green vegetables.
  8. Omega-3 Fatty Acids: Found in fatty fish like salmon, walnuts, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, omega-3 fatty acids possess anti-inflammatory properties that may help alleviate migraines. Consider incorporating these foods into your diet regularly.
  9. Coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10): CoQ10, a compound involved in energy production within cells, has shown promise in reducing migraine frequency and severity. Consult with a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate dosage.
  10. Feverfew: Feverfew, an herb belonging to the daisy family, has been used traditionally to prevent migraines. Some studies suggest that feverfew supplements may reduce migraine frequency, although more research is needed to confirm its effectiveness.
  11. Melatonin: Melatonin, a hormone that regulates sleep-wake cycles, may help prevent migraines, particularly in individuals with sleep disorders. Speak to a healthcare provider to determine the appropriate dosage and timing for melatonin supplementation.
  12. Vitamin D: Some research suggests a link between vitamin D deficiency and migraines. While more studies are needed to establish a definitive connection, maintaining adequate vitamin D levels through supplementation or sensible sun exposure may be beneficial for overall health.
  13. Lavendar essential oil: A 2016 randomized controlled study found evidence that 3 months of lavender therapy as a prophylactic therapy, meaning taken before a migraine attack begins, reduced frequency and severity of migraine attacks. However, research is still limited.To purchase any of these supplements please go to our online dispensary.

Conclusion: While nutrition and supplements can complement conventional migraine treatments, it’s essential to approach their use with caution and under the guidance of a healthcare provider. Individual responses to dietary changes and supplements vary, and what works for one person may not be effective for another. Additionally, addressing lifestyle factors such as stress management, adequate sleep, and regular exercise is crucial for comprehensive migraine management. By adopting a holistic approach that incorporates nutrition, supplements, and lifestyle modifications, individuals can take proactive steps towards managing migraines and improving their overall quality of life.

The Sweet Science: Unwrapping the Health Benefits of Chocolate

The Sweet Science: Unwrapping the Health Benefits of Chocolate

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Chocolate, often considered a delectable treat and indulgence, has been enjoyed for centuries. Beyond its irresistible taste, numerous studies suggest that chocolate, especially dark chocolate, comes with a host of health benefits that may surprise many. While moderation is key, let’s unwrap the goodness within and explore the various ways chocolate can contribute to our well-being.

Dark chocolate contains a decent amount of soluble fiber and is loaded with minerals. Chocolate, especially dark chocolate, is a good source of essential minerals such as magnesium, copper, and iron. Magnesium is crucial for muscle and nerve function, copper supports the formation of red blood cells, and iron is essential for oxygen transport in the body needed for energy. Including chocolate in a balanced diet can contribute to meeting the body’s mineral requirements.

A 100-gram bar of dark chocolate with 70–85% cocoa contains

  • 11 grams of fiber
  • 66% of the DV for iron
  • 57% of the DV for magnesium
  • 196% of the DV for copper
  • 85% of the DV for manganese
  • In addition, it has plenty of potassium, phosphorus, zinc, and selenium.

Of course, 100 grams (3.5 ounces) is a fairly large amount and not something you should be consuming daily but this does give you some idea of what nutrients go into these dark delectables. 

1. Rich in Antioxidants:

Chocolate, particularly dark chocolate, is a potent source of antioxidants. These compounds help combat oxidative stress in the body, neutralizing free radicals and reducing the risk of chronic diseases. The presence of flavonoids in cocoa, a key component of chocolate, has been linked to improved heart health and a reduced risk of cardiovascular issues. One study showed that cocoa and dark chocolate had more antioxidant activity, polyphenols, and flavanols than any other fruits tested, which included blueberries and acai berries (1)

2. Heart Health:

Several studies have shown that moderate consumption of dark chocolate may contribute to heart health. Dark chocolate has been associated with improvements in blood flow, reduced blood pressure, and enhanced cholesterol levels. (2) Flavonoids in chocolate are believed to have a positive impact on endothelial function, promoting healthy blood vessels and reducing the risk of heart disease. These include polyphenols, flavanols and catechins, among others. According to research, the polyphenols in dark chocolate may help lower some forms of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol when combined with other foods like almonds and cocoa, which makes sense as who doesn’t love dark chocolate covered almonds. (3) 

A review of studies revealed that eating chocolate 3 times per week lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease by 9%. (4) 

3. Mood Enhancement:

Chocolate contains various compounds that stimulate the production of endorphins, the “feel-good” hormones in the brain. Additionally, chocolate contains a small amount of caffeine, which can provide a mild energy boost and enhance alertness. Phenylethylamine, another compound found in chocolate, is believed to mimic the mood-enhancing effects of endorphins and may contribute to an improved sense of love and well being. In one large study of 13,000 people, those who ate dark chocolate in the previous 24 hours were 70% less likely to report depression. And it didn’t take much, just 12 grams of dark chocolate was enough to elicit this effect. That’s just 2 or 3 of these treats! (5) 

