Children’s Series: A Holistic Approach to Autism

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autismAutism is a developmental disorder that involves abnormal development and function of the brain. Children and adults with autism show poor social communication skills and a difficulty in relating to others. Often, they demonstrate repetitive patterns of behaviors or interests. Taking a holistic approach to autism can help.

Autism symptoms usually start before a child is 3 years old. Usually, parents first notice that their toddler has not started talking yet and is not interacting like other children the same age. But it is not unusual for a child to start to talk at the same time as other children the same age, then lose his or her language skills.

Autism is believed to be genetic, but environmental factors are also thought to play a role.

Today, one out of every 100 children is affected with autism or a related disorder. Thus, it is more prevalent than breast cancer or childhood diabetes. The recurrence rate for having a second child with autism if one already exists within a family is thought to be 15-20%.

Symptoms of autism may include:

  • A delay in learning to talk, or not talking at all. A child may seem to be deaf, even though hearing tests are normal.
  • Repeated and overused types of behavior, interests, and play. Examples include repeated body rocking, and unusual attachments to objects.
  • Difficult transitions in routines.
  • Avoiding eye contact.

Children with autism also tend to have:

  • Dysbiosis, leaky gut, candida, parasite infections, constipation
  • Impaired detoxification/heavy metal toxicity
  • Multiple food sensitivities
  • Abnormalities in fatty acids

Dietary changes can have beneficial effects on children with autism. Common physical symptoms of children with autism often include diarrhea, constipation, bloating and GI pain, frequent infections, and inflammation/pain. For many, food sensitivities or food intolerances, imbalanced biochemistry, and digestive problems are at the core of these symptoms.

Some recommended dietary changes are :

• Remove foods that inflame the gut. Gluten, casein, sugars, soy, refined oils and eggs are common offenders. The exact foods to remove will depend on the individual; however, gluten- and casein-free diets are among the most popular and effective.

• Add foods that heal the gut. Foods such as ginger and turmeric reduce inflammation. Fish oil, flax seeds and walnuts contain omega-3 fatty acids that have anti-inflammatory properties. Fermented foods help heal the gut.

• Include foods with beneficial bacteria. Fermented foods, such as non-dairy yogurt, young coconut kefir and cultured vegetables, help supply good bacteria that reduce inflammation and create an environment that is healing.

• Add foods that increase beneficial bacteria levels. Prebiotics are foods, often high in soluble fiber, that support good bacteria and increase levels in the gut.

Supplements can also play a role in improving symptoms. We recommend consulting with one of our nutritionists or doctors before giving your child supplements. They work with patients to create optimal health by using natural remedies such as vitamins, minerals, herbs, and homeopathic treatments. They also recommend tailored diet plans, exercise routines, lifestyle tips, and specialized testing to address the root cause(s) of autism symptoms. Integrative therapies have shown to be very successful for helping children with autism spectrum disorder.

Photo from here, with thanks.

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  • Paula Gallagher
    Paula Gallagher
    Paula is a highly qualified and experienced nutrition counselor on the staff at Village Green.
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    Margo Gladding
    Margo's impressive knowledge base is the result of a unique blend of educational and professional experience.
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    Dr. Neal Barnard
    Dr. Barnard leads programs advocating for preventive medicine, good nutrition, and higher ethical standards in research.
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    Dr. Joseph Pizzorno
    Dr. Joseph Pizzorno, ND is a pioneer of integrative medicine and a leading authority on science-based natural medicine.
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    Debi Silber
    Debi is a registered dietitian with a master’s degree in nutrition, a personal trainer, and whole health coach.
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    Teri Cochrane
    Teri is a is a Certified Coach Practitioner with extensive certifications and experience in holistic medicinal practices.
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    Dr. Rav Ivker
    Dr. Rav Ivker is a holistic family physician, health educator, and best-selling author.
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    Susan Levin
    Susan writes about the connection between plant-based diets and a reduced risk of chronic diseases.
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    Dr. Rob Brown
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January 2023