Autism, ADHD and natural remedies
By Shannon Burford
Autism loosely describes a mental health and developmental disorder. The spectrum is broad and individuals sit inside a spectrum known as ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder). ASD is characterised by things such as difficulty or an inability to create normal social relationships, compulsive and/or ritualistic behaviour, and sometimes a failure to develop normal levels of intelligence. Statistically it is more common in males than in females. If your child has been diagnosed with autism or ADHD it is important to educate yourself and know that there are natural and nutritional treatments that you can turn to for help. There are also some naturopathic tests which can identify aggravating factors.
Common Health Issues for ADHD or Autism
Some of the health problems that are exhibited by autism sufferers include:
- an inability or difficulty to absorb gluten or casein
- low levels of stomach acid and pancreatic enzymes
- high levels of toxins and reduced processing of these
- high levels of candida, Aspergillus, and parasites
- high levels of heavy metals
Often in an initial consultation and treatment plan of any person suffering from autism is to change the diet and detox the body. This involves support of the detoxification pathways such as the liver, skin and kidneys. Herbal medicine and nutritional support is often incorporated into the initial plan. The younger the person is when the treatment is undertaken, the more likely it is to prevent prolonged oxidative stress throughout the body.
Nutrition and Autism
Protein is essential in people that suffer from autism as it is necessary to supply the body with amino acids – which help to build neurotransmitters and many other key elements in the body. Reducing the amount of sugar that an autistic person has can help to stop rapid changes in blood sugar levels which can contribute to problems such as irritability and difficulty concentrating. People that are sensitive to artificial colours and flavourings may find that they suffer from more behavioural problems. Pesticides, which can be found on fruits and vegetables that have not been washed correctly, can contain toxic metals and are suspected of being one of the causes of autism.
An individual plan can be developed at the Cura clinic for specific needs and optimal health outcomes.
Essential Fatty Acids and Autism
Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are vital for humans, as they are found in every cell. Also, twenty percent of a child’s brain is made up of EFAs. Breastfeeding is ideal for children as the breast milk is rich in the EFAs that the child needs, but if you are feeding your baby on formula, note that most formulas do not contain EFAs.
Often individuals with ADHD or autism have altered pathways for utilisation of EFAs. Generally speaking they have a higher requirement of EFAs.
The two most common types of EFAs are omega 3 and omega 6. The body cannot make these so they must be obtained from a dietary source. If the diet is low in EFAs, psychological problems such as Rett’s syndrome, depression, and bipolar disorder may result. Studies have shown that children with autism and ADHD have less omega 3 fatty acids than the normal population. Thus it is recommended that children eat fish that are high in EFAs such as salmon, or take a supplement of fish oil.
Gluten and Casein Free Diet for Autism
Gluten is a protein that is found in wheat, rye, barley, and oats, and casein is a protein that is found in all dairy products. These two proteins are common food allergens – especially amongst people that suffer from autism. Certain peptides that come from the gluten and casein can have a significant effect on a person’s behaviour, causing things such as sleepiness, a person not paying attention, aggression, and self-abuse.
To treat this, all gluten and dairy products will need to be avoided. Even the smallest amount can cause problems in a sensitive individual. Digestive enzymes may be useful but they will not be as effective as avoiding gluten and casein altogether. If you are following a dairy free diet, remember to include a calcium supplement or ensure that the person is gaining adequate calcium from other sources.
Food Allergies and Autism
Many people that suffer from autism also suffer from food allergies, due to abnormalities in either their digestive or immune systems, if not both. If the food is not broken down correctly into its individual components such as sugars and amino acids, the partially digested food may pass into the bloodstream and cause an allergic reaction. Some ways of testing for food allergies include an elimination diet, skin testing, and blood tests. Once the food responsible for the allergy has been identified, it is a simple matter of avoiding the food. Digestive enzymes may be useful in order to help the person to digest the food more fully.
Autism and Visual Problems
Eye movement control is the basic skill that is needed for effective vision. This is because it is vital to eye contact which, in turn, is vital to the interaction between people. People with autism commonly use a tool called “gaze avoidance” in order to stop their brains from becoming overloaded with information.
Eye movements show where a person is directing their visual attention. In autism, if you improve the efficiency of the sufferer’s eye movements, you can help to train their brain to pay attention. Autistic people may not be able to express when they are suffering from visual problems such as sore eyes, blurred vision and so forth. Therefore, it is up to the carer to look for the visual signs of such problems which may include:
- squinting or eye closing
- staring at things
- looking at things sideways
- sensitivity to light
- rubbing or pushing the eye
- bumping into things
- looking at things quickly
- makes their way around more by feeling things than seeing them
Commonly Prescribed Natural Medicine
The following nutritional supplements and herbal remedies are often prescribed in ADHD and Autism. Only some of these recommended for each patient and there is never a generic prescription as the patient is always an individual.
- Homeopathy constitutional remedy
- Fish oil EPA/DHA rich
- Herbal Medicines tailored for individual patient
- Nutritional medicines for nutritional deficiencies
- dietary plans
- lifestyle modifications
Contact the clinic to speak with a naturopath or to make an appointment