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What are the early signs of autism

Autistic Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) are a group of conditions characterised by the presence of abnormal social communication and interaction patterns. These patterns may be evident early in life, sometimes as early as eighteen months old, and can often continue to develop over time.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), one in every 68 children in the United States has been diagnosed with autism. Even though it’s a common condition, many people don’t know what the signs of autism are or how to tell if their child might have it.  If you aren't familiar with autism, I recommend reading this post to get a wider view of autism.

Fortunately, there are some simple signs of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) that can help you determine if your baby or toddler may have autism. If you suspect your child may be struggling with sensory processing, try using these techniques to boost his or her social skills. One of the first signs of autism is poor communication between parents and children.

Even young kids who have average intellect may struggle to understand what parents say if they speak slowly or use a different dialect than them.  By keeping an eye out for these characteristics as they appear, you could spot the early signs of autism sooner rather than later.

Recognising signs of autism

Autism is the most common developmental disability among school-aged children. But how do you know if your child might have ASD? Here are some warning signs to watch out for early on so that early intervention can begin ASAP.

Social Skills Deficits

The first clue that something isn’t quite right with your kid is related to social interaction. Children with ASD tend to struggle socially because they don’t understand social cues and body language. They may seem aloof and distant, or even aggressive toward people they don’t know well. They may have trouble reading facial expressions or responding appropriately to emotional situations. And they may have trouble communicating their needs and wants.

Autistic children often don’t respond well to social cues such as smiling or waving goodbye. In fact, they may not even recognise those gestures. This makes it difficult for parents and teachers to know what to do to help them feel comfortable around others.

Communication Difficulties

Many children with Autism Spectrum Disorder don't talk at all, or have very limited verbal communication.  Children with ASD often have trouble communicating and understanding others' feelings. They may not make eye contact or may not respond when their name is called. They may have trouble starting or sustaining a conversation. And they may not understand or use nonverbal communication, such as gestures, body language, or eye contact.

Behavioural Issues

Another sign that your child may have ASD is his or her tendency to engage in repetitive behaviours. These could range from hand flapping or rocking backward and forward to collecting rocks or cars. Some kids with ASD may show unusual interest in certain topics or activities, such as trains or dinosaurs. Other kids may prefer to spend hours playing video games rather than doing homework.

Other Signs of autism

Other possible signs of autism include having difficulty following rules or showing compliance with authority figures. 

There are also common signs relating to gastrointestinal problems such as constipation and diarrhoea. Gut issues should not necessarily be used as a sign of autism, but rather an opportunity to heal.  Gut imbalance may be a factor affecting your child's development, rather than a symptom of autism.  We have more information about gut health in other blog posts. 

Kids on the spectrum may also have unusual sensitivity to sounds (particularly high-pitched noises).  This can be important to address early, even if your child does not have autism.  Noise sensitivity can affect how children feel in certain environments and situations, which influences their happiness and development.

What are the signs of autism in babies?

Some babies with ASD exhibit certain characteristics during infancy. These characteristics include:
  • Not babbling like typical infants
  • Having trouble learning language
  • Being less responsive to people around them
  • Reduced eye contact
  • Reduced gesturing and pointing.

What are the signs of autism at 12 Months?

A child with typical development will typically turn his head towards an adult calling him by name. This is known as "looking up." However, children with ASD do not necessarily look up when called by name. They may respond by turning their body toward the person speaking. If you call out to a child with ASD, he may ignore you or even run away. 

Often the first signs of autism usually become apparent at around twelve months old. They may include:
  • Not babbling and delayed speech
  • Not using gestures to communicate
  • Not looking people in the face or making eye contact 
  • Avoiding physical contact with others
  • Difficulty showing emotions

What are the signs of autism at 18 Months?

A baby at 18 months will often show a lack of interest in people and objects. They may not reach out to explore the world around them, or they might prefer to play with one toy over others. If your baby is at this age, it’s important to pay close attention to their behaviour in case there are any signs of autism that you haven’t noticed before.

What are the signs of autism at 24 Months?

By 24 months, signs of autism may be easier to spot.   They can be still quite difficult to spot.  One of the first signs that your child might have ASDs is if they start displaying an unusual level of preoccupation with activities such as trains or dolls. They may also show a lack of interest in people they are familiar with and prefer to play alone or with toys.

A child with typical development will look up at you and say "Mommy." She'll laugh and giggle and show her teeth. She'll reach out to touch you. She might even give you a hug. At 24 months, children are starting to learn about themselves and the world around them. And they're beginning to develop language skills.  A child on the spectrum may start to be more noticeable at this age if delays become more noticeable.

Some behaviours that could indicate ASDs include:
  • not responding when you call them
  • having difficulty understanding cause and effect
  • repeating words or phrases over and over again
  • being unable to carry on a conversation
  • avoid eye contact
  • struggling socially

What are the signs of autism at 36 Months and beyond?

At 36 months and beyond, the early symptoms of autism described above may be more easy to spot.  They may have difficulty with social and behavioural skills as well as missing developmental milestones by a larger margin than in the past.

At 36 months, often children become more social and spend more time playing with others, however a child on the spectrum may avoid others, and prefer to play alone in a quiet area.  For children with sensory issues, often they find a quiet area with less sensory input.

If I suspect my child has autism, what can I do?

If you suspect your child has autism, it is important to talk to your doctor. Your doctor will ask questions about your family history and medical history. He/she will perform a physical exam and order tests to rule out other conditions. These tests may include blood work and being referred to other professionals for further testing relating to an autism diagnosis. 

Autism affects development, so it's important to seek help early so that delays in development are minimised.

You may explore the symptoms of autism further with our post - What are the symptoms of autism?


What is Autism when looked at with fresh eyes?

In Brief

Autism is a spectrum of symptoms, predominately defined by delays in social skills, communication skills and repetitive behaviours.  Definitions are fine, but sometimes we need a deeper look.

What is Autism? - The official summary

Autism, or autism spectrum disorder (ASD), refers to a broad range of conditions characterised by challenges with social skills, repetitive behaviours, speech and nonverbal communication.

Autism is typically thought of as a lifelong developmental disability that appears during early childhood and refers to a broad range conditions and characteristics. The commonly observed symptoms of ASD include weaknesses in a person’s social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation.

Children with autism usually have difficulty relating to people and understanding the world around them. They tend to have repetitive behaviours and restricted interests. Some children with autism may experience unusual sensory perceptions, such as hypersensitivity to certain sounds, textures, tastes, smells, and sights.

There are different types of autism spectrum disorders (ASDs), including;

  • Asperger syndrome – A mild form of ASD characterised by difficulties with social interaction but not by restricted interests, behaviours, or activities.
  • Autistic disorder – A more severe form of ASD characterised by significant impairment in social interaction and communication, as well as restrictive and/or repetitive behaviours and interests.
  • Pervasive Developmental Disorder Not Otherwise Specified – A less severe form of ASD characterised by persistent deficits in reciprocal social interactions and communication.
A report in 2020 from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) in the USA concluded that the rate of ASD diagnosis is 1 in every 54 children. This rate has grown quite quickly from the reported 1 in 125 from 2004.

What is Autism? - From another angle

We parents have a variety of views on autism. When we break it down, autism is a term used to categorise a child based on traits and behaviours, just like someone who can perform sport at a high level is called 'athletic'. Autism is not a diagnosis in the same order as a diagnosis of cancer, for example, which involves diagnostic pathology and imaging. The diagnosis of Autism uses no such tools.

Although we are told by psychologists that our child has a permanent developmental disorder whereby their brain is wired differently, there are no diagnostics done to confirm that assumption. The logic used by the psychologists flows something like this.
Unfortunately, assumptions can get in the way of the truth. We parents don't want to risk going down the wrong path as a result of assumptions that may not be true.

Autism can be used as a term to help us explain to others and get extra assistance where needed. Without the term 'autism' it would be difficult when explaining the challenges of our child to others. We would spend a few minutes describing our child, in which time, the average modern person in the smartphone generation would switch off and start scrolling through their social network feed.

In reality, our kids are not autistic. They may be simply having some challenges with certain parts of their development. In many cases, the differences aren't challenges, they are just differences and in some cases enhancements!

When we are looking to help our children develop into the person they have been born to be, we need to assist them in overcoming their individual challenges, keeping in mind that some diagnosed symptoms of Autism should not be considered to be a problem. People are meant to be individuals.

The help our children, we need to be open to a wider range of strategies. The remainder of this post will cover some key aspects of Autism, but from an alternative point of view.

Signs and Symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD)

Signs and symptoms of Autism can help us as parents and medical professionals to focus our efforts to help children with autism. In some settings, there can be a focus from people to use the signs and symptoms to diagnose a child as either autistic or not, then further categorise them to represent where on the spectrum they belong. A better use of the signs and symptoms is to use them to guide our focus and help our children.

Signs that need to be addressed first include those that negatively impact people's life. Some of these include:

  • Inability to comfortably engage in eye contact.
  • Visual and auditory sensory challenges.
  • Difficulty with speech.
  • Impaired motor skills.
  • Difficulty understanding language.
  • Poor social skills.

In the list above, I have intentionally not mentioned those signs of autism that involve things such as different interests and the way children play. I believe variation in interests and some behaviours can be positive, whereas those making a diagnosis see them as a negative because they differentiate the child from a 'normal' child.

I have added poor social skills to the list above because sometimes there needs to be a focus on helping children socially as they come out of the autism fog to enhance their life. Children that have been overwhelmed with the symptoms of autism may not have had the opportunity to develop social skills and connection in the normal timeline. Therefore, they may want and need additional support in this area.

In my view, the signs of autism above all have a common influencing factor of poor gut and mitochondria health. Issues with gut and mitochondria result in increased inflammation, as confirmed in studies comparing kids on the spectrum with neurotypical children. Studies comparing children on the spectrum to neurotypical children regularly show autistic children have increases in inflammation and oxidative stress. The increases in inflammation tend to be found in the nervous system and the brain, which I believe is a major factor in the signs of Autism above.

Based on the evidence of increases in nervous system inflammation in groups of children with ASD, it makes sense to improve their health and implement strategies to reduce inflammation. As many parents and doctors can attest to, strategies addressing inflammation, gut health and mitochondria health can have amazing results.

What Causes Autism?

Autism is a spectrum of disorders with a spectrum of possible causes. Due to it's complexity, the common path for intervention with autism doesn't spend much time on uncovering the cause of autism. The diagnosis is made, permanent brain development issue from birth is assumed and potentially contributing factors are not explored any further.

As described above, an often overlooked cause of autism may be gut and mitochondria health issues and the resultant inflammation and impaired energy production. If we had access to an unlimited supply of information for each child, we would probably find many contributing factors rather than a single cause. If you are able to find and afford a skilled integrative medicine practitioner, you would likely uncover many of these factors.

What are some of the best natural treatments for Autism?

There is a well established treatment pathway for autism that involves early intervention therapies. These therapies are important and can significant help children on the spectrum. These therapies including psychology, speech pathology and occupational therapy will be the backbone of your child's treatment plan. You are probably already utilising these therapies, so I won't go into much detail on those treatments in this post. The purpose of this post is to offer some additional approaches and understanding.

Most of us don't have access to or have the funds to utilise a skilled integrative health practitioner right from the start. As such, we need to make some improvements to health and lifestyle first. An integrative health practitioner will suggest you do this anyway, so why not start now.

The health and lifestyle changes that I mention here are not to be considered medical advice and are my opinion only. You should seek advice from a qualified health professional able to provide specific advice The ideas below are general only.

Consider start with changes to the diet that remove potentially inflammatory foods. Consider implementing an elimination diet protocol that works for you. You can find many good options from simple internet searches and books. Elimination diets remove likely foods that are causing inflammation, then reintroduce them one-by-one and monitor symptoms.

Common inflammatory foods includes:

  • Gluten
  • Diary, particularly milk.
  • Eggs
  • Sugar
Our son had noticeable improvements in his wellbeing and symptoms quite quickly from eliminating milk and gluten. This gave us incredible hope and motivation to continue. We knew that we were on the right track.

Increase the amount of vegetables in the diet while reducing processed foods. Focus on nutrient dense foods.

Our default these days is to make sure we are filling our kids up with food. We believe that we need to provide enough energy for our children to grow and thrive, so we want to fill them up. I urge you to stop thinking like that! Please focus on quality food. That's where health comes from.

If you are ready for some fine-tuning and potential supplements, that's where you should seek help from a good integrative health practitioner who can run diagnostic tests and specific advice.

For more details on alternative strategies to help your child with Autism, please visit our post about healing autism.  There are many additional strategies and therapies that can be very helpful that you may not have explored yet, such as those to help with noise sensitivities and primitive reflexes.


ADHD and Improving Concentration

Can you address the early signs of ADHD naturally?

How to Improve Attention Issues - Summary

  • Eat real food. Nutrient-dense food, with no to little processing.
  • Eat for nutrients, not to fill up. Satisfy the cravings, hunger and drive to eat by satisfying the nutritional need.
  • Eat to promote wanted gut bacteria, while weakening unwanted bacteria.
  • Greatly reduce poor quality carbohydrates, which include sugar, high fructose fruit juices and processed carbohydrates.
  • Reduce stress. Don’t punish when the child acts out. Find the reason for the behaviour, and teach them the skills they need.
  • Improve sleep. Have a calming bedtime routine that involves no screen time and little artificial light.

Is ADHD getting worse?

I’m deeply concerned about the worsening situation of our kid’s health. It’s a serious issue, and for me, a person who’s seen first-hand what an improved diet and lifestyle can do for a child further down on the Autism spectrum than just ADHD, I want to raise awareness and help parents improve the lives of their children. I’m not only deeply concerned about today’s younger generation, as learning delays are becoming an increased issue, but I’m worried about the following generation. What will our society become, if this trend continues? The time to do something about it is now! This post is my attempt to do something about it. I hope that it may start the healing journey for a few families.
Many children today have issues that affect their learning. We may hire personal tutors, enrol them in catch up classes or pay to send them to a better school. We think we need to teach them harder. If they aren’t learning fast enough, spend more time teaching. Be more disciplined. We use rewards and consequences. If that’s not working, we increase the consequences.

In a school setting, if they aren’t concentrating, they’re being distracted, and are distracting others, they’re just a naughty kid. Their parents haven’t taught them well enough. The parents haven’t been firm enough to make them fit the mould required for school.

