Bio-medical Treatment for Children with Autistic Spectrum Disorder

The message of the Autism Research Institue (www.autism.com), is that autism is a treatable medical illness.  (Twenty years ago, ARI founder, Dr. Bernard Rimland, along with Drs. Jon Pangborn and Sidney Baker, formed the Defeat Autism Now! (formerly referred to as DAN!) team of researchers and clinicians from around the world to forward progress into the causes of autism and related disorders.)  Because of Dr. Rimland’s work, autism is no longer regarded as a psychiatric disorder.  Not long after autism was first described by Dr. Leo Kanner in 1943, a world-famous child psychologist, Dr. Bernard Bettleheim proposed that autistic children develop the disorder because they are born to “refrigerator mothers.”  That is, mothers who “reject” their babies, causing the children to become completely introverted.”

“Autism is a physiological disorder that presents with abnormal development, central nervous system issues, and often immune irregularities and digestive illness.  The prevailing belief today is that the disorder arises from a combination of genetic and environmental factors.”

Environmental triggers may include the following:

  • Colitis (inflammation of the intestines)
  • Food Allergies
  • Poor Nutrition
  • Yeast
  • Viruses
  • Toxic heavy metals
  • Chemicals
  • Pesticides
  • Vaccines
  • Oxidative stress
  • Bacteria

Current thinking is that when a child with the appropriate genetic susceptibility is exposed to a number of environmental insults, there are alterations in several body systems, the central nervous system (brain), the gastrointestinal system (the gut) and the immunological system (body defense). Autism may be the result.

Dr Jaquelyn McCandless, expert in psychiatry and neurology refers to autistic children as “Children With Starving Brains” and named her book accordingly. According to Dr McCandless autistic children do not need drugs such as Ritalin or anti psychotic medications. The common denominator underlying developmental disorders is that proper nourishment does not reach the brain cells. Accordingly, autistic children improve and often recover when we:

a. Heal their inflamed digestive systems;

b. Rebalance their immune systems; and

c. Remove toxins from their diets and heavy metals from their bodies.

The majority of autistic children suffer from impaired gastrointestinal health. Many children are unable verbally to express the pain they feel yet GI problems are often obvious persistent diarrhea, constipation, abdominal bloating or abnormally appearing stools.

Children on the autistic spectrum often restrict their own diets to non-nourishing foods. Persistent colic in infancy, frequent use of anti-biotics, certain immunizations and the inability to detoxify heavy metals or other toxins may contribute to impaired gut function. Food allergies, intolerance to wheat and milk products, immune impairment such as frequent ear infections in infancy and chronic yeast, viral or bacterial infections all point to a need to have the GI system evaluated. Dysfunctions such as leaky gut, fungal bacterial and parasite overgrowth, malabsorpion, maldigestion and inflammation are frequently noted by doctors working with children with autism.

According to the data kept by the Autism Research Institute of parental reports on the most effective (and least effective) treatments, the Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD Diet) leads to improvement in a whopping 71% of children with autism. SCD stops the vicious cycle of malabsorption and microbial over-growth by removing the microbes’ food: sugars, specifically di- and poly-saccharides. Single-molecule sugars, like those found in fruit, vegetables and honey, do not require digestive processes and are immediately absorbed by the intestine. Therefore, even damaged intestines can absorb them and they are not available to feed the bad flora. Inflammation decreases as the bad microbe population dies out. (Reference: “We Band of Mothers: Autism My Son and The Specific Carbohydrate Diet” – Judy Chinitz).

Another diet that has been found effective in a large percentage of children on the spectrum is the casein and gluten free diet. Casein, a protein found in milk and other dairy products, breaks down in the intestines to produce a peptide known as casomorphine. Morphine is a powerful pain killing drug and the peptide casomorphine, should it get into the blood stream through a damaged intestinal wall, has drug-like properties. Similar opiods called gluteomorphins are formed in the intestines when these children try to digest gluten, a protein found in wheat and other grains. Parents with affected children often say the child is spacey and that they don’t feel pain in ways similar to someone under the influence of morphine. Removing these suspect foods from the diet sometimes results in dramatic improvements in both digestive and neurological symptoms.