4. Brain Function:

Cocoa, a primary ingredient in chocolate, contains flavonoids that may have neuroprotective effects. Research suggests that regular consumption of chocolate may improve cognitive function and protect against age-related decline. (6)  Cocoa contains stimulant substances like caffeine and theobromine, which may be a key reason why it can improve brain function including enhanced memory, attention, and problem-solving skills.  (7) Studies show that eating high flavanol cocoa can improve blood flow to the brain in young adults. This may explain why eating cocoa daily appears to improve attention, verbal learning, and memory. (8) 

5. Stress Reduction:

Consuming chocolate may have stress-relieving effects. The combination of compounds like serotonin precursors, theobromine, and magnesium can contribute to relaxation and reduced stress levels. While chocolate is not a cure for stress, it can be a delightful and comforting treat that provides a momentary sense of relaxation.

Want a nice chocolate treat? 

You can just consume a coupe of pieces of dark chocolate 75% or more each day, grate it on your yogurt or oatmeal, or include it in your trail mix. But for some more options check out our chocolate almond butter cup or chocolate coffee shake recipes.  

While it’s important to consume chocolate in moderation, the health benefits associated with its consumption, especially dark chocolate, are increasingly supported by scientific research. From heart health to mood enhancement and cognitive function, chocolate contains a rich blend of compounds that can contribute positively to our overall well-being. So, the next time you savor a piece of chocolate, know that you may be indulging in more than just a delightful treat – you’re unwrapping a host of potential health benefits.


  1. https://bmcchem.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1752-153X-5-5
  2. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22301923/
  3. https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/10.1161/jaha.116.005162#d3e3715
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5537803/
  5. https://www.psychiatrictimes.com/view/dark-chocolate-depression
  6. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6571795/
  7. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4335269/
  8. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7760676/
Delightful Bites for the Holidays: Best Healthy Christmas Appetizers to Impress Your Guests

Delightful Bites for the Holidays: Best Healthy Christmas Appetizers to Impress Your Guests

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‘Tis the season to indulge in festive flavors and share the joy of the holidays with family and friends. As you prepare for Christmas gatherings, don’t overlook the importance of delightful appetizers to kickstart the celebration. You can still be festive and fancy with healthy foods and avoid the carb heavy, sugar rich, fat loaded appetizers. Elevate your holiday entertaining with these mouthwatering visually appealing Christmas appetizers that are sure to leave a lasting impression on your guests with out requiring your pants to be loosened.

1. Shrimp Cocktail Christmas Trees: Ingredients: Large shrimp, cocktail sauce, and fresh rosemary

Take the classic shrimp cocktail to the next level by presenting it in the form of a festive Christmas tree. Arrange cooked shrimp on a platter in the shape of a tree, using fresh rosemary sprigs as branches. Serve with tangy cocktail sauce for a visually stunning and delicious appetizer.

2. Cranberry and Goat Cheese Crostini: Ingredients: pumpernickel or rye bread, goat cheese,
cranberry sauce, and fresh thyme and more.

Craft an elegant and flavorful appetizer by using creamy goat cheese and switch out the typical refined white baguettes and use toasted pumpernickel or rye bread. Top them with a spoonful of cranberry sauce. Garnish with fresh thyme for a burst of holiday color and taste. You could do other flavours such as strawberries and mint, grilled portobello mushrooms and thyme, grilled peppers and parsley, smoked salmon and dill or avocado and cilantro. Your tray will be colorful, flavourful and a great way to sneak in those vegetables when they are least expecting it.

3. Caprese Skewers with a Twist: Ingredients: Cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, basil leaves,
balsamic glaze.

Give the classic Caprese salad a festive twist by threading cherry tomatoes, fresh mozzarella balls, and basil leaves onto skewers. Drizzle with balsamic glaze for a pop of flavor and a visually appealing appetizer that’s easy to enjoy.

4. Cheese and vegetable platter: Chesses, vegetables (carrots, broccoli, grape tomatoes, peppers),
olives, hummus, Tzatziki, cut up fruit.

This can be a great way to get your healthy foods out there when trying to look indulgent. Create a cheese platter but keep the cheese to a minimum and focus on fresh, cut up vegetables and berries for a great pop of colours. Use hummus and tzatziki as healthy dips. You can even arrange your vegetables in the shape of a Christmas tree and use the other vegetables as Christmas decorations. Don’t forget to add in olives for those good fats and you can even cut up cucumbers to use as a “cracker base” as a healthy alternative to crackers and breads.

This Christmas, set the stage for a memorable celebration with appetizers that are as visually stunning as they are delicious and healthy. From the classic elegance of Cranberry, and goat cheese crostini to the playful presentation of Shrimp Cocktail Christmas Trees, these appetizers will add a touch of magic to your holiday festivities.