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

SONY DSC

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!

Autism Treatment – Conventional VS Alternative Part II

Last week, we took a look at the two main approaches to treating Autism. The conventional means of treatment often has to deal with treating the symptoms of Autism with medication. Ridding your child of the often damaging and life-altering symptoms seems like it would be a good idea, but when you think about it, what are you treating? Do you have any chance of helping the problem itself get better if you’re just focusing on the side effects?

Imagine a smoker who has had the habit for 15 years and has developed a terrible cough. He decides he is going to take a cough suppression to help aid in the cough. But really, the problem lies in what the smoking and inhaling the troublesome substance us doing to the body. Without treating the issue itself, the coughing symptom may never go away.

Same goes for Autism and its symptoms. If we’re merely treating the common symptoms/side-effects (digestion issues, attention deficits, mood changes, allergies),  is there any chance that the symptoms will ever go away? Or will they merely be controlled?

Alternative treatments, as we mentioned, involve a few key focuses:

1) Always Involve Parents:

By involving the parents, this ensures not only that treatment plans can be practiced at home on a consistent basis, but that they have a better understanding of why the treatment is taking place. As parents, chances are, you’ve felt in the dark at times during your child’s treatment. You put your trust in the doctor or specialist that you’re seeing, but you’re never quite sure why the treatment is happening. If you know why you’re doing the things that you’re doing, there is a better chance of you remaining consistent in doing so. Knowing how the treatment can help, will also enable you to realize you’re working toward a goal.

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

The brain is the source of all things related to the body. If one of the body’s functions are off, the answer to getting it back on track often lies in the brain. For example, when we take a pain reliever, it goes to work in the brain – to tell the brain to stop sending pain messages to whatever part of the body is ailing us.  In order to function correctly, the brain needs the right fuel, and this comes from vitamins, minerals, and other essential substances.

Essential Fatty Acids (Omega 6 and Omega 3) are key to brain function  and the body does not produce these compounds naturally. In instances where the levels of Omega 6 are greatly higher than Omega 3 in one’s diet, there can be negative effects on mood, cognition, and behavior. All of which are some of the major concerns in children with Autism.

These symptoms are often treated with anti-anxiety or anti-depressant medications. However, if the true source of the problem (essential fatty acids) isn’t treated, then can the problem even be solved, or is it just being covered up like a paper towel over spilled milk?

Having a diet that eliminates Gluten (wheat) and Casein (diet) has also shown positive effects in behavioral symptoms as well as digestion problems. We’ve talked about this before, feel free to read more about the GFCF diet right here!

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

Maintaining growth and development in the brain ensures that the brain doesn’t get “stuck”. When you begin a new routine, it’s important that you create a consistent practice of it so that it becomes a habit. Keeping the brain stimulated and introducing new activities makes sure your child gets used to using the therapies and activities that are introduced. A child is more likely to see benefits from treatment if they’re done on a consistent basis.  You cannot expect results overnight, but you can expect a steady developmental improvement if you keep on with the suggested activities from a professional.

Autism is a very difficult disorder for children and their parents to deal with. Since each and every case is different, we can’t possibly tell you which treatment method will work for you, or what medication to take. As far as we know, there is no “magic pill.” However, if you think about it, taking the symptoms that your child has and finding out what the root cause of them is could mean the different between covering up the problem and hoping that the problem magically disappears, or treating the core problem and tackling it head on. Some medications are a short term fix to a problem that needs much more attention.

 

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.

Omega-3 May Help Alleviate the Symptoms of Autism

Some theories on the causes of autism focus on the levels of omega-3 that a person has and the idea that autistic patients have either an omega-3 deficiency or have too much omega-6 in relation to omega-3. The ideal ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 is 1:1, but American diets are estimated to have between 20:1 and 50:1. This problem is thought to possibly cause or exacerbate autism symptoms. It is sometimes recommended to try omega-3 supplements, such as fish oil, to combat some of the symptoms of autism.

After six weeks of use, researchers have found improved sleep, cognition, social interaction, and eye contact in autistic patients given omega-3 supplements. It is also thought that omega-3 might help reduce cardiac issues in autistic patients on antipsychotic drugs. Omega-3 is essential for proper cellular function and enhances brain cell membranes and promotes the growth of neurons in the brain. While it is a safe supplement to take, there are possible side effects such as nausea, nose bleeds, and a fishy-smelling burp. A 3g dose is considered to be safe for adults, but doctors should be consulted on the proper dosage for children.

One of the most well-known natural food sources of omega-3 is fish, particularly salmon, cod, and sardines. Buy wild fish because farm-raised fish usually have high levels of omega-6. Other food sources include flaxseed, walnuts, and some dark, leafy vegetables.