We certainly know that Autism has had a significant increase in the last few decades.  Worldwide the prevalence of autism is about 1-2 per 1000.  However, in the US, 1 per 68 are diagnosed with Autism as of 2014!!  Reasons for the increase have been attributed to:

  • changes in diagnostic criterion
  • government-subsidized financial incentives
  • prevalence of causes

The autistic spectrum is usually associated with impairments in cognitive processing, social interaction, both verbal and non-verbal communication and behavioural patterns including repetitive or stereotyped behavior.  Although there can be a wide variation in the expression of the characteristics.   The criterion use to require that the diagnosis be made prior to the age of three, however, the new DSM -5 has loosened that criterion to “early developmental period” claiming that “symptoms may manifest later when demands exceed capabilities”.  It appears that the information processes in the brain operate differently, than other people.  For instance, how neurons and the connections (synapses) are organized and connected  function differently in an autistic brain.

The Autism, Asperger syndrome and Pervasive Developmental Disorder – not otherwise specified are all included in the Autistic Spectrum.  The DSM -5 (Diagnostic and Statistical manual of Mental Disorders) redefined the Autism Spectrum in 2013 to include:

  • Autism (may include autistic disorder childhood autism, infantile autism, or autistic savant – when the child presents outstanding skills in music, math, art etc with no practice)
  • Asperger syndrome (no significant delay in cognitive or language development)
  • Pervasive developmental disorder – not otherwise specified (PDD-NOS) (diagnosis utilized when the criteria are not met for a more specific disorder)
  • Childhood disintegrative disorder (usually have unrelated causes)
  • Rett disorder (again, while the presentation of characteristics may have some similarities, they have may unrelated causes)

Despite the fact that, there is a lot of conflict about how the DSM is put together, ie., a show of hands as opposed to good research, practitioners use it as a guiding tool.

The Auttistic Spectrum T here have been a lot of theories, hypotheses and accusations about the causes of autism.

So what do we know about the  variety of causes of Autism.  

1. The causes of ASD can be described in two ways:
  • Primary ASD (also known as idiopathic ASD) – where no underlying factors can be identified to explain why ASD has developed.
  • Secondary ASD – where an underlying medical condition or environmental factor thought to increase the risk of ASD is identified

2. We can also divide causes into two other ways:

  • Those that occur during fetal development
  • Those that occur post natal development

3. Another way of dividing the causes are:

  • Those that have to do with genetic etiology
  • Those that don’t

The genes that contribute to  an Autistic presentation are complex:  rare mutations and/or rare combinations of genetic variants.

So let’s see what information is currently available.  Risk factors include:

  • Heavy metals (Testing Autistic Children for heavy metals is important.  But using blood or urine testing provides very inaccurate information:  http://www.evenbetterhealth.com/autism-toxic-heavy-metal-tests.php)
    • (Biological Trace Element Research:  reported that children with Autism had higher levels of several toxic metal in both their blood and their urine compared to “typical” children:   Biological Trace Element Research, 2012; 151 (2): 171 DOI:10.1007/s12011-012-9551-1
    • Other research has identified that MT (metallothionein protein) are dysfunctional in Autistic children and they cannot regulate blood levels of trace minerals, detoxify mercury & other heavy metals; in addition, they fail to  assist in the development of the nervous system, they also claim that the dysfunctional genes can be turned back on :  http://treatautism.ca/detoxification/heavy-metals/
  • Pesticides (“Babies whose moms lived within a mile of crops treated with widely used pesticides were more likely to develop autism” : http://www.environmentalhealthnews.org/ehs/news/2014/jun/autism-and-pesticides)
  • Vaccinations (Payouts for Vaccination caused Autism:  http://childhealthsafety.wordpress.com/2013/01/14/us-court-two-more-autismvaccine-cases-win-multi-million-dollar-compensation/ )
  • Environmental factors (“For every 10 miles from industrial or power plant sources, there is a decrease in autism rates”  http://treatautism.ca/detoxification/heavy-metals/)
  • Gestational diabetes (mothers medicated for gestational diabetes were more likely to have Autistic children:  http://www.medscape.com/viewarticle/832469 )
  • Use of prescription drugs during pregnancy (60% increased risk with mothers who used psychoactive drugs:  http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/195/1/7.full)
  • Meconium in the amniotic fluid (fetal stool which can be composed of materials ingested during the time the fetus is in the uterus; now research has shown that about half of the meconium contains bacteria that produce lactic acid, i.e., lactobacillus OR enteric bacteria, ie., Escherichia coli.  Regardless, the meconium should be retained in the infant’s bowel until after birth, but sometimes released into the amniotic fluid)
  • Nutrient deficiency
  • Gastrointestinal abnormalities
  • Infections

Causes impact on:

  • Genetics – multiple genes involved
  • Neuroanatomical developmental (brain enlargement in some areas compensated by brain reduction in other areas)
  • Temporal Lobe dysfunction (associated with language development & processing; social & facial recognition and development; attention and observation)
  • Mitochondrial dysfunction (a systemic, rather than a central nervous system disorder wherein the mitochondria in every cell of the body is dysfunctional – the mitochondria produce ATP or fuel for the cells; the DNA/genetics mutations of the mitochondria)
  • Leaky gut syndrome :  anti-biotics cause damage to the lining of the gut which not only affects how food is metabolized but also allows toxins and undigested peptides to move into the bloodstream and other areas causing brain and other types of damage : http://www.dailymail.co.uk/health/article-149500/Autism-diet-cured-son.html
  • Microbiota : drugs, vaccinations and anti-biotics can all cause disruption/imbalance in the microbiota of the gut which leads to immune system dysfunction and can impact on cognition, emotion and behaviour : http://www.plosone.org/article/info%3Adoi%2F10.1371%2Fjournal.pone.0076993

Treatments:  As a practitioner, I do not isolate just one of these factors, but include them all

1) one of the treatment protocols is to increase leavels of glutathione in the cells.  Glutathione is the body’s Master Anti-oxidant AND it is also involved in chelating toxic metals (and a host of other functions).  Glutathione works with MT proteins to remove heavy metals and other environmental toxins like pesticides and PCBs.  http://treatautism.ca/detoxification/heavy-metals/

2) some people do not make glutathione in their cells because the DNA is turned off…Protandim can turn the DNA back on through the Nrf2 pathways

3) work with diet and supplements to re-establish good healthy microbiota in the gut : http://www.optibacprobiotics.co.uk/live-cultures/articles/probiotics-for-autism

4) work with Transfer Factor to in effect re-program the immune system in the gut:  http://www.transferfactorresearch.com/autism.html

Western medicine and psychology are not much help to children within the Autistic Spectrum.  However, working with supplements and foods that :

  • turn on the genes for glutathione
  • reprogram the gut’s immune system
  • replenish the microbiota in the gut

all help significantly.


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