One does not typically think of the word “balance” when considering autism, however, balance is exactly what we are trying to achieve within the body of an autistic child. In Part 1 of this article, found in the October issue of CoSozo Living, I focused on a cutting edge diagnostic process for individuals with the diagnosis of autism or autism spectrum disorders. This article focuses on the biomedical treatments for the disorders. There are four broad components of the healing program for autism and autism spectrum disorders which are:
- Nutritional Therapy
- Supplementation Therapy
- Detoxification Therapy
- Medication Therapy
Virtually all children or adults who begin the healing program must make significant dietary changes. Dietary factors invariably play a major role in autism and autistic spectrum disorder. Specific tests, such as the Organic Acid Test or Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis Test, may guide the nutritional therapy approach. These tests help to reveal evidence of yeast or bacterial overgrowth, along with digestive problems including a lack of stomach or other digestive enzymes.
There is no single, one-size-fits-all dietary change within the healing program. The specific diet must be carefully individualized. There are typically six basic dietary eating plans that comprise the basis of nutritional therapy. I have chosen not to call these “diets” as they really are plans designed to change your eating for a prolonged period of time - often for the rest of your life. The six eating plans are:
- The Gluten-Free, Casein-Free (GF/CF) Eating Plan
- The Specific Food Reaction Eating Plan
- The Chronic Eating Plan
- The Hypoglycemic Eating Plan
- The Specific Carbohydrate Eating Plan
- The Low Oxalate Eating Plan
As a rule, the various eating plans are implemented one at a time. Typically the Gluten-Free, Casein-Free eating plan is started, followed by The Specific Food Reaction Eating Plan and so forth. Implementing the eating plans individually and sequentially enables the evaluation of each of the eating plans on behaviors and symptoms to determine the child’s specific needs.
It is important for parents to be patient, consistent, and firm with dietary changes. You will need to learn and trust your child’s body as it reacts to changes. As your child’s metabolism becomes more stable, you will likely see improvements. Changes in behavior may occur almost immediately although it may take 3-6 months to see complete changes.
The GF/CF Eating Plan is perhaps the most challenging of the eating plans. It can be very difficult to ask your son or daughter to stop eating gluten (wheat/grains) or casein (milk). But there are alternatives and the importance of making dietary changes can not be overstated - this one element of dietary intervention has consistently resulted in remarkable effects. In my experience, at least 60 percent of children with autism improve on the GF/CF eating plan. This eating plan also helps with children who have AD(H)D and asthma.
It is not unusual to see major improvements in symptoms within a relatively short period of time after starting the GF/CF eating plan. The symptoms that improve most often include poor language skills, bowel disorders, mood disorders, hyperactive behavior, skin problems (particularly eczema), insomnia, fatigue, cognitive disorders, and various metabolic disorders.
There is a tremendous amount of information available on each of these eating plans. (If you are interested in more information on each of the eating plans, the Wycoff Wellness Center has additional documentation.) It can seem overwhelming but most of it is common sense. For the most part, it’s the same basic advice your own mother probably gave you: Eat your fruit and vegetables, go easy on sweets, keep the junk food to a minimum, eat enough protein, and if certain foods do not agree with you, don’t eat them. Moms always know what is best!
It can be difficult for parents to enforce these foods restrictions, particularly at first. However, there is nothing singularly more important that you can do to support the healing of your autistic child. The final word is that dietary changes turn lives around.
The next step in the healing program is nutritional supplementation. Nutritional supplements have consistently contributed to recovery of children with autism, autism spectrum disorders, and AD(H)D.
Supplements, consisting of vitamins, minerals, amino acids, essential fatty acids, enzymes, and herbal preparations, contribute to recovery in ways that other modalities simply cannot. They are uniquely beneficial in overcoming nutrient deficiencies and they have an unmatched power to trigger various metabolic healing processes. Each individual is unique and requires individualized levels of various nutrients, which are capably supported by the use of supplements. All supplement treatments are guided by individualized testing.
Autistic children have an astonishing array of nutritional deficiencies and dependencies, as well as some in excess. These deficiencies and dependencies almost always contribute to their symptoms. Overcoming the deficiencies and dependencies invariably requires supplements. The excesses can also be ameliorated, or balanced, using the correct supplements.
Among the deficiencies most commonly seen in autistic children are:
- Vitamin B-12
- Vitamin B-6
- Essential fatty acids
- Vitamin D
- Vitamin E
- Vitamin A
Children with autism and AD(H)D have elevated needs for these key nutrients. These heightened needs require full-scale, comprehensive nutritional and supplementation therapy – not just a wholesome eating plan. These kids need more than the minimum daily requirements. Supplements are typically given in tiers. Each tier is typically followed in a sequential basis.
Tier One supplements include a good multivitamin/mineral supplement, zinc, magnesium, essential fatty acids (Omega 3’s) and probiotics. These are the foundational supplements that nearly all autism treatment plans are built upon.
Tier Two supplements include digestive enzymes, Vitamins B-6, B-12, D, Co-Q10, iron, and selenium. Not all patients will require all of these supplements.
