Autism, along with any other condition on the autism spectrum, can be one of the most complex conditions for parents to deal with. Where do you turn? Who can help? Chances are that if your child has been diagnosed with autism you have been sent to see a speech pathologist, behavioural therapist or psychologist, all who place little emphasis on your child’s diet and nutrition levels.

Increasingly scientific evidence is revealing the connection between the pre-natal maternal diet, the early childhood diet and the severity of autism spectrum disorder symptoms. In short, the connection between what the mother and child eat, or are exposed to in the environment, and the state of the child’s brain and neural development.

What Are Autism and the Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Autism, is one of three conditions which also include Asperger syndrome and PDD-NOS often referred to as the Autism Spectrum Disorder.

While some people may include ADD and ADHD in this spectrum this is not technically correct. Even though the disorders do share many similarities.

Many of us would already know some of the characteristics of autism:

  • problems with social interaction and communication, usually typified by behavioural problems;
  • a tendency toward repetitive behaviour, including rocking, flapping and self harm but also seen in a larger tendency towards compulsiveness in routine, habits and order;
  • impaired neural development;

Distressingly autism and ASD conditions are very much on the incline.

Prior to 1970, the incidence of autism in the US was approximately 1 child in 2000. By 1996, it was approximately 1 in 500. In 2000, the ratio had risen to 1 in 150 in some regions. (1)

How Can Our Naturopaths Help Your Autistic Child?

In our experience, Autism and other conditions on the ASD spectrum respond exceptionally well to a properly structured Naturopathic program. Typically a Naturopathic approach to these sorts of conditions involves two main areas:

  1. Detoxification;
  2. Supporting nutritional deficiencies;

Why Detoxification Is Important for Autistic Children?

You might think detoxifying children sounds a little unusual, after all, how toxic can small bodies be? Research has found that children affected by ASD have consistently impaired detoxification ability.

Increasingly children are exposed to a large number of toxic products from conception onwards. The toxins in food, cosmetics, house hold products and the general environment are all passed from the mother to the developing baby during pregnancy placing a huge load on detoxification systems that have not yet fully developed.

Children are also far more sensitive to neurotoxins, or those toxins that damage the brain and central nervous system than adults. During early childhood, the blood brain barrier is more porous than in later life, leading to higher levels of toxicity in the brain.

Often children are quite low in important nutrients needed for detoxification, including glutathione and zinc. A properly implemented detoxification protocol from our Naturopathic team can help to rid the body of these built up toxins, protecting the brain and central nervous system from the damage that may lead to autism.

How Nutritional Deficiencies Can Impact Autism?

While part of the Autism problem can be traced back to too much of the wrong things, sometimes we can also have too little of the right things.

Nutrient deficiencies have been associated with a number of early childhood conditions and Autism is no exception. While there are many nutrients that can benefit your autistic child there are serval that we highly recommend.

Vitamin B12

Regularly used in the formation of neurotransmitters, Vitamin B12 is also important for maintaining and boosting mood as well as being important in many of the detoxification pathways.

When you consider that the best sources of B12 are typically organ meats, it’s not too surprising that we find many children to be deficient in B12. Choosing a good quality Vitamin B12 supplement is important, as some concerns have been raised about toxicity and effectiveness of some forms of B12.

Zinc & Magnesium

We seem to regularly be talking about Zinc and Magnesium, and for good reason. These two minerals are among the most widely used minerals in the body, being required for virtually every function including digestion, immune function, muscle formation and central nervous system formation.

The sad truth though is that nearly everyone we test is deficient in these minerals.

Autistic children are no exception. Recent research has shown quite pronounced Zinc & Magnesium differences between Autistic children and non-Autistic children (2) and even between low functioning and high functioning autistic children.

The dilemma of a zinc deficiency is that due to this mineral’s important role in digestion, the more deficient you are the harder it is to absorb zinc from dietary sources. Zinc supplementation is an effective way to improve the amount of bio-available zinc that is available to the body and helps to reverse these zinc deficiencies.

Essential Fatty Acids

A high dietary intake of essential fatty acids, particularly the omega 3 variety, are absolutely vital for the developing body. Sadly, children’s diets are typically low in the major sources of omega 3 essential fatty acids with less than 10% of children reporting regular inclusion of fish or seafood in their diet and less than 20% regularly consuming nuts and / or seeds.

The last four to five years has seen a lot of research into the use of fish oils for the treatment of children with autism and ADHD with promising results. One study using 1,000mg of Omega 3 EFAs daily over 12 weeks saw a 33% improvement in the symptoms of autism, while another using 1,500mg over six weeks saw a reduction in hyperactivity of children. ADHD and autism are increasingly common amongst children and these studies show that nutritional review needs to form an early part of the treatment and management process. It is worth noting that both of these studies refer to the active Omega 3 EFAs rather than just the amount of fish oil in the capsule. Supermarket variety fish oils are typically very low in the active Omega 3 EFA EPA and DHA.

Talk to Our Naturopaths Today

Dietary modification is an important, but often overlooked tool to combat autism and ASD conditions. Each child is subtly different, and, there is no one size fits all program, our Naturopathic team can help you in establishing a program specially for your child.

Talk to us today, and discover how a Naturopath may be just the answer you’ve been looking for to help your autistic child.


Bibliography

[1] Bock. What Your Family Needs To Know About Autism Spectrum Disorders.,2005

[2] Lakshmi Priya and Geetha. Level of Trace Elements (Copper, Zinc, Magnesium and Selenium) and Toxic Elements (Lead and Mercury) in the Hair and Nail of Children with Autism.Biological Trace Element Research,2011