Autism and Children’s Nutrition

Autism is a rapidly increasing epidemic, and although treatment is a long and complex process, the elements that cause it are surprisingly simple. The rates of Autism have dramatically increased – far in excess of United States historic population demographics. In California alone, it has escalated almost 300% from 1987 to 1998 (Byrd, 2002). It is widely accepted that one in 150 children are diagnosed with Autism annually. However, in some areas like Los Angeles’ South Bay where I live and practice, the ratio is an alarming one in 65. Local resource centers report overwhelming numbers of alarmed parents bringing newly-diagnosed children in for treatment.

Most traditional medical practitioners define Autism as a psychiatric disorder. The DSM-IV (the authoritative reference manual for psychiatric disorders) lists the criteria they use as a guide for an effective diagnosis. While much of that criteria matches part of the clinical picture, many forward-thinking health experts believe that Autism Spectrum Disorders are far more complex and increasing acceptance that it is a physical disorder and not just a psychiatric one.

Experts who use a more holistic approach to Autism diagnosis and treatment believe that Autism is “not a psychiatric or psychological disorder. It is a set of biochemical imbalances that create neurological/neurotransmitter imbalances, which result in psychological (social and behavioral) symptoms as well as physical symptoms," (Julie Mathews CNC 2007)

The late Dr. Bernard Rimland, who, back in the 1960’s, recognized Autism as a biological disorder rather than the widely accepted hypothesis that his son’s Autism was a result of his wife being “a cold mother." In light of that personally negative conclusion, it gave him the incentive to prove them wrong and made it his life’s work to establish there was a biochemical reason for Autism – and that the puzzling array of symptoms and conditions of his son would one day be unraveled and healed through Dr. Rimland’s protocol. His first book “Infantile Autism" helped set the path toward understanding and healing Autism.

While many traditional physicians were recommending parents put their children in institutions for the developmentally or psychologically disabled, his studies on Autistic children and nutrition were a revelation. He studied the effects of diet and certain nutrients like B6, B12 and magnesium on the symptoms. His startling findings indicated the importance of diet and nutrition in healing Autism. Utilizing pioneer biomedical treatment, Dr. Rimland paved the way for other researchers to look at Autism as a disorder of imbalanced biochemistry, requiring a biomedical approach for successful treatment.

Subsequent biomedical treatment for Autism as outlined in DAN! (Defeat Autism Now) literature and its training syllabus, includes several components, each of which may or may not be applicable to any specific child. Every case is unique, although several consistencies can exist from child to child.

Toxins like mercury from dental amalgams in the mother or affected child, or mercury and other toxins from vaccines, aluminum, pesticides or other environmental toxins from fireproof bedding and pajamas as well as exposure to bedroom carpeting and paint since infancy are often a part of the puzzle. Food additives, artificial colors and flavors, MSG and other excitatory neurotoxins may also play a part. Poor liver function (also called disordered methylation) also contributes to the inability to clear toxins efficiently from the victim’s body like most children. Toxins from all these environmentals and food products can be a big factor for one child contracting Autism while another may not.

Another significant toxin is Candida, a pathogenic yeast usually found in the intestinal tract. Passed from the mother to child, it is caused by an overuse of antibiotics. After birth, it may then be exacerbated with a high sugar diet, triggering the body’s natural cyclical blood sugar response from excessive sugar cravings. While Candida is not considered a root cause of Autism, it definitely increases symptoms and degrades the quality life in an Autistic child. It must be managed if healing is to occur.

Toxic overload correlates to nutrition since nutrients are needed to assist the body in filtering and eliminating the toxins. If a child is low on nutrients and consumes foods the body recognizes as toxic, the nervous and neurological systems go on overload. Many of the symptoms we see in Autism are due to this inability of the body to handle toxins coming from both inside and outside the body.

Food plays an important role in Autism. Many children with Autism are allergic to certain foods and their molecules. Many therapeutic diets have proven successful in alleviating the symptoms of Autism. Each child’s healing diet is different and recognizing this with a good practitioner experienced with DAN! or other biomedical approaches can be a revelation. One of the most commonly used diets is the Gluten Free Casein Free Diet, which removes Gluten (a protein found in wheat. rye, barley and most oats) and Casein (a protein found in dairy and in high amounts in cheese). Many people and even a higher percentage of those afflicted with Autism are allergic, sensitive or intolerant to these foods. This is the starting point for most elimination diets done in my office with children and adults unless we begin direct testing right away. With testing, a practitioner may keep the patient on the offending foods until that process is completed in order to obtain more accurate results.

In addition to the GFCF diet, other diets include SCD Specific Carbohydrate Diet, The Body Ecology or Yeast Fighting Diet, the Weston A Price Diet, a food sensitivity and elimination/rotation diet, the Feingold Diet (also known as Phenol Protocol), the Yeast free diets, the Paleolithic diet and the Low Oxalate diet. There are considerably more available, including custom ones designed by individual practitioners. Finding the correct diet as well as discovering and removing toxins – and ultimately improving the person’s ability to handle toxins – go a long way toward healing Autism symptoms.

Nutrient deficiencies and imbalances are substantial elements of the Autism puzzle. Children with Autism generally exhibit a significant nutritional imbalance. Everything from B-vitamins (as found in Dr. Rimland’s studies) to amino acids, essential fatty acids, digestive enzymes, and many other vitamins and minerals must be tested and brought into alignment each individual’s unique body needs.

Nutritional testing for Autism is a large part of the puzzle and an invaluable tool in supporting recovery. Testing encompasses nutrient deficiencies, food allergies and sensitivities, stool and urine organic acid testing (for problems with digestion and elimination). Also brain fatty acid levels and ratios, amino acid levels, absorption and assimilation of nutrients, fungal, microbial, parasitic or other infections as well as liver function and detoxification capabilities should all be done initially to discern where the imbalances are.

I recommend the help of a nutritionist and/or doctor experienced with the aforementioned testing protocols coupled with proper diet and supplements for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders. Many physicians do not ask specifically about diet or supplements, so it is important to let them know about nutritional interventions. Be careful not to take a lack of information on the part of the doctor for a reason not to seek out nutritional interventions for children with Autism. For more information please call (310-503-0592) or email Juli Keene, CN [email protected]

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