Using Oxytocin to Treat Autism

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What is Oxytocin?

Oxytocin is a potent hormone that is generated within the nerve tissues of cells. It has many important functions within the body such as helping it to relax, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and induces breastfeeding and childbirth. In the brain it is functions as a neurotransmitter that is responsible for making us have feelings of intimacy and safety with others. The hormone stimulates us to give or be receptive to affection that varies from casual to romantic feelings or parent and child bonding. It has been dubbed the “love hormone” because it creates tunnel vision by considerably heightening our focus on people we are interested in while drowning unrelated background noises or outside stimulus.

How Oxytocin Influences Autism

Scientists long suspected that people with autism-spectrum disorders experience difficulty processing social interactions because they have a compromised level of the oxytocin hormone. Until recently, the link has never been discovered as to why that is. New research reveals oxytocin as a crucial component for stimulating serotonin in the area of the brain that processes feelings of happiness with social interactions. Scientists believe that oxytocin therapy may be able to reduce feelings of social awkwardness and even boost positive social awareness for people with autism.

Frequently Asked Questions that Parents of Autistic Children Have

1. What Is Autism?Autism is one disorder in a group of developmental disorders known as Autism Spectrum Disorders, or ASD’s. Other ASD’s include Asperger’s and Rett Syndrome.

2. What Are the Signs of Autism?

There are many behaviors that are associated with Autism. The three main signs of Autism are impaired social interactions, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication, and repetitive behaviors.

3. How Is Autism Diagnosed?

Diagnosis relies on parental interview, as well as the presence of observable Autistic behaviors while the child is in the office. ASD’s are complex disorders that require a multi-professional approach to diagnose. An evaluation will include a child psychologist, a speech therapist, and a developmental therapist looking for markers of Autism.

4. What Causes Autism?

Doctors are not sure what causes Autism at this time, but suspect that both genetics and environmental factors play a role.

5. What Treatments Are Available?

There is no cure for Autism, but there are several treatments. Treatments for Autism include educational and behavioral interventions, including play therapy and speech therapy. Medications are also available for the treatment of Autism. Doctors often prescribe antidepressants to manage the symptoms of Autism, but an increasing number of doctors are prescribing or recommending natural treatments for Autism. One such treatment is the use of an Omega-3 supplement.

6. How Can Omega-3s Help Autism?

Children with ASD’s are often lacking in Omega-3s, and Omega-3 therapy may ease the symptoms of Autism. Omega-3 supplementation has also been proven to improve sociability and reduce irritability.

Autism Treatment – Conventional VS Alternative – Part I

When we’re given a certain diagnosis by our doctor, we expect to be given a plan of action. Last week, I made a visit to my Primary Care Physician with a horrible cold. 10 minutes after checking in, I walked out with  a prescription in hand, and a care plan to ensure that I was doing the best thing possible to help my condition.

If you think about it, why else would we consult a specialist? We want to have a plan to tackle whatever is ailing us.

With Autism, things seem to be a bit different, depending on what type of doctor you go to. The current conventional method of treatment involves two steps:

1) Obtaining medication to treat the symptoms
2) Hoping that your child will grow out of it.

I don’t know about you, but if when I went to my doctor’s office last week and had she told me to just wait until I got better, if I got better at all, I would have felt defeated - especially after paying a pretty penny as a co-pay. But I would also have to trust that my doctor knew best and had my (or my child’s) best interest at heart.

Treating the symptoms of Autism is one way to handle the disorder, however why not at least trying to tackle the source of the problem?  And hoping that your child grows out of it, isn’t that putting a little bit too much investment in the unknown? And if there’s an underlying issue with your child’s body and you aren’t treating that, how will they ever get better? Hope alone might not be enough. Shouldn’t there by more affirmative action?

That’s what many alternative medicine advocates are asking. There’s a newer alternative method to treating Autism:

1) Always Involve Parents

2) Nourish the Brain for optimal functions: Essential fatty acids, neurotransmitter support, decrease neuroinflammation, and diet to support the brain.

3) Activate the brain with activities, stimulation for growth and development.

Which of these approaches to treatment is better?

No matter who you ask, you’ll always have someone who is a fan of the conventional method. We don’t argue that there are medications that can greatly improve the symptoms that your child may be suffering, however, is adding more chemicals to the body really the answer? Especially when allergens are a particular concern for those who have Autism?

By taking a look at the alternative methods to treating Autism, we’re taking steps into helping to fix the problems that may have lead to causing the Autism (or the problems that Autism has caused, depending on how you see it.)