Some other factors that may be problematic:

Yeast – Abnormal immune system functioning opens the door to yeast overgrowth. Yeast gives off toxins that are neurotoxic and often a child who suffers from yeast appears drunk.

Bacteria – Often large amounts of probiotics and other treatments are required to crowd out yeasts and bacterial infections found in the GI tract.

Many children have been noted to have an amazing improvement in cognition and behavior after treating Candida and bacteria that have overtaken the GI tract.

Vaccinations – This is currently a very controversial topic. Many parents and clinicians believe that it is possible that in infants with increased susceptibility, vaccination with live viruses contribute to the child’s autistic regression. Another contributor which may add to the toxicity of the vaccines is ethylmercury in the form of Thimerosal, a preservative in vaccines mandated for children. The correspondence between autistic traits and those that occur from mercury poisoning is highly significant and includes varying degrees of auto immunity. In fact all traits that define autism have been described in mercury poisoning literature.

Dr Jaquelyn McCandless notes that the mercury containing Hepatitis B vaccine given at birth when the immune system and liver are immature may act as a trigger that set into motion the events that result in GI and neurological deficits we see in autism.

Another heavy metal often found in children with autism is lead. Lead causes loss of IQ, loss of appetite as well as development and behavior problems. Removing toxic metals such as lead and mercury may be an effective treatment for autistic children. The method of removing heavy metals is called chelation.

Glutathione is a chemical in our bodies that acts as a garbage truck removing toxins from our systems. It is very important in the defense against toxins and mercury and other metals, and is also the main antioxidant of our bodies. Low levels of glutathione result in a higher burden of toxins. Science has shown that many children with autism have low levels of glutathione and more than that, many have altered gut flora from the heavy use of antibiotics. These two issues in combination seriously impair the body’s ability to excrete toxins. Normalizing glutathione levels and restoring gut flora often result in reduction of autistic symptoms.

Test results often reveal that some children on the spectrum have auto-antibodies to myelin basic protein, which forms sheathes that protect the nerves of the brain. Nerves can only conduct pulses of energy efficiently when properly sheathed with myelin. Like insulation on an electric wire, the myelin helps keep the electrical pulses confined, thus maintaining the integrity of the nerve’s electrical signal. When the insulation on a wire is damaged, the flow of electric current is interrupted and short circuits occur. When the immune system attacks the body’s own myelin, short circuits occur within the brain. (Reference: Dr Jacquelyn McCandless)

I would like to quote from an article published in the Autism Research Institute: “Assume that a person is hit by a car. His legs are broken and he suffers brain damage. At this point, he is considered disabled. Now let’s say after intense rehabilitation he is able to walk again with a slight limp and has some remaining neurological issues but can live a normal life or maybe he heals so well that you couldn’t tell he was in an accident at all. That’s recovery. The only difference between that and autism, is that our children were somehow more susceptible to being hit by the car and some of the shrapnel from the car quite often remains in their body. We need to help these kids get rid of that shrapnel and keep them away from the street in order to give them the best opportunity for recovery.

Similarly, many children once diagnosed as autistic now exhibit only nuances of their former behaviors. For instance some still have mild “stims” or an exaggerated focus on favorite topics. Despite lingering issues recovered children will in many cases, be able to live independently and happily, have productive careers and enjoy rewarding relationships with others. They may not be cured but they are certainly recovered from the devastating symptoms that once blocked their path to a normal future.

Inevitably, the idea that recovery from autism is possible raises hackles. Critics have called it hogwash stating that recovery is impossible. Some even claim that so-called recovered children were never autistic or that these children simply recovered spontaneously. Parents of these children invite these skeptics to have the courage to view the videos, including the archive section on www.Autism-RecoveredChildren.org.”

The importance of proper medical testing and intervention cannot be understated. The sooner a child is treated, the better the chances for improvement and possibly recovery.

References:

Children With Starving Brains. A Medical Treatment Guide for Autism Spectrum Disorder, 2nd edition, Updated 2005, Jaquelyn McCandless, MD;

Effective Biomedical Treatments. Sid Baker and Jon Pangbourne

We Band of Mothers: Autism My Son and The Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Judy Chinitz, MS with comment by Sidney Baker, MD
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