Autism and nutrition: Viruses, yeast, heavy metals and more.
Looking at autism from a medical perspective gives hope to parents of children with the disorder. This is not a new perspective. For the past few decades, practitioners have been successfully working on the physical health of children with autism and this has an impact on their behaviour and other symptoms. The theory is that autism is a complex medical disorder where symptoms are caused by physiological imbalances in the body. The function of various systems in the body – the immune, detoxification and digestive system have been disrupted. We seek to identify and correct the dysfunction using diet and supplements.
Ten years ago Jacquelyn McCandless wrote her compelling book ‘Children with Starving Brains’ and the popular Gaps (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) protocol was first published in 2004. These are just two of a number of significant texts changing the way we view autism.
There are genetic markers that are common to many children with autism. There are probably many more still to be identified. What is important to practitioners is which environmental triggers bring about the expression of these genes? And how do we support a child who is susceptible or has suffered damage due to these triggers?
There are common issues that practitioners see in children with autism. Often multiple concerns are present. These include viral issues, auto-immunity, yeast and gut issues, heavy metals and chemical problems.
A large section of children with autism have raised viral titres. The immune system is struggling to fight viruses that are lingering in the body. Nutrition can be used to support the child to allow the immune system, over time, to become balanced and strong enough to deal with these viruses. The viral issue presents itself when there is a weakened immune response from one branch of the immune system. Where there is an issue of auto-immunity the other branch of the immune system is overactive and is attacking the child’s own body. Auto immune issues are on the increase.
Yeast and gut issues are fairly common in autism. The role of the gut in autism is a huge subject. Yeast overgrowth, pathogens, inflammation, bowel issues and problems digesting gluten and casein foods are common. The right diet and focusing on identifying and removing pathogens and yeasts. Followed by restoring appropriate gut function is vital.
Exposure to chemicals and heavy metals both in utero and early childhood can have an impact on these children. Detoxification pathways can be compromised through problems with methylation and gut issues which leave children susceptible to damage from these agents. The child’s health needs to optimal before the body is able to process these agents properly. Less well-known conditions like Pyroluria can affect a child’s ability to detoxify as well as impacting on their immune system function.
When we begin to look at autism from a medical perspective we can see common themes amongst most of the children that attend our clinics, their medical histories contain similarities. By supporting key systems in the body through targeted nutrition we can actually reduce their symptoms and improve their quality of life.