26 February, 2022
Many parents have had success by healing autism naturally
* Disclaimer - This is opinion only and should not be considered medical advice. Please consult a trained medical professional.
Unfortunately many doctors and health professionals think the best treatments for autism are already settled, and the researchers can move on to other things. As a result, it's parents driving this new revolution and exploration into how we can help our children with autism. We don't want to wonder if there is more we can do. We'd rather try some simple diet and lifestyle changes, so long as there is no risk of harm.
The best treatment for autism will not be one therapy. It will be a combination of diet, lifestyle and therapies chosen with consultation between the child's parents, health professionals, autism coaches and other parents that have experience.
More and more people are realising that we can do more to help people with autism and ADHD. Adults who suspect they're on the spectum tend to have an awareness of things that make the symptoms better or worse. As a result, people are seeking alternative treatments for autism and ADHD.
When it comes to diet and supplements, cost-effective strategies that that work are the goal. This means rather than spending money supplementing with the many miracle missing nutrients (which can be costly), it's better use a healthy lifestyle consisting of good food choices and minimal supplementation.
We can use diet, lifestyle and targeted supplementation to address the key areas, such as gut health, mitochondrial health and to reduce inflammation.
This post is for parents looking for ways of helping their autistic child beyond the standard therapies. I encourage all of us to take a step back and look at Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) with fresh eyes. I don't intend to cover in detail the most established and used strategies and early interventions for Autism. I intend to expand on those early intervention strategies and explore those additional and new ideas that can be added to our strategies. These new ideas will enhance the effectiveness of those more common early interventions.
I recommend that you read the context, but if you're short in time - Jump straight to the recommendations.
You have reached this post, and are likely to be looking for ideas that can help your child feel better, be more naturally engaged, be calmer and happier. You may have a long list of wishes for your child including things like having your child become verbal, him saying 'I love you mum' or him having friends.
You want to know how and why these ideas work and what will work best for your child. That's why I'm writing this post. This post is about helping your child be in the best state of health to not only achieve the best improvements from early intervention treatments, but have more fun while doing it.
Many of us believe that we know a lot about autism, but do we? We may know how to describe autism to someone by repeating what we are told the outward symptoms are. However, do we really know what autism is? When we peel away the superficial layer, we get a different answer to the question, what is autism?
Can you be cured of Autism?
By definition, autism is a lifelong disorder with no cure.
This question of whether or not you can be cured from Autism doesn't serve a purpose, except to stimulate debate, cause arguments (sometimes nasty) and distract people from the important things, such as helping our children be healthy and happy.
In our modern world, for something to be cured, there needs to be a diagnosable condition and clear tests that show that the condition no longer exists. When the diagnosis has areas of grey, this can leave areas of debate and argument.
If something can be cured, it implies that it's a disease. Autism is not a disease, so there is no cure. Everyone is different. I have felt different to others all of my life. So have many others. Differences should be encouraged. Many of our children with autism spectrum disorder are put in that basket because they simply see the world differently. They have different strengths and weaknesses. The interesting thing is that their strengths tend to be rare strengths. They're strengths that the world needs.
Another reason that I don't like the focus on curing Autism, is the system of healthcare that exists in the western world. Something can only be called a cure, if it's registered by the organisation that regulates medicines in that country. To be registered, the medicine needs to go through a long and expensive clinical trial process (unless in a pandemic). This means the medicine needs to have potential for the generation of large amounts of money for the manufacturer. In short, the system makes it impossible for many strategies that promote overall health to be considered a cure or even a treatment.
For all of the above reasons, natural cures for autism don't exist, but that should not stop us looking for ways to help our children.
So there's no cure for Autism, so should I just accept it?
With an emerging group of parents like us entering the world of Autism, we are starting to change the way Autism is approached. We are starting to think about it in a whole new way. We're no longer viewing Autism as a disability and instead view it as an opportunity to learn and grow. We stop seeing it as a problem and instead see it as an opportunity to raise healthy and happy kids with unique and important skills.
Parents are now encouraging the wonderful traits that our autistic children have, while seizing the opportunity to help them grow and develop using the extra insight we've gained from being an autism parent. We don't use autism as an excuse to be lazy, as an excuse to condone abusive behavior or avoiding responsibility. Abusive behavior may happen, but we support our children through it and help them grow beyond those behaviors. There is always a reason for each behavior and with the support and experience of the autism community, we can uncover it together.