It’s interesting that members of society, without a child with challenges, firmly push to get kids to conform to the mould. When the child isn't shaped firmly enough to fit the mould, they’re branded as being inflexible and/or naughty. The reality is that there is always a reason for everything. If they can’t concentrate, there’s a reason. If they act naughty, there’s a reason. If they are defiant, there’s a reason….I can go on……

Children naturally want to be good people. They mostly want to do the right thing, if they can. The reason for a particular behaviour is often either a skill deficit (they can’t meet your expectations, so they get triggered and act out), or they feel a certain way that blocks their ability to meet expectations. The feeling a certain way can be emotional or health-related.

In this post, I’m focussing on the lack of ability to hold attention. This skill deficit has a reason and can be helped. There are multiple possible reasons, but solutions can be found. Rather than just relying on spending more money on tutors, schooling, extra classes and other professional interventions, there are things in the home that you can do. You will still benefit from spending money on those interventions, but having your child healthy, with a balanced body and brain will allow you to get more value for money. They will learn to concentrate better, learn faster and get better results.

In this post, I use the term ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) throughout. Not because this just applies to children diagnosed with ADHD, but because research is often carried out on this group of people, as well as people on the Autism Spectrum. This post will still be valuable for non-diagnosed kids, with parents that want to improve their children’s health and ability to learn.

To learn more about what ADHD is, please read our post about the
symptoms of ADHD.

What Causes ADHD?

Conventional Wisdom

No one knows exactly what causes ADHD, but certain things are thought to play a role.
  • It runs in families. Genes are being researched, but nothing significant uncovered yet.
  • Increased incidence for babies born of low birth weight.
  • Increased incidence of babies born with birthing difficulties.
  • Increased incidence for children with head injuries to the frontal lobe.
  • Increased incidence for children of pregnant women that smoke or drink alcohol.
  • Increased incidence of children exposed to lead, PCBs, or pesticides.

My View

We don’t have a proven direct cause of ADHD. To prove an exact mechanism is very difficult. Having just one direct cause is unlikely. Investigations need to go deeper and deeper to find out what common factors people with ADHD have, that may be causing ADHD. What do those factors do to the body and individual cells? For example, if any of the known factors that induce ADHD also affect the function of the mitochondria, we may be able to devise treatments that restore proper functioning of the mitochondria. If there is an imbalance in neurotransmitters, we may need to design therapies to restore healthy production of neurotransmitters and maintain their balance naturally.

If a child in a family has attention issues and/or is diagnosed with ADHD, then another child in that family is more likely than average to have the disorder. From that information, it’s important to look at all reasons that may account for that trend. We often look too soon for genetics to explain family links in disorders. There are many things that members of a family have in common other than genes. Also, remember that genes are templates for protein chains. They are templates for the body to produce various proteins that the body needs to function.

Yes, various genes and polymorphisms in genes can contribute to health issues. They can predispose a person to certain health conditions, but there are often ways to work around those pre-dispositions. Since it takes generations for genes to evolve and change significantly, it’s unlikely to be a significant factor in the large rise in attention issues in our young children. I argue that family links are more likely to be related to environmental factors. Environmental factors include diet and lifestyle.

For all of the factors relating to childbirth, it’s an opportunity to investigate factors that contribute to both attention issues and birth issues. For example, if there’s a link between underweight babies and ADHD, is there a factor that causes both. A baby being underweight is not the cause, but there may be a cause for both being born underweight, and developing ADHD. Is the baby's weight another symptom of the same root cause of ADHD? If there were specific issues in the development of the foetus for some reason, we could investigate why?

As an extension to this idea, if the development of the foetus can influence the ADHD, is it possible that the development of the child after birth could also contribute? If the health and development of children after birth could impact ADHD, what can we do to avoid ADHD developing as a result?

If there’s an increased incidence for children exposed to lead, PCBs, or pesticides, could mother’s exposed to these toxins have an increased risk of ADHD? Could family’s exposed to these toxins have an increased risk, which may partially explain the increased risk in some families? What are the toxins doing to the body to increase the risk, how do we get them out, and how do we repair the damage?

I believe that some of the most critical factors are environmental and health-related. Children that have less than average health, due to a poor diet lacking nutrients, may be more likely to have concentration and focus issues. Children can improve their attention and focus if their health is enhanced through an improved diet and lifestyle. The brain produces and uses about 20% of the body’s energy while occupying only about 2% of the body’s mass. The brain is highly reliant on well-functioning mitochondria (which produce energy for the cells). A brain with cells that are efficient at energy generation, is more likely to have higher functioning and better attention.

Exposure to toxins and poor diets can impact the function of mitochondria. It’s crucial to optimise mitochondria function as much as possible to maintain brain function. I believe adopting a diet and lifestyle to help mitochondria and detox pathways are key.

We know from our own experience that we have our good days and our bad days. If we’ve been looking after ourselves, and have had a good night’s sleep, we feel sharper. We think more clearly, and perform better at work. We also may have noticed, that when we were in our early twenties, we were sharper. We could more easily solve problems, and cope better with mentally challenging tasks. Over time, we gain more knowledge and experience, but our ability to learn new things quickly declines. This may be due to the accumulation of toxins, oxidative damage, or various things that affect the proper functioning of our cells, particularly our brain cells, which require a great deal of energy.

This is also true for our kids. If they are unhealthy, haven’t been looking after themselves and aren’t sleeping well, maybe they too suffer brain fog. Perhaps their brain isn’t functioning as well as it could, and they are having trouble concentrating and learning.

Sugar and ADHD

Conventional Wisdom

There is no link between sugar and ADHD. One of the most influential studies indicating that sugar plays no role in ADHD was published in 1985 by Dr Mark Wolraich [link]. This paper involved 2 separate studies of 16 boys over 3 days. Day one involved no sucrose, and cognitive tests were carried out to obtain a baseline. On days 2 and 3, a drink was given to the children. Some got a sucrose drink, and some got a drink with artificial sweetener (aspartame in equivalent sweetness). Further cognitive tests were carried out over days 2 and 3. The results indicate that there was no difference between the group of boys with the sucrose drink and the group with the artificial sweetener.

My View

Diet plays a significant role in brain health, and particularly in how well children concentrate and hold attention. Sugar has a significant influence on gut health, which I’ll mostly leave for now, and discuss in the gut section below. Sugar’s influence on the gut and the resulting influence on the brain is significant on its own, but there’s more to the sugar story. It’s the effect on cellular metabolism and it’s metabolism bi-products that play a role too.

It’s ingrained in the majority of us, that carbohydrates (which sugar falls into) are the best source of energy. We are told to eat regularly to keep our blood sugar level in the right zone. We even eat extra carbs to load up before strenuous activity, but what about for everyday life? What is the best way to eat to turn the brain on?

To address the official view, firstly we have to remember that in general, your local doctor has not studied, or been trained on ADHD in much depth. They know that there are treatments they can prescribe (medications) to help the child focus and behave in class, but there’s not much more to their training. They are often aware that there is no conclusive evidence that sugar links to ADHD. Remember that doctors are often very smart people, that have studied at length and in great detail, but they don’t cover everything.

Many also don’t keep up with much of the current research, particularly with regard to helping the patient using diet and lifestyle. This is not because they are negligent in any way, it’s just because it’s not their job to keep up with ways to promote health through diet and lifestyle. It’s not their job to heal patients through diet and lifestyle. Their job is to heal patients through skilled diagnoses and treatment using medicines or other specialists when appropriate.

We as parents have a responsibility to keep our family healthy, and to help our children be the best version of themselves that they can be. We have access to many tools to help us do that in the modern world, one of which is a general doctor. There are other tools, however. As a parent, passionate about helping our children, we aren’t just going to casually wait until doctors have a tool to help our child with ADHD, we are going to find the tools now, while they’re still a child.

From my research, the most quoted study showing no link between sugar and ADHD was mentioned above. I’ll address that study now.

There are 3 major reasons why that study should not mean sugar does not contribute to the symptoms of ADHD.
  • The sample size is small, just 2 sets of 16 boys. Not enough to be confident in the results.
  • Only 3 days. The effects of a high sugar diet in relation to brain health cannot be tested over 3 days (as I’ll explain later).
  • The placebo was aspartame. Aspartame has its own negative effects, questionable link to ADHD with similar mechanisms to sugar, and gut effects.
To discourage parents from implementing a quality nutrient-dense, low sugar diet, based on our current scientific knowledge is unwise. Likewise, we should not discourage low sugar nutrient-dense diets for children with attention issues based on the study mentioned above.

Many studies of higher quality, in other areas of medicine, showing positive effects of natural nutrients, are not regarded as belonging to evidence-based medicine. Thinking along the same lines, using poor quality studies to conclude that sugar plays no role in attention issues, is not part of evidence-based medicine. Advising a low sugar diet is not part of evidence-based medicine, but that shouldn’t stop us trying a reduced sugar, nutrient-dense diet.

In general, doctors won’t advise a change in diet. They will encourage us to follow the current dietary recommendations supplied by the government body overseeing this advice. For doctors to prescribe anything, or advise any change, the medication and changes must have gone through a rigorous clinical trial process. This means that they are not advising a high sugar diet, they are simply not advising to change your diet, because there has not been a clinical trial showing that it should be done. There are a few exceptions to this method of advice from doctors, but in general, that is true. As a result, when looking for a diet to promote health, a doctor is not the tool of choice.

There is science showing the positive effects of training our body to use fats as fuel. This idea also involves improving the number and health of our mitochondria and reducing oxidative damage. Since our brain relies on having a high concentration of well-functioning mitochondria to produce it’s high energy needs, it follows that we should improve our mitochondria to improve brain function. One way to improve mitochondria function is to provide our cells with quality short-chain fatty acids for fuel. We want to reduce anaerobic energy production and increase clean energy production from the mitochondria using oxygen. Predominantly this is done through diet and skillfully designed exercise programs.

Adapting your cells to have a higher number, and better performing mitochondria take time. Usually, you would allow 3 months to have your cells well adapted to have high functioning mitochondria that produce a high amount of your energy needs from short-chain fatty acids. This means that any study showing the effects of sugar in a diet that is less than 3 months long, is not going to show this effect.

High sugar diets produce energy that results in more oxidative stress than the production using short-chain fatty acids and oxygen. This oxidative stress has many negative effects and the body, and even damage the cell membrane and mitochondria, which then further diminish our ability to produce energy. If our cells produce less energy, many flow-on effects can occur, including impeded concentration.

It has also been shown that gene expression can be managed with a by-product of ketone metabolism. More work needs to be done, but gene effects may be managed when cells have a higher short-chain fatty acid metabolism. If there are genetic predispositions that contribute to ADHD, then energy production using ketones may improve the situation.

Gut health and Poor Attention

Conventional Wisdom

It’s most likely, even today, that your local doctor and even your Paediatrician, won’t consider the gut has anything to do with ADHD. Even if your child with ADHD also presents with gastrointestinal symptoms, you’ll be told not to worry about them, and be given no advice to help the symptoms.  Although this may be true, WebMD published the below on their site, quoting a study.

"Children with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) are significantly more likely to suffer from chronic constipation and faecal incontinence than kids without the neurobehavioral condition, a new study says."

The study of more than 700,000 children found that constipation nearly tripled and faecal incontinence increased six-fold among kids with ADHD. Taking medication to treat ADHD did not seem to affect the number of office visits for these bowel problems, according to the study.

My View

There are many possible mechanisms that link the gut to brain health. Unfortunately, we are only in the early stages of knowing scientifically all the mechanisms and how they influence brain health.

Many people consider ADHD, and many other disorders of the brain, as a chemical condition. Meaning, it’s a condition with an imbalance of brain chemicals, particularly neurotransmitters. The treatment is therefore to correct the chemical imbalance using medications.

The gut has a significant impact on the brain. Neurotransmitters and precursors to neurotransmitters are produced in the gut. It follows that to correct the chemical imbalance in the brain, the gut may have a significant role. If a child with ADHD improved his gut health and improves his gut’s ability to produce neurotransmitters and precursors to neurotransmitters, it may improve his symptoms of ADHD.

In a study titled “Gut microbiome in ADHD and its relation to neural reward anticipation”, the authors investigated the role of the gut in dopamine production and ADHD. They propose that the microbiome might contribute to ADHD via the gut-brain axis. They investigated potential differences in the microbiome between ADHD cases and undiagnosed controls. They also investigated differences in neural reward processing. The study found that patients with ADHD tended to have a higher percentage of Bifidobacterium, which resulted in an increase in the dopamine precursor Phenylalanine. This resulting in an altered reward anticipation responses in the brain, as measured with fMRI.

Interestingly, producing too many precursors to dopamine is thought to produce a tolerance effect, and reduce the firing of reward centres in the brain over time. Also, unfortunately having too many dopamine precursors in the bloodstream, can reduce the transport of serotonin into the brain, which may result in chemical imbalances.

Phenylalanine is an essential amino acid, which can’t be synthesised by humans and has to be absorbed from the gut. Phenylalanine uses the same transporter to cross the blood-brain barrier as tryptophan (the precursor to serotonin), resulting in competition for entry into the brain. Excess Phenylalanine can, therefore, impact the levels of serotonin in the brain, which is thought to affect feelings of depression.

The inquisitive side of me is unsatisfied with the one-directional link presented in the study above, and am looking forward to more research. Since we know that there is a strong gut-brain connection, and we have research suggesting that mood can affect the gut microbiome, it is possible that the brain influences the gut to produce more bifidobacterium, in response to a need for dopamine precursors in the brain. In other words, if a child’s brain isn’t keeping up with the dopamine requirement, maybe the brain signals the gut to produce more dopamine precursors? Is the need for more dopamine precursors because the brain hasn’t been producing much dopamine, or is it because dopamine is being constantly stimulated because of the modern way of life? If dopamine is being constantly stimulated through our modern way of life, is there an imbalance in this reward system? Does this result in low reward signals for behaviours that really should have a high reward signal?

Dopamine just re-enforces the behaviour, but the joy a separate. The positive feelings that come from reward signalling isn’t the dopamine itself, but can be the result of dopamine, or tied into the same event that stimulated the dopamine. If the child doesn’t slow down enough to feel the joy of the event, the positive feedback loop is triggered via dopamine, and the event or behaviour will be looked for again, but the true beauty of the event won’t be enjoyed. The child may just keep looking to stimulate dopamine, but not actually get the full enjoyment benefit. Part of the picture may be to help the child be more mindful of their feelings, and teach them to look for the feeling of joy.

The gut also produces short-chain fatty acids, that the mitochondria use to produce clean fuel. Short-chain fatty acids are loved by the mitochondria, and when they are supplied to cells, our cells produce more energy with less production of free radicals.

