Dr. Sonya Doherty has very kindly allowed us to republish this wonderful tips! for parents and caregivers of children on the autism spectrum. Doherty is a licensed and board certified Naturopathic Doctor who is an active member of the CAND. Sonya Doherty completed her undergraduate training at the University of Western Ontario in a Bachelor of Science Honors Kinesiology program. Very experienced in the field of autism you can access her website here.Sonya writes “I feel very lucky to work with so many wonderful families to help children reach their developmental potential. I wanted to write a special note to parents and caregivers about taking care of yourselves! It is my hope that you will all include in your 2011 resolutions to ensure that you are putting some time and effort into your own diet, health and relationships. The healthier parents are feeling, the more energy they have to support their children in all different avenues.
Here are some great tips for parents to consider:
Sleep is often highly dependent on children’s routines. Ensure that your child has enough physiological support to maintain healthy sleep patterns. Melatonin, safe sleep supportive botanicals and homeopathics can help children have a deeper, longer, more restful sleep. Many parents have sleep issues of their own. Consider going to bed earlier to take the pressure off of your stress system. Research shows that healthy sleep patterns enhance immunity, energy levels and help individuals cope with stress more effectively.
Dr. Jill James, a PhD biochemist and principal investigator at the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute has identified a number of metabolic and biochemical abnormalities in children with autism. She has also found that parents of children on the autism spectrum often have “methylation defects” which increases their requirement for methyl-B12. Many of you have seen the incredible benefit of MB12 on children with developmental disorders. Parents who do not have a strong enough methylation cycle will have trouble making enough serotonin, putting their mood and sleep at risk for developing issues. Melatonin is the hormone that helps us naturally fall asleep. Melatonin is made from serotonin and vitamin D. A methylation issue could present in a parent with chronic sleep issues and supporting methylation can dramatically improve sleep quality and length (as long as kids cooperate!) as well as having a number of other positive health benefits including prevention of chronic disease.
The digestive tract plays a number of essential roles. Energy, mood, regulation of inflammation and immune support are all mediated by a healthy digestive tract. Adults should be having (you know I love to talk about digestion!) 2-3 bowel movements daily that are easy to pass and shaped like an “S” or have a curve. If your digestion is not optimal, it is more difficult to produce energy and regulate inflammation which plays a role in weight regulation and disease prevention. Remember that 90% of serotonin is produced in the digestive tract
Essentials for the digestive tract:
Essential Fatty Acids
Consider the foods that disrupt your child’s digestive tract, behaviour, sleep and/or development. Part of our reactions to foods is genetically predetermined and many parents benefit from removing dairy and/or gluten from their diet. Other people have noticed significant health benefits from removing allergens identified through food allergy testing.
Energy and Mood
Who couldn’t use more energy? Most parents and caregivers are focusing so much on their children and day to day tasks, it is difficult to create opportunities to improve energy and/or mood. I believe that every parent should be on a stress system support protocol. Our adrenal glands process all of the stress in our body. Some signs your stress system is under pressure are fatigue, feeling overwhelmed and/or irritable, difficulty with mood regulation, afternoon drop in energy and/or sleep issues. Other people experience difficulty with focus and memory.
Dr. Sonya Doherty has very kindly allowed us to republish this fascinating article on Sensory Processing Disorder and haircuts! She is a licensed and board certified Naturopathic Doctor who is an active member of the CAND. Sonya Doherty completed her undergraduate training at the University of Western Ontario in a Bachelor of Science Honors Kinesiology program. Very experienced in the field of autism you can access her website here.
Doherty writes “Yesterday we had to endure the horror of cutting our son’s hair. He is 2 ½ years old and a year ago he developed sensory processing disorder after his stage I surgical repair of a severe birth defect. Hypospadias can range from mild to severe but in Magnus’s case, it was one of the worse defects his surgeon had seen. We were terrified of so many things before the surgery. Magnus was only 18 months old and as parents we had no idea what to expect. Our surgeon is incredible but would the surgery work? Would he be in pain? Would the medications cause any long term effects?
