The incidence of autism spectrum disorders (ASD) has exploded in the United States from 1 in 5000 children in 1975 to 1 in 68 in 2014.
A researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology has estimated that the proportion may increase to half by 2025 if current trends continue.
Think about that for a minute.
Chances are very good that you know a child with autism. The range of behaviors associated with ASD can go from catatonic at one extreme to mania on the other. Unable to communicate or relate to their surroundings, people with autism and their families suffer from a condition for which there is no known cure (1).
Or is there?
What Causes Autism?
The medical establishment seems baffled by the terrifying rise in children with ASD. The cause of ASD is ascribed to a gene(s) that predisposes someone to fall prey to other contributing factors that can manifest in ASD. Autism isn’t new and the condition has been studied for 70 years, but it isn’t fully understood. The only thing that researchers can agree to is that incidences of the condition are on the rise.
One autism researcher put it this way: “There’s genetics and there’s environment. And genetics don’t change in such short periods of time.”
One Family’s Story
Tracy Catapano-Fox never expected that her young son would be affected by such a diffcult condition. And yet, by the age of 4, “Ethan was not sleeping more than 2 hours a day and never in a row. He did not speak at all, and the only time I heard his voice was when he would scream in the middle of the night.“
The family was told by a social worker in 2006 that they needed to accept that “Ethan would need to be institutionalized by the time he was 5 and that he would never go to general education school, have a girlfriend, or graduate from high school.”
Ethan’s mother was devastated but this proclamation made her angry. She and her husband decided to take their son’s life in their hands and performed extensive research on autism.
Catapano-Fox talks about her nightmarish experience in her blog published by the organization “Autism Speaks”, a non-profit support group (2, 3). Ethan began his life as a happy baby but at around 18 months, his behavior changed. At 20 months, he was diagnosed with autism.
In her research, Tracy found Dr. Kenneth Bock of Bock Integrative Medicine in Red Hook, New York (4). His group specializes in a holistic biomedical approach to ASD. One of Bock’s suggestions for managing children with autism is through diet, specifically, he recommends cutting out dairy and gluten.
Tracy reports that only 3 days after removing these foods from Ethan’s diet, his behavior changed. He began sleeping through the night, which he had never done before. “Ever since then, he never had a problem.” Better yet, Ethan now attends a public school and receives high marks. His behavior is no different from other children his age.
The Autism Diet
Nutrition and the effects of foods we eat have on every aspect of our being can’t be over-emphasized in treating autism and other conditions.
Multiple studies have found large amounts of grain and dairy proteins in the urine of people affected by autism. Similar concentrations can be found in cases of schizophrenia, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and celiac disease (5). This means that those proteins go undigested.
These gluten and casein proteins (peptides) have an opiate-like effect on the brain, similar to heroin and morphine, affecting areas that are responsible for behavior, emotion, speech, and the ability to process auditory signals. By removing the sources of these types of peptides, the brain can begin to function normally. Such was the case with Ethan, a profound illustration of the connection between autism and diet.
By removing the sources of these types of peptides, the brain can begin to function normally. Such was the case with Ethan, a profound illustration of the connection between autism and diet.
Other than diet, Dr. Bock recommends detoxification, avoiding environmental chemicals, and nutritional supplementation. He also strongly advises using organic products (including household cleaners) to reduce exposure to pesticides and other chemicals and not using plastic when microwaving foods.
Dr. Bock notes that not all children will be as dramatically affected by a change in diet as Ethan but a majority may be.
Other factors that may contribute to ASD include:
- Vaccines: links between the measles/mumps/rubella (MMR) vaccine, ASD, and intestinal disorders have been firmly established.
- Environmental chemicals: glyphosate, sold as “Roundup” herbicide, has been associated with the incidence of ASD in areas where it is used.
- Heavy metal toxicity: links between mercury found in seafood and neurological disorders including autism have been found.
- Pharmaceuticals: studies have found a correlation between mothers who take selective serotonin uptake inhibitors (SSRI) during pregnancy and the risk of babies with autism (6). SSRI are routinely prescribed anti-depressants.
- Research published in 2013 in the journal Pathophysiology has linked autism with electromagnetic radiation, such as is given off by cell phones and smart meters (7).
While we are continually bombarded with toxins in every form, having the knowledge to protect our families can ameliorate their effects.