April is Autism Awareness Month. It is estimated that 1 in 68 children in the United States has autism, a complex disorder which impairs social and communication skills. Often times, the symptoms of autism are thought to be irreversible, but continuing research is showing that a variety of interventions may improve, and sometimes reverse autism. While there is a wide spectrum of approaches to autism treatment, the following three form the basis of biomedical interventions for children with autism:
Improving autism through diet
Diet can have a tremendous effect on autism symptoms. For example, it has been found that a number of foods, most commonly casein in dairy products, gluten in some grain products, and soy, can exacerbate autism symptoms. On the other hand, a number of foods may improve autism symptoms by providing adequate nutrients. Therefore, a diet high in nutrient-rich foods such as green leafy vegetables, berries, seeds, and nut butters strengthen cognitive function and reduce inflammation. Additionally, organic foods can improve symptoms by reducing the toxic load from pesticides and other chemicals used in food production.
Improving autism through movement
Movement is critical for brain development. One method of intervention for autism involves various exercises that help normalize reflexes, improve communication between the two sides of the brain (e.g. Brain Balance by Dr. Robert Melillo), and use of a variety of movement programs to improve learning, such as Brain Gym and educational kinesthesiology.
Improving autism through detoxification
We are all bombarded with toxic chemicals in our air, food and water on a constant basis. Our bodies are designed to eliminate these toxins, but as more chemicals and noxious energies are introduced into our environments, our detoxification systems can be overwhelmed. That’s why an important component of improving autism symptoms involves helping the body to detoxify both by keeping toxin exposure to a minimum, and by actively detoxifying the body using a variety of techniques that range from intravenous therapies to use of far infrared sauna treatment.
While this is by no means an extensive list of interventions that are used to improve autism symptoms, the above 3 categories may give you an idea of the scope of treatments that may improve symptoms in children on the autism spectrum. These lifestyle modifications can integrate well with traditional therapies that your child may be receiving. Treating autism is a complex process, but there are many avenues for finding hope and healing.
Lemer, P. Outsmarting Autism: The Ultimate Guide to Management, Healing and Prevention. Word Association Publishers, Tarentum, PA 2014
Matthews, Julie. Nourishing Hope for Autism: Nutrition and Diet for Healing Our Children. Healthful Living Media, 2008
Teresa Fuller MD, PhD, is a holistic pediatrician at National Integrated Health Associates, NIHA, serving Washington D.C., Maryland and Virginia. She is double board-certified in pediatrics and integrative, holistic medicine with a doctorate in physiology. Dr. Fuller's approach is to identify and correct the underlying contributors of imbalance such as nutrient deficiencies, toxicities, infection and stresses, in order to restore your child’s health. Areas of interest include prevention of chronic illness and obesity in children and young adults, ADHD, asthma and allergies.