As a naturopathic doctor who specializes in treatment of neurodevelopmental disorders, I was particularly worried about the research that links anesthetic to ADHD. Our family history of ADHD combined with multiple surgeries could dramatically increase Magnus’s chances of having trouble focusing and staying calm. What we didn’t think about was sensory processing. Our older son had experienced behavioural issues related to sensory problems but it didn’t occur to us that our previously neurotypical toddler could experience a sensory crash that would change his life .(and ours)
Magnus’s first haircut was on January 9, 2012. Forever immortalized with the help of Steve Jobs and Mark Zuckerberg. I couldn’t wait to take the picture because the hairdresser said she had NEVER had a toddler who was so good for his first haircut. My daughter is all pink inside. She loves all things that pamper her beautiful self. We started taking Magnus on our girlie haircut trips and each new hairdresser marvelled at our stoic little man who sat calmly while his hair was coiffed.
On May 22nd, Dr. Luis Braga (a.k.a The Penis Artist), performed the first of 3 surgeries needed to correct Magnus’s birth defect. A defect that mounting evidence is linking to environmental toxins. We were at McMaster Children’s Hospital for 3 days and our little man did remarkably well. So well, in fact, that he was running around MAC high on morphine. The nurses and doctors were shocked that he could be so “mobile” while on 6 mg of morphine!
Encouraged, we took our handsome boy home. We were one step closer to him enjoying a normal adult male life and hopefully being a parent himself one day. I had anticipated the diarrhea. Magnus was on some pretty heavy duty antibiotics to protect the delicate skin graft that was crucial to repairing his hypospadias. The eczema wasn’t a shock either, especially with the NIH Human Microbiome Project pumping out research linking the healthy gut flora (eradicated by antibiotics) to eczema, allergies and asthma. In the beginning, we assumed that tantrums were because of pain. The poor kid had had his genitals sliced and stitched. The fact that his surgery was done by one of the leading (the leading in our opinion) pediatric urologists in the world didn’t negate the fact that pain would make any kid upset.
After a couple of weeks of screaming, crying, biting and hitting; we started to track what was triggering Magnus to be so upset. It was then that I realized that his sensory system had crashed. There was no other way to describe it.
Magnus’s symptoms included:
Gagging when we tried to feed him.
Jumping up and down on the furniture for hours
Getting stuck on one thing, like a song or toy, and losing his mind if he had to transition (Magnus would only play with yellow blocks and listen to Rhianna’s song What’s My Name)
Bumping into things and people, our daycare provider described it as “wobbly”
Banging his head into our head or other hard surfaces (this happened when he was frustrated too but it would sometimes seem like he was soothing himself by head-butting us)
Sudden mood changes and long tantrums including self-injurious head banging, biting and hitting
Crawling along the floor while he played with toys, crawling up and down the stairs like a snake
Distressed at every diaper change
Repetitive “circuits” when he played
Instant tantrum if his shirt got wet or if he got something on his hands and/or feet
Refusal to put on certain clothes and attempts to constantly remove what he was wearing
AGONY with getting his haircut!!!!
I am extremely fortunate to work with over 1500 families who have children diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. Sensory issues are very common for children on the spectrum and I immediately went into action mode to see if we could decrease the pain Magnus was experiencing. Because it is painful. If you have a child who screams when they get their haircut or who experiences sensory processing issues; they are in pain. Their behaviour is a communication to you that their body feels attacked by their external environment.
We removed all grains from Magnus’s diet. This approach is called the SCD, GAPS or Paleo diet. The grains can disrupt sensory processing and in Magnus’s case, this was the first major intervention we did that relieved his discomfort. The diarrhea got better, the tantrums lessened but we still had and have a long way to go. We initiated methyl B12 therapy, probiotics, B6, methyl folate (on the advice of the wonderful Dr. Wendy Edwards J). When we added in methyl folate, Magnus started playing with blocks of all colours and would listen to songs from the CARS movie. Next we added a homeopathic remedy called Belladonna, prescribed by Magnus’s ND, Dr. Saunders. His interest in playing with toys typically again increased and he started letting us change his diaper without having to hold him down. Small steps in some ways but big steps towards repairing his brain and getting him back to being able to process sensory information more effectively.