Another benefit of these short-chain fatty acids is that a bi-product of their metabolism can regulate gene expression. This may or may not have a positive effect on ADHD, but indications are good. Short-chain fatty acids resulted in an increased gene transcriptional, particularly of these three pathways –regulation of the fatty acid oxidation, electron transport chain and oxidative stress pathways. Since these pathways are related to energy production, they may improve brain function further.

There are other possible mechanisms that may improve the symptoms of ADHD as a result of improving gut health. The immune system is heavily influenced by the gut, and the resulting levels of inflammation can influence brain function.

High levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines can influence cognitive processes, including reaction time and working memory (which can be impaired in ADHD). An increase of pro-inflammatory cytokines modulate tryptophan metabolism. Studies have shown that tryptophan metabolites modulate several neurotransmitter systems, including dopamine and serotonin. Lower levels of tryptophan and tryptophan metabolites are associated with the severity of ADHD symptoms. Pro-inflammatory cytokines can also activate microglia. When activated, microglia produce more pro-inflammatory cytokines, resulting in an inflammatory cascade that influences further neuro-inflammation and may influence ADHD.

In addition to this, a poorly functioning gut may have increased permeability (leaky gut), which allow substances to pass into the bloodstream that would not normally be allowed. These substances may have effects on inflammation, the blood-brain barrier and the brain. For more information about leaky gut, and leaky brain, follow this link.

More research is needed in this area, but it is extremely common for people who actively work to heal their gut, report cognitive benefits. Likewise, parents who work on healing their child’s gut report behavioural and cognitive improvements in their child.

There is a range of strategies that people adopt in an attempt to improve gut health. Everything from the effective, but restrictive GAPS diet to the ineffective and money-wasting low-quality probiotics (with no other changes).I have strong opinions on what is the best approach for gut health, as a result of a lot of investigation and experimentation. I also believe that it’s not a one size fits all approach for everyone. Stay tuned for more information to come in the future from me. To make sure you get this information, keep checking this blog, or our Facebook pages – Natural Autism Support.

Oxidative Stress and Attention Issues

Conventional Wisdom

Conventional wisdom doesn’t seem to have much to say about oxidative stress and attention issues.

My View

Oxidative stress affects the functioning of cells. Well-functioning cells have oxidative stress under control, which leads to a well-functioning body and brain.

There are two main ways to manage oxidative stress;
  • Reduce free radical production
  • Have effective antioxidant pathways
From a cellular metabolism point of view, the production of oxidative stress can be reduced when the mitochondria can produce energy cleanly, using oxygen. The production of clean energy is further enhanced when the energy is produced using short-chain fatty acids, or ketones. This study also shows that calorie restriction, ketogenic or low carb/high-fat diets can reduce oxidative stress. They also show how this style of eating can help protect brain cell death and other disorders such as epilepsy.

It’s also important to consume fats that are stable and have not already been damaged by free radicals. Fats that are unstable, and are more likely to be damaged inside or outside of the body should be avoided. These fats tend to be the unsaturated fats that undergo heavy processing to extract the oils. In other words, avoid the heavily processed vegetable oils such as margarine, canola oil and cottonseed oil. Many vegetable oils fall into this basket, except minimally processed virgin olive oil, coconut oils and avocado oil.
We have our own built-in antioxidant system, that can neutralise free radicals.

Unfortunately, there are some common reasons why these systems underperform. Having a body overloaded with toxins can hamper these systems, as well as nutrient lack. It’s important to eat a diet high in vegetables and berries of various colours, which a packed with various polyphenols, with antioxidant effects. Luckily raw cacao has a high polyphenol content (as does espresso coffee and matcha tea, but maybe not for kids). This means the well-made chocolate with a high proportion of raw cacao can be of benefit.

In general, anything that stimulates Nerve Growth Factor is good for our brain. When you investigate what stimulates nerve growth factor, and therefore stimulate brain development, you’ll find that antioxidants and polyphenols do this quite well. There are many cellular functions that when improved, help other pathways, and a positive spiral of benefit begins. Reducing toxins and oxidative stress are examples of things that affect the function of every cell, and many cellular functions.

Fat and ADHD

Conventional Wisdom

There’s research linking low levels of Omega 3 fats to ADHD, but omega-3 supplements aren’t widely recommended as a treatment. The FDA approved an omega compound called Vayarin as part of an ADHD management strategy. Vayarin is a patented formulation of Phosphatidylserine-omega-3 compound and is EPA enriched.

My View

A healthy body and brain improve ADHD. To have a healthy body and brain you need healthy cells. To have healthy cells you need healthy mitochondria, healthy cell membranes and nutrients supplied to the cell via the bloodstream. Nutrients come from food directly, by-products from gut bacteria and other nutrients produced by the body.

In this section about fats, the key point of interest is the cell membranes. The reason that cell membranes are so important is that cell membranes determine what enters the cell. A major component of cell membranes is fat. The amount varies on cell type, and even change over time. The composition of cell membranes even changes in response to environmental factors. There are a variety of fats in the cell membrane, particularly phospholipids. Cholesterol is also a significant component of cell membranes. Having quality, stable and non-oxidised fat in the cell membrane is important to cell function.

One reason that omega 3 oils and phospholipids, as found in fish oils, have shown benefit for many children with attention issues, may be that consuming these oils improve cell membranes. Improving the health of the cell membrane with these oils improves the functioning of many cells throughout the body, including the brain. Consuming food that positively affects every cell in the body is a good idea, since cells make up all tissue in the body, and carry out many functions.

I stress the importance of quality, stable oils that aren’t oxidised. This means, in general, oils that are naturally more stable and not heated above their oxidation temperature. Many vegetable oils are unstable. These unstable oils should be consumed at a minimum. Common vegetable oils that are more stable are olive oil and coconut oil. You can cook with these oils, but particularly for olive oil, keep the temperature below 180deg Celsius. A group of researchers studied the effects of heating extra virgin olive oil to 350°F for 36 hours and found that while there was some degradation in the phenolic compounds, the oil kept most of its nutritional value.

Polyunsaturated fats are unstable when they come in contact with a number of elements, such as light, heat, and oxygen. When polyunsaturated fatty acids oxidise they form unhealthy molecules called advanced lipid oxidation end products (ALEs). These ALEs cause an inflammatory reaction in the circulatory system, as well as the liver, kidney, lungs, and gut, and are thought to have negative impacts on human health.

Coconut oil, which is predominantly saturated fat, is more stable than olive oil, and a good option for cooking. The taste can be a turn off for some dishes, but it’s great for many meals. Animal fats are also predominantly saturated fats and are stable enough to be cooked with. Despite common thought, saturated fat is a healthy option for meals. Saturated fat got a bad name from around 1955, and has remained to this day, despite the continued lack of evidence that it contributes to disease. It is still believed by the majority of the general population (and many general doctors), that consumption of cholesterol contributes to heart disease, despite there being no convincing science to back that up. There are studies however indicating the benefits of cholesterol for health, particularly brain health.

With regard to cholesterol and ADHD, there are studies indicating that cholesterol may reduce the risk of ADHD. This study indicates that higher maternal HDL levels can lessen the risk of ADHD in their child. The study is not linking to consumed cholesterol during this period, but blood HDL (high-density lipoprotein, a carrier of cholesterol), which may indicate a higher level of consumed cholesterol.

There is more cholesterol in the brain than any other organ. About 25% of the body’s cholesterol is found in the brain, which accounts for less than 2% of the body’s weight. The brain, however, does not normally receive its cholesterol from the bloodstream, but produces it, and recycles it inside the brain itself. Cholesterol is a precursor of vitamin D in the skin. Cholesterol is the main component of bile acids, which aid in the digestion of foods, particularly fatty foods. Without cholesterol, we could not absorb the essential fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K from the food we eat. Cholesterol is also a building block for some hormones, which may influence the health and resulting symptoms of your child.

In short, don’t be scared of saturated fat, olive oils and fish oils. They can actually improve health, and influence your child’s attention and learning. Don’t cook with most vegetable oils (including canola and cottonseed oils) as they are unstable and can reduce health.

Toxins and ADHD

Conventional Wisdom

Studies show that pregnant women who smoke or drink alcohol may have a higher risk of having a child with ADHD. Exposure to lead, PCBs, or pesticides may also have a role.
Researchers believe that some toxins may interfere with brain development, which could lead to hyperactivity, rash behaviour, and inattentiveness.

My View

There are many toxins that we are exposed to. They may be environmental, they may be consumed and they may be produced in our body. It has been shown that our cells energy production can be disrupted by a variety of toxins. When we have poor functioning mitochondria for any reason, and resultant reduced energy production, we have the potential for symptoms of ADHD. We can all remember times, that we ate poorly, or didn’t look after ourselves. How easy it is to induce a state of brain fog. When our body is hampered by toxins, or for any reason has a drop in the ability to produce energy, we suffer a foggy brain, and a lessened ability to concentrate. Unfortunately, very few of us have spent an extended period of time eating a nutrient-dense diet, focusing on things that enhance our cells ability to produce energy cleanly. If we did, we would be more willing to provide that gift to our growing children.

The cell danger response (CDR) is the mechanism, that explains the reduced cellular metabolism in response to a chemical, physical, or microbial threat that could injure or kill the cell.  CDR is a normal response, that should be temporary, but when the CDR persists abnormally, possibly by toxins or infections that the body can’t resolve, the whole-body metabolism and the gut microbiome are disturbed. The performance of multiple systems are impaired, the behaviour is changed, and chronic disease may result.

Stress and Attention Issues

Conventional Wisdom

Doctors take the issue of stress in kids with ADHD seriously.

ADHD symptoms can lead to frustration and feelings of loss of control and hopelessness — a sure set-up for daily stress. ADHD may also be accompanied by other mental health conditions.

Conditions that are also linked to stress include:
  • Depression
  • Negative thoughts
  • Anxiety
  • Difficulty sleeping
Are these conditions secondary to ADHD or themselves causes of stress? No one knows for sure, but it’s important to address stress, in addition to your ADHD.

My View

I agree that the symptoms of ADHD can influence stress. I also feel that stress can influence the symptoms of ADHD. Like many factors relating to our health and wellbeing, factor ‘A’ affects factor ‘B’, which affects factor ‘A’ further, and so on.

It’s easier to think more clearly, and have organised thoughts when we feel great. Reducing stress helps us to feel great and sleep well. If we can help our children reduce stress, and sleep well, it will help start a positive spiral improved mood and concentration.

Stress also has an impact on many systems of the body. I would love to be able to list a pile of studies how stress affects the symptoms of ADHD, but it is agreed that stress can trigger headaches, increase depression, negatively affect sleep and weaken the immune system [link]. These effects may contribute to attention issues.

Part of the subject of stress comes down to this idea, that I’ll discuss here. Almost all of us make this mistake, mainly because it’s hard in today’s rushed and stressed world, and many of us really don’t consider this idea at all.

Children behave the way they do for a reason. We need to see it that way. We need to seek to understand the reason. Like us, kids often behave a certain way because of a stressor, and we can often react stressfully back towards them. We often respond to our kids with the first thing that comes to mind. We expect them to listen to us, then shut-up, and do what we say. If they are behaving in a way we don’t like, we react. We want to stop them as quickly as possible, and we expect them to listen.

If our car is making a noise and isn’t running well, we seek to find the reason for it, or we hire someone else to find the reason and fix it. We don’t just yell at the car and expect it to just get better by itself. Luckily, the car won’t get stressed by our response. If a child is lacking a skill, and can’t do what we ask, the result will be stress and unwanted behaviour. Just like yelling at a car to start when it’s out of fuel, yelling at a child to do something that he’s lacking skills in, won’t work.

An example for children, that many parents can relate to, is a baby that won’t settle. You can seek advice, and get many different answers. Often people give a quick answer. They’ll choose their preferred answer, without investigation. They may choose colic, or say that the child just wants to be held. They may say that the child just wants to wrap you around your little finger, they just want attention. Someone may tell you that they bone alignment issues as a result of a difficult birth or other pain. In this example, you get many different answers, but none have been the result of an investigation. Even Doctors may give different answers before asking many questions and before investigation.

Our kids do get stressed by our response though. So, if our children act a certain way because they are stressed, can’t make sense of something, or need us for some reason to help them through something, we need to be there for them. We need to listen to them and try to understand what they need. We can’t add to their stress by being short with them, and just expecting them to deal with it. They haven’t got the skills yet to deal with many things that life throws at them. We need to help them.

We shouldn’t fix things with consequences. We should seek to understand the root of our children’s stressors that drive the behaviour. Look for the solution. There is always a reason and a solution. We just need to look. I would love to talk about this idea a lot more, as it applies to so many things……but small steps, enough for now. We shouldn’t fight against things, but rather look for the reasons, the root causes and solutions.

That being said, we can help right now by just understanding this concept with regards to our kids and their behaviour. Listen to them. Find the pattern that triggers behaviours. Help them develop their lacking skills. Find the skills they need to help them respond in a calmer way when the trigger occurs next time.
When we add to their stress, their stress builds, which affects how their body functions. It affects how well they sleep. Rather than searching for the reasons for behaviour, we often attempt to modify their behaviour through consequences, which adds to their stress. We are intentionally causing stress in an attempt to modify their behaviour. This won’t work! It adds to their stress and results in more attention issues and more behaviour issues.

This line of thinking may seem on the surface to be outside of the scope of attention issues, but it does contribute. Anything that affects sleep, affects attention. Anything that affects gut health affects attention (and stress does). Anything that affects how our body functions can affect attention.
Be there for your kids. Take time to listen to them. Understand what troubles them. Help them through it.

As an added bonus, modelling great listening to them, helps them to be good listeners too.

Steps to Improve Attention Naturally

What to do help with ADHD now

  • Eat real food. Nutrient-dense food, with no to little processing.
  • Eat for nutrients, not to fill up. Satisfy the cravings, hunger and drive to eat by satisfying the nutritional need.
  • Eat to promote wanted gut bacteria, while weakening unwanted bacteria.
  • Greatly reduce poor quality carbohydrates, which include sugar, high fructose fruit juices and processed carbohydrates.
  • Reduce stress. Don’t punish when the child acts out. Find the reason for the behaviour, and teach them the skills they need.
  • Improve sleep. Have a calming bedtime routine that involves no screen time and little artificial light.


What are the symptoms of ADHD?

What is ADHD?

Attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) is a medical condition that affects people's ability to focus and pay attention.

ADHD is one of the most common childhood psychiatric disorders.  It's a condition where children experience problems with attention span, impulsivity, and hyperactivity.  While most people think that ADHD only occurs in children, it also occurs in adults.

