Autism used to be a rare disorder. Fifteen years ago in western countries the incidence of Autism used to be on average one child in 10,000. Now according to the UK Department of Health 1 in 166 children in Great Britain are diagnosed with Autistic Spectrum Disorder (ASD), and similar figures are reported in the USA (one in 150), Sweden (one in 141), Canada and Australia. So what is happening? Why such an increase in numbers for this terrible disorder, deemed incurable by orthodox medicine?
And what is the link between Autism and skyrocketing rates of ADHD, ODD, learning delay, asthma, allergies, food sensitivities and ear, nose, throat and UTI infections? Why do biomedical experts say all of these illnesses and Autism are on the same continuum?
Parents of children around the globe diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD), have been motivated by their children’s prognosis, to find and share solutions. They have found a “biology” to autism and related neurodevelopmental disorders which involves a multi system breakdown in metabolic, immunologic, neurologic and/or digestive systems. Clinical indications are that “biomedical” intervention not only improves the quality of life of an autistic patient, but also addresses many paediatric disorders and illnesses such as asthma, allergies and chronic infections. This process balances natural biochemistry and reduces the need for medications and devices such as antibiotics, Ritalin, antihistamines, grommets, puffers, and cortisone cream.
“Biomedical” intervention involves nutritional and environmental medicine, gastro intestinal treatment, and dietary intervention. Debate over its efficacy is heated as traditional doctors site a lack of “peer-reviewed” research while proponents site thousands of clinical success stories. Defeat Autism Now! (a group of doctors pioneering biomedical intervention worldwide and based in the USA) conducted a survey among hundreds of parents who reported that biomedical treatments improved language, socialisation and physical health.
“Risks are relatively low in implementing a protocol of dietary intervention and supplementing of essential fatty acids, minerals, and vitamins and the upside can be life changing for a child and their struggling family” says Dr. Antony Underwood, a high profile paediatrician specialising in ASD. Biomedical supporters also point out that children do not have years to wait for research that still has not been funded or initiated by government. Early intervention is critical in improving physical and neurological development though biomedical treatment at all ages and improves quality of life .
Given the relatively low risk and strong upside, many parents and a growing number of practitioners are adopting biomedical practices. Defeat Autism Now! provides physician’s training courses which are accredited through Harvard Medical School. “There seems to be a growing awareness that there is a gap between clinical experience and evidenced based science and until the science is complete, many parents are choosing the biomedical approach based on low risk and strong word of mouth success stories,” says Mindd Patron Kitsa Markson.
Dr Natasha Campbell-McBride, who holds a Degree in Medicine and Postgraduate Degrees in both Neurology and Human Nutrition, founded The Cambridge Nutrition Clinic in 1998. As a parent of a child diagnosed with learning disabilities, she was well aware of the difficulties faced by parents and has devoted much of her time to helping these families.
Campbell-McBride believes that the link between learning disabilities, food, drink and the condition of our digestive and metabolic systems is absolute. The results of her work have supported her position on this subject. Her book Gut and Psychology Syndrome – Natural Treatment for Dyspraxia, Autism, ADD, Dyslexia, ADHD, Depression, Schizophrenia covers her experience and knowledge in this area.
Whilst Campbell-McBride, a Doctor herself, admits that conventional medicine generally doesn’t offer solutions for children diagnosed with Autism, she openly offers parents the statement, “ There is a lot that can be done! Hundreds of children across the globe, appropriately treated and educated become almost indistinguishable from their typically developing (normal) peers. In fact, given the rates of autism and the growing interest in early “biomedical” intervention, it is more likely that tens of thousands of children are benefiting.” Campbell-McBride’s belief that nutrition and proper diet is the cornerstone of any treatment for any chronic disease, provides what she believes is the most appropriate treatment for an autistic child.
Campbell-McBrides own research demonstrates how our gut flora is designed to protect our bodies from invading toxins. Damaged gut flora, allows opportunistic flora to take over the digestive tract permitting toxins and disease to pass through the gut wall into the blood stream. Once leaked into the bloodstream, these toxins and diseases cause damage to the body and can interfere with brain pathways.
Interestingly, many children presenting with neurological disorders come from families with a history of mental and physical disease. Campbell-McBride explains these families have a common history of minimal or no breastfeeding, diets rich in highly processed foods, overuse of antibiotics and other medical drugs, and exposure to cleaning and environmental chemicals. These factors have played havoc on the body over successive generations, until you have a situation where a child can no longer eliminate the toxins through the body.
The digestive tract becomes inhabited by unhealthy flora, which prevents healthy flora from eliminating toxins effectively and also inhibits uptake of nutrients essential for neurological function such as zinc, b6, b12, magnesium, omega 3 and many more. According to Campbell-McBride this forms the basis of the link between disorders such as Dyspraxia, Autism, ADD, Dyslexia, ADHD, Depression, Schizophrenia – a digestive tract, which has been damaged over successive generations. Campbell-McBride recognise that some of these families also have a metabolic story where low functioning enzymes (taxed by so many environmental toxins) set up the dynamic of weak metabolism, poor digestion, a decrease in beneficial bacteria, pathogenic overgrowth and a digestive tract unable to absorb nutrients or screen out toxins. This scenario also leads to a compromised immune system.