Next week, we’ll take a closer look at the alternative method of treating Autism, and break them down into smaller steps so you can see the true benefits.

 

SPD Therapy and Autism

Parenting a child with sensory processing disorder (SPD) can be overwhelming.  Being unable to process sounds, touch, sights, tastes, or smells will make every day activities a challenge.   A child with SPD may over-respond to their environment and find clothing, sound, light, food, physical contact, or other sensory input to be overwhelming and unbearable.  Other children will under-respond, unable to appropriately respond to heat, for example. Some children struggle with just one “sense” while others have problems processing multiple senses at a time.  Children with autism are also prone to sound sensitivity.

Treatment for SPD is generally done with an occupational therapist in a play-based treatment in a room specifically designed to be sensory-rich.  The therapy is designed to challenge the child into processing new things while children complete normal therapeutic activities.

Technology is making SPD therapy easier and more accessible.  Since the 1990’s Electronic Auditory Stimulation effect (EASe) products have been used to stimulate and challenge a child’s sensory processing through short, intense visual and auditory experiences.  Now with the use of iPhones and iPads, parents and therapists will have easy access to the EASe tools for therapy by simply downloading the EASe application.

The EASe Listening Therapy app is available in three versions – EASe Lite, EASe Personal, and EASe Pro

EASe Lite ($.99) is a demo with one song and full functionality except for audio import. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/electronic-auditory-stimulation/id472604387?ls=1&mt=8

EASe Personal ($39.99) includes the full EASe app and a 60-minute module of instrumental music, enough to complete a ten-hour EASe Listening Therapy program. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/electronic-auditory-stimulation/id472591104?ls=1&mt=8

EASe Pro ($99.00) includes the full EASe app and a 60-minute module of instrumental music, and also is capable of importing specially prepared EASe Music Modules. http://itunes.apple.com/us/app/electronic-auditory-stimulation/id461769387?ls=1&mt=8

Is Your Child Being Misdiagnosed As Bipolar?

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It seems as though everyone is being treated with some kind of anxiety disorder these days. I remember getting a phone call from a family member of mine who’s child had been suffering from some mood swings and bouts with anger in previous weeks. She noticed that her son was having emotional inconsistencies, and was acting out of control at times. She made an appointment with her doctor who then referred her to a psychiatrist.

She left the psychiatrists’ office with a bipolar disorder and a prescription for a mood stabilizer for her son. She couldn’t help but to feel like this was a very harsh diagnosis.

Diagnosing children with bipolar disorder is an ever-growing and quite disturbing trend.

In a recent article in Newsweek, Stuart Kaplan, a child psychologist speaks of a workshop that he attended in 1994 in which bipolar disorder in children was discussed. About 2 people had heard of bipolar in children at that time. Three years later there was another conference and hundreds of doctors and specialists had claimed to encounter the disorder in children. Kaplan goes on to say:

“…nearly one third of all children and adolescents discharged from child psychiatric hospitals are diagnosed with the disorder and medicated accordingly.”

This can be very dangerous. Specifically because there is no solid proof that bipolar disorder begins during childhood. This isn’t saying that parents and doctors do not have legitimate concerns regarding the behavior of children, but are they being too quick to throw a diagnosis instead of doing more in-depth testing? If children are just being given bipolar diagnosis to ‘solve a problem’, yet it isn’t the problem at all this means they are being given medications that are not helping their problem. In fact, they could be experiencing the often damaging side-effects of the prescribed medication.

It’s important to note that bipolar in adults and pediatric bipolar disorder have different characteristics. While it might seem that adult bipolar is a pretty straight forward diagnosis since it is characterized by periods of extreme highs followed by periods of depressive lows, it isn’t that cut and dry in pediatric bipolar disorder. (Though no mental illness is in fact cut and dry.) In fact, according to Kaplan, it is nearly impossible to distinguish between an elementary school child who is having tantrums as being bipolar vs having serious anger control issues. Symptoms like irritibality and talkativeness may mask themselves as mania, but in fact  they could indicate ADHD. Because of the uncertainty, more care must be taken when diagnosing children to be sure that the proper treatment can be given. Improper treatment, which is often medication can lead to dangerous side effects, illness, and even death!

So the question arises, “How do you know if your child really is bipolar?” An estimated 60 to 90 percent of children who have been diagnosed with bipolar disorder are also diagnosed with ADHD. So how do we know if we’re treating the right thing?

