Autism and Integrative Medicine

Treating Autism
Dr. Williamson
Autism. Few words strike more fear in a parent. Yet more and more children are diagnosed with this mysterious illness everyday. Autism is classified as a neurodevelopmental disorder with varying degrees of impaired social communication, repetitive behaviors, and mental retardation. Autism symptoms are variable ranging from a minimal to severe presentation. The CDC estimates that 1 in 110 children are diagnosed with an autistic disorder calculating out to > 36,000 children per year. Boys are much more likely to be affected with autism occurring at a ratio of 4 to 5:1 when compared with girls.

Though children diagnosed with autism have a wide range of symptom severity they all share common physical entities that can be treated by the integrative physician. These children usually all share chronic, loose, foul bowel movements indicating intestinal inflammation at an early age which may progress to large, bulky, and hard stools. It must be clearly stated that gluten and dairy products must be avoided at all costs. A very common occurrence in autistic children is a drunken, inattentive state after feeding on wheat and dairy products which is understandable. These substances form opiate like structures that bind to receptors in the brain causing morphine like effects. Anyone who has been on morphine or codeine understands how sedating these substance can be. Imagine experiencing this effect after every meal. In addition, the opiate structures formed by gluten and casein inhibit a very important enzyme called DPP IV which is not only essential for breaking down other proteins but is also an intricate part of the immune system. It is likely that autistic children have lower levels of this enzyme causing a predisposition to succumb to the ill effects of the failed breakdown products of gluten and dairy. It can also be hypothesized that when levels of DPP IV become deficient intestinal inflammation occurs resulting in antibody (white blood cell) reactions to nearly all foods they consume. It is important to note that DPP IV is also inhibited by mercury, a heavy metal.

Oral antibiotics must be avoided unless oral Nystatin, a Rx antifungal, is given concomitantly. Antibiotic abuse causes significant bowel dysbiosis. Whenever a child has an ear infection the vast majority of the time it is viral. However, the pediatrician always gives an antibiotic which is only effective against bacterial infections. This is very detrimental to the intestinal health and immune system of the developing child. Each time oral antibiotics are used they kill off beneficial intestinal flora which results in yeast overgrowth and expansion. It is not a mystery that children with recurrent infections are the ones who are continuously on antibiotics. With each new Rx the child loses more of their good intestinal bacteria and gain more “bad, parasitic bacteria and yeast”. Thus the immune system becomes even more impaired with the vicious continuous cycle of antibiotic abuse.
Yeast is a very tenacious and problematic organism in the autistic child. It produces byproducts, waste, that enters the bloodstream and combines with common amino acids forming a substance called pentosidine that strongly inhibits the immune system and damages myelin sheaths causing chronic inflammation of the nervous system and brain. In addition yeast compounds inhibit mitochondrial function leading to impaired cellular energy formation. The chronic neurological inflammation leads to deficiencies in inhibitory neurotransmitters disrupting normal neurological activity in the brain. It is important to note that heavy metals play a role in autism. Lead and mercury have been shown to disrupt myeloperoxidase enzyme which is the main defense and killing portion of the white blood cell when dealing with yeast. Chelation is regarded as one of the most effective treatments for children with autism.

In conclusion, autism is a very treatable disease. When properly evaluated dramatic improvements are not uncommon. Basic tenets, again, of autism include intestinal inflammation, dairy and gluten sensitivity, yeast overgrowth, detoxification impairment and heavy metal burden.

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