What I have discovered in my 10 years of practicing as a naturopathic doctor; is that sensory issues can be supported through individualized assessment and treatment. They are also strongly related to the gastrointestinal tract. The right diet and supplements can dramatically reduce the pain of trying to process external stimuli for those with SPD. At 2 ½ years old, we are coming up on one year of biomedical treatment for Magnus. Each step brings him further away from his “sensory crash” and allows him to enjoy the world around him. He is off his toes and although he still has transitional tantrums; he is no longer stuck on just one thing. His interests have increased. His language is catching up. He is happy and smiles most of the time. Yesterday we gave him a haircut… and he screamed bloody murder. We ran him down to the shower, like we have since his surgery, and washed off the hair that was causing him extreme discomfort. Today, I realized in my attempt to get his hair cut quickly, I missed a little patch. I pulled out the clippers and got ready for the meltdown but instead Magnus reached for the hair clippers and said “on”. I turned them on and he dipped his head to let me trim the wayward patch. Each step makes a big difference and cumulatively, they have changed Magnus’s life. We hope in another year we can look back, like we did with our oldest son, and say that Magnus has overcome SPD.
Dr. Sonya Doherty has very kindly allowed us to republish this fascinating article on autism and inflammation. She is a licensed and board certified Naturopathic Doctor who is an active member of the CAND. Sonya Doherty completed her undergraduate training at the University of Western Ontario in a Bachelor of Science Honors Kinesiology program. Very experienced in the field of autism you can access her website here.
If you have any questions about the article please feel free to ask them in the comments section at the bottom of the page.
According to recent estimates by the Centre for Disease Control (CDC), 1 in every 68 children has autism. Autism is a complex neurological disorder previously thought to be a mental health issue but mounting evidence is showing significant medical aspects to this growing neurodevelopmental disorder. A study at Johns Hopkins published in 2005 identified that people diagnosed with autism experience inflammatory changes in their brain tissue. This finding was crucial because it was a major step forward in redefining autism as a medical disorder that is may be treatable and reversible.
This article will briefly review some of the potential causes of brain inflammation and treatments that are being used successfully to help children today. With a 30% rise in autism in the last two years, parents are eager to see research translate into treatments that can address medical issues like constipation and diarrhea, as well as advanced approaches that improve social, language and cognitive development.
How do methyl B12 injections help with inflammation?
Jill James, a PhD biochemist at the Arkansas Children’s Research Institute has identified that 90% of children diagnosed with autism have methylation impairments. So, what does that mean? Methylation is the process that supports development in the body. When babies are conceived, they are not methylated. As babies develop, methylation makes sure the brain develops properly and is protected against toxicity. Impairments in this cycle stop the production of a brain antioxidant called glutathione. Antioxidants protect the body and glutathione is the head honcho when it comes to protecting the brain. In fact, depletion of glutathione is also one of the medical aspects of autism and is up to 80% decreased in the disorder.
Methylation is fueled by methyl donors and one of the best ways to improve how this cycle functions is by injecting methyl B12. Dr. James Neubrander was the first physician to use methyl B12 to help children with autism. What he noticed after injecting his first patient is what hundreds of practitioners have observed since, improved language, social and cognitive skills. Methyl B12 injections help to remove inflammation by improving glutathione production.
Glutathione is important throughout the body but in the brain, it is the rate limiting step which means are it decreases; it is exactly like a battery. The lower the glutathione, the more the brain is at risk for developmental concerns.
Why is your child’s digestion so important in regulating inflammation?
