Discoveries in Treating Autism NaturallyJan 11, 2016 06:37PM ● By Dr. Amber Brooks
Autism continues to loom over the children in our community, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease and Control, affecting one in every 54 boys and one per 68 children overall, an increase of more than 30% from the last report in 2008.
Many studies say that autism is a symptom of an underlying process that affects multiple systems, including the immune, nervous, gastrointestinal (GI), neurological and toxicological systems. This leaves them at an increased risk of damage from environmental insults, while most other children handle the environmental exposures without obvious ill effects.
Despite decades of research, no one knows the exact cause of autism in children. This is in part because there is no one single cause, making it hard to determine, especially when we try to make it applicable to every child diagnosed. In fact, most of the proposed causes of autism are considered to be controversial in the medical world. Many have presumed that the cause of autism is only genetic, some feel it is triggered by vaccines or simply a psychological disorder and many see it is an immune dysfunction. Children with autism can exhibit a plethora of symptoms and they may vary widely in severity, because no two kids are exactly the same.
Children with autism have abnormal systems as discussed above, due to a combination of genetic factors, undiagnosed food allergies, chronic infections, overuse of medications, imbalances in the gut, vitamin/mineral deficiencies and poor diet, among other things. In the last 10 years studies have shown a strong genetic link between the Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (MTHFR) mutation and autism. There is research from the Autism Research Institute addressing the nutritional aspects of children with autism and their inborn deficits. Nutrition Research Reviews published an article in July 2014 that reported the connection between autism and nutrition as is relates to the brain and GI system. They specifically noted the differences in GI flora between those with autism and controls and concluded nutrition-related factors play a causal role of autism and its symptoms.
When we put the whole picture together, we can see why a child with autism is at a higher risk for injury. As environmental toxin exposures accumulate, the struggling body can no longer deal with them appropriately and damage occurs; this may be the first symptom a family sees. There is not one event that causes a child to be diagnosed with autism; not every child with autism acts or looks the same, nor is every child medically treated the same. There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all treatment for autism.
When the diagnosis is made, parents are often given referrals for speech, occupational and behavioral therapy. All too often they are misinformed, uninformed or misled to focus solely on therapy. In the past, the first line treatment included B12 shots, high-dose glutathione, high-dose vitamins and removal of heavy metals, in many cases prescribed without proper testing. These have fallen out of favor due in part to the emphasis on proper testing of children to determine their functional needs prior to supplementing. In addition, there has been an abundance of research published on methylation and detoxification pathways, especially as they relate to autism. Parents should understand that detoxifying the body from heavy metals can be dangerous if done too early and without proper gut and immune repair.
Organizations such Autism Speaks, Autism Research Institute, Generation Rescue and AutismOne facilitate continuing the research on autism treatments as they relate to the medical, nutrition and dietary aspects of care. These organizations have disproven the outdated notion that behavior therapy is the only treatment option for children with autism. The best results are achieved through teamwork between providers.
Parents have also started using chiropractors as part of their treatment teams. One of the most basic ideas in chiropractic is that dysfunction in the spine and its joints can lead to dysfunction within the nervous system. Because the nervous system controls and coordinates all of the systems of the body, spinal dysfunction (subluxation) can have wide-ranging effects on the body’s health. Spinal adjustments for infants and young children involve very light fingertip pressure to correct spinal misalignments. In addition, CranioSacral Therapy especially helps those with autism for sensory issues, behavior, sleeping, cognition, immune system, speech, attention, bedwetting, anxiety and pain relief.
The best advice for parents is to focus on an integrative approach for their child with autism, bringing in both therapy and medically focused care; this is the key to true health and wellness. The terms integrative, functional and biomedical are often used interchangeably. These approaches all work at finding the underlying cause of a child’s autism using a patient-centered approach to set an individualized treatment plan. When a doctor addresses the whole child and not just a set of isolated symptoms, they often get to the root of the problem and can facilitate healing. It is important to know these methods are not exclusively for children with autism. Every child should be examined as a whole person, looking at all the components of dysfunction and helping to work toward wellness.
Dr. Amber Brooks is a Board Certified Pediatric Chiropractor and founder of Whole Child Wellness and Healthy Kids Nutrients. For more information visit MyChildWellness.com.