Parent’s Perspective on a Holistic Approach to Treating Autism
By: Carline Banks
I have three boys. My middle son, Ryan, has autism. He has been treated holistically using the DAN! protocol for three years. There is a whole network of people that are helping Ryan to recover. My brother-in-law is a holistic dentist who is very knowledgeable about diet, supplements, and mercury’s toxic effects on the body. My dad is a farmer, so I learn a lot from him about what is going on with our food at its source. I also have other friends and family members that are nutritionists, pharmacists, speech pathologists, and other parents of autistic children that I network with to help my son.
I am a mom with a boy on the spectrum. I have no medical credentials. I am not dispensing medical advice. Please speak with a doctor before implementing any new supplement protocol or intervention. Keep in mind that what may work for my child, may not work for yours, but it has been through learning from other parents and professionals about autism that is helping my son to recover.
Homeopathic? Biomedical? Holistic?
When my son was diagnosed, I knew I wanted to try natural methods first. I had heard of these terms before, but wasn’t quite sure of the difference. It was overwhelming at first, but remember you ease into it.
Homeopathy is from two Greek words, ”homoios,” meaning similar and “pathos” meaning suffering. Homeopathy, therefore, means similar cures similar or like cures like. Homeopathy has distinct differences from conventional medicine. Conventional medicine is also called allopathic medicine or use of opposing substances to suppress symptoms in the body. Homeopathy though works with the body's natural defenses. The amount of a homeopathic medicine needed is incredibly small, yet enables the body to rebalance in a short amount of time.
Combination of two words, biological and medical, encompassing both the science(s) and the art of medicine. With regards to autism, it encompasses: testing, dietary changes, targeted nutrition, repair of gut membranes, and detoxifying.
Emphasizing the importance of or being concerned with wholes rather than the analysis or separation into parts. The American Holistic Health Association (AHHA) promotes holistic health as an approach to creating wellness which encourages you to:
Balance and integrate your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual aspects Establish respectful, cooperative relationships with others and the environment Make wellness-oriented lifestyle choices to actively participate in your health decisions and healing process
Presentation will be about looking at autism as a whole by discussing some of the interdependent issues, such as:
The importance of a healthy organic diet. Ideas to reduce toxins in your home and yard.
Discussions about supplements and interventions that have helped my son.
We all know the importance of the GF/CF diet. We are trying to heal the gut. After going GFCF, you may find other foods/ingredients that your child does not tolerate: preservatives, additives, soy, corn, phenols, oxalates, salicylates, sulfites. Treating these children is like peeling an onion. Every time you peel back one layer, another one is exposed to deal with, hopefully having some recovery with each layer
Resources for Diets
Gluten free/casein free diet: www.gfcfdiet.com Talk About Curing Autism (TACA): www.tacanow.org Dana’s View: www.danasview.net Low oxalate diet: email@example.com om
Preservatives and Additives
Try to avoid preservatives, additives, and dyes. Your body is a sophisticated machine. Food is fuel for your body. Would you put gas in your car with additives and preservatives that made it run terribly? MSG, aspartame, hydrolyzed protein and soy protein extract are excitotoxins. An excitotoxin is a toxic molecule that stimulates nerve cells so much that they are damaged or killed. Sodium nitrite is a suspected carcinogen and very toxic. It is an eye and respiratory tract irritant. Buy nitrite/nitrate-free lunchmeats and hot dogs and store in the freezer
Soy and Corn
Common allergen among autistic children Soy has high amounts of phyto-estrogens, plant-based chemicals that mimic estrogen Corn is difficult to digest, especially with an injured gut. Soy and corn are two of the most common genetically modified crops.
Genetically Modified Foods
(GMO Genetically Modified Organisms)
Genetically engineered (GE) means that the genes and DNA have been altered in that food item. Effects of these changes have not been fully tested. European countries have restricted GM foods and require clear labeling, while GMO crops require no labeling in the U.S. Farmers like the genetically engineered crops, which are sold under the brand name Roundup Ready, because they can spray Roundup herbicide directly over those fields, killing the weeds while leaving the crops intact. Before GMO seeds, crops could not tolerate the herbicides, so they would till the land or have people hand-weed to control the weeds Most common Roundup Ready crops include soybeans, corn, canola, cotton, and alfalfa Why would spraying more chemicals on our food be better?
Our children are extremely sensitive to toxins in the environment. Organic farmers do not use synthetic pesticides and fertilizers. Pesticides are poison that contribute to auto-immune diseases and other health problems. Only way to guarantee your food is GMO free. Just because you don’t see the pesticides, does not mean they are not there. Would you feel differently about your food if you saw them spray Raid on your produce in the store before you bought it?
Does “Natural” Mean Organic?
Natural and organic are not interchangeable. Other healthy practices such as free-range, hormone-free, and natural may appear on labels, however they may not be considered organic. Only food labeled “organic” has been certified as meeting USDA organic standards. Crops labeled organic are grown in fields that must be free from prohibited pesticides and fertilizers for a minimum of three years.