Campbell-McBride, however, does not see this familial history as a problem, but rather offers positive steps to help the children and their families, regain and maintain optimal health through diet and nutritional medicine (supplementation of essential fatty acids, minerals, vitamins, amino acids).
Campbell-McBride explains how restoring the natural gut flora through a nutritional program is the key to ensuring maximum health for these children. Her insights include how salicylates (naturally occurring chemicals in our food) help to detoxify the body. Freshly squeezed juices (dark greens with modest amounts of fruit) are also suggested for eliminating toxic metals that have accumulated in the body. This option eliminates poisons with no side effects and is very tasty and popular with children!
Commonly consumed foods, such as carbohydrates, sugars, dairy, all grains and processed foods are shown to “fog” the brain and reduce its optimal functioning, in susceptible patients. Some of these foods are even demonstrated to have an opiate effect on the brain for children who cannot process them effectively, due to poor digestive function and/or inherited metabolic dysfunction. Consuming appropriate foods and minerals that are essential for the body and brain, allows the brain to function optimally and restore gut function. Meat, eggs, nuts, non-starchy fruits, vegetables and legumes, Omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids (found in nut, seed and fish oils), are top of the list.
Campbell-McBride offers child friendly recipes in her book that are good for the whole family, and delicious as well. Campbell-McBride notes, however, that food sensitivities and diet need to be monitored and the digestive tract healed to maximise the patient’s lifelong mental and physical health.
Interestingly, many of the findings related to dietary needs of autistic (ASD) patients corresponds to the work of the late Weston Price, a dentist and researcher who studied primitive diets in the 1930s and concluded that animal protein, raw fruit and vegetables and fermented foods (grains & dairy) were most suitable for our digestive systems. He maintained that cultures with diets high in refined carbohydrates presented with signs of malnourishment, most detectable in their teeth.
Whilst Campbell-McBride’s research and recommendations may be considered provocative, her work has proved positive for the many families she works with at The Cambridge Clinic. She also spends a lot of time presenting at seminars and conferences on the topic of learning disabilities and digestive disorders. Her newly published book now gives even more families access to her groundbreaking work.
Recent research by S. Jill James, Director of Biochemical Genetics Laboratory at the Arkansas Childrens Hospital, confirms a link between autism and oxidative stress. Her 2005 research adds that many children with Autism have reduced levels of cellular antioxidants and an inability to control oxidative stress may be a final pathway that contributes to neurological, immunologic and gastrointestinal dysfunction. Further research is being done to confirm the theory that exposure to environmental toxins coupled with a genetic susceptibility is behind autism, down syndrome and illnesses related to oxidative stress such as asthma, chronic urinary, ear, skin and upper respiratory infections, and digestive disorders. In the meantime, biomedical intervention is showing that by reducing oxidative stress by improving detoxification pathways, all children suffer less from associated illnesses.
Defeat Autism Now (DAN!) helped pioneer the biomedical approach along with Autism Research Institute founder, Bernard Rimland. Collectively the DAN! Doctors, a group of doctors who meet quarterly to compare and publish clinical findings, have treated tens of thousands of children and have improved the digestive, immunological and neurological function of many autistic patients. With early intervention parents are reporting that their children lose their ASD diagnosis altogether.
DAN! has successfully trained thousands of medical doctors and alternative physicians in biomedical intervention. They also train parents with a crash course in biochemistry that helps them to effectively manage their child’s treatments. They hold quarterly conferences where they present the latest research, therapies, nutrition and health information and focus on nutritional medicine, dietary intervention, ABA, detoxification and patient practitioner collaboration.
The (MINDD) Foundation in Australia has been established to help educate families and practitioners in integrative and biomedical intervention. MINDD assists families in finding “biochemical” solutions to ASD and other neurological disorders including autism, ADD, asthma, allergies, digestive disorders, learning and language delay and behavioural issues. Through MINDD, links are forged between parents, doctors and health professionals to other similar organisations like DAN! and their research around the world.
The acronym MINDD (Metabolic Immuno Neurologic Digestive Disorders) was coined by a Sydney mum who was struggling to get her head around the connection between her children’s dyspraxia and ADHD, her mother’s debilitating depression and food sensitivities, her aunt’s schizophrenia and her own irritable bowel syndrome. MINDD also encourages adults to consider biomedical intervention especially mothers of ASD children and particularly those considering another pregnancy.
MINDD founder, Leslie Embersits says, “It is so positive to see professionals and parents working together to provide support, solutions and real assistance for families who would otherwise be working in isolation to deal with the difficulties of a diagnosis of Autism or other neurological disorders”.
ODD – Oppositional Defiance Disorder
UTI – Urinary Tract Infection
ADHD – Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
MINDD – Metabolic Immunolgic Neurologic Digestive Disorders
ASD – Autism Spectrum Disorders
ADD – Attention Deficit Disorder
ABA – Applied Behavioural Anaysis