Children with ADHD often experience difficulties with sustained attention, poor behaviour, and staying within limits. These behaviours can negatively affect their ability to do day-to-day tasks. Symptoms of ADHD may also include difficulty focusing, impulsivity, and poor time and deadline management. Individuals with ADHD often avoid tasks that require sustained mental effort, and they tend to lose or misplace personal and necessary items.

Children and teenagers with ADHD exhibit a wide variety of behaviours, but the most noticeable sign is hyperactivity. While many children are naturally active, children with ADHD try to multitask and often bounce from one activity to the next. They also have difficulty sitting still, playing quietly, or relaxing. A parent may be concerned about a child's lack of focus, but early detection is key to preventing the condition. 

When required to perform detailed tasks that required concentration, we all may have trouble if we have had a poor night's sleep.  When we are tired or unwell, and our brain isn't as sharp as usually, we can have trouble concentrating and often make careless mistakes.  A person with ADHD can feel like this everyday, leading to challenges with certain tasks.  This can often be noticeable by teachers in a school environment.  

Children with ADHD have difficulty focusing, are easily distracted, and easily forget things.  As a general rule, physicians diagnose ADHD when the symptoms significantly hinder the child's ability to adapt to school and home environments.

What are the symptoms of ADHD?

People with ADHD often struggle to stay organised and to keep their belongings in order. This results in messy work, poor time management, and missed deadlines. Additionally, people with ADHD are likely to lose essential items like school materials, tools, paperwork, and eyeglasses. They are also easily distracted by extraneous stimuli, such as tapping their feet or squirming in their seats. To manage ADHD symptoms, it's important that parents learn about the disorder and develop strategies to help their child with the help of experienced professionals.

Children with ADHD often exhibit multiple interests and find it difficult to finish tasks. Task completion is often not a priority for them, so they might struggle to complete tasks like homework, chores, or games. This lack of focus can lead to problems keeping track of time or making friends. However, children with ADHD are often creative and have a difficult time staying focused on one task at a time. As a result, they may be easily distracted and impulsive.

One of the first symptoms of ADHD is hyperactivity. While most children are naturally very active, those with ADHD tend to be hyperactive. Their constant jumping from one activity to another is a common symptom. They also have trouble sitting still, playing quietly, or relaxing. While these behaviours may be difficult to spot, they are indicative of ADHD and can make life difficult for the child affected by the disorder. 

What are the early signs of ADHD in children?

While many healthy children are inattentive, hyperactive, or impulsive, some may have the symptoms of ADHD. While these traits are not necessarily a sign of the disorder, parents should note that they can occur in children of any age. While some children exhibit symptoms of ADHD early in their development, others may have milder symptoms. If your child exhibits any of these signs, you should seek medical care to find out if they meet the criteria for ADHD.

One important thing to note is that the symptoms of ADHD in girls are often more subtle than in boys. This makes the disorder more difficult to detect and may not even be noticed in a child's behaviour. 

Although some symptoms of ADHD are evident in children as young as four, the signs often only become apparent as the child ages. While most symptoms appear at about age six, they must also be present for at least 6 months and impair the child's ability to participate in age-appropriate activities. This is why great care must be taken when diagnosing a child with ADHD before they turn five. A paediatrician or child psychiatrist is most qualified to diagnose a child with ADHD at this stage.

Symptoms can vary from person to person, and they may also change over time.  Signs that a child may have ADHD include difficulty paying attention, being easily distracted, hyperactivity, impulsiveness, difficulty controlling behaviour, fidgeting, and restlessness. ADHD can also cause problems with impulsivity, such as acting without thinking, interrupting others, and difficulty waiting one’s turn.

What are the signs of ADHD in Adults?

While many children with ADHD outgrow the disorder, most adults with the condition continue to struggle with inattentive behaviour. The primary symptoms of adult ADHD include disorganisation and impulsivity, which can lead to poor work performance, rocky relationships, and other issues. Often, treatment with ADHD medication is prescribed.  

Among the symptoms of ADHD, adults often experience difficulties paying attention, completing tasks, or completing projects. They often neglect important details, such as conversations, directions, and deadlines. Some may also have difficulty sleeping and organising their time. Moreover, these symptoms can lead to other serious consequences, such as depression, anxiety disorder and a lack of self-esteem. If the problem is not detected early enough, the symptoms of ADHD can worsen and lead to a life filled with frustration.

People with ADHD often experience higher levels of other mental health disorders such as  anxiety compared to the general population.  Many experts believe that anxiety can indeed make ADHD symptoms worse. For example, anxiety can cause difficulty concentrating, which can make it even harder for someone with ADHD to focus on tasks and stay organised.

For an accurate diagnosis, the symptoms of ADHD in adults should have been present during childhood. If the symptoms are still present at age 12, the adult may have been diagnosable as a child, but was not properly diagnosed. It's also important to consider that the symptoms of adult ADHD may be due to other disorders, like depression, menopause, or alcohol use. 

How is ADHD diagnosed in children?

Attention Deficit Disorders are diagnosed by a doctor or other healthcare professionals after the child has been observed for several weeks. The diagnosis may be made based on the symptoms that the child has and how these observations affect their daily life. It's important to note that there is no single, definitive test for ADHD because it is a disorder of behaviour and observations rather than one of any specific physical or mental condition.   Each person will present with different symptoms and different levels of severity depending on their age and other factors.  If left untreated, ADHD can lead to problems with conduct, academics, and emotions like anger control.  

How is ADHD diagnosed in adults?

While ADHD is typically diagnosed in children and teenagers, it can be difficult to diagnose adults with ADHD.  Symptoms are more difficult to spot in adults.  An evaluation by a doctor and other professionals will include an interview with the person who is going through the diagnostic process.  The interviewer will ask questions about how the person’s daily activities, behaviour and emotions affect their daily life. 

If you have one or more of these symptoms, then you may be diagnosed with ADHD:
  • making careless mistakes at work.
  • being easily distracted by things going on around them.
  • failing to complete tasks that they start.
  • not following through on commitments.
It is important to note that while these are some criteria for diagnosing ADHD in adults, there are many other factors that could contribute to someone’s difficulty paying attention.

What are the causes of ADHD?

This is a question that doesn't have a straightforward answer, as the causes of ADHD are not fully understood. However, there are some potential contributing factors that have been identified. These include genetics, environment, diet, maternal smoking, being born prematurely, gut health and inflammation.

It's thought that genetics may play a role in ADHD, as the condition is often seen to run in families. Research suggests that certain genes may make people more susceptible to developing ADHD.

Environmental factors may also contribute to the development of ADHD. For example, exposure to environmental toxins such as lead has been linked to an increased risk of ADHD. Additionally, research has shown that children who experience trauma or neglect are more likely to develop the condition.

Diet is another potential factor that has been linked to ADHD. For example, some studies have suggested that artificial food additives may contribute to the development of ADHD symptoms. Additionally, a lack of certain nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids, has been linked to an increased risk of ADHD.

Maternal smoking during pregnancy has also been linked to an increased risk of ADHD in children. Additionally, being born prematurely has been associated with a higher risk of developing ADHD.

Finally, gut health and inflammation have also been linked to ADHD. For example, children with ADHD are more likely to have gastrointestinal problems and a higher level of inflammation.

What are the treatments and therapies for ADHD?

A doctor will be able to run through the various treatment options that are available.

Some effective treatments and therapies for ADHD include behavioural therapy, medications, dietary changes or a combination of those.  Choosing a combination of treatments may be a wise choice, as they may work well together to lessen the symptoms.

Behavioural therapy teaches people with ADHD how to control their impulses and focus their attention. They also learn ways of dealing with distractions.  Medications can help ease the symptoms of ADHD by addressing the person’s hyperactivity, impulsivity, inattentiveness, and difficulty focusing on tasks at hand. These drugs may be prescribed for children or adults. Some side effects of these medications include headaches, stomachaches, weight gain, sleepiness during the day, irritability and mood swings. 

While there is no one-size-fits-all approach to treating ADHD, many people find success with a combination of medication, behavioural therapy, and lifestyle changes. Here’s a closer look at some of the most common treatments for ADHD.


Stimulant medications are the most common type of medication used to treat ADHD. They work by increasing levels of the brain chemicals dopamine and norepinephrine, which are believed to be involved in regulating attention and behaviour.  An experienced doctor can work with you to prescribe the appropriate medication.

There are several types of stimulant medications used to treat ADHD, including:

Amphetamines: These medications, which include brand names like Adderall and Dexedrine, are available in both short- and long-acting formulations.

Methylphenidates: These medications, which include brand names like Ritalin and Concerta, are also available in both short- and long-acting formulations.

Non-stimulant medications are another option for treating ADHD. These medications work in different ways than stimulant medications and are often used in people who can’t tolerate the side effects of stimulants or who haven’t had success with stimulants.

Examples of non-stimulant medications used to treat ADHD include:

Atomoxetine: This medication, which is sold under the brand name Strattera, increases levels of the brain chemical norepinephrine.

Antidepressants: These medications are sometimes used to treat ADHD, even in people who don’t have depression. They are thought to work by increasing levels of brain chemicals like dopamine and norepinephrine.

Behavioural therapy

Behavioural therapy is another common treatment for ADHD. This type of therapy can help people with ADHD learn skills like time management, organisation, and anger management. Behavioural therapy may be conducted individually, in a group setting, or with the whole family. It may also be combined with medication to help maximise results.

Diet and nutrition

While there’s no specific diet that’s been proven to help with ADHD, some research has shown that certain nutritional deficiencies may contribute to symptoms. For example, a lack of omega-3 fatty acids has been linked to ADHD. Getting enough omega-3 fatty acids from food sources is the best way to ensure adequate intake. Good sources of omega-3 fatty acids include cold-water fish like salmon and tuna, flaxseed, and chia seeds.

Making sure you’re getting enough of certain vitamins and minerals may also help reduce ADHD symptoms.  For nutritional deficiencies, it's wise to work with a qualified professional who can test for deficiencies and advise the appropriate diet or supplements to correct deficiencies.  

Other important diet and nutritional considerations include finding out if any foods in your diet are causing inflammation.  Inflammation has been linked to worsening the symptoms of ADHD.  Following an elimination diet, whereby suspect foods are removed, then brought back one-by-one may be beneficial. 

Can you reverse ADHD?

Autistic Man Cropped.jpeg

autism symptoms in adults

Autism Symptoms in Adults.

The rate of Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) in children is increasing, resulting in more knowledge and resources in the subject.  As a result, more and more adults are aware of ASD, and realise that they may have some signs of autism.

Identifying the symptoms of autism in adults can be difficult, as many of these individuals appear blunt, eccentric, and unusual. Aside from their autism symptoms, these individuals may seem uninterested in many activities. Depression and feelings of isolation can also accompany autism, as they have felt misunderstood their whole lives. 

ASD symptoms may go unnoticed or undiagnosed until adulthood.  Proper diagnosis of autism may replace an incorrect diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

For an autism diagnosis to be made, a professional will look at a wide range of symptoms and patterns of behaviour, then use their professional judgement.  

What are the signs that an adult has autism?

One of the most common ways that autistic individuals can be diagnosed is through social interactions. Autistic adults often have a hard time understanding nonverbal cues and social situations as well as using nonverbal communication themselves. They may also have challenges engaging in meaningful conversation and struggle to recognise figures of speech or sarcasm.  They may also speak in a monotone voice and use limited facial expressions, which makes it difficult to relate to others. They may seem rude and withdrawn, due to their challenges with conversation and social interaction.

Adults with autism have difficulty understanding what others are thinking or saying. Reading facial expressions and body language is often challenging. They may misinterpret gestures and sounds. They may not understand jokes or sarcasm. They may misunderstand social cues. 

Adults with autism can be blunt and rude, without meaning to be rude. They just don't realise their behaviour is inappropriate or making others feel uncomfortable.  They may not understand that certain behaviours are socially unacceptable. 

Adults with autism may have difficulty communicating their feelings. Sometimes they don't show emotions easily, and they don't express themselves in a way that people expect. 

Combining those challenges mentioned above means that adults with ASD often get anxious about social situations such as parties, meetings and dates.  They may even avoid social situations altogether.  It can be much more difficult to make good friends, which may contribute to loneliness.  These challenges can contribute to flow on diagnosis such as depression and anxiety disorder.

Autism is a spectrum, ranging from mild, high functioning autism, to more challenging forms of autism.  There's a range of symptoms of autism that are used in the diagnosis, however each person will have their own set of challenges, with no person being the same.  It's important to keep that in mind.  Whether you have autism yourself, or you know someone with autism, it's important to support yourself or others in a way that helps, not just follow a recipe that worked for someone else, or appears in a text book.

What are the challenges for adults with autism?

Many autistic adults can still face significant challenges in adult life. They may be able to hold a job, engage in serious relationships, and even live on their own, but they still face difficulties as a result of their autism. The challenges that they face in daily life are more than just behavioural.

Autistic people face additional challenges, which vary depending on their individual symptoms.  An adult with sensory issues may require a quiet workplace environment and a place to work with minimal sensory input.  It's important to keep in mind that environmental factors may help or hinder the wellbeing of a person with autism.

Someone with repetitive behaviours may need certain accommodations to help them at work and at home.  Sometimes workplaces should be more diligent about structure in the workplace, such as daily routines as well as well-structured meetings.  Friends and colleagues should be mindful of any challenges with social communication to help them connect and feel more comfortable.

Treatment options.

Although many adults with autism do not seek a formal diagnosis, consulting with a doctor is a great first step. Most autism services are limited to those with a clinical diagnosis. Consult with your doctor about finding support and resources in your area. Another great way to get involved in your community is to reach out to local support groups. Some communities have programs and resources to assist adults with autism. You can also seek help for co-occurring conditions, like depression or anxiety.

While the treatment options for ASD in children are generally quite limited, adults with the disorder may still benefit from various therapies. Some of these include cognitive, verbal, and applied behavioural therapies. While these are all beneficial, adults with ASD may benefit from different types of support, depending on their unique challenges. Psychologists and psychiatrists can perform official diagnoses. Licensed psychologists are more affordable and may specialise in autism. However, not all clinicians are trained in the treatment of adults with ASD.

For adults who have undiagnosed autism, treatment can help them improve their quality of life and function. Adults with autism may be socially isolated, and they may experience difficulty finding a job that is rewarding and well-paying. A variety of other conditions may also arise from their disorder, including mental and physical illnesses. Although these challenges may not be life-threatening, they can negatively impact a person's mental and physical well-being.