It is estimated that up to 85% of people with ASD have digestive issues including chronic constipation, diarrhea, reflux, esophagitis and pain. Research from the National Institute of Health, Human Microbiome Research Project has identified that the gut is 100% responsible for post-natal development. Microbiome is the term to describe the intricate ecosystem of microbes that populates our intestines. These microbes include good bacteria that help with nutrient absorption, as well as regulation of inflammation and immune function. Other research coming out of the microbiome project has shown that children with ASD have 25% less bacterial diversity, meaning that they lack important good bacteria that work to support development in many ways including production of neurotransmitters and genetic expression. Studies by Dr. Sidney Baker have found that the stool of children with autism shows higher amounts of certain bacterial species (Clostridia, Bacteriodetes, Desulfovibrio) than may cause harm to the brain by creating more inflammation.
How do special diets help inflammation?
For me, special diets are a strategy to improve both methylation and gut health. The most well-known “autism diet” is GFCF. Gluten free, casein free. This diet removes all sources of gluten and dairy. While there are multiple mechanisms by which removing these foods may help, the most important is that gluten and dairy stop the production of glutathione. One of the other ways gluten has also been shown to cause inflammation through stimulation of zonulin which increases gut permeability. Usually, the gut cells are bound closely together, the space between them closely regulated. Gluten creates inflammation is by causing the separation of gut cells by the activation of zonlulin. Discovered in 2000 by Dr. Alessio Fasano, zonlulin causes the space between the cells to open, allowing parts of gluten to escape into the blood stream. This process causes inflammation by allowing what should stay in the gut, out into circulation.
In my opinion, the most effective diet for improving symptoms of autism is the Specific Carbohydrate Diet. Co-founder of Defeat Autism Now!, Dr. Sidney Baker agrees that this dietary approach is the most comprehensive way to healing the gut. The fortification of folic acid in our grains (which are all removed in the SCD approach) also slows the methylation cycle. Removal of grains supports the methylation cycle and its production of glutathione. Research is showing that limiting complex carbohydrates could play a crucial goal in balancing the good bacteria in the digestive tract. Research by Dr. Derrick MacFabe on the bacteria Clostridia, is helping to build a strong case for dietary carbohydrate restriction as a way to decrease the impact unbalanced gut flora has on the brain, behaviour, social interaction and cognitive function. The Gut and Psychology Syndrome book is a fantastic resource for anyone embarking on dietary carbohydrate restriction. Written by a neurologist with a masters degree in nutrition, it is a powerful book that explains the dietary approach that helped to recover her own son from autism.
What is causing brain inflammation in autism?
Moms who have the flu during pregnancy are at increased risk of their children having autism. Viruses activate the immune system in the brain. The Johns Hopkins study that identified inflammation in the brain also identified immune activation. Termed, microglia, the immune system in the brain can turn “on” in response to a virus. For most of us, the immune system turns on, and then we actually have a low level of brain damage which is then repaired by the brain. In autism, this microglial activation doesn’t shut off and causes massive issues with managing inflammation in the brain because of too much of the most abundant chemical messenger in the brain – glutamate. This is termed IMMUNOEXCITOTOXICITY. Broken down, this term explains that chronic activation of the IMMUNE cells (microglia) can cause the brain to become EXCITED to the point of TOXICITY. At this point, the brain will not function normally and the excess glutamate that is causing the excitement causes damage.
Dr. Russell Blaylock, the neurologist who first postulated that IMMUNOEXCITOTOXICITY may be the central mechanism in autism, believes that both environmental toxicity and infectious agents can “prime” the immune cells in the brain. Once “primed”, these cells will release higher amounts of glutamate. After priming, the next time the glia are put on high alert from a toxin, infection or by metabolites from unhealthy gut bacteria, the release of large amount of glutamate can have disastrous consequences for the brain.
Research around the world is striving to make sense of the staggering rise in autism. Inflammation is a medical issue and research in this area offers hope that as we learn more, the causes can lead to successful prevention and treatment. In the meantime, Dr. Dan Rossignol and the faculty at the Medical Academy of Pediatric Special Needs (MAPS) are training medical professionals from around the world on biomedical treatments that can be used to prevent and treat developmental delays. Many of these treatments focus on decreasing inflammation and improving the organ systems, like the gut, that manage the inflammatory process. By addressing unbalanced microbes in the gut and reducing the impact of toxins, MAPS trained practitioners are able to decrease the excess excitement in the brain, improving social, language and cognitive potential in children diagnosed with autism.