Eating an Organic Diet Economically
Good idea to wash your produce, but you cannot wash away all the pesticides. Farmers have different protocols, so some produce may have higher levels of pesticides than others. Farmers markets are a great place to find organic produce Look for labels such as “transitional produce” or “pesticide free,” which is usually from a farm awaiting organic certification. Hothouse-grown produce is usually pesticide free. Minimize exposure to pesticides in foods by limiting purchases of non-organic foods to those with the lowest pesticide residue.
Produce With Highest/Lowest Pesticide Residue
Produce Typically With Higher Levels Of Pesticides
Peaches, strawberries, apples, grapes, pears, nectarines, cherries, raspberries, spinach, green beans, celery, potatoes, bell peppers, winter squash
Produce Typically With Lower Levels of Pesticides
Oranges, lemons, plums, kiwi, mangoes, papaya, avocado, broccoli, cauliflower, asparagus, onions, peas, cabbage
Resources For Pesticide Levels
Food News: www.foodnews.org/reportcard Grinning Planet: http://www.grinningplanet.com/2005/0524/food-and-pesticide- residue-article.htm Consumers Union: http://www.consumersunion.org/food/org anicsumm.htm
Fed 100% organic feed. Organic practices prohibit feeding animal parts of any kind to livestock that, by nature, eat a vegetarian diet. Livestock cannot be fed plastic pellets for roughage or formulas containing urea or manure. Livestock cannot be given antibiotics or growth hormones. Farmers must keep extensive records, so the organic production system offers traceability of the animal from birth to marketing of the resulting meat. Only way to guarantee meat is not treated with carbon monoxide to mask identifiable signs of aging or spoilage. While not considered organic, the term “natural” on meats refers to a product containing no artificial ingredients or added color, which is only minimally processed. The label must explain the use of the term natural, such as “No Hormones” or “No Antibiotics.” Avoid eating extremely fatty parts, as toxins tend to accumulate in fatty tissues.
Healthy Home and Yard
Natural cleansing agents Natural household and personal care products Natural pesticides Non-aluminum cooking pans Safe water for the home Not using flame-retardant pajamas, light-up shoes, playing on wood playground equipment Houseplants for healthy indoor air Limiting your use of plastics Watching your intake of fluoride
Natural Cleansing Agents
White vinegar and hydrogen peroxide in separate spray bottles, when sprayed on a surface together, their chemical reaction forms a safe disinfectant. In tests run by Susan Sumner, a food scientist at the Virginia Polytechnic Institute, pairing the two mists killed virtually all Salmonella, Shigella, or E. coli bacteria on contaminated surfaces. Safe natural way to also clean produce. Sprinkle baking soda on top, and you have a natural scrubbing agent.
Natural Household and Personal Care Products
Use natural dish soaps, laundry detergent, and hand soaps. No antibacterial soaps. If clothes are really soiled and you must use a stronger detergent, use an extra rinse cycle. Use natural shampoos, lotions, and sunscreens. Remember, the skin is the largest organ on the body and absorbs all the chemicals and toxins in these products. Use natural insect repellants. They can be very effective. They just need to be applied more often.
Orange Guard, made with orange peel extract. May be purchased at certain hardware stores and health food stores Poison-Free by Victor, made with cedar oil. May be purchased at certain hardware stores. Make your own using such ingredients as garlic and Tabasco.
Non-Aluminum Cooking Pans
Our kids already have issues with heavy metals, and aluminum and mercury have a synergistic relationship. Do not use aluminum cooking pans. Consumer Reports December 2005 issue rated cookware, listing the materials they are made out of. There were only a few that were all stainless steel.
Safe Water for the Home
Filtered purified water for drinking and cooking. If you cannot afford a whole-house filter, install carbon filters on your showerheads. They can be purchased at most hardware stores for about $20. Rainwater may not be “safe” to drink, but it can be collected and used for garden watering and watering houseplants
Flame-Retardant Pajamas, Light-Up Shoes, Wood Playground Equipment
Flame-retardant pajamas are treated with toxic chemicals and antimony, a heavy metal. Light-up shoes contain cadmium batteries that over time may break down. Wood playground equipment used to be treated with CCA, chromated copper arsenate, a chemical preservative that protects the wood. CCA contains arsenic, chromium and copper. Manufacturers of CCA reached a voluntary agreement with the EPA to end the manufacture of CCA-treated wood for most consumer applications by December 31, 2003, with some backstock still on the shelves until possibly mid-2004. Don’t buy a used playground set built before this date. If your child plays on one, make sure they wash their hands.
Houseplants For Healthy Indoor Air
Help purify the air we breath by ridding the indoor air of pollutants and toxins, counteract outgassing and contribute to a balanced internal humidity. Some houseplants that work well are: corn plants, mother-in-law’s tongue, spider plants, English ivy, Boston fern, areca palm, peace lily, rubber plant. Plants take substances out of the air through the tiny openings in their leaves, so it is important to keep their leaves dust free.