Every family, every parent and child has their own life to live. Some parents enjoy the incredible compassion they receive for others who admire their strength as parents of children with challenges. Sharing stories of their difficulties and having other parents congratulate them on how wonderfully they're doing. It takes a special parent to keep it together when affected by Autism and a supportive group of friends makes an impressive difference. They may not have an interest in exploring health-related strategies.
Some parents may have been told by people they hold in high regard that they would be wasting their time if they explored health strategies. The day to day life challenges are overwhelming enough, without having to explore and understand whether improving health can help their child. Even if they see enough evidence that it may help autism, where do they start? Doctors practising integrative health are few and far between. Finding one that specialises in Autism is even harder.
Every family and every situation is different. Our experience with our son with Autism is that health strategies make a huge difference. Exploring ways to improve his health has had the most significant impact on his life than any other strategy. It introduced new sets of challenges, particularly because it was 2013 when we started our journey. In 2013, even suggesting that improving health could help autism was a ticket to be scorned by others.
" If I was a parent of an aspiring Olympian, I'd be praised for cooking all meals from scratch, high in nutrients and low in inflammatory foods. "
Even today (in 2022), some of us experience negativity from others when we talk about how we promote health to help our children overcome some of their challenges. If I was a parent of an aspiring Olympian, I'd be praised for cooking all meals from scratch, high in nutrients and low in inflammatory foods. I would be praised for driving my child to training, events and even additional therapies to give them an edge. Unfortunately, doing the same for a child on the Autism Spectrum can be met with negativity.
I have to be honest, if the 2013 version of me met my 2022 version and got the list of steps it took to get here, I can't be sure I would have had the strength to go through with it. It took a lot of time and effort, very little sleep and an emotional toll.
My 2013 self didn't have the energy that I have now, or the knowledge. I didn't know for sure that we could make such a profound difference to our son. The experts helping us at the time set our expectations very low, but as we saw improvements, our motivation grew. We developed a belief that we could help our son have no limitations set by autism. As an added benefit, the change in diet that our familiy was enjoying improved our health and energy significantly. That enabled us to more easily explore more ways to help our son.
I now know, that it could have been much easier. It wasn't easy, because we were learning as we went along. Some things worked, while others didn't. We spent a lot of money trying, failing and succeeding. In this post, I want to provide enough information to help you profoundly help your child, yourself and your whole family, without wasting time, effort and money.
Can we treat Autism?
Parents don't treat Autism. No-one treats the condition of autism. We consider and implement strategies, therapies and interventions addressing the symptoms.
Common interventions such as psychology, occupational therapy and speech pathology are important, but not the focus of this post. Even the many other options that I like such as primitive reflex therapy and Tommatis, are out of scope. I encourage the conventional treatments that are backed by clinical studies to be continued in parallel, including regular exercise to improve health and motor skills The focus of this post, however, are those under utilised dietary strategies that complement early intervention and other therapies. These are additional to those common alternative treatments and herbal medicines.
Before considering treatments and therapies, parents and their medical professionals must take stock of the symptoms of their child. It's essential to look at symptoms from various angles, remembering that we aren't treating autism, we are exploring strategies to overcome the symptoms that we want to address. We address symptoms, particularly focusing on strategies that can address the multiple symptoms together.
The Symptoms of Autism
You've read this far, so you probably realise that this post is not about the standard way of thinking about autism. As such, this post doesn't list or discuss the standard list of autism symptoms. If you want to delve more deeply into the symptoms (with a Natural Autism Support slant), please read this post - Symptoms of Autism.
Parents have been encouraged to look out for the behavioral symptoms of autism and social interaction that are used in the diagnostic process. We have traditionally ignored the symptoms listed below. Some doctors even dismiss them as not relevant to autism. The thinking around these symptoms is that we are looking for health-related symptoms that can be helped with diet. These symptoms tend to be closer to the root of the autism symptom tree, meaning they affect the more outward and obvious symptoms that are traditionally used for autism diagnosis. The good news is, that by addressing these core symptoms, large improvements can be realised.
A good deal of health related symptoms are difficult to see, without diagnostic tests. I am listing the symptoms below as they are more common symptoms and observations in children with autism compared to neurotypical children. The symptoms are split into 2 important groups, gut related and inflammation related symptoms. This helps parents device the most effective strategy to help their children.
