The word “autism” today has become all too common in our society. Most parents-to-be cringe at the thought of this term, while parents with non-autistic children breathe sighs of relief.
But what can be said about the high percentage of parents with autistic children?
Although I believe that everything is a blessing in disguise and nothing “bad” exists, from which does not come a greater good, I cannot ignore the struggles that many parents and family members have to face at one point or another with autistic children.
It is estimated today that 1 in 150 children are diagnosed with autism. Those are staggering statistics as they beat childhood cancers, diabetes and AIDS combined!
Currently it is not known what exactly causes Autism and there is no exact cure for it, but scientists are steadily working on these two areas and the latest research points to managing and perhaps even eradicating Autism through the child’s diet.
What is Autism?
To begin, for those of us who are still unsure exactly what is meant by the term Autism, here is a general definition:
Autism is a complex neurobiological and developmental disorder that typically appears during the first 3 years of life and typically lasts throughout a person’s lifetime. According to the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, it is characterized by impaired social interaction, problems with verbal and nonverbal communication and unusual, repetitive or severely limited activities and interests.
Autism is defined by the above set of behaviors and is known as a “spectrum disorder” that affects individuals differently and to varying degrees. It appears too that children with Autism have a “damaged gut”. It is not known at this time what causes this damage.
Autism appears to affect boys much more than girls. As already stated current North American statistics show that 1 in 150 children (6 out of every 1000) are diagnosed with autism and out of that, it affects almost 1 out of every 94 boys.
Autism is usually diagnosed before the child is 3 years old, but current tests can diagnose it as early as 6 months.
In terms of treatment, there is no cure for autism, however it can be treated and managed to reduce its expression. The key to successful reduction of symptoms is early diagnosis.
Researchers have discovered that there are differences in the central nervous system’s anatomy and function in those diagnosed with autism, but the cause of the disorder is unknown. Experts theorize it may be a combination of genetics and environment.
Most commonly the cause for autism has been linked to vaccinations. This however, is still an ongoing debate and not fully proven where science is concerned. Perhaps the type and quantity of vaccines a baby receives damages its gut, and perhaps it doesn’t. God knows there are hundreds of other chemicals in our environments today that can also be blamed.
Autism has also been linked to diet, since the children have a “damaged gut” and it is through this link that scientists have identified a possible cure.
Many parents have taken finding a cure for this condition into their own hands and have found reduced autistic effects in their children when dairy and gluten products were avoided.
Hence, based on these claims, researchers at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston have launched a pilot study to measure physical and behavioral differences among children in a double-blind study, meaning neither researchers nor the subjects will know who belongs to the placebo versus the experimental group.
For the double-blind study, researchers will enroll 38 autistic children ages 3 to 9. They will look at the influence of gluten and milk proteins in the intestinal function.
Gluten is a protein in wheat; casein and whey are proteins in milk. Casomorphin, a peptide (type of protein) in milk; and gliadomorphin, a peptide (type of protein) in gluten, are thought to be related to changes in behavior in these children.
When the above nutrients are unable to be fully digested, they pass into the blood stream and act like opiates (narcotics). Thus, they have various, serious effects on the brain that result in the symptoms associated with Autism.
Children will be taken off gluten and dairy products before the four-week study and then half will be given gluten/milk powder and half will be given a placebo powder.
Researchers will then study the intestinal permeability (leaky gut) through urine collection and behavior through psychometric testing.
The assistant professor of pediatrics at the medical school and lead investigator of the study, Fernando Navarro, M.D., states “There’s a lot of misinformation, so that’s why this study is so important. Hundreds and hundreds of parents think this works but we need serious evidence.”
I am extremely pleased at the research taking place to potentially eradicate Autism, as it is diet-based, not drug-based. I have no doubt that great potential lies in this study or other studies like it, as our bodies for centuries have been able to be healed of many things through what we ingest or don’t ingest.
Personally, I would have liked to have seen this study done with a larger subject group and for a longer period of time, but for now it is a good start.
What I find particularly intriguing about Autism is that statistical reports from the United Kingdom state that it is quite rare in low income families. Instead, it is most prominent in families where the parents are more highly qualified and have a higher standard of living. This idea right away makes me think about the different environments that are provided from these types of family situations.
Think about this one yourself; people who are generally better off will be buying more. This includes more cleaning products, air fresheners, etc., which are all toxic chemicals where our bodies are concerned. In terms of diet any family where both parents are working a lot means the kids have to grow up on mostly processed food.
Bottom line, to me whether it is about Autism or any other condition, living as natural as possible has more benefits than we can imagine and as always it all starts with a healthy diet and environment!
If you or anyone you know has a child with Autism, check out the links below, which can provide more information on Autism and treatment options as well as support groups available.