Adults with ASD may also have difficulty engaging with others outside their interests. The severity of the symptoms depends on the severity and the quality of life of the person with ASD. In general, treatment options for autism include therapy with a healthcare provider and sometimes medication. However, they differ widely from one another. Fortunately, the number of adults seeking help for their condition is increasing. This increases the availability of resources and services for this population.

In addition to seeing a psychologist, you can attend a support group for adults with autism. This group will help you find other people who share your experiences and learn more about neurodiversity. Whether or not you're an adult with autism, finding a diagnosis will help you cope with symptoms and find resources to improve your quality of life. A cure for autism is not available, but there are treatments for those who are diagnosed. Therapies for autism depend on a person's age and signs, as well as the severity of the condition.


What are the symptoms of Autism?

Parents and doctors may notice the onset of symptoms of autism spectrum disorder in children before they are three years old. Some symptoms are limited eye contact, inappropriate responses, over-reactions to changes in routine, inability to express empathy, lack of impulse control, OCD behaviours, distaste for physical contact, regressive behaviour, and inability to concentrate or pay attention. If any of these symptoms appear in your child, you should seek help as soon as possible.

What is autism?

What is autistic behaviour?

Children with autism spectrum disorder tend to have restricted interests and repetitive behaviours. These behaviours appear in many combinations and can be mild or severe. Scientists categorise repetitive behaviours into two main groups: lower-order repetitive behaviours include fidgeting, vocalisations, and hand flapping, and higher-order repetitive behaviours include routines and intense interests.

There are other behaviours that are common in children with autism, which can introduce challenges for parents.  Autistic children may not behave in socially acceptable ways in public.  These challenges can make it difficult for parents to perform tasks that other parents take for granted, such as grocery shopping or visiting friends and family.  Often autistic children will make loud outbursts in public that others find uncomfortable.  As a result, members of the public may shame or ridicule the parents and the child, causing embarrassment, particularly for parents.

What are some common early signs of autism?

The first sign of autism can be difficult to notice, especially since each child displays the symptoms differently. Some children may exhibit signs before they are twelve months of age, while others may not show any symptoms at all. Although the onset of the symptoms can begin at any age, most children with autism will exhibit signs between the ages of two and three years. However, it is vital to seek a professional evaluation as early as possible to prevent any further complications.

When considering the early signs of autism, keeping in mind the child may be quite young, here are some common signs to look out for.
  • The child is not interested in playing with toys or cuddling.
  • The child is difficult to interact with, even in the comfort of their home.
  • Babies with autism are often unresponsive to eye contact, loud noises, and gestures.
  • They are not able to respond to familiar objects, faces, or sounds.
  • They also may have limited interest in pointing or expressing feelings.
  • They may have delayed speech.
There are other symptoms that go along with autism, which are not necessarily autism symptoms.  These include inflammation and gut issues such as diarrhoea or constipation.  Don't ignore symptoms such as these.  They don't need to be used in the diagnosis of autism, but they need to be addressed to help your child overcome their challenges.  

We have a few post talking about gut health.  Explore our blog to read more about gut health.  You may want to start with this post talking about probiotics and autism.  Often parents waste a lot of money on probiotics, thinking that they will magically fix their child's gut issues.  Before you spend money on probiotics, read autism and probiotics post, and consider healing their gut with food.

Can symptoms of autism be something else?

It's wise to keep in mind other conditions that may mimic the symptoms of autism.  Developmental milestones may be missed for reasons that are not related to ASD.

Sometimes we look to label a child with autism, so that access to support is more readily available. It is important, however, to focus on making a diagnosis that is the most accurate, so that the treatments are chosen that address the needs of the child. As a parent, being armed with knowledge and asking questions will help the professionals make a diagnosis that results in the best care for your child.

Sensory issues are often misdiagnosed as autism because of some similarity in behaviours. Many kids with sensory issues will experience some of the same behaviours as those with autism. People with Autism may have sensory issues. However, I don't think that sensory issues should always be considered a form of autism. Some kids with sensory issues may have difficulty processing information or understanding social cues. Other kids with sensory issues will have difficulties with language or motor skills.

One reason that it's important to explore treatments for sensory issues prior to an autism diagnosis, is that a child may overcome many difficulties once the sensory issues are addressed. 

Anxiety is another condition that can look similar to autism.  Anxiety is characterised by extreme fearfulness and avoidance behaviour. Kids with anxiety often avoid situations that make them feel anxious. Your child may also be very sensitive to noise, lights, smells and textures. Anxious kids may also have trouble sleeping or eating.

Selective mutism may also be associated with heightened anxiety, which may mimic some of the communication difficulties that can be a sign of autism.

Kids with anxiety may also exhibit repetitive behaviours such as rocking back and forth, hand flapping or spinning. Some kids with anxiety may also have sensory issues.

The most obvious difference between autism and anxiety is that kids with anxiety usually understand what others mean when they talk to them. Kids with anxiety do not have problems communicating their thoughts and feelings.If your child has signs of anxiety, it would be wise to seek the help of a psychologist that specialises in children's anxiety.

Treatments for Autism Spectrum Disorder

It is important to follow the normal diagnosis and treatment path in your country.  I recommend that you also keep an open mind to explore more options and cast a wider net.  There are a wide range of things you can do to improve the effectiveness of early intervention and other autism treatments.  Just as environmental factors can contribute to the symptoms of autism, understanding those factors can improve the results form early interventions.

Unfortunately, common treatments for ASD rarely consider strategies for enhancing the health of the body and the brain.  When we as parents understand the fact that the treatments focus on things other than promoting health, we get a surge of optimism.  It means that grim picture being painted by the experts, may not need to be true for our children.  It may be grim for the standard treatment path, but having so many parents report great results by adding healthy lifestyle changes, it means there's more hope for us and our children.

This doesn't mean that we ignore the experts in the field of autism, it just means that we have more options available for us to add to the treatment plan.  

For more information, please read our blog post about healing autism naturally.  In this post you'll find some good ideas, particularly dietary ideas that many families have used to help their children with autism. 

Please consider seeing a local integrational health practitioner, which is a doctor that treats more complex chronic conditions by improving health with a scientific approach. 

Also consider getting an autism life coach.  Parenting a child on the spectrum is difficult, and having a coach will help you a lot.  More importantly, a coach will help your child.  A coach, who is normally a parent of a child with autism, can see things that you miss.  They can guide you in the right direction, avoiding pitfalls and strategies that are a waste of time and money.  Found out more about options for autism coaching and our private community.


Healing autism naturally with home treatment

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.

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.  Curing autism is a deeper topic than I've covered here.  For more on the topic of curing autism, visit our new post titled "Can You Be Cured Of Autism?"

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.  Why is it different for autism?
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 of this post. 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.

Here are some gut related symptoms
  • Diarrhoea
  • Constipation of less regular bowel movements
  • Gut pain
Here are some inflammation and oxidative stress related symptoms
  • Puffy eyes
  • skin rashes
  • Headaches
  • Fatigue
  • 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.
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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 way to reverse autism 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 supplement 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.

Here are the 4 recommended health related strategies for healing Autism in the home.  Note that my first recommendation is now removed from this post.  The company that manufactured the product would not allow me to include it publicly on this post.  For information on the number 1 recommendation, please email us at

  • The product that we wish we had right from the start.  As mentioned above, we are not allowed to name it on this post.  Email us at for information.
  • 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 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 3may be used alongside your other strategies including physical therapy and conventional/herbal medicine.

1. Removed from this post due to a request from the manufacturer.  Contact us at for more information.

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
  • Sugar
  • Eggs
  • Nuts

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.

For more information on foods to add and foods to remove, I recommend downloading the Bulletproof Diet Roadmap.

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.


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.


Are probiotics for Autism worth the money?

Are probiotics for Autism worth the money, and do they help?

Should my Autistic Child take Probiotics?

What if I told you to stop taking probiotics for now?  Before you stop reading and conclude that I'm crazy, hear me out.  You're probably wasting your money if you're taking probiotics as the first step. More effort needs to be put into providing an environment for good bacteria and yeast to thrive.

Many of us are aware of the importance of gut health, particularly when it comes to improving the lives of children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD). Gut health is essential, as described in our previous post. Still, it's also important to consider what is the best approach for you and your family.

Most people dipping their toes into the area of gut health start with probiotics.  It is worthwhile to consider probiotics in children with Autism Spectrum Disorder as a way to improve gut microbiota.  There are, however, other considerations when addressing gut health.  Although we would love the solution to improving gut health to be a supplement or tablet, probiotics need a healthy gut environment to thrive.  Quality food needs to be your first choice.

There are many positive effects on the immune system and the body by adding new strains of beneficial bacteria, but you may not be getting good value for money if you start with probiotics before addressing fibres and prebiotics.

Should I start with probiotics for children with Autism Spectrum Disorders?

Probiotics are alive or spore based microorganisms often taken as a supplement and referred to as good bacteria.  They are often taken to boost the immune system, aid digestion and improve gastrointestinal problems.

Probiotics are thought to be the third most commonly used dietary supplement, sitting behind vitamin and mineral supplements.

Many parents wanting to promote health in their children will provide probiotics before they increase the amount of high-quality fibre, low fructose vegetables and fruits.  The choice of a probiotic is often made without much research, and parents usually simply choose yoghurt, Yakult or a less effective probiotic.

Just because there are studies suggesting links between Autism Spectrum Disorder and gut bacteria, doesn't mean the solution is probiotics. A study may link certain strains of microbes with a reduction of Autistic behaviours. Still, we need to think about how to get these strains to thrive in the gastrointestinal tract.

We should focus on giving your good bacteria the food to thrive

Focus on overall digestive health.

Just as in the human world, dominant individuals wanting to maintain their dominance will greedily take whatever they can for themselves.  They manipulate the environment to suit themselves.  In the gut, certain microbes will attempt to do the same.  We can, however, influence the environment to strengthen the community and weaken the dominant microbes.

Our digestive system has over 100 trillion micro-organisms at any given time.  Consider that supplements with 65 billion bacteria cells are a drop in the ocean compared to 100 trillion micro-organisms already there. There are steps you should take first to give this 65 Billion a fighting chance to colonise in the colon. Many probiotics have a transient effect, and won't colonise, particularly if the environment is overrun with pathogenic microbes. If the population of bacteria don't want the probiotic to be there, colonisation is less likely.  They may have small effects as they pass through, however.

We often only think of bacteria in the colon, but we have bacteria all throughout our digestive tract. Each tooth can have between 1000 (very clean mouth) and 1 billion bacteria on it.  The stomach and small intestine contain bacteria, but hopefully in small amounts due to the acidity.

The colon is home to the majority of digestive system bacteria. It contains about 100 trillion bacteria cells. The bacteria composition can vary widely across the population of people. If the balance is off, the symptoms can manifest in various ways (more details in our previous post).

If you, like most people, have an imbalance in the microbes in the colon, it's because there's a particular group of bacteria and yeasts that are in higher than wanted numbers. There are still 100's of billions of wanted microbes, but there happen to be far too many unwanted microbes and not enough of the good guys. Many of the bacteria strains in the probiotics are already in the colon. There are probably more already in the gut than in the probiotic, but they can't create balance. Adding more via a tablet or supplement will have little effect, and may not be value for money initially.

The reason the probiotic strains can't create balance is that the environment in the colon suits the unwanted microbes. Probiotics won't help until the environment the bacteria live in improves.

The reason balanced diversity isn't achieved is that the environment in the colon suits the unwanted microbes. Too often, kids with Autism, eat a narrow range of foods. They don't tend to eat many foods that are fibre rich with natural colours and promote a healthy environment for gut microbes. The bad guys have an abundance of their preferred food supply, which is usually sugars.

There isn't enough fibre and prebiotic foods that the good gut microbes need.

To put it another way, the wanted microbes are starving, while the unwanted microbes are feasting.

If we provide children with probiotics for any reason, we need to take into account the whole digestive system. Yakult, for example, which is a favourite probiotic drink for kids, contains 65 billion bacteria. When you consider there are already a few billion bacteria in the mouth, and 100 trillion in the gut, they're somewhat outnumbered. They then have to survive the acidic environment of the stomach. If they eventually reach the colon, they compete for food with the other existing bacteria residing in the colon.

For new strains of gut bacteria to colonise, they need to find a home on the colon mucosa, where they can set up a base to grow their numbers. If they can't do that, they continue through the colon and exit.

65 Billion is a drop in the ocean. Before dropping in some more bacteria to add diversity, we need to set up the environment, so that the new bacteria stands a chance of colonising.

Two main factors limit new probiotic strains' ability to colonise in most peoples' colons.

  • The current community of microbes in the gut, don't accept the new strain or crowd them out.
  • A weak environment in the colon lacks quality foods that beneficial bacteria need, and high sugars which pathogenic bacteria love.
Some people do report side effects of using probiotics such as abdominal pain, gas bloating, overstimulated immune system, constipation and the triggering of allergies. The reason why the side effects of using probiotics are reported may be that the environment of the gut hasn't been addressed first.
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Quality foods are more effective and cheaper than probiotics.

The role of quality foods and prebiotics must be considered. A diverse and balanced gut needs an abundance of varied and balanced food for the microbes that live there. The focus for gut healing (and related health issues), should be to provide an environment for the good microbes to thrive. The intestinal environment shouldn't provide food for individual microbes, but rather a more complex diet with various nutrients and fibres that require a community of microbes working together to digest. For example, sugar can be consumed by the dominant strain without the need for help from the community. The predominant strain can then become more dominant.

One thing that can make your quest for a healthy family diet very difficult is picky eaters (more in this post). There seems to be a lot more fussy eaters these days, which makes it very difficult for parents. I argue that poor gut health contributes to fussy eaters because microbes have a big vote on what cravings we have and what food to choose. I explained this further in the Sugar Cravings and Autism post.

To read more about quality food to heal the gut and heal Autism, I include more details in other posts.  This one is a good place to start that has 4 strategies to add in your autism treatment plans.

Do probiotics help Autism?

A good, high quality probiotic may benefit children with developmental disorders, due to its positive effects on the immune system and digestive health as they pass through the body. Probiotics also may contribute added diversity and support to the good microorganisms that have already been colonised in the gut. As discussed above, probiotics alone won't have significant long term positive effects unless the diet and environment in the colon are addressed.

It is my view that before spending money on probiotics, some steps need to be taken to reduce unwanted bacteria and yeast. Work also needs to be done to create good eating habits.  The role of probiotics is to increase diversity once a healthy gut environment is established.  There are more important first steps to help autism than using probiotics.

