Environmental Factors and Autism – Part 2

coal-power-plant-and-autism

From the time of conception, babies are de-methylated and as they grow and develop, they go through a process called methylation.  Both methylation and detoxification form an important balance that supports growth and development.  They work hand-in-hand so that as one slows down, so does that other.  Children with autism have shown to have impairments in these cycles, which may begin to explain why children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) are quite susceptible to environmental toxicity.

A 2009 study completed by researchers at the University of Texas, found startling evidence that the environment plays a large role in autism.  The study was designed to determine if living close to sources of mercury pollution in 1998 were related to autism prevalence in 2002. They found that for every 1000 pounds of industrial release, there were a 2.6% increase in autism rates and a 3.7% increase associated with power plant emissions. Overall, for every 10 miles away you got from industrial or power plant sources, there was a decrease in autism rates.

The same researchers revealed an association between environmentally-released mercury and autism rates also in Texas.  For each 1,000 lb of environmentally released mercury, there was a 61% increase in ASD.

Toxins play a large role in the health of our bodies. Lead levels have been linked to ASD, ADHD and learning disabilities.  The Environmental Working Group (EWG) released a study that found an average of 200 industrial chemicals and pollutants in umbilical cord blood from 10 babies born in U.S. hospitals in 2004.  Further tests revealed a total of 287 chemicals in this group of children. The umbilical cord blood identified pesticides, consumer product ingredients, and wastes from burning coal, gasoline, and garbage. It is clear that environmental toxicity is impacting all children and adults.

 

Environmental Factors and Autism – Part 1

coal-power-plant-and-autism

As a health care practitioner who specializes in autism, the relationship between autism spectrum disorder, genetics and environmental toxicity is first in my mind always and this has also been the subject of research for many years.  What we do know now is that one of the key reasons for the dramatic rise in autism rates in the last 15-20 years can be attributed to environmental toxicity.

Children with autism are more susceptible to oxidative damage and environmental toxins than other children. Autism research has shown that oxidative stress levels are high and antioxidant levels are low.  Antioxidants protect our bodies from harmful chemicals and substances circulating in food, air, water and soil.  They are essential for normal development.  Environmental toxins such as heavy metals, chemicals, pesticides and other harmful substances lower a person’s antioxidant status.

In each of our bodies there are 7 detoxification pathways that are supported by antioxidants.  There is a relationship between normal development and detoxification that is necessary to be in balance for children to grow, thrive, and learn new skills.

Research has shown that children with autism have depleted stores of glutathione, one of the body’s most important antioxidants that support detoxification of toxic substances. Researchers have identified that children with ASD (Autism Spectrum Disorder) had up to 80% of this important compound depleted.  The brain relies 100% on glutathione to support development, therefore as glutathione levels decrease, so does the “fuel” needed for development.

The Impact of Sugar On Autism Part I

 

Sugar is a commonly used substance. Whether its in coffee, tea, or the key ingredient in your favorite candy, sugar is something we, as humans consume everyday. Sugar also comes in many varieties, some claiming to be more healthy than the other, and being safe for consumption for those with Diabietes. Other sugar based substances, like High Fructose Corn Syrup are rumored to be very harmful to the body.

With all of these varieties of sugar; aspartame, splenda, saccharine, and high fructose corn syrup, which are really safe to consume? What is sugar anyway? What do these varieties contain and how are they made?  And is it really more beneficial to avoid sugar altogether, or to consume it in moderation?

Over the next few weeks, we’re going to take a close look at sugar, what it is, what it means for Autism, and some alternatives that may be safer than Sugar.

First of all, let’s take a look at the basics:

What is Sugar?

A simple definition of sugar is : “a white crystalline carbohydrate used as a sweetener and preservative.” However, it’s much more complicated than that especially with its substitutes. When the word “sugar” is used, it usually refers to sucrose which is derived from sugar cane and sugar beet, a cultivated plant.

The problems with Sugar

The problem with sucrose is that it can contribute to tooth decay. Most experts believe that too much sugar does not in fact cause diabetes. However, excessive calories from sugar can contribute to obesity which then can heighten the risk of diabetes.

