Environmental Factors and Autism – Part 3

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We know based on research that growth and development can be severely impaired by chemicals, pesticides, metals and other toxic substances. Is there anything that we can do now?

  • We can support green efforts to decrease environmental pollutants.
  • We can prepare for pregnancy by detoxifying 3-6 months before trying to conceive.
  • We can address nutrient deficiencies and correct them.
  • We can eat a diet rich in good quality protein, green leafy vegetables and complex carbohydrates.
  • We can choose supplements like omega-3 and antioxidants to protect our cells.
  • We can breastfeed our babies as it has been shown to decrease rates of ASD and ADHD.

Children with autism can benefit from increasing nutrient and antioxidant status.  Correcting nutrient deficiencies, taking essential fatty acids and increasing antioxidant levels show positive improvements in language, social and cognitive development.

Environmental Factors and Autism – Part 2

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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

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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.

Feeding problems in autistic children

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Parents and caregivers of autistic children have been concerned for years and now the facts are in: children with autism, by and large, are eating poorly and perhaps dangerously so. That is the conclusion of the meta-study recently published by the Marcus Autism Center and the Department of Pediatrics at Emory University School of Medicine. After taking the research and results of every published study available on the subject and analyzing them together, they have concluded that children with autism are five times as likely as the general population to have feeding problems. After releasing these results in February 2013, researchers now hope to look more closely at what this means for individual autistic patients and their families.

What the consequences of these findings will be are not yet known. The first health concern is, of course, proper nutrition. A strictly limited diet over a long period of time could result in nutritional pitfalls for a population who can ill afford it. The Tufts University School of Nutrition Science and Policy found that even mildly poor nutrition can effect cognitive development in children. Another concern is the social and societal implications of poor eating. A child who already has social deficits may have an even harder time if their eating habits are noticeably out of the ordinary. Overcoming eating problems early can be an important part of the treatments and therapies an autistic child requires, impacting both the child’s overall health as well as the child’s ability to function socially in the world.

Ch-Ch-Ch-Chia! How Chia Seeds May Help With Autism

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Omega-3 fatty acids are known to be quite effective with protecting and promoting brain function. Recent studies have shown that administering substantial amounts of omega-3 to children with autism helps to significantly reduce their aggressive and hyperactive behaviors. Most people are aware of omega-3 that is derived from fish oil, but the richest plant-sources of omega-3 comes from chia seeds.

Chia seeds come from the salvia hispanica plant, native to Central and South America. They are considered to be among the most nutrient dense grains available today. Chia seeds are packed with protein, carbohydrates, fiber, and lots of vitamins and minerals. Approximately 64% of the oils of the chia seed are made up of omega-3 fatty acids, which is about 8 times the amount found in salmon!

Chia seeds are an exceptionally high source of easily digestible omega-3 fatty acids, as well as being a powerhouse of nutrition, very high in minerals and boasting an almost the complete protein spectrum (19 out of 22 amino acids). These seeds can easily be added to foods, recipes, baked, etc. Since many autistic children are deficient in omega-3, chia seeds can be a very useful food to add to their diets, and it’s gluten-free!

The Autism Epidemic – a macroepigenetic approach to identify responsible factors

The demand for special education has risen unceasingly in the category of pervasive age-linked disorders. Autism, a developmental disorder, has been defined as a universal age-related ailment known to appear within the first three years of childhood. The number of children – ranging between the ages of 6 and 21 – in the United States alone receiving special education services under the autism disability category has increased by 91 percent in the last eight years.

Symptoms of Autism include:
• Failure to cultivate and preserve relationships with peers
• Declinations in verbal and nonverbal communication
• Inability to social interchange

Recent studies show that our constant exposure to pestilential substances plays an essential role in determining the probable causes of the autism epidemic in the United States to date. The utilization of dietetic elements and constant exposure to toxic substances being released into the environment on a day to day basis can in fact increase the chances of gene modification.

The alteration of gene expression can negatively impact neurodevelopment significantly simply because the resulting mineral disparities caused by OP pesticides (Pb) and heavy metals (Hg) have the ability to generate and open corridors for oxidative stress within the brain. By reducing levels in PON1 activity and exposing inorganic fructose and mercury to HFCS, the likely hood of accumulating levels of homocysteine – a substance often affiliated with DNA hypomethylation – carrying on into future generations could become greater. Even still, research has shown that patterns in gene expression vary geologically from one population to the next.

10 Diet Tips for Autism

  1. Remove or reduce foods using an Elimination Diet to see which food controls symptoms and which aggravates them.
  2. A gluten-free and casein-free diet (gluten is the protein in wheat, and casein is the protein in milk).
  3. Eliminate allergenic foods like eggs, fish, seafood, tree nuts, peanuts, and soy.
  4. A low-carb ketogenic diet has been found to be effective for autistic children.
  5. A yeast and sugar-free diet is helpful in some cases.
  6. Some autistic children are deficient in certain vitamins and minerals therefore ensure that the child is getting an adequate amounts to aid their growth and treat symptoms.
  7. Include a diet rich in essential fatty acids such as omega-3 fatty acids like salmon and cod liver oil.
  8. A diet rich in fiber helps to alleviate and prevent constipation. Also include plenty of fluids and regular physical activity.
  9. Probiotics help with gastro-intestinal problems because they contain healthy bacteria and can improve the micro flora in the digestive tract in many autistic children.
  10. Digestive enzymes also help to aid digestion.

Foods to Eat that Support Detoxification

Foods rich in factors that help improve the liver’s detoxification ability include:

  • high-sulfur-content foods such as garlic, legumes, onions, and eggs.
  • good sources of soluble fibers such as pears, oat bran, apples, and legumes.
  • cabbage-family vegetables, especially broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cabbage.
  • artichokes, beets, lemons, carrots, dandelion, and herbs and spices including turmeric, cinnamon, and licorice.

GFCF Chocolate Pudding Recipe!

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch (or potato)
1/8 tsp salt
2 cups liquid DariFree
1 Tbs margarine or shortening
1 tsp vanilla (optional)
1-2 tbsp cocoa powder or carob powder

Combine the dry ingredients. Stir in the Darifree until smooth. I imagine you could use any dairy sub here.
Microwave uncovered on high for 3 minutes.
Stir.
Microwave 4 – 6 minutes more, stirring every minute until thick.
Stir in margarine/shortening and vanilla.
Cover with plastic wrap to avoid “skin”.
Refrigerate.

This recipe was adapted from www.gcfree.com

GFCF Mac ‘n Cheese Recipe!

1 cup cooked rice elbow macaroni
¼ cup finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon margarine
1 tablespoon tapioca or corn starch
Dash black pepper
1 ¼ cup Rice Milk
1 roll of Teese (cheddar style – cheese substitute)

Cook rice macaroni according to directions.
In a saucepan, cook onion in margarine until tender. Stir in flour and pepper.
Add rice milk.
Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly.
Add cheese. Stir until melted.
Stir macaroni into cheese.
Transfer to a 1 quart casserole.
Bake uncovered in 350 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes – until bubbly.

This recipe was adapted from: http://gfcfrecipes.blogspot.ca/