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North Adams Chiropractor | North Adams chiropractic care | MA | Nutritions Role in Autism

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Chiropractic and Nutrition               413-663-5500

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Nutritions Role in Autism
 

I’ve been fortunate to have a number of young patients whose parents recognized that nutritional or chemical imbalance may be a factor in their child’s Autism, ADD or ADHD. It is of great reward to me to have made positive changes in the health of these children as well as the lives of their parents.

Parents on the brink of medicating their children need to realize that drugs should be a last resort and will in many cases mask the underlying cause of their child’s suffering. The longer these causes influencing the child’s health go unresolved the greater the potential for further or permanent damage. 

It is by now well documented that many individuals with autism have food aversions and sensitivities. Many also have behavioral issues that make mealtime particularly challenging. For good reason, parents worry about providing their children with healthy diets.

Researchers at Marcus Autism Center at Emory University School of Medicine reviewed and analyzed all published, peer-reviewed research relating to eating problems and autism spectrum disorder (ASD). They found that
children with ASD are five times more likely to have mealtime challenges such as tantrums, extreme food selectivity and ritualistic eating behaviors.

They also found inadequate nutrition to be more common among children with autism than in those unaffected by the disorder. In particular, they found an overall low intake of calcium and protein. Calcium is crucial for building strong bones. Adequate protein is important for growth, mental development and health. This may also increase risk for diet-related diseases such as obesity and cardiovascular disease in adolescence and adulthood.

 

DIET AND NUTRITION...WHAT REALLY WORKS?

Improve digestion

Many parents of autistic children report that their child received repeated or prolonged courses of antibiotic drugs for ear or other respiratory infections during their first year, before the diagnosis of autism. Broad-spectrum antibiotics kill good as well as bad bacteria in the gut, and this may be why autistic children commonly have bowel irregularities.

So if your child has autism, restoring a healthy gut is vital. You can start simply, by supplementing digestive enzymes, and giving probiotics to restore the balance of gut bacteria. Both measures help heal the digestive tract and promote normal absorption, and have produced positive clinical results in autistic children.

Balance blood sugar

Sport_and_Energy_drinks_with_kids.jpgThere is much overlap between ADH/hyperactivity and autism, so for autistic children who show signs of hyperactivity, improving blood sugar balance is a must.

Dietary studies consistently reveal that hyperactive children eat more sugar than other children. Other research has confirmed that the problem is not sugar itself but the forms it comes in, the absence of a well-balanced diet overall and abnormal glucose metabolism. A study of 265 hyperactive children found that more than three-quarters of them displayed abnormal glucose tolerance, – that is, their bodies were less able to handle sugar intake and maintain balanced blood sugar levels.

In any case, when a child is regularly snacking on refined carbohydrates, sweets, chocolate, fizzy drinks, juices and little or no fiber to slow the glucose absorption, the levels of glucose in their blood will seesaw continually and trigger wild fluctuations in their levels of activity, concentration, focus and behavior. These, of course, will not help any child’s brain function.

Increase omega 3 fats

Deficiencies in essential fats are common in people with autism. Research by Dr. Gordon Bell at Stirling University has shown that some autistic children have an enzymatic defect that removes essential fats from brain cell membranes more quickly than it should. This means that an autistic child is likely to need a higher intake of essential fats than the average. And it has been found that supplementing EPA, which can slow the activity of the defective enzyme, has clinically improved behavior, mood, imagination, spontaneous speech, sleep patterns and focus of autistic children.

Increase vitamins and minerals

We have known since the 1970s that a nutritional approach can help autism, thanks to the pioneering research by Dr. Bernard Rimland of the Institute for Child Behavior Research in San Diego, California. He showed that vitamin B6, C and magnesium supplements significantly improved symptoms in autistic children. In one of his early studies back in 1978, 12 out of 16 autistic children improved, then regressed when the vitamins were swapped for placebos. In the decades following Dr. Rimland’s study, many other researchers have also reported positive results with this approach.

Pediatrician Mary Megson from Richmond, Virginia, believes that many autistic children are lacking in vitamin A. Otherwise known as retinol, vitamin A is essential for vision. It is also vital for building healthy cells in the gut and brain.

The best sources of vitamin A are breast milk, organ meats, milk fat, fish and cod liver oil, none of which are prevalent in our diets. Instead, we have formula milk, fortified food and multivitamins, many of which contain altered forms of retinol such as retinyl palmitate, which doesn’t work as well as the fish or animal-derived retinol. Megson began speculating what might happen if these children weren’t getting enough natural vitamin A.

She realized that not only would this affect the integrity of the digestive tract, potentially leading to allergies. It would also affect the development of their brains, and disturb their vision. Both brain differences and visual defects have been detected in autistic children. The visual defects, Megson deduced, were an important clue because lack of vitamin A would mean poor black and white vision, a symptom often seen in the relatives of autistic children. If you can’t see black and white, you can’t see shadows. And without that you lose the ability to perceive three-dimensionality. This in turn leaves you less able to make sense of people’s expressions, which could explain why some autistic children tend not to look straight at you. They look at you sideways. Long thought to be a sign of poor socialization, this sideways technique may in fact be the best way for them to see people’s expressions, because there are more black and white light receptors at the edge of the visual field than in the middle.

Avoid food allergies

One of the most significant contributing factors in autism appears to be undesirable foods and chemicals that often reach the brain via the bloodstream because of faulty digestion and absorption. Much of the impetus for recognizing the importance of dietary intervention has come from parents who’ve noticed vast improvements in their children after changing their diets.

The strongest direct evidence of foods linked to autism involves wheat and dairy, and the specific proteins they contain – namely, gluten and casein. These are difficult to digest and, especially if introduced too early in life, may result in an allergy. Fragments of these proteins, called peptides, can have big impacts in the brain. They can act directly in the brain by mimicking the body’s own natural opioids (such as the enkephalins or endorphins), and so are sometimes called ‘exorphins’. Or they can disable the enzymes that would break down these naturally occurring compounds.

In either case, the consequence is an increase in opioid activity, leading to many symptoms we describe as autism. Researchers at the Autism Research Unit at Sunderland University have found increased levels of these peptides in the blood and urine of children with autism.

Exorphin peptides are derived from incompletely digested proteins, particularly food containing gluten and casein. One of these, called IAG and derived from gluten in wheat, has been detected in 80 per cent of autistic patients. So the first problem is the poor digestion of proteins. A lack of sufficient zinc and vitamin B6 could contribute to this, as both are essential for proper stomach acid production and protein digestion, yet are often deficient in autistic children with pyroluria, as we mention above.

There are many anecdotal reports of dramatic improvements in children with autism from parents who removed casein (milk protein) and gluten (the protein in wheat, barley, rye and oats) from their diet. Dr. Robert Cade, professor of medicine and physiology at the University of Florida, has observed that as levels of peptides in the blood decrease, the symptoms of autism decrease. ‘If [levels of peptides] can be reduced to normal range,’ he says, ‘we typically see dramatic improvements. ’

For advice and perspective on eating issues, nutrition deficiencies, diet and nutritional supplementation for your child, consider bringing them in to see me for a Nutritional Response Testing evaluation. It is a noninvasive process and will provide you some guidance which could make a positive difference in the lives of both you and your child.

 

 

 

 

 
 
 
North Adams Chiropractor | Nutritions Role in Autism. Dr. Francine Lajoie is a North Adams Chiropractor.