As many of you in North America know Autism Canada are running a conference entitled “Changing the Course of Autism 2014”.
One of our regular autism guest bloggers Dr. Sonya Doherty has created this video on biomedical treatment for ASD. You can check out a previous blog she did for us on biomedical treatment here.
Dr. Sonya Doherty is a licensed and board certified Naturopathic Doctor who is an active member of the CAND. Sonya Doherty completed her undergraduate training at the University of Western Ontario in a Bachelor of Science Honors Kinesiology program.
Welcome to our latest guest post from Dr. Sonya Doherty. You can read the original post on her blog here. Dr. Sonya Doherty is a licensed and board certified Naturopathic Doctor who is an active member of the CAND. Sonya Doherty completed her undergraduate training at the University of Western Ontario in a Bachelor of Science Honors Kinesiology program.
She writes “How’s that for a blog title?????
Children diagnosed with autism and ADHD have tremendous difficulty with motor planning. New areas of research are showing that motor planning problems can be prevented, treated and reversed. So, what does that mean for your child? Better communication, less sensory issues (which means more social interaction), openness to new foods, improved eye contact, restored focus and attention, better coordination, enhanced fine motor and gross motor skills….
Are you with me? Are you ready to immerse yourself in a little cellular physiology so I can introduce you to a wonderful researcher who has helped in the recovery of thousands of children by improving their motor planning?
Okay, let’s get started. You may be asking, what the heck is motor planning and how does it impact my child?
Motor planning is the steps the brain puts in place to allow the body to move. Many neuroscientists believe the reason we have a brain is to produce adaptable and complex movement. Every way we affect the world relies on contraction of muscles. Speaking, walking, focusing, eye contact and even having a bowel movement! Another important piece of information about movement is that contraction of muscles requires a plan. That plan is formulated by the brain relying on both experience and sensory input. In the case of autism, sensory processing is impaired and the overwhelming sensory stimuli reduce the brain’s effectiveness when creating a motor plan. I believe this is what drives many repetitive behaviours. Repetition is very important to motor planning. Without the ability to rely on sensory input, children with autism “bank” their experiences. They attempt to memorize enough information as possible to compensate for the sensory overload, with the goal of stabilizing motor planning.
Problems with motor planning are not the lack of desire or ability to move, they are caused by inconsistent instructions from the brain. Imagine that you want to blow a bubble. If the parts of your brain that control motor planning are intact, your mouth will receive a succinct plan to coordinate the muscles of your mouth to get in the right position and then contract synergistically to create the movement needed to blow a bubble. If your child’s motor planning systems are not strong or have been damaged, blowing a bubble or sucking from a straw can be extremely difficult. Because the instructions from the brain are inconsistent, some skills can be strong and others more difficult. You may also find that one day your child can perform a motor movement and the next day it is very difficult for them. As in saying words or making eye contact.
As many of you know, two and a half years ago our youngest son regressed after his first surgery to repair a severe birth defect. A birth defect that is linked to mounting toxicity in our environment and, like autism, ADHD, speech delay and other developmental issues, is on the rise. There were many researchers and medical practitioners who have helped us in our pursuit to recover as many skills as possible for our son. Dr. Claudia Morris, who will be presenting at Autism Canada’s upcoming conference, developed a motor planning therapy that helped her own son using omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in addition to therapeutic doses of vitamin E. These nutritional treatments address toxic damage to the cells, including cell membranes and the energy producing mitochondria. Despite over two years of biomedical treatment, we are still not 100% sure what caused the regression for our son. What I am sure of is that the combination of anesthetics, antibiotics, Tylenol and morphine he was given changed the way his cells were functioning.
