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 spectrum 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.
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?
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.
The list of 4 below is not an exhaustive list, but instead is a list of 4 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 may be used alongside your other strategies including physical therapy and conventional/herbal medicine.
2. 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
3. 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.
4. 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.