Leaky gut and leaky brain barrier

My recommendations below are aimed primarily at healing leaky gut and improving the blood brain barrier.  A good diet can reduce and eliminate leaky gut, but sometimes we want a quick and easy fix.  The importance of leaky gut is often underestimated.  It's probably a major factor in many inflammatory and autoimmune disorders.  Eliminating leaky gut will reduce inflammation and improve the blood brain barrier, which reduces brain inflammation and improves autism.  

More and more disorders are related to poor gut health. These disorders don't just manifest gastrointestinal symptoms, but may contribute to the overall collection of autism symptoms. Gut disbiosis may affect many areas of the body, including the brain.

A healthy gut microbiome can help keep our brains functioning properly. It not only helps us absorb nutrients better, that supports brain health, a healthy gut can reduce toxins entering the body. Leaky gut is a condition allowing particles to pass into the bloodstream that shouldn't. Scientists that study this phenomenon often find that people with a leaky gut often also have a leaky brain barrier.

A leaky brain barrier can result in unwanted particles entering the brain, resulting in inflammation and reduced function. This could be a significant factor in Autistic children, who often show increased brain inflammation. This brain inflammation could be a significant factor in symptoms such as repetitive behaviour, altered social behaviours and attention issues, which are some core symptoms of ASD.  Heal a leaky gut and you'll heal a leaky brain.

Probiotics for the brain

We still need more clinical trials looking at the effects of probiotics, however, multiple clinical studies have shown promising results for adding diversity using probiotics. Studies show that probiotics may improve aspects of brain function such as social behaviour and mental disorders such as depression and anxiety. Probiotics have been shown to influence several neurotransmitters such as gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) and serotonin.

My recommendations are below.  Please also check out our other posts about helping people with autism, such as the 4 strategies you should add to your autism treatment plans.  You'll find links to all other posts below.

Which is the best Autism probiotic?

If there was a prize for the most researched Autism probiotic strain, it would be Lactobacillus Reuteri. L. Reuteri is commonly found in probiotics targeting autism treatment, due to studies indicating its positive effects on social interaction.  

But not so fast... Before I provide my recommended probiotic, I'll reveal my number one recommended supplement for increasing the health of our gut.  It's not a probiotic or prebiotic.  It's mentioned first due to its significance for improving gut health and having a superior overall health benefit than probiotic supplements.

In line with the body of this blog article above, my number one recommendation for a gut supplement is ION Biome.  ION makes the list of my four most important recommendations to naturally heal children with Autism.  Two of the 4 most important health strategies for Autism are purely diet based, so for ION to be in my top two supplement recommendations, that shows you how highly I rate the supplement.  To find out my number one recommendation for autism, please email me at or contact me via the contact page (the manufacturer won't let me publish details on this site).

Links to the recommended products

As discussed in the video below with Dr Zach Bush, this ION supplement has redox signalling molecules that bacteria use to communicate and work more effectively as a community.  ION Biome improves colonisation of good bacteria that are more compatible with humans than most probiotic supplements.  
Link to ION at the iHerb Store.

If you want a probiotic to go with the ION supplement, Floratrex is the probiotic that I recommend for L. Reuteri.  However I recommend starting with a more cost-effective probiotic that helps set up a beneficial environment for more expensive probiotics to follow.  The one I recommend for this purpose is Latero-Flora.  Latero-Flora is a lower price than most of the popular probiotics found in common pharmacies, and health food shops, however it is more effective at reducing pathogenic microbes and improving digestion and immunity.

Another probiotic strain I like is Lactobacillus Helveticus for its health benefits. It has been shown to improve anxiety, depression, sleep and social behaviours.

Although it's likely that your child with ASD has a less diverse range of gut microbes, remember, a tablet can't do all the work.  Using probiotics is just one of the ways health can be improved in combination with a healthy diet and lifestyle that includes prebiotic foods (dietary fibre).  I also recommend you consider adding probiotic foods such as Kefir and Sauerkraut. These foods are a healthy and cost-effective way to introduce beneficial bacterium.

For more information about gut health and strategies to heal your child with Autism, please check out our other blog posts.  You'll find links below.


Should I get an Autism Life Coach?

What is Autism Coaching?

Autism coaching is a specialised form of autism advocacy that focuses on helping parents and caregivers understand how to help their child with autism.

An autism coach is someone who helps families understand what their child is experiencing and provides strategies to improve his/her behaviour and communication skills. Coaches work closely with families to identify strengths and weaknesses in their child's abilities, and offer suggestions to effectively manage challenging situations.

Coaching is not just about helping parents manage their child's behaviour.  Rather, it involves helping them become aware of their own emotions and thoughts, and understanding how these affect their interactions with their child. Parents need to know themselves well enough to recognise when they are being overly controlling or judgmental, and to stop doing things that might make their child feel worse.

The term "coach" implies that you are being guided toward success. But in reality, there is no magic formula for how to become a better parent. There is no one way to raise a successful child. Every family faces unique challenges and circumstances. However, being able to collaborate and bounce ideas off a parent that's been there is valuable.

Parents often feel like they are doing everything right, but still find themselves struggling to navigate school-related concerns, prepare for school meetings and know how to advocate for their child. Parents may even find themselves feeling overwhelmed by the sheer number of decisions they must make each day. This is where autism coaching can help.

There is a growing number of parents that are like we were at the start of our autism story.  They have a burning knowing that something is missing with the standard autism support pathway.  There are too many assumptions and the approach is very narrow.  Having a coach to navigate the big wide world of autism with you can be very helpful. 

Why Parents Should Consider an Autism Coach.

Parents play a critical role in helping their child succeed. But sometimes, parents don't know where to start. That's where an autism coach comes in.

An autism coach can help parents gain insight into their child's unique personality and interests, and tailor activities accordingly. He/she can also help parents learn how to interact with their child in a way that encourages him/her to participate in daily routines.

Additionally, an autism coach can help parents understand their own feelings and reactions to their child's behaviour, and use that knowledge to effectively parent. Finally, an autism coach can serve as a resource for parents seeking additional educational options for their child.

By working together, parents and coaches can create a plan that addresses each family member's specific needs. A good coach will ask questions to get to the root cause of problems and then offer solutions based on the individual situation. He/she will also encourage parents to take responsibility for their child's success and give praise when he/she does something right.

A coach can also help parents set goals for their child's future and monitor progress toward achieving those goals. Additionally, a coach can help parents build relationships with other caregivers and educators, including doctors, teachers, counsellors, and therapists. 

One important aspect of being an autism parent is awareness.  Being able to notice triggers or patterns that result in a particular behaviour or response.  Too often we are encouraged to think that if a behaviour is "bad", we should train them out of it via imposing consequences.  A better approach is to develop your awareness as a parent, so that you know the cause of the behaviour.  A child doesn't act "bad" because they are naughty.  There is always a reason.  Coaches can help parents develop their awareness and know what to look for.  It's amazing how much talking to someone that asks questions to help you uncover new insights can help.

Doctors, psychologists and other health professionals working with autism spectrum disorder are in high demand.  They don't have the time or training to support your whole family and all the challenges that come with autism.  A coach that has walked a similar path to what you're facing can provide benefits that support and extend beyond the standard pathway.

Is Autism Coaching a good fit for you?

If your child is newly diagnosed with autism, you may be a good fit for an autism coach. You might feel like there is no one else out there who understands what you are going through. Or maybe you've been struggling with some of the same issues for years. Either way, it's important to know that you aren't alone.

If you can benefit from the attributes of an autism coach as described above, it's worth looking at getting an autism coach.  It's important to find the right coach that can help you with the areas that you want help with.  Every person and family is different, so there won't be one coach for everyone.

If your mind is spinning from all the information, ideas and options that are available, and you don't know how to navigate your path, a coach would be a great fit.  In our  experience, we would have saved a lot of money on choices we made that didn't help, if we had better support.

As a parent of an autistic child, you'll probably forget to take care of yourself sometimes. And since most of us don't talk much about our feelings, we tend to isolate ourselves. While one of the challenges that an autistic person may have is lagging social skills, we parents often cut ourselves off from our social circle, just to help cope with the new challenges.  Your social life will likely change with your new challenges.  So being able to talk to someone who knows exactly how you feel can really help.

What you can expect from an autism coach.

A good coach will be able to listen to parents with the desire to understand their needs and perspectives.  They will be flexible and adaptable to changing situations and new information.  

A good coach will support parents through challenges and frustrations.  They will be non-judgemental. They will be a person that you can feel comfortable being open and honest and will have your back when needed.  They will advocate for you and your whole family, while being supportive and encouraging.  

Coaches will offer ideas and suggestions to parents, but not pressure them to do anything that they are not comfortable doing.  A coach will be able to understand your situation in great detail, then taken a step back to consider options that may be of interest to you that you haven't thought of yet.  

An Autism Coach should give families practical tips on how to cope with everyday situations.  This includes helping parents learn how to set boundaries, manage stress, deal with meltdowns, and communicate effectively.  Parents may fall into the trap of focussing too much on autism, which can affect the wellbeing of their other children and themselves.  A coach can help you develop a more balanced life, which is incredibly important.

An Autism Coach should guide families towards finding the best therapies for their child, including opening their mind to ideas that they may not have considered or heard about yet.  They will also help parents find resources, such as books, websites, online communities and local services.

Overall, you can expect to improve your quality of life.  Even possibly more so than the life you had before autism.  Although autism can present challenges to daily living, and sometimes can seem too much to handle, you will benefit from the experience if you have the right support.
Natural Autism Support offer group coaching and one-on-one coaching


Can you be cured of autism?

Can autism be cured?

Autism is a complex illness that poses many challenges. Some children improve quickly and become independent, while others struggle throughout their childhoods. However, new research suggests that treatment may be more effective than we previously thought. The “cure” of autism has long been a popular topic in the media, with reports suggesting that it can be treated through a variety of different methods. Even parents who are not hopeful about the future for their child may have heard friends or family mention someone they know who was able to get over the condition through intensive therapy.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for autism just yet. It’s an incredibly complex condition, and one that requires ongoing support from everyone involved as well as close monitoring by professional carers throughout childhood. Here we explain what cured means when it comes to this diagnosis and possible treatments for individuals with autism spectrum disorder (ASD).

Why is there no cure for autism?

The term “cured” is often used when people talk about individuals with autism. They are referring to the fact that the individual has managed to overcome the challenges that come with this diagnosis and make progress in their lives. In this sense, they are not cured, just of some of the symptoms that come with it. For example, an individual may be able to attend a mainstream school without any issues as a result of intensive therapy.

I don't particularly like the term cure.  Even for diseases such as cancer, cure can be misleading.  For example, a person may have had treatment for cancer, then have confirmation scans to show that the cancer mass is no longer there, just to have the cancer come back six years later somewhere else.  Does this mean the cancer was cured, or just the most obvious symptom disappeared for a time?

Another reason I don't like using the word cure is that it's not allowed to be used to describe a medical condition going away, unless government approved treatments were used.  Our medical industry has too much control on what choices we can make for our own bodies, as well as control over what we are allowed to say regarding health.  This control has extended to autism, such that it's defined as incurable.  There isn't a medicine that's approved and shown to cure autism, therefore it can't be cured.

Even if it could be cured by addressing the root cause, there would be remaining symptoms of autism that need support.  For example, let's say Jared is a child with an autism diagnosis.  When Jared was 10 years old, he took part in a treatment protocol based on research to verify if it could cure his autism.  The treatment cured the root cause, however he missed developmental milestones earlier in his life.  He hasn't developed social skills, hasn't developed skills in expressing empathy and never really learned English skills.  He still ticks some boxes that meet the criteria for autism.  This means that he still has ASD, even though the treatment worked.  He will still need help to develop any skills that have been delayed, and he would like to improve on.

Autism isn't really a disease anyway (at least in most cases).  Many people with an autism diagnosis don't really need anything fixed.  They have differences that the majority of people, and may have challenges that mean it's hard for them to seem what we have defined as normal.  Normal does not mean right or perfect.  Normal just means you have learned how to be similar to others.  An autistic child may have skills that he and his parents would like to work on, but so do us all.  He may even have some brain fog and need support to improve health, as is the case with many adults.  It's just that the brain fog and symptoms of poor health may have appeared earlier.

The aim should not be to cure autism, but rather improve the quality of life of the person.

I believe that if there are early signs of autism, support should start as soon as possible.  The support should include a wider range of strategies than the current standard approach.  It is important for parents or carers to recognise early signs of ASD in order to provide support before the condition becomes more challenging.  Parents should remember that behaviours aren't the result of a the child just being a naughty kid.  Children don't want to be naughty.  There is always a reason for a behaviour, even if it's being judged as bad.  It's up to us to find the reason.

Research into treatment for autism

There is no cure for autism, but there are treatments that can help. Treatment options are geared towards helping people with autism in the areas of mental health, educational support, and communication skills. There are a number of different therapies for this disorder, including Applied Behavioural Analysis (ABA) therapy, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT), and play therapy. The diagnosis of ASD often comes with severe social limitations and challenges. The symptoms can be difficult to manage by themselves and need to be treated accordingly. However, these therapies show promise in treating the core symptoms of ASD as well as its accompanying conditions such as anxiety or depression. In fact, research has shown that CBT significantly reduces anxiety disorders in children with autism spectrum disorder. If you are thinking about whether you have autism, it’s important to understand that there is no definitive way to diagnose it. This means that nobody knows what causes autism or how it will impact individuals who have it moving forward. There is a lot of information out there about possible treatments for those who do have ASD and their family members should take note of any treatment options available to them if they’re considering treatment for themselves or someone else with this condition.

Some parents may choose to use natural methods such as diet changes or alternative medicines in order to help their child improve their symptoms without using medication or other medical approaches that may come along with side effects.  These approaches will need to be used in conjunction with other more researched therapies mentioned above.

There's some research into genes that contribute to autism.  I don't expect there will be an autism gene that scientists identify and devise a targeted treatment.  We know that certain genes that don't work well to produce the protein that they're supposed to in autistic people.  Supporting those altered genes is one strategy used by doctors, which usually involves testing and nutrients to compensate for the impaired gene.

Focus on therapies and treatments, not cures.

Every person living and breathing is changing.  Hopefully, with most of us, for the better.  An Olympian trains, eats well, employs a coach and explores new ways to get that 1% better.  An executive at a company goes to the gym to stay fit, takes supplements, eats well, meditates and learns from others so that she performs well for her company.  In our own way, we are all learning and improving.  Not because we have a disorder, or we have something to be cured, but because we want certain things out of life.  It's the same with autism spectrum disorder. We are supporting people to get more of what they want out of life.