In the Newsweek article, Dr. Kaplan tells of an 11 year old girl who was very talented and artistic. She spoke well, was clearly talented, and loved Shakespeare. However she wasn’t doing well in school in a social or grade sense. Doctors gave her a mental evaluation and a pricey diagnosis along with a mood stabilizer. Dr. Kaplan encouraged the parents to take their child off of the mood stabilizers and allow him to prescribe a medication for ADHD instead. When they did, they saw dramatic changes in their daughter. Her mood and performance improved in school.

Chances are, your child is not going to come to you and say “Mommy, I’m feeling on edge, but then happy, I can’t control my mood and sometimes I’m angry for no reason. Help!” Because children really can’t express their internal feelings as well as (some) adults, it’s important that we get them involved and knowledgeable about their emotions so that they can better understand the importance of their neurological health.

In Dr. Wong’s office, he can do a survey on your child to get a better idea of their mental picture. If you’re interested in this, please don’t hesitate to contact us. Dr. Wong would love to set up a visit!

A Body With Bacteria Is A Healthy Body

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I was sitting in the waiting room of my office today, and picked up the issue of Psychology Today that was sitting in the magazine bin. I thumbed through and saw an interesting article on Probiotics. I instantly thought of all of our wonderful readers here at New Autism Cure, and how I wanted to fill you in on some interesting facts about Probiotics. Last week, I put it off to tell you about the Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen, hopefully you found that to be helpful. I myself have been working on keeping the food I take in amongst the clean veggies.

Now, onto Probiotics.

What are Probiotics?

To summarize, Probiotics are live bacteria that have been found to be beneficial to the body. Probiotics are often found in food with added active cultures such as yogurt and dietary yogurts. It was first found that Probiotics helped the body by balancing the intestinal microbial balance. As time has gone on, studies are being conducted and documented that show that Probiotics help with intestinal inflammation as well as diarrhea caused by pathogens.

The benefits of Probiotics were first introduced by Metchnikoff in the 1900′s.  (Read about Metchinkoff’s research here.) He believed it to be possible to take damaging bacteria and replace it with good bacteria. Metchnikoff believed that not all bacteria is bad. Even in modern times, we hear the word bacteria, and we instantly think negatively.  But there are some good bacteria that can target bad bacteria.

In adequate doses, probiotics or “good bacteria” can be beneficial to the body. This is particularly true of Lactic Acid Bacteria or lactobacillus, which has the ability to provide digestive enzymes to the body that assist in the breakdown of food. And as we have discussed before, many Autistic children have inflammation of the gut and difficulties with digestion. Additionally, Lactic Acid Bacteria helps balance the pH in the colon.

A Great Study Goes Bad

Recently, a study was conducted to establish the benefits of good bacteria on Autism. There were 2 groups of children, one group was given probiotics, and the other, the placebo. Conducted by Professor Glen Gibson at Reading University in the United Kingdom, the study was supposed to be conducted to where for a determined amount of time both group would take the probiotics, and then switch one of the other group to a placebo midway through the study.

The group of children who were taking the Probiotics had such amazing benefits, that the families knew that they were the group who had the real thing. When it came time to switch out, the families resisted. The parents thought it would be unfair for the Autistic children who had experienced such great benefits to go back to their former selves. There was a very high drop out rate, and therefore the study technically failed. But it definitely left researchers wondering what the true benefits really are. The study is sure to be replicated and attempted again in the near future.  We’ll be keeping our eyes peeled for that.

The Discovery of Zonulin

immune-system1Zonulin. It sounds like a new Pokemon character, but we assure you it isn’t, at least that we know of.

Truth be told, it wasn’t until 2009 that the actual identity of Zonulin was identified.  Thanks to the University of Maryland Schoool of Medicine, it was determined that Zonulin is a protein that plays a large role in a number of autoimmune disorders

Autoimmune disorders can be defined as disorders where the immune system mistakes healthy tissues as harmful and attacks them. These conditions include celiac disease (contributes to leaky gut syndrome), multiple sclerosis, and diabetes.

Zonulin is a protien that exists in tight areas between the cells of the digestive tract. It regulates the permeability or magnetism of the intestine and is found in increased levels during the acute phases of celiac disease. This finding indicates that a higher level of the protein are a contributing factor to autoimmune disorders.

Tight junctions, which is where Zonulin exists, are responsible for the transport of water and electrolytes which are essential for body function.

With conditions like leaky gut syndrome, large molecules get into the blood stream. Tight junctions are supposed to seal off the access of these molecules to the blood stream where they can cause damage. However, there are instances when these tight junctions open up and allow the large molecules to pass through.

