Autism spectrum disorders, or ASDs, were once considered an uncommon problem in children. Now, many people either have a child with an ASD, or know someone who has a child who lives with this disorder. Current research indicates that about 1 in 150 children has an ASD, although there are recent studies that put the number as high as 1 in 80. ASDs are much more common in boys for reasons researchers are still trying to understand.
Classically, autism spectrum disorders are characterized by deficits in three main areas: social interactions, speech delays (or lack of speech), and unique or stereotyped behaviors. If you have a child with an ASD, however, you may have noticed that in addition to these characteristics, he or she may have many symptoms that don’t seem directly related to the condition, yet are common to other children you may have heard about on the autism spectrum.
Some of these symptoms might include sensitivities to bright lights or loud noises, to certain kinds of clothing or textures of foods. Perhaps your child has great difficulties with toilet training. Or they have trouble remembering to go to the bathroom and have accidents at school, but not at home. Or even have frequent colds or flus, and always seem to end up needing antibiotics, which creates diarrhea, which increases temper outbursts, and the cycle goes on.
We are now much more aware of autism and autism ‘spectrum’ problems than we were a generation ago, or even a decade ago. Scientific discoveries are pointing to connections between the gut, and the microbes that live there, and our mental functioning. Those tiny bugs also play a critical role in the development of our immune system as infants, and to our ability to digest—or not digest—common foods.
In clinical practice, we often see digestive problems with children who fall on the autism spectrum. Sometimes they are quite obvious, as in the case of chronic gas, bloating or diarrhea. Many times, however, these show up as more subtle problems: frequent colds or rashes, picky eating, chronic colds or ear infections, or increased hyperactivity, rigid behavior, or temper outbursts.
Frequently, these symptoms are related to food sensitivities or intolerances to common foods in the diet such as wheat, dairy, eggs, soy or corn. By testing and removing sensitive foods, as well as adding beneficial microbes in the form of probiotics, we can achieve considerable improvement with behaviors, speech and mental functioning—by treating the physical symptoms of poor digestion or digestive inflammation.
When children digest food properly, their body’s cells have the tools they need to make energy, to communicate with other cells and organs, respond to stress, and to dispose of toxins.
Many children on the autism spectrum also have high levels of stress and anxiety, often because their cells lack the nutrients they need to respond to changes in the environment and help the body adapt. Clinically, we can often improve these areas of mental functioning by using nutrient therapies that support and calm the brain, or may directly improve sleep, awareness, or speech.
Finally, many children with autism have problems related to build up of toxins in the body. These toxins may be from the environment, such as heavy metals, pesticides or solvents from new paint or household carpets. Many ASD kids have inherited genes – the blueprint for making new cells – that make it more difficult for them to get rid of these energy disruptors. As a result, toxins may accumulate in their bodies and cause considerable behavioral problems, as well as chronic illnesses. By helping parents avoid common exposures, as well as helping their child metabolize and get rid of toxins using gentle nutrient medicines, we are able to improve their symptoms of autism, sometimes dramatically.
Boy in classroom – Microsoft Office Clipart Collection