Tier Three supplements are more specialized supplements that only certain patients will require. The supplements tend to promote detoxification and include supplements such as N-acetyl-carnitine, Silymarin, 5-HTP, DMAE, SAMe, and Phosphatidylcholine.
It is common to give a specific patient all of the Tier One supplements and a number of Tier Two and Tier Three supplements. They may be taken in various combinations and are guided by three fundamental clinical issues:
- Deficiencies – as established by laboratory testing and by symptoms.
- Therapeutic goals – such as the restoration of methylation, relieving hyperactivity, or increasing cognitive function.
- Responses of the patient, either positive or negative.
Toxins, more than any other single, isolated element, appear to be the primary root cause of autism and autism spectrum disorders. Specifically, toxic heavy metals and environmental chemicals are the two most destructive contributors to the epidemics of autism and allergies.
Adequate detoxification starts in the gastrointestinal (GI) system. This is the first and most important way the body can deal with the massive insult of toxins we are confronted with daily. Improving your child’s diet and establishing a healthy GI flora with probiotics is essential to improving detoxification.
Identifying food allergies with the appropriate testing and eliminating these allergic foods is critical. Therapies such as sublingual allergy drops or Low Dose Allergy (LDA) Immunotherapy can result in marked improvement in the body’s ability to handle allergies and improve GI health.
Adequate nutrition and appropriate supplementation will assist in the body’s ability to detoxify. If you have implemented the first two steps of this healing program, you have established the foundation to improve detoxification. Without the correct nutrition and supplementation, there will be no healing - your child must have these basic components.
Chelation therapy is the most powerful and reliable biomedical method of removing heavy metals, including mercury, from the system. Chelation is a procedure in which a patient is given a medication that binds to heavy metals and helps the body excrete them. (For additional information, please refer to the September issue of CoSozo Living.)
Chelation therapy has been successfully applied to thousands of children on the autism spectrum under the supervision of DAN trained physicians. The results have been gratifying and promising. The Autism Research Institute (ARI) with the help of parent evaluations reveals the following degrees of improvement:
- Symptoms improved: 76 percent
- No discernable effect: 22 percent
- Symptoms worsened: 2 percent
These parent evaluations represent a 38-to-1 ratio of symptom improvement compared to worsening of symptoms. Worsening of symptoms were generally mild and temporary, and most frequently consisted of increased hyperactivity, irritability, and increasing stimming (repetitive body movements). No other single element in the biomedical treatment of autism has been rated this highly or found to be this effective.
A cutting edge treatment emerging for the treatment of autism is hyperbaric oxygen therapy (HBOT). With HBOT the child (often with an adult) spends typically one hour in a hyperbaric chamber. Hyperbaric oxygen has been used for years to treat scuba divers with “the bends,” improve wound healing, and treat head injury patients.
Hyperbaric chambers are now available in portable units and can be placed right into your home under appropriate supervision. Typical one hour treatments, called “dives,” are usually given daily for 30 days to improve detoxification and improve autism behaviors. The precise method that HBOT helps in autism is unknown. It is felt to help reduce inflammation, the root cause of nearly all autistic behaviors. HBOT is another way to increase the body’s ability to detoxify naturally.
Medications are the fourth element of a comprehensive autism spectrum program. Medications can work wonders. Pharmaceutical medications, in particular, can produce fast, robust, and lasting changes. Some practitioners avoid medications in favor of herbal supplements, vitamins, and minerals. I believe that pharmaceutical medications can have extraordinary effects when properly used.
Medications such as antifungals (Diflucan, Sporanox, Nystatin), antibiotics, and antivirals all have a role in treating certain aspects of autism. Medications, such as Naltrexone – an anti-opioid, represent some of the cutting edge treatments available right now for the treatment of autism related disorders.
Medications such as antidepressants, antipsychotic medications, anticonvulsants, and stimulants (ADHD medications) have a role in the comprehensive treatment of autism related disorders. These types of medications can be and are over prescribed. Too often, antidepressant medications are given to kids who don’t really have classic neurotransmitter imbalances.
We must look for the root cause of the symptoms in order to guide the most effective therapy. We often fail to realize the importance of the GI system, food allergies, hypoglycemia, or nutritional deficiencies as potential reasons for the symptoms being evaluated. Often, we find medications employed as biochemical Band-Aids, used to mask symptoms from diverse sources. Our children deserve better!
The journey to improve your child’s health will take time and a commitment from you, your spouse, and all family members. Often, the treatments are not simple but have the potential to offer tremendous improvements.
Every child will be at a different point on the spectrum of disease and has a unique set of needs. Like the millions of pixels that comprise a television image, each person involved is a complicated composite. That’s why there is no single recipe for success and why guiding, educating, and appreciating the child with autism will be a continual work-in-progress. There will be little time for complacency.
The old adage that “there is no shortcut to any place worth going” remains true. But there is the joy of discovery along the journey. The love of your child and your family, made eternal by each new generation undefeated by this epidemic, will guide you on this journey of healing. Let’s start this adventure today!