As ethicsmedicine.com explains:

Zonulin periodically opens the zonulin-gates to facilitate absorption by loosening the specialized structures that create the tight knit of the bowel lining. When in excess, zonulin over-stretches the tight zones—the gates between the cells get stuck in an open position, so to speak—increasing bowel permeability and allowing the entry of large undigested food particles and microbes in larger numbers. Unless the zonulin spigots are expediently turned off, such loosening of the bowel knit wreaks havoc on the blood. Indeed, this is how many inflammatory and immune disorders begin.

How is an excess of Zonulin treated?

Whenever there is an abundance of a substance in the body, pharmaceutical companies want to develop a drug to treat it. There is a lot of interest in developing such a drug in order to regulate Zonulin and thereby controlling autoimmune disorders. Though there is no medication as of yet, as time passes, more and more research will surely come about regarding Zonulin. Researchers are hard at work studying this as it does play a large role in leaky gut syndrome.

Amino Acid Therapy And Autism

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When it comes to Autism, we’ve said it several times that it’s important to treat the individual symptoms. One of the most commonly experienced symptoms of Autism is Gastrointestinal (GI) problems. The believed source of the problems will range depending on the doctor that you speak to, but a common belief is that GI problems originate due to an Amino Acid deficiency.

Amino Acids are the ‘building blocks of proteins. From them, we get neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters, or lack thereof, are often the cause of many psychological conditions including anxiety, depression, and panic disorders. When the body lacks serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine, it effects the messages between nerve cells.

There are 20 amino acids. 10 of them are considered to be non-essential amino acids and 10 are essential amino acids. The difference between the two are that non-essential amino acids can and are produced by the body, whereas essential amino acids are not able to be produced by the body and must be obtained from the foods that we eat.

What do Amino Acids Have To Do With Autism?

Bodies that have some sort of chronic or recurring condition are often severely lacking in amino acids. Conditions such as leaky gut syndrome and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), both which are a common symptom of Autism, can prevent the body from absorbing the key nutrients and amino acids. Because of this, the body’s essential neurotransmitters may be eliminated.

So, just because you are feeding your child the correct foods, or have them on the right diet, does not mean the body is absorbing the essential nutrients needed to produce neurotransmitters.

Amino Acid Therapy Methods:

Logically, the goal of balancing neurotransmitters is to replenish the body when it is lacking.  The number one way of achieving this often thought to be prescription medication. However, most, if not all prescription medications aimed at treating neurotransmitter and amino acid deficiency have moderate to severe side effects ranging from sleeplessness to suicidal thoughts.

Amino Acid therapy is often utilized in Autism, and many doctors believe that it is a better approach to treatment as there are no major side effects as their are in prescription medications.  Because medications often have a risk of constipation and other digestive issues, medications with such risks seem almost counter productive to solving the issue.

Diet Modification:

Paying attention to your child’s diet is one of the keys to treating Autism. One approach to a healthy amino acid therapeutic diet is having meals that have a 40%-30%-30% ratio. That is, 40% carbohydrates, 30% protein, and 30% healthy fat.  Turkey and milk are both great sources of tryptophan, which promotes serotonin production. During snack time, try to provide a protein-rich snack rather than a refined sugar snack.

It is also important that when you are replenishing amino acids to your child’s diet, that you supplement high-quality amino acids. This is very important in Autism since, as we stated, the common GI problems that the Autistic body often has is an indicator that the body is already severely lacking in amino acids. Replenishing the body with high-quality amino acids is also great preparation for when the body experiences illnesses, or when amino acid deficiency is even more common.

Supplements

Taking a look at your child’s diet is only one of the many ways in which you can replenish the body with amino acids.  Though it is the first step, once a firm, effective diet is in place, a neurotransmitter test may be conducted to see which individual neurotransmitter levels may be low. From there, you can be directed to give your child a supplement to promote the replenishment of amino acids. Here are some of the key vitamins that the Autistic body needs.

Bone Broth and Autism Diet

An often forgotten source of nutrition is bone broth, or good old fashioned homemade chick broth. These homemade broths are high in protein as well as in calcium and magnesium. These minerals are absorbed into the body. Also in bone broth are glucosamine and chondroiton, both believed to promote relief from joint pain. Gelatin is also in bone broth, and is also a great source of supplementary protein. It’s important to note that you cannot get the same health benefits from boxed or store-bought chicken broth or bone broth. These are often highly processed and some of the health benefits and minerals are often lost.

While there has not been one, widely accepted solution to making the Autistic body healthier, the mere fact Amino Acid Therapy does not have any notable side effects, while medications have suicide risks (see here), should be proof enough that medication might not be the answer.