For autism, we use the help of experts to find out which therapies we would like to try, then we use them to help our children or adults with autism overcome their challenges.  So if a child struggles with social interaction, we may organise some speech therapy or another therapy to directly support them with language skills and conversation.  We aren't curing anything, but just like everyone else, we are helping them learn, grow and overcome challenges.

Therapies should be supportive.  They should not be designed to intimidate a person into doing what's considered normal.  Rewards and consequences are often used by parents and teachers to get the child to do what we want.  I recommend minimising rewards and consequences.  In many children with autism, they can make the situation much worse.  Children want to improve and do the right thing.  It's better to inspire them to do what's best.

More about
natural treatments for autism from our blog.


How to Help Autism

How to get started to help autism

The average parent will spend approximately 20 years with their child. For children with autism spectrum disorder, this may be longer, and certainly additional skills are needed by parents to help their child with autism.  Autistic children are sure to experience their fair share of growing pains. When it comes to raising your child, there’s little book learning necessary.  Simply being present and aware of your children's cues is more important than any information you'll get from reading blog posts and books. The way children develop is somewhat influenced by the parental responses they receive during these formative years.  In order to raise happy, healthy children, it’s necessary for parents to understand the underlying issues of their challenges and support them accordingly. 

Parenting children with autism raises even more challenging experiences.  Challenges arise for the child on the spectrum, their siblings and their parents.

Understand Your Child’s Needs

One of the most important things to remember is the difference between wants and needs.  Children in general express their wants, and we respond, but only a subset of these are actually needs.  It's not to say that we shouldn't respond to their wants, but we should have some awareness of the difference.

When it comes to needs, for autistic children, they can be hidden.  A child on the autism spectrum may not have the ability to express their needs in  a way that is easy to understand.  To really help a child with autism, it's important to increase your awareness so that their needs can be uncovered.  Simply opening up your awareness and really looking for and noticing the patterns can go a long way to truly helping your child with autism. 

Unfortunately, books and theory can get in the way of a parent's ability to have strong awareness and notice the patterns.  This doesn't mean that you shouldn't read books to help with your knowledge of autism and parenting.  You should, however, understand that you will expand your perspective on the subject from reading, but don't fall into the trap of using the books to form rigid beliefs and rules that get in the way of helping your child.  It's interesting to me how many rigid beliefs the 'autism experts' have, while judging children with autism as being rigid.

Your child may have simpler needs than you think.  They may need happy and empathetic parents.  They may need some structure, routine and boundaries that aren't enforced by rewards and consequences.  They may also need the often overlooked need that we all have - nutrition.

Children with autism are often misunderstood by those who have never walked in their shoes. This means that it takes time for the parents to understand their child’s developmental needs and learning style. As a result, it can be challenging to know how to best help your child with their condition. It can also be difficult for your child to communicate with you about what is going on in their head. Many children with autism are very intelligent, but they make up for this intelligence with sensory overload when it comes to feelings and emotions. This means that your child may not use words to explain what is happening and might instead act out physically or verbally—or both! It's important for parents to be patient and understanding of this trait of autism so that the child knows they are supported no matter what.

Don't wait for an Autism diagnosis

Open your mind to new ways of thinking

Let's be honest.  We haven't nailed the subject of autism.  There's still a lot to learn and uncover.  We know the tick boxes to use to make a diagnosis, and some strategies to reduce the impact of the tick boxes, but the science isn't settled yet on the best treatment.  There are signs that some of us have given up on finding better ways to help our kids with autism, and we should just continue our current approach without change long into the future.  That may be fine for an expert without a child on the spectrum to say, but some parents like us want to explore everything possible, looking for ways to help our children overcome challenges.

Consider this example - Autistic people may have trouble in social situations.  Their social skills may be less developed than others.  This may be that they had things getting in the way during their development, so that people with autism seem to be socially clumsy in their teen and adulthood.  Early intervention, therefore, often works on their social skills quite heavily through play.  In other words, we get them to practice social skills harder.  The thing that is in the way of developing social skills is still there, however.

To help a child develop their social skills, we need to find out what's getting in the way, and help them with that as well.  It could be sensory overload in noisy social environments or auditory processing issues that make it hard for them to follow another person's train of thought and respond as expected.  It could be confidence or social anxiety.  Eye contact could be difficult due to visual processing issues and/or inflammation in the brain.  I could go on.  There could be many reasons, yet rarely does anyone explore and address the issue that's getting in the way.  They just train social skills harder.  

Don’t Expect an overnight fix

You will try many things to help your child with autism, from the standard group of professionals, to sensory tools and nutrition.  With whatever you choose, the improvements will be incremental.  There will be setbacks.  It's unlikely that you'll even see constant and steady slow improvements.  You'll see ebbs and flows with what seems like two steps forward and one step back.  Remember to set realistic expectations.

Don't forget about your own and your family's wellbeing

Having a child diagnosed on the spectrum is a heartbreaking experience.  Then add all the challenges on top of that, and you get a stressed and sometimes broken parent.  Don't spend all of your tank on your child on the spectrum. Take some time to fill your own tank.

Your whole family is effected by the experience and challenges that come with parenting a child on the spectrum.  Remember to take time to connect with and be present with your whole family.

Additional ideas to help autism

Forming a strategy is important to build a bit of structure around your approach to navigate your new life, and help your children.  As mentioned earlier, many experts that have studied an aspect of autism may have shut themselves off from other important aspects to focus on.  Sometimes when we read and study a subject, we consider ourselves experts, simplify our knowledge by taking on assumptions that only stand in a narrow context, then apply this to every situation.  If we're trained on using a hammer, we see nails.  

It's great for parents to read and learn, so long as they desire to continue learning and are open to altering their beliefs as new information presents.  I recommend using the standard approach to helping autism, with occupational therapists, psychologists and speech pathologists.  However, consider seeking additional ideas.  Those professionals are trained a certain way, and often view autism only within the context of their profession.

Here are some additional things to consider adding to your treatment options.
  • Nutrition - Nutrition helps us all feel and perform better.  Dietary changes often have profound impacts on children on the spectrum.  Please explore our other posts that cover areas such as gut health and healing autism.  Our post on ADHD also has some information about nutrition.
  • Primitive reflexes - Consider finding an occupational therapist or similar that addresses primitive reflexes.  
  • Improving sleep - Implement a sleep routine that works and consider low blue light lighting.  Improved lighting may also help sensory issues.  Sleep is key to feeling good, which helps everything!
  • Meditation - In our western world, meditation is used as a strategy for calming down and relaxing.  It's wise to implement a mediation practice to help you and your child cope with challenges.  The key foundation to get started with is slow breathing.  This doesn't mean deep breathing.  It means breathing less, and raising tolerance to carbon dioxide.  This alone can have profound impacts on some symptoms of autism.
  • Mindfulness - Yes, mindfulness is different to mediation, although mindfulness can be used in meditation.  Developing mindfulness will help your child understand their body and how they are feeling, leading to being able to articulate more about their challenges. 
There are, of course, many other ideas to explore.  Always keep an open mind and pay attention to the signs that will appear.  

For further help in your journey in the world of autism, explore our other posts including - healing autism naturally.

We are here to help.  To allow us to help parents of children with autism, we have a private community with group coaching as well as private coaching.


We all have ADHD sometimes

Attention Double Standards - we all have ADHD sometimes

We all have poor attention days, those days when we can’t think clearly and can’t concentrate. When this happens, we put it down to something we have done. It may be excessive alcohol, poor sleep, poor diet or some other reason. We then take some sort of action to get ourselves back on track.

When our children are having trouble concentrating in class, or holding their attention, we often approach it differently, particularly if these issues become more of a long-term issue. Our children don’t have the skills to identify the reason for their lack of attention, and therefore they don’t know what to do about it. They may feel a bit off and take no steps to improve the brain fog because they rely on us to help them. They don’t know how to improve their attention. The issue can worsen and remain over time.

We mightn’t know there’s an issue with their attention until months, or even years have passed. We don’t take any steps to improve their brain health, because we’re unaware that there are the beginnings of brain fog and a worsening state of health. We often don’t think to help them by supporting their health with interventions such as diet, exercise, meditation and improving their sleep. We don’t think to model better thoughts, behaviours and actions.

Then comes a day when we realise there is a problem with attention. It may come to our attention from a teacher at school. It can be a very stressful situation filled with a lot of worry and helplessness. We try to help by getting on their back about their lack of concentration. We urge them to try harder. We may hire personal tutors, enrol them in catch up classes or pay to send them to a better school. We think we need to teach them harder. If they aren’t learning fast enough, spend more time teaching. Be more disciplined. We use rewards and consequences in an attempt to motivate them. If that doesn’t work, we increase the consequences.

We try to control them into improving. But what if they can’t? What if they don’t have to skills to meet your expectations? What if their lack of concentration out of their control? If they simply can’t improve through the standard approach, you risk creating stress in them. You risk creating a bad feeling between you and your child, and you may create anxiety in them.

Our usual next step is to feel frustration and helplessness. Then in an act of desperation, we medicate. We often medicate without also trying to support their health and wellbeing. It’s easy to see when we are removed from the worry and stress of the situation, that our child’s attention has a lot to do with how well they feel. We know that to achieve wellness, we need to support our child’s body and brain with nutrients, exercise, mindfulness, sleep and other lifestyle improvements, yet many parents don’t make any lifestyle changes at all. Many expect a tablet to do all the work. A tablet will address a pathway in the body that it’s designed to affect, but it will rarely address the body as a whole.

It’s important to remember how our state of health affects our attention. We have all experienced this. We must also acknowledge that our children’s state of health affects their attention too.


How can I help my fussy eater?

How to get my fussy eater to eat vegetables

One of the biggest reasons our kid’s health may decline, and their ability to learn and concentrate decline, is the quality of food that they consume. It’s vital that our children are comfortable eating a nutrient dense diet, filled with a wide range of nutritious foods. Fussy eating is a significant contributor to ill health.

Unfortunately, many kids today aren’t so comfortable eating a plate full of vegetables. Multiple things get in the way of them eating a quality diet. Add to that, our families are busier than ever, and we lack the time and patience required to reverse the poor eating trend.

Fussy eating an important topic, however, and we need to do whatever we can to improve their eating habits. As a parent that’s passionate about developing the next generation into the people they came here to be, I strongly believe that there’s not much more important than finding a way to improve their eating habits.

As a result of our children’s bodies not having the nutrients, they require to thrive, many regress from children that hit their targets, to children that are slowly slipping off the developmental curve. The opposite trend is possible, however. That is if their bodies get the nutrition they need.

Our bodies need nutrition, broadly speaking, for two main reasons.
  • Provide nutrients to our cells, so that they can perform the functions they need to perform.
  • Provide our gut bacteria with the nutrients they need to produce additional nutrients and molecules that we don’t get from food, out our normal cells can’t produce.
To be able to make the changes required to help our children, we need to remember these points. Remember these points, even when we are busy and stressed. Making decisions based on these points can take some of the stress away.

Notice that the two main reasons don’t mention calories directly. This is intentional. Calories fall into nutrients, but why should calories be more important than vitamins, minerals and antioxidants? To help transform the eating habits of your children, you may need to reduce your focus on calories and focus more on all nutrients.

What we eat affects our gut health, and our gut health affects our overall health in a big way. Our gut health has a significant impact on our brain. It’s not just that our gut’s produce so much of our neurotransmitters, our gut’s are the first barrier against unwanted chemical entering our bloodstream. If we develop increased gut permeability, substances can enter the bloodstream that should be there, and inflammation results.

To make things worse, gluten from many grains can cause increased gut permeability. Gluten often stimulates the production of zonulin, which signals the gut wall to increase its permeability. Unfortunately, zonulin also increases the permeability of the blood-brain barrier. The result of this can be proteins entering the brain that shouldn’t be there. Apart from the resulting inflammation, and other concerns, some proteins can trigger the food reward system in the brain. This means the person can be driven to eat more of these foods that have these proteins. These foods tend to be dairy (from the casein protein in dairy), and gluten from wheat. Since these foods can be adding to the issue of increased gut permeability, and inflammation, the person can get stuck in this pattern of eating, and have ill health.

The benefits of a Nutrient dense diet

Eating a nutrient-dense diet can:
  • Increase concentration.
  • Improve learning.
  • Improve Mood.
  • Reduce anxiety.
  • Reduce depression.
  • Improve fitness.
  • Reduce body fat.
  • Improves gut health (which has many positive flow-on effects).

How do I help my fussy eater?

Here are three broad categories to focus on when helping your fussy eater;
  1. Address the main reasons why the child is craving poor quality foods.
  2. Address the sensory issues around food.
  3. Take the stress away from eating.
Addressing these three reasons simultaneously which create a positive spiral. Address them all at once. For example, taking the stress away from eating will increase your chances of getting them to try new food. Removing inflammatory foods, and helping the gut heal will help reduce sensory issues. Increasing the nutrient dense food in their diet will help them feel better and function better.
Many factors may have contributing to your fussy eater. There are however some things you can try to improve their eating habits.

Five things to do now, to combat fussy eating

Here are five things to do now that will help your child overcome fussy eating;
  1. Sorry to say it, but see a health care professional about cutting bread, milk and cheese, and any other inflammation causing food that they may be consuming. Find foods that won’t cause inflammation, that they will eat. Try the elimination diet. It will help them to feel good after eating food, as a result of eliminating foods that cause inflammation.
  2. Reduce your stress about providing enough calories, by using a quality fat. Try coconut oil, or (medium chain triglyceride) oil such as Bulletproof Brain Octane (low taste, and can be taken straight off the spoon). Consider this - is a piece of broccoli, plus quality fat more nutritious than filling up with pasta? Which is better for you child, and which will reduce the fussiness over the long term.
  3. If sensory issues are a concern, start by just consistently having the challenging food on the plate. Progress to asking them the squish the food and then smelling the food. Progress to touching the food on the lips, then tasting. This can be over a period of months, but try it!
  4. Reduce the stress around eating. Having stress and anxiety lowers the drive to try new challenging foods. Don't punish for poor eating. Calmly encourage any small wins.
  5. Increase food reward. Our bodies tend to signal food reward for calorie dense foods. It can be sugary or fatty foods. I believe that quality fats are essential. For this reason, adding butter or MCT oil to vegetables may increase food reward. Adding lots of coconut oil to a curry or stew will help their drive to eat them. Also, try adding a quality salt such as pink Himalayan salt.

Gut bugs are a major influence to fussiness

I encourage you to keep what I'm about to say in mind. What I'm about to say applies to many people, with various goals, such as losing weight and improving health, but it's rarely talked about. It's the reason overweight people find it hard long term to stick to an improved diet, even though overweight people have the best willpower in the world.