Limiting Your Use of Plastics
Studies have found that all the plastics commonly used for food packaging can leach. Plastic tends to migrate into fatty foods, especially hot fatty foods. Your safest bet is to store foods in Pyrex glass or Corningware-type ceramic. Never heat food in plastic containers. “Microwave safe” just means that the container wont disintegrate in the microwave oven Look at the recycling numbers on the bottom. The “safer” plastics, those that have not yet been found to leach chemicals that are suspected hormone disruptors are #1 Polyethylene Terephthalate, #2 High Density Polyethylene, #4 Low Density Polyethylene, and #5 Polypropylene. Those found to have potential health hazards are #3 Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC or vinyl), #6 Polystyrene (PS or Styrofoam), and #7 Other resins, including polycarbonate Safer alternative for kids instead of plastic cups is coffee mugs; sturdy, don’t tip over easily, and have a handle.
Watching Your Intake of Fluoride
Fluoride is a neurotoxin. Fluoride-based pesticides are used on grapes and raisins. Fluoride is found in most toothpastes and some bottled water. Fluoride is added to some water supplies.
Healthy Home Resources
Children’s Health Environmental Coalition: www.checnet.org The Green Guide: http://www.thegreenguide.com/doc.mhtm l?i=110&s=plastics Dr. Mercola: www.mercola.com SixWise: www.sixwise.com
Other Interventions That Are Helping My Son
Supplements Social skills Speech/Occupational therapy Epsom salt baths Biofeedback Karate Trampoline
Before seeing a doctor, we felt comfortable starting him on a multi-vitamin high in B Vitamins without Vitamins A&D, because we also gave him cod liver oil, which has Vitamins A&D. We also started him on probiotics, (good bacteria) and calcium, since he was on the GFCF diet. After seeing a DAN! doctor and testing for deficiencies, more supplements were added to his protocol. Magnesium really helped with his anxieties and sleep issues.
Numerous studies found that autistic kids have a severe deficiency in glutathione, the body’s most important detoxifier. When taken orally it is not absorbed well and can stir up yeast in autistic kids. You can compound your own transdermal glutathione. It is easy to mix. I mix the glutathione with organic coconut oil. The oil is the component that makes it absorbable. Remember, transdermals will carry anything in them, including contaminants. Reduced glutathione is the best kind.
MB-12 Nasal Spray
There is still ongoing research as to the efficacy of the spray versus the shots, but my son has responded well to the spray. Stan Kurtz moderates a discussion group about MB-12 Nasal Spray and Valtrex at http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/mb 12valtrex/
Epsom Salt Baths (Magnesium Sulfate)
Epsom salt baths help with detoxification, help with relaxation, and can normalize sleep patterns. The body absorbs the sulfate, which is used as a tool to aid the body in detoxifying. Dr. Rosemary Waring was the pioneer of looking at the sulfur chemistry and its relation to autism. She conducted a study where people were placed in a bathtub with Epsom salt, and after measuring their plasma sulfate levels, they did go up.
When we placed our son on the GF/CF diet, we also placed him on a diet high in oxalates, including soy, nuts and legumes, dark chocolate, and spinach. He is now on the GF/CF diet and a diet low in oxalates. We saw great improvements with this diet. Susan Owens, a researcher and a member of the DAN! thinktank, has started the Autism Oxalate Project, where she hopes to recruit scientists who can study where oxalates go and what they do when they get there, including what they do when they cross the blood-brain barrier.
Naltrexone is an FDA approved drug used as an opiate antagonist for treating opiate drug and alcohol addiction since the 1970s. In low doses, it is supposed to help modulate the immune system. My son is taking part in a study being conducted by Dr. McCandless on the effects of low-dose Naltrexone on the immune system.
My son was part of a study at UCSD on biofeedback for autistic children. He responded well to this therapy. Dr. Jaime Pineda that conducted the study reported that neurofeedback practice may be able to alleviate some of the symptoms of autism, according to a pilot study on eight children with the disorder.
Autistic children typically have difficulty imitating, and in martial arts, they learn by imitating. This has also helped give my son confidence. You need to find a good instructor that is willing to work with your child. Try to find a dojo that does not require a contract; that way, if your son is having a bad month because of a new intervention, you can take some time off without losing money.
This has been great therapy for my son. It helped with a lot of his sensory issues. When he is stimmy or agitated, I send him outside to jump, and it helps him. You must have a safety net installed.
Network! Network! Network!
Treating your child’s autism can be overwhelming. I could not do it without support. Start your own support group with parents in your community. Join online discussion groups related to autism. Attend seminars, conferences, and meetings. Even if you heard a particular DAN! doctor speak before, you may learn something new listening to him again that you thought didn’t apply to your child the first time you heard it.
Implementing a lot of these dietary, environmental, and supplemental protocols did not happen overnight for us. It has taken us years to get to where we are at today. Think positive and relish those moments when your son has a “good” day. To use the analogy of the onion again, I hope you all have success in peeling back those layers and recovering your children.