*It is essential to note that you must speak to your doctor before making the switch between medication and amino acid therapy.DO NOT TAKE YOUR CHILD OFF OF MEDICATION WITHOUT CONSULTING A PHYSICIAN. Doing so can promote withdrawal and severe and life threatening symptoms.

Flu Season and Autism

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As another flu season quickly approaches us, masses will flock to their local doctor’s office and pharmacies to get the flu shot. With the economy the way it is, no one can afford to miss a day of work. With education as important as it is, children can’t afford to miss a day of school. However, with the dangers that can come along with getting a flu shot, can you afford to risk the health of your child? Especially if they have Autism?

Commercials, doctor’s offices and advertisements are urging Americans to rush out and get the flu shot. Other countries, such as Australia, Finland, and Sweden have either banned the flu shot, or at the very least opened up investigations to their danger. Sweden launched an investigation into the link between nacrolepsy and the swine flu vaccine after several reports of adverse reactions in children were made.

One of the primary ingredients in the Flu Shot is Thermisol; a mercury based preservative. In many of our blogs here, we visit the subject of chelation, that is, the removal of toxic heavy metals from the autistic body. It has already been determined that Mercury and many of its forms can cause Autism and other neurological disorders just as the flu itself does. We spend time and research on finding ways to rid the body of such heavy metals, and the Flu Shot directly injects it.

So, is it worth getting the shot?

This ends up what your own personal preferences are. Do you avoid the shot and pray that your child does not get the very risky flu? Or, do you chance getting the shot and play Russian Roulette with whether or not your child will suffer very detrimental health effects? Unfortunately, we don’t have a definitive answer for you. What we can say, is to be sure you ask your doctor (or even more than one doctor) what their honest suggestion is regarding your Autistic child receiving the shot.

Last year, we met Melissa, a woman who went to the Emergency Room and received a Tetanus shot. It is believed that as an effect of this routine vaccine, that Melissa almost died when her body rejected it. The doctors told her it was routine, she believed it to be routine, but then this routine vaccine ended up nearly costing Melissa her life.

Know the risks. Understand the potential outcomes.

What The Autistic Body Needs To Stay Healthy

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In addition to diet, the autistic body is often lacking proper nutrition. This isn’t hard to believe considering many children in general have picky appetites. The truth is though, is that the body cannot fight off sickness nor can the brain operate at its full potential without the proper food and nutrition. If your child won’t sign onto the idea of eating an array of foods with vital vitamins, a supplement may be the answer. Below are some of the most common vitamins and supplements that have been found beneficial in treating Autism.

· Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): A body with a Thiamine deficiency doesn’t deliver the proper fuel to the brain in order for it to function. Because of this, inflammation and damage to the brain are very possible. Gastrointestinal disorders, which come hand in hand with Autism, can cause an inability for the body to absorb Vitamin B1.

· Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Autistic bodies have been found to have a mutated enzyme (MTHFR). Vitamin B2 is needed for the healthy production of MTHFR and also aids in metabolizing fats, proteins, and carbohydrates.

· Vitamin B3 (Niacin) is traditionally given to increase skin quality and circulation, but its benefits outreach luminous skin. In a case study, rats that had a stroke were given Vitamin B3, and it was shown that new, healthy brain cells were created and they experienced improved neurological function. Not only has Vitamin B3 been prescribed for circulatory issues, but for many conditions such as depression, anxiety, high cholesterol, and type 2 diabetes.

· Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine Hydrochloride): Research has found a link between those who are suffering from Autism and those with a particular form of epilepsy (seizure disorder). When taken with magnesium, Vitamin B6 helps alleviate several Autism symptoms.

· Vitamin B12 (cobalamin): Vitamin B12 is one of the most essential of the B vitamins as it is normally responsible for metabolizing every cell in the body. In order to have a healthy working nervous system, Vitamin B12 is essential. A deficiency of Vitamin B12 has been known to cause a number of conditions such as delirium, anxiety, delayed thinking, and developmental regression.

· Folic Acid: A deficiency of Folic Acid has many of the same issues as that of Vitamin B12, only with potential digestive issues as well. Folic acid is necessary to maintain healthy cell production and maintaining DNA. Some research has indicated that Autistic Children have a deficiency in their “Folic Acid Cycle”.

· Vitamin A: This vitamin is necessary for language processing as well as tissue growth. Some research has shown that Vitamin A supplements can aid in memory, visual perception and language production.

· Vitamin C: Many Autistic bodies have shown a deficiency in Vitamin C. Supplementing this vitamin can promote the body to excrete toxins like heavy metals.