Other Sugar Varieties

Other sugar varieties, which are typically used in industrial food preparation are glucose, fructose, and high fructose corn syrup.

Glucose itself is stored mainly in the liver and is an essential, primary source of energy for the brain. When glucose levels are low, certain psychological processes are impaired such as decision making and self control.

Fructose is a fruit sugar and is found in a variety of foods. It is also one of three important dietary monosaccharides along with glucose and galactose. Fructose is the most easily dissolved in water of all of the sugars. Substances such as honey, fruits (especially melons), and some root vegetables contain a great amount of molecular fructose in combination with glucose. This combination is stored in the form of sucrose.

High Fructose Corn Syrup is a corn syrup that has undergone enzymatic process to convert some of its glucose to fructose to achieve the desired sweetness. In the United States, cereal, beverages, yogurts, lunch meats, and soups commonly contain High Fructose Corn Syrup. The reason why High Fructose Corn Syrup is so commonly used is because it is quite inexpensive compared to other sugars.

Additionally High Fructose Corn Syrup may be a source of mercury, as we’ve learned and spoken about before, is a very dangerous neurotoxin and can cause numerous negative bodily effects on the autistic body.

Aspartame is an artificial sweetener that has no saccharide and is used as a sweetener in some foods and drinks. It’s safety has been questioned over the years and a lot of internet hoaxes have accused Aspartame of being the cause of epidemics of cancer, multiple sclerosis, and brain tumors. These accusations were proven false, and the FDA has not found, to this day any consistent proof that Aspartame causes any great danger to the body.

However, because of it’s chemical breakdown consisting of phenylalanine, Aspartame must be avoided by those with PKU, a condition marked by a deficiency of the PAH enzyme.

Splenda is a sucralose based artificial sweetener. The caloric content of Splenda is lower than Sugar. It is considered a safe substance, however there was a controversial study in which consumption caused a series of negative affects including reduction of fecal microflora. To get an idea of how Splenda is made and produced, take a look at its slogan: “It starts with sugar, it tastes like sugar, but it’s not sugar.”

When checking nutrition labels, Reader’s Digest offers a helpful suggestion:

Sugar is a simple carbohydrate devoid of any nutritional benefits. And even if an ingredient label doesn’t list sugar, that doesn’t mean there isn’t any. Manufacturers use more kinds of sugar than you can shake a stick at, and it’s worth familiarizing yourself with some of them so you’re not fooled into thinking an item is better for you than it is. Look for any of these:

-Amazake
-Brown sugar
-Carob powder
-Corn syrup
-Dextrose
-Evaporated cane juice
-Fructose
-Fruit juice concentrate
-High-fructose corn syrup
-Honey
-Maltose

To get a sense of how much sugar you’re really eating, check the nutrition label for “Sugars,” listed in grams. Every 4 grams is equivalent to a teaspoon of sugar. Experts suggest we limit our sugar intake to 12 teaspoons a day for all food sources

Now that you’re familiar with the different types of sugars, it may be a bit easier while you’re wondering what to put in your coffee, tea, or what to check for on nutrition labels.

A preview for next week:

Could your child be addicted to sugar? What are some safe and healthy alternatives to sugar that can be used?

 

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Flu Season and Autism

vaccine

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.

Heavy Metal Toxicity

Many studies suggest that the epidemic rise of autism spectrum disorders is due to the fact that we are living in an evermore hostile environment, a world filled with pollution and toxins. We know that our toxic environment is to blame for many diseases and conditions, and now it seems that we can add autism to this list.

toxic

Environmental toxins include pesticides, emissions, dioxins and PCBs, Nicotine, Solvents and heavy metals. In this blog post, we will examine the link between heavy metal exposure and autism, and how this can be combated.

Heavy Metals

Some research has linked autism with heavy metal exposure, but what are heavy metals and how are our children exposed to them?

  • Mercury – Mercury is used as a preservative (thimerosal) in certain medicines and some vaccines, and is also a by-product emitted by various industrial processes. Mercury is poisonous in high doses and the symptoms of mercury poisoning are incredibly similar to autism symptoms.

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