Gut related symptoms
- Constipation of less regular bowel movements
- Gut pain
Inflammation and oxidative stress related symptoms
- Puffy eyes
- skin rashes
- Loud snoring
- high blood inflammation markers such as CRP or HS-CRP
Research into autism shows that many children on the spectrum have gut related and inflammation related issues. Parents that address these symptom areas often see quick improvements in their children.
Finding an integrative health practitioner specialising in functional medicine that understands these topics is a wise idea. They can devise targeted strategies based on skilful observation and testing. For many parents, it's difficult to find and afford this approach. In this case, parents typically decide to get started with diet and basic supplementation. Getting started prior to seeing an integrative health practitioner can be a good idea, because a good practitioner is likely to suggest this anyway, before they devise a more individualised strategy.
Inflammation and the brain
Autism is considered to be a disorder of brain development. Diagnosis of autism assumes brain damage, yet do diagnostic imagage is performed. Although diagnostic imaging is not routinely used in the diagnosis of ASD, research shows that people with ASD tend to have higher levels of brain inflammation compared to neurotypical people.
Despite the links between brain inflammation and autism, inflammation is rarely discussed in the treatment of autism. In my experience, when talking about the brain of a child on the spectrum, the brain differences are thought to be permanent structural differences from birth. In other words, the brain developed differently before the child was born. The structural differences may be there is some people with Autism, but it's wrong to assume that it's the case for everyone. It's my view that most of the children being diagnosed with ASD today do not have permanent structural defects in the brain.
Assumptions that aren't true, can significantly impact outcomes negatively. If the major cause of Autism today is inflammation, we should be addressing it. If we are going to assume anything, why not assume that inflammation is a major cause of Autism, rather than assuming permanent structural changes in the brain from birth. If we don't want to assume, we can confirm with testing. Why aren't we testing for inflammation if it's so heavily correlated with autism?
I want you to imagine a day when you have had too much alcohol to drink the night before, or you've binged on unhealthy food, but you have to go to work. You are noise sensitive, irritable, and you want to resort to simple tasks and be in your own bubble. This is how many autistic children feel every day. Sensory issues and even repetitive behaviors can be signs that our child is chronically inflamed. It may be that their nervous system is not functioning in a balanced way.
Another interesting set of observations about brain inflammation is its correlation with anxiety and depression. Various strategies to reduce inflammation have been used to reduce the symptoms of anxiety and depression. So much so that scientific evidence indicates that reducing inflammation can have a more positive effect than standard medicines that treat anxiety and depression.
Since anxiety and depression can go with ASD, it's intriguing that there may be common contributing factors. Noticing these correlations stimulates curiosity about the potential benefits of improving health, and the immune system to encourage normal inflammatory pathways.
Peeling the onion
Many parents new to the world of Autism can objectively look with fresh eyes. This can be an advantage over those that think they know a lot about autism. Remembering the teachings in text book may pass the exams and get you a job, but when it's your own child, your goals are different from if it's your job.
Parents need to shift their thinking a little. Rather than putting your trust in others while ignoring your own knowing, you need trust yourself and take the lead. The professionals we use to help us are not there to take the lead, they are there to help with specific symptoms that are within their expertise.
Parents know their own children better than anyone. Parents often know what's working and what's not working. They understand their children's strengths and weaknesses.
As you continue to help your child, their strengths and weaknesses change. Overcoming what you think are the most important challenges, exposes some new challenges. We tend to help with the things that we can see and that are more obvious. In Autism, it's common to start with behavioral interventions. These are to remove the traits that embarrass us as parents. That's what some autism treatments focus on. The focus is on behaving 'correctly'.
Once we've addressed the obvious layer of the onion, we expose a new layer. Now the focus has changed. Peeling of layers and exposing new layers feels like it never ends.
What if you could work from the centre of the onion at the same time as working on the outer layer? The centre of the onion can be thought of as health-related issues, such as inflammation and gut health. Addressing health effects every cell, which helps the body as a whole. Working on the centre of the onion may make the process of peeling the onion layers easier.
