What Is Autism Spectrum Disorder?
Autism spectrum disorder is a developmental disorder characterized by impairments in sensory, language, social, emotional and behavior areas. It is a “spectrum disorder,” with manifestations ranging from mild to severe.
What Your Doctor May Tell You About Autism
Traditional practitioners believe that autism is a mystery. They may say that, “We have little knowledge of possible causes, and that treatments should address impairments in the processing of touch, movement, audition and vision, speech, language, and behavior. Accompanying physical issues such as allergies, breathing problems, gastrointestinal issues, and others are unrelated to the diagnosis.”
Another Way to Think About Autism
Autism spectrum disorder is a multi-system developmental disorder caused by an accumulation of environmental stressors turning on a genetically susceptible predisposition to the condition. Just like a bridge that collapses when a heavily laden truck crosses it, the body collapses into autism as the multiple triggers add up. Depending upon the triggers, different systems are affected in each individual, related to his/her bioindividuality.
Autism can be related to:
- Visual processing
- Auditory processing
- Sensory processing
- Retained primitive reflexes
- Food sensitivities and intolerances
- A neurotransmitter imbalance
- Environmental toxins such as lead
- Gut dysbiosis
- Immune dysregulation
The good news is that you can heal the symptoms of autism by rebalancing the body and bringing it back to health. This requires removing the possible triggers from the external and internal environment, and adding necessary nutrients through food and supplementation.
Autism, ADD/ADHD and SPD Comorbidities
Knowledgeable practitioners have found that roughly 30-50% of children with autism, ADD/ADHD and Sensory Processing Disorder (SPD) also have PANS PANDAS. These are newer diagnoses that your child’s pediatrician or psychiatrist may not be aware of. They are disorders that are loosely defined as a sudden onset of acute anxiety and mood variability accompanied by OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder) and/or tics.
PANDAS stands for Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections. With PANDAS, the onset of symptoms is typically preceded by streptococcal -A infection (“strep throat”). However, in some cases, children may not have presented with a full-blown, acute strep throat infection.
PANDAS is included in the larger umbrella of PANS, Pediatric Acute-onset Neuropsychiatric Syndrome. PANS includes not only PANDAS, but also diagnoses such as Lyme disease, OCD and ODD. In addition, it is very common for younger siblings of children diagnosed with autism, ADD/ADHD or Sensory Processing Disorder to be diagnosed themselves with PANS and PANDAS.
If this is the case, consider that your older child may have PANS PANDAS as well. In many cases, these children have both a PANDAS diagnosis as well as that of Lyme disease.
Another way to think of PANS PANDAS, as well as any neurodevelopmental disorder such as autism, ADD/ADHD, Sensory Processing Disorder and even learning disabilities, is that these disorders may fall under the larger umbrella of autoimmune encephalitis (AE). This is a disorder in which the immune system attacks the brain, impairing function.
Encephalitis is inflammation and swelling of the brain, often due to infection, which in many of these cases causes an autoimmune attack on the microglia cells of the brain. A child with this type of damage may typically never have or may lose motor skills and/or the ability to speak, similar to an adult who has had a stroke.
Encephalitis is a common symptom of this type of damage, and it often shows up as an increase in the child’s head-circumference percentile, especially in the first year of life. The prestigious science journal Nature pointed this out by stating that “brain volume overgrowth was linked to the emergence and severity of autistic social deficits.”
Anti-NDMA Receptor Encephalitis
The N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor (also known as the NMDA receptor), is a glutamate receptor found in nerve cells. It is activated when the amino acids glutamate and glycine bind to it. NMDA receptors have been implicated by a number of studies to be strongly involved with excitotoxicity, the process by which nerve cells are damaged or killed by excessive stimulation by neurotransmitters such as glutamate. Excitoxicity can cause encephalopathy and seizures.
Glutamate and its analogs are found in processed foods not only as MSG (monosodium glutatmate), but also in chemical food additives such as:
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Soy protein isolate
- Yeast extract
- Barley malt
- Natural flavoring
- Artificial flavoring
- Soy sauce
Even natural foods such as tomatoes, bone broth and seaweed may naturally have high levels of glutamate. Strep also increases glutamate in the brain.
Autism Healing Checklist
- Have your child screened for services from the local public school, even if your child does not attend. The law mandates that you are entitled to free services from birth.
- Seek out a local support group for families of children with special needs.
- Get 10 hours of sleep per night (or more if your child is under 10)
- Get outside every day
- Get an hour of exercise or movement per day
- Sync circadian rhythm by getting up when the sun does and going to bed after it sets
- Limit screen time as much as possible
- Use blue-blocking lightbulbs and glasses at night, especially when looking at screens
- Put bare feet in wet ground when possible
- Drink half body weight in ounces of water
- Eat whole foods
- Buy organic foods
- Eat a clean diet
- Remove all GMO foods
- Remove all fast and processed foods
- Remove all foods with artificial colors, artificial ingredients, artificial flavors, natural flavors, preservatives, phenols and salicylates
- Strictly limit sugars, refined salt and refined carbohydrates
- Consider implementing a low-glutamate diet and/or the Feingold diet
Use Only High-Quality Fats
- Coconut oil
- Olive oil (unheated)
- Medium-Chain Triglycerides (MCT) oil
- Grass-fed ghee
- Duck fat
- Grass-fed beef tallow
- Cod liver oil (unheated)
- Walnut oil (unheated)
Remove Vegetable Oils and Trans Fats
- Hydrogenated vegetable oils (Crisco, etc.)