Overweight people exercise their willpower regularly and will slip up and eat the wrong food, from time to time, when they can't resist cravings. They can slip up as a result of additional stresses, emotional challenges or simply willpower burning out.

The gut is the most significant signal to our brain to drive us to eat. There are at least ten times more microbes in our gut than human cells. If your gut ecosystem has developed sugar, pasta and chicken nugget loving bacteria, you have trillions of microbes screaming for more. This is a big signal to eat more bad food.

This can even lead to kid's not even wanting to try new food. Why would they? Their body is signally so strongly to eat the foods that the bad bugs want. If their bacteria a nd yeasts in their gut want processed carbs, that's the signal our kids are getting.

The good news is that if you spend a few days being strict on their eating, not caring so much if they eat less food, but focussing on more nutrients, it will get easier. Their gut ecosystem will improve, and the craving signals will reduce. Once the cravings diminish, it will be easier to widen their diet to more nutrient-dense foods.


Can improving gut health heal Autism?

Gut Health and Autism

In this post, the first in a series on gut health, I’ll cover why gut health is so important to assist healing and improving health, particularly those children with Autism. Hopefully, after reading through this post and others, you'll see how important it is to heal your child's gut microbiome.

In our case, it was clear that our son had gastrointestinal problems. We decided to determine if these gastrointestinal problems could contribute to his symptoms of Autism. Our reading on the subject convinced us that they could be linked. We were convinced enough that gut health could contribute to the symptoms that we decided to provide a diet aimed at healing his gut. Years later, I'm convinced that the improvement in his happiness and development has a lot to do with his improvement in his gut microbiome.

Anyone looking to improve the symptoms of Autism Spectrum Disorder should spend a great deal of effort in improving gut health. Gut health isn't just important for Autism. It's important for many issues relating to the brain including ADHD and anxiety. Gut health is also very important for some chronic diseases and overall health and quality of life.

Health starts in the gut. Our gut is the supplier of nutrients to our body and therefore impacts our health in a big way. Traditionally we’ve thought of the digestive system as a bunch of tubes used to break down foods and absorb nutrients, with the remaining unneeded food to come out the other end. That is part of the function of the gut, but there’s much more to it.

My passion is to help children with Autism and developmental issues, and I’ll focus a bit on that, but before I do, I’d like to cover some general basics….

We all eat, but how much thought do we put into it? Many people eat to feel full or feel satisfied. Most people think we eat to provide calories to meet our energy needs.  My view is that there are two other very important reasons that we eat, other than calories.

In my opinion, the focus should be on these two;
  • We eat to provide nutrients for our cells so that they can carry out their functions and promote health and wellbeing.
  • We eat to feed the gut bacteria so that they can provide additional nutrients and promote health and wellbeing in us.
How much of your eating choices are about nutrients? How much of your eating choices are about calories?

But the key question is -> How much are your eating decisions about feeding the gut bacteria that you want to thrive?

Why should you care about gut bacteria?

Some studies indicate that diet affects gut microbiota. This may be one of the reasons why health often improves when people modify their diet. It’s interesting, and rarely considered, how much of a role our gut bacteria have on our health. The products produced by our gut bacteria affect our body and our health.

Products produced by our gut bacteria, enter our system via the gut wall. These nutrients may not be consumed directly, but instead, are produced by the bacteria from our food. Fermentation of fibre and protein by the gut bacteria produce some of the most essential products. One group of products are short-chain fatty acids (SCFA). SCFA’s are a key source of energy for the body, including the gut wall tissue.

Some bi-products of SCFA metabolism also influence gene expression. This mechanism may be a key reason why dietary fibre has been shown to reduce the risk of colon cancer.

SCFAs can reach the bloodstream and impact immune function and inflammation.

Butyrate (a type of SCFA) is important and well known for its’ positive effect on the health of our gut lining. It helps modulate gut inflammation and promotes the stability and expression of genes, as mentioned above. Butyrate also regulates apoptosis (normal cell death used to remove unwanted cells), supporting the removal of dysfunctional cells, and is another way that gut microbes have a role in protecting against colon cancer.

Butyrate also reduces the risk of metabolic and immune system disorders, such as osteoarthritis, obesity, type II diabetes and cardiovascular disease [link].

There are many other products which are produced by gut bacteria. Bacteria such as Bifidobacterium can generate vitamins (e.g., K, B12, Biotin, Folate, Thiamine) [link].

Gut bacteria, and gut health, including the integrity of the gut wall, influence how well we absorb nutrients and block toxins from entering our bloodstream. Our gut microbes also produce enzymes. Many enzymes produced by microbes influence digestion and health. Our microbial diversity requirements may have a lot to do with our need for enzymes. Some microbes may be responsible for enzymes to break down foods, which provide access to nutrients for other bacteria. In other words, one type of bacteria relies on another kind of bacteria. They work together.

Gut bacteria and cravings

Gut microbes have also been shown to influence diet choices. For some time, it was unknown exactly how bacteria could influence our decisions on which foods to eat. In 2006, neuroscientists found that specific types of gut flora help detect which nutrients are missing in the diet and then influence how much of those nutrients the person needs to eat.

In other words, the bacteria in our gut influence our drive to eat, and what we crave. This means that it’s possible to reduce our cravings for sugar by reducing the microbes that want sugar, and are influencing us to eat sugar. So although you may think that your child won’t comply with dietary changes, the nutritional changes may eventually reduce their craving for unhealthy food.

Of course, this works for adults too. Many adults have tried dieting for weight loss. They may have tried many different diets, and believe they have tried everything. But have they tried to control their cravings and drive to eat by balancing their gut bacteria? Eating fewer calories, mainly by reducing fat, may mean that they are still eating food that the sugar-loving microbes want. Those sugar-loving microbes may still be a significant driver for the craving and drive to eat. It takes an incredible amount of willpower to overcome these cravings, and the cravings get stronger until you finally give in, and fall off your low-calorie diet. You may see some ice-cream, and eat the whole tub. The most important trick to losing weight is to find the diet for you, that kills the cravings! Balancing gut microbes is a key component of that.

There’s also evidence that altering bacteria in the gut can influence body mass index and obesity. This effect can be unrelated to diet. Studies in mice have shown weight gain differences despite the mice having identical diets, but very different gut bacteria [link].

Gut bacteria and the Autistic brain

Most parents with a child on the spectrum, are told that their child was born with a permanent brain disorder. We, as many of you, may have questioned this, as there was no sign of any issues in the early years. In our case, our son lost skills that he did have when he was younger. We were still told, however, that we must have imagined it, as Autism is from birth, and your son has Autism (yes, I love deep thinking). Note, that this opinion was formed after no direct brain testing. There were no brain scans to find any permanent damage carried out. There were no diagnostic pathology tests to attempt to understand any neurotransmitter imbalance. Just the standard Psychology, OT and Speech assessments were done.

Our brain function is affected by things other than the physical structure. Brain function is influenced by things such as neurotransmitters, inflammation and oxidative stress. The treatment of many brain disorders is with medicines that affect neurotransmitters, and their effect on neurotransmitters are the reason for their success. In autism, it isn’t standard to test for any indication of neurotransmitter imbalance, let alone inflammation, oxidative stress or structural issues.

If a baby is born with a compromised gut ecosystem, and their colon cannot produce certain chemicals, including neurotransmitters, there is a natural workaround. The workaround is breast milk. Breast milk contains many of the nutrients that the baby requires, even in cases whereby the baby doesn’t have the bacteria to produce the nutrients. The baby may develop normally until the introduction of formula, or they are weaned off breast milk. Once they no longer are fed breast milk, the child relies on their colon to produce various nutrients and neurotransmitters (and their precursors), as we all do. If they were unable to repair their gut ecosystem in time for this change, they could start to develop problems.

Similarly, the gut imbalance can occur a little later in their development. The imbalance may often be due to antibiotics. In today’s world, it common for both parents to work. There is, as a result, a need to reduce our children’s number of sick days. We can’t afford to be regularly home, and away from work, looking after our sick children. This tends to mean more antibiotics. We ask for help from our doctors sooner than our parents did. When the imbalance comes later, in a different developmental stage, various symptoms can arise. Often the resulting diagnosis is ADHD if the imbalance occurs around school age.

The gut environment and microbes affect brain development by producing various nutrients and proteins, including neurotransmitters and brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF, which promotes brain growth and development. Yes the brain can grow and restructure). An association has been shown between the gut and various mental conditions including Autism spectrum disorders, depression and anxiety [link]. In cases of brain-related disorders, it’s crucial to consider interventions relating to gut health.

When considering gut health for the brain, it’s important to look at all the general gut health principles future posts in this series.

The microbiome affects the brain via various mechanisms including:
  • Proteins, lipopolysaccharides and other products produced by the microbes can produce inflammation throughout the body, including the central nervous system.
  • The microbes can produce neurotransmitters and hormones that are identical to those produced by our body.
  • Gut microbes produce SCFA’s that provide clean energy for cells, including brain cells.
  • Gut microbes stimulate the enteric nervous system (the nervous system of the gut, or the second brain) to send signals to the brain via the vagus nerve.
Although there are studies that show certain strains of bacteria produce certain proteins and neurotransmitters, we have to remember that they work in communities. It’s not enough to only promote the chosen few. We need to encourage a diverse community of wanted microbes. One food may require various strains of bacteria to contribute to its’ proper digestion. For example, strain A may break down a fibre partially, allowing strain B to access elements of the food that it would not be able to if strain A wasn’t there to start the process of digestion.

The read more about gut bacteria, please read our post about probiotics and autism.

So what does all of this mean? It means that if heal and you look after your gut, you have better health. You will require less nutritional supplements and medicines to improve your health. You will have an enhanced immune system and feel more energetic while feeling calmer and happier.


Heal my Autistic child's gut

General Gut Healing Guidelines

To properly heal the gut and promote a healthy microbiome, here is my general approach:
  • Reduce overgrown bacteria
  • Create an environment to promote the good guys
  • Rebuild the wanted microbes and create diversity
These steps are the basis for the remaining post in this gut health series. The remaining blog articles will lay out some strategies to reduce the overgrown bacteria that you and your child already have. I’ll then cover how to create the right environment that will allow the good guys to thrive, before ending with tips to rebuild the wanted microbes and add diversity. Before going deeper into tips to reduce the overgrown bacteria, I’ll cover the mouth and stomach. Looking after the mouth is key to improving gut health, but is very often overlooked.

First steps to healing the gut


It’s important to remember that the mouth gets first access to the food consumed. Bacteria from the mouth can pass further down into the digestive system via the food we consume. We could spend a lot of effort balancing the colon, as described later, but if the mouth is ignored, there can be a constant supply of unwanted microbes continuing down the digestive tract with every mouth full of food. It can be as if we’re taking a capsule of unwanted probiotics per day, just by eating. Looking after the mouth can help this situation.  To read more about probiotics, we also have a post about probiotics for autism.
In the case of Paediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal Infections (PANDAS), which results in OCD behaviour and other symptoms that affect learning, mouth health is very important. The Strep bacteria that is at the root of this disorder, can flourish in the mouth. You can be implementing a treatment for PANDAS that never results in complete long-term success. This may be as a result of never removing enough strep from the mouth. The bacteria can be difficult to remove from the mouth, due to the biofilm which protects them. Looking after the mouth is an important early step in improving gut health. Normal mouth hygiene is important, with regular careful brushing. Using a quality mouthwash with xylitol and/or essential oils may be beneficial. Also, consider rinsing with colloidal silver. Other ingredients that I like to use in a warm mouthwash or throat gargle are 3 drops of iodine and a few pellets of Lauricidin. Also, the obvious one is to starve the strep, and the best way to starve strep is to remove sugar from the diet. Stop having sweet drinks and sugary foods. To reduce biofilms, an enzyme supplement such as Kirkman Labs, Biofilm Defense may help. You can also try Lauricidin, colloidal silver and iodine to reduce unwanted bacteria and biofilms. Other antimicrobials that may help reduce biofilms include:
  • berberine
  • citrus seed extract
  • black walnut hulls
  • Artemisia herb
  • echinacea
  • goldenseal
  • gentian
  • fumitory
  • galbanum oil
  • oregano oil

Mouthwash Recipe

  • 60ml boiling water
  • 6 pellets of lauricidin
  • 1/4 tsp Xylitol
  • 1 drop each of oregano essential oil (based on Doterra. May need to increase for other oils)
  • 2 drops of each oftea tree, frankincense, clove(based on Doterra. May need to increase for other oils).
  • 3 Drops of iodine solution equivalent to 150 mcg of iodine.
Mix with a handheld mixer or milk frother such as the Aerolatte. Wait until cooled enough to gargle, but as hot as can be tolerated safely.

Please help support us by buying your oils from our online store here.


Many people have long-term issues with reflux or heartburn. The standard approach is to self treat using some an anti-acid treatment. This is often done without help from a doctor to find out the actual cause of the symptoms. Because the symptom is an acidic feeling up around the chest, as the acid rises, people assume it’s a problem of too much acid. The stomach is meant to be acidic, but the acid should stay in the stomach and not travel up the oesophagus.
So the question shouldn’t be, ‘how do I reduce the acid?’, it should be ‘how do I stop the acid from travelling up the oesophagus?’
Food is meant to be treated with acid in the stomach quickly, so it can then liquify and proceed into the small intestine. The bacteria in the stomach, predominately H-Pylori, shouldn’t get much of an opportunity to ferment the food before it moves onto the small intestine. There shouldn’t be much bacteria in the stomach at all. To stop food fermenting in the stomach and creating pressure, reduce bacteria in the stomach and don’t overeat.
When there is too much H-Pylori in the stomach, two things can happen:
  • The food ferments. The pressure resulting from fermentation may overcome the lower esophageal sphincter, allowing acid to rise. Foods that take too long to digest in the stomach also contribute to further fermentation. Experts report that food being in the stomach too long may also weaken the sphincter.
  • H-Pylori can reduce stomach acid leading to slower stomach digestion. Slower stomach digestion allows more time for fermentation and more pressure. Lowering stomach acid also promotes H-Pylori to thrive. This combination contributes to further increases in stomach fermentation and weakening of the lower esophageal sphincter. Low stomach acid can also cause other digestion issues, and lack of ability to absorb nutrients efficiently.
It may be essential to see your doctor about reducing stomach bacteria if you have symptoms of reflux. I urge you to ask the doctor for further testing before accepting an anti-acid treatment. Anti-Microbials, as mentioned later in this series, may also be worth considering.


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