Cells are like any living organism, they are designed to communicate with each other. Disruption in this communication impacts the signals that go back and forth. A significant toxic insult will cause the cells to all start “screaming” at each other. Chronic toxic exposure over time will have the same result. Alert signals will escalate and in the end, in an effort to protect themselves, the cells stop communicating in some ways so they aren’t overwhelmed by the alert signals coming in from their neighbours. As an isolated entity, the cell is much less effective. Things slow down. The brain has trouble communicating clear instructions to the muscles, disrupting motor planning. Motor planning becomes very difficult without smooth cellular communication. A recent study used a century old drug to improve cell signalling in an animal model of autism. The results was nothing short of incredible. The drug reversed all autism symptoms for a few weeks by blocking “danger” signals thought to come from damaged mitochondria.
Dr. Morris has shown, that motor planning can be improved by repairing cells, and restoring cellular communication. You see, one of the thousands of children Dr. Claudia Morris has helped is my own. Her research and brave foray into nutritional therapies for motor planning is the treatment approach that helped reconnect our son’s mouth to his brain, allowing him to chew, swallow and speak. Two and half years ago, Magnus would gag at most foods, choke on many others, couldn’t suck on a straw or blow. He certainly couldn’t coordinate his articulation muscles to speak. The words he had weren’t clear and he could use only one word at a time and with great effort. Repairing his cell membranes and supporting mitochondrial function with Dr. Morris’s program has allowed cellular communication to return. Once his cells were again communicating, we were able to see progress through introducing new foods and textures. His speech pathologists were able to expertly advise us on the fastest way to get his muscles caught up by strengthening them and training the motor planning centers to be able to perform better. Today, Magnus can eat anything and is beginning to speak in sentences as long as 7 words. In practice, I have seen the same results time and time again. If a child has motor planning problems, improving the cell’s use of essential fatty acids and repairing the cell membrane consistently results in improvements that are life changing.
We know that many toxins can damage the body on a cellular level. There are too many to list here but one that I feel is really important to mention is Tylenol. Tylenol is toxic to cells because it depletes glutathione, which is the body’s most important antioxidant. Antioxidants protect cells, so the depletion of glutathione by Tylenol is one way cells get damaged. Women who take Tylenol in pregnancy are more likely to have a child diagnosed with ADHD. Tylenol has also been linked to asthma. Dr. William Shaw wrote a ground breaking paper that identifies Tylenol as one of the major causes of autism, ADHD and asthma.
We also know that genes can be damaged by toxins and that damaged genes are passed along to the next generation. Epigenetic damage to some genes directly weakens cell function. The microbiome, the ecosystem in the gut, also plays a crucial role in protect cells from toxicity. Our gut is the most important detoxification organ. Diarrhea and constipation increase risk of toxicity because heavy metals, pesticides, PCBs and even breakdown products of microbes are removed when we have a bowel movement. Overgrowth of certain microbes can damage cell membranes. Research by Dr. Derrick MacFabe has shown in an animal model, overgrowth of the species clostridia, will deplete carnitine. Carnitine is a shuttle that fuels the energy producing mitochondria with much needed essential fatty acids. Low carnitine levels negatively impact motor planning and disrupt cell signalling. These are just a few examples of how toxicity directly impacts cell function.
While hundreds of millions worth of research dollars are investigating what is contributing to disorders such as autism, very little research is focused on treatment. We now know incontrovertibly that environmental toxicity is picking off at risk children with increasing devastation each generation. Repair of the cell membranes is an elegant treatment strategy. It is so simple. It is so beautiful. We have 100 TRILLION cells. We have 100 TRILLION cell membranes. If a treatment can help to repair 100 TRILLION cell membranes; guess what? Motor planning will improve. Eye contact will improve. Focus, hand writing, walking up stairs, chewing food, blowing bubbles, speaking. They will all get better. And I am delighted to tell you that just as it did for our son, this approach has helped hundreds of children in my practice.
Simple. Elegant. Effective. I for one, can’t wait to hear Dr. Morris speak this October at the Autism Canada Foundation. I hope you will all join me there as we continue to learn how to help our children get better and feel better.