Include High-Quality Protein with Every Meal
- Pasture-raised eggs, chicken and other fowl
- Grass-fed beef, lamb and other red meats
- Wild-caught fish
- Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Soy protein isolate
- Yeast extract
- Barley malt
- Natural flavors
- Artificial flavors
- Soy sauce
- Corn starch
Add Fermented Foods and Probiotics
- Eat kefir yogurts, if dairy is tolerated
- Eat fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut and kim chi
- Eat umeboshi plums, which are very alkalizing
- Eat miso soup, if soy is tolerated
- Take a quality probiotic, such as VSL #3, Gut Pro, Dr. Ohirra’s Live Cultured Probiotics, Garden of Life, Klaire Labs. Work with your practitioner for a more targeted probiotic.
Blood sugar that is too low can lead to attention and behavioral problems.
We recommend keeping blood sugar optimized so that it's neither too low nor too high.
- Identify and remove possible environmental triggers, such as mold, dust, pet dander, and electromagnetic fields (EMFs)
- Identify and remove possible toxic exposures in the home from purchased products, such as detergents, soaps, lotions, and other cleaning and personal care products
- Remove animals (both live and stuffed!)
- Remove carpets
- Use non-toxic cleaners
- Use non-toxic building materials
Lower Stress Levels
Viruses, bacteria and other pathogens become more active when the body is in a state of stress.
By teaching your child ways to self-regulate with practices such as prayer, reiki, meditation, yoga, qi gong, tai chi and the Emotional Freedom Technique (tapping), they can become good advocates for themselves and become active participants in the recovery process.
- Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay (ELISA) for possible food sensitivities and allergies
- Nutritional deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, especially vitamin D
- NutrEval by Genova Diagnostics Labs for malabsorption, gut dysbiosis, cellular energy, mitochondrial metabolism, neurotransmitter metabolism, vitamin deficiencies, toxin exposure and detoxification need
- Organic Acid Test (OAT) for yeast overgrowth, other microbial infections and oxalates
- Inflammation markers such as C-Reactive Protein (CRP)
- Fasting blood sugar and insulin levels
- Comprehensive Digestive Stool Analysis (CDSA)
Pathogenic infections and environmental offenders can cross the blood-brain barrier and cause neurological symptoms known collectively as PANS/PANDAS. However, not many practitioners know how to test for and treat these conditions. Common tests are:
- Serum Anti-Streptolysin O (ASO) titer
- Serum Anti-Streptococcal DNase B (ASDB) titer
- Cunningham panel
- Lyme disease and Lyme co-infections
- Specific viruses, especially herpetic viruses
- Mycoplasma pneumoniae infection
- Heavy metals and other toxins
Use Digestive Aids with your Practitioner's Guidance
- Betaine hydrochloric acid
- Digestive enzymes with DPP-IV for gluten and casein intolerances
- Proteolytic enzymes
- Cod liver oil
- Vitamin D3
- Methylated B complex vitamins
- GABA, especially PharmaGABA
- N-acetylcysteine (NAC)
- Magnesium, zinc, selenium, iodine and other minerals
- Make sure your child is pooping every day. Learn more about how to clear up constipation and diarrhea.
- Have your child exercise or move every day. Sweating carries toxins out of the body.
- See a homotoxicologist, naturopath or homeopath for drainage remedies and detoxification aids.
- Optimize blood sugar to allow the liver to spend more time detoxing rather than processing sugar.
- Ionic foot baths can help detox unwanted pathogens and are easy to do with children.
- Infared saunas can detox heavy metals through the skin by sweating. However, this form of detoxification may not be suitable for young children who lack the ability to sweat.
- Epsom salt baths add sulfur transdermally to help with detox.
Children with developmental delays, cognitive issues and deficits have improper communication between the right and left sides of the brain.
Even if your child doesn't have ADD or ADHD, they may still benefit from neurofeedback.
Find a practitioner that can perform a QEEG (quantitative electroencephalograph) brain map first so you can understand how your child's brain works.
An auditory therapist can devise a listening program that is specific to your child's needs. These programs can retrain the brain, calm down the nervous system and reduce sound sensitivities.
They provide hands-on helping with the practical matters of healing such as cooking healthy foods, removing toxins from the household and helping you work more efficiently with your practitioner.
NAET (Namudripad's Allergy Elimination Technique) and BioSET are two non-invasive methods of allergy elimination.
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