4 ways to Naturally Heal Children with Autism at Home
We looked far and wide for a naturally autism treatment that we could apply at home. Looking back, we did it the hard way. If we knew then what we know now, we would have found it much easier and saved many thousands of dollars. My goal here is to help you find simple, cost-effective and highly impactful health strategies to get started. If you would like further help, learn more about our private online community and explore the benefits of hiring an autism life coach here.
If only there was a magic supplement that could reduce inflammation, heal the gut, improve the function of mitochondria and supply all of the nutrients that we need. It would be the best supplment for autism ever. While we wait for that, we can do the next best thing. Address those key areas with diet and supplements that help our body do a better job of healing and functioning the way nature intended.
- Remove food that causes inflammation.
- Add quality nutrient dense foods to improve overall health
- ION Biome supplement (formally Restore) for gut health
The list of 3 below is not an exhaustive list, but instead is a list of 3 really important and often overlooked strategies. These aren't to replace the other essential strategies that you have and have had recommended to you by the experts in the ASD. These 3may be used alongside your other strategies including physical therapy and conventional/herbal medicine.
1. Remove food that causes inflammation.
It's critical as a first step to remove foods that are causing inflammation. Some people don't like the thought of special diets, but other strategies to reduce inflammation will be less successful if food is causing inflammation.
The first diet strategy that we tried was eliminating gluten and dairy. Our son improved noticeably in a couple of weeks after eliminating these foods. We got a lot of hope and confidence from doing this. Our whole family now eats a gluten-free diet. From my own experience, a gluten-free diet has made a huge impact on how well I feel. Many families of children with autism have done this with great results.
There are many doctors and naturopaths that can test for foods that cause inflammation. An alternative method is the use an elimination diet, whereby foods that commonly cause inflammation are removed for three months, and symptoms are monitored. Foods are then re-introduced one by one to check for signs of inflammation such as puffiness, skin rashes and other autism symptoms getting worse.
Once you have determined the foods that are causing inflammation, avoid these foods.
Some common foods that cause inflammation are;
- Gluten (usually from bread, pasta and other wheat products)
- Milk and dairy products
2. Add quality nutrient dense foods to improve overall health
Often we eat to fill up and to fill our calorie quota. There has been a focus on calories rather nutrients. To promote health, the focus needs to be on nutrients. Nutrients are to provide cells with what they need to perform well and to provide the good bacteria in the gut what they need to help the body thrive.
As a general rule, the best way to improve nutrient density is to prepare and cook the food yourself. Foods should be as fresh as possible and include a lot of colourful vegetables. Meat should be grass fed and finished.
Quality fats and fatty acids should be included in the diet. Contrary to popular belief, stable fats with a higher proportion of saturated fat or monounsaturated fats are healthier for the body and brain. These include animal fats from grass fed animals, coconut oil (including MCT oil), avocado oil and olive oil. Avoid frying the foods in oils, as high temperatures can damage fats. Stable, high quality omega 3 oils have also helped children with Autism.
For more information on foods to add and foods to remove, I recommend downloading the Bulletproof Diet Roadmap.
3. ION Biome supplement (formally Restore) for gut health
Gut health is very important for everyone, and improving gut health of your child can help your child. Digestive disorders are common with children on the spectrum. We have more posts that go into detail about gut health and probiotics for autism, however people want to know what supplement to provide their child to heal their gut quickly. For this, I recommend the Ion supplement.
Ion helps to restore a beneficial environment in a person's gut, beyond probiotics and prebiotics. Ion can help seal the gut lining, reducing or eliminating leaky gut and all the symptoms leaky gut causes. In combination with improved diet, Ion can speed up your child's gut healing.
Here is the link to the ION Biome supplement from the iHerb Store
Parents often look to probiotics for gut healing, often paying a lot of money for supplements that don't help at all, or at most help very little. You can read more in our post about probiotics here.
Below is a video with the creator of ION (Restore) - Dr Zach Bush
Consider trying the 4 most important and often overlooked strategies to help improve the health of your child with Autism. Reducing inflammation and improving the health of your child can greatly improve how well they respond to conventional treatment. Once your child is healthy, you are in a good place to explore more targeted (and costly) therapies advised by an integrative health doctor if you decide to do so.
Hiring an autism life coach is the best way to be guided by someone that has already walked the path. Someone that has already healed their child with autism and reduced the autism symptoms in their child can help you